Looking to? Your cell phone bill is a good place to start. That's why we've rounded up our recommendations for the best cheap phone plans out there. We've factored in not only price, but also which plans offer the best value depending on your needs. If you don't consume a ton of data every month (and most people don't), there are serious savings to be had.
There was a time when the only real options for US consumer cellular service were Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile and Sprint. Luckily, those days are gone: Mobile virtual network operators -- MVNOs -- have emerged as cheap alternatives to the Big Three. (Why not Big Four?.) An MVNO leases access from the major carriers and offers similar cell phone services at lower prices. That means you can sign up with Mint Mobile, for example, and get a sort of T-Mobile Lite service for less.
Keep in mind that you may first need to complete any existing contract or lease with your current carrier, or pay a penalty to leave early. If you purchased your phone directly from a carrier, check to make sure it's unlocked and compatible with other networks. Once you've taken care of those preliminaries, you're free to change plans.
Not comfortable with switching from a major carrier to a smaller one? AT&T and Verizon both offer prepaid plans for a lot less than their widely advertised unlimited ones. For example, if you're able to prepay for 12 months,works out to a very competitive $25 a month. , but the Verizon plan drops to $35 after four months and then $25 after nine.
Still, give these other plans a look. Here are our picks for the cheapest phone plan that will help you save big bucks on your monthly cell phone bill, which we'll update periodically.
Are you an Optimum or Suddenlink cable subscriber? You qualify for an extra $10 savings each month, meaning you can get cell phone service for as little as $14. Unfortunately, while Altice (which runs on the T-Mobile network) already supports 5G, the carrier's unlimited plan runs $45 a month. It was previously $20.
Even if you're not with one of those two cable systems, a $24 monthly cell phone bill isn't bad.
Black Wireless leases service from AT&T and offers a compelling everything unlimited plan: Just $15 a month if you pay for a year in advance (so, $180 up front), or $20 if you go month-to-month. The data gets throttled to 128kbps after the first gigabyte, so this is a plan that rewards you if you spend most of your time on Wi-Fi.
There are a number of other options that are similarly inexpensive, including "pay-as-you-go" plans and a Plus cell phone plan that includes 200 talk and text units and 500MB of 4G LTE data for as little as $11.25 a month (again, if you sign up for a full year).
Boost's plans start at just $10 for 1GB of data, or you can bump it up to 2GB for $15 per month or 5GB for $25 a month. Whichever way you go, your plan includes unlimited calls and texts. You also must bring your own phone.
Boost operates on T-Mobile's network and offers 5G.
A T-Mobile MVNO, Hello offers unlimited talk and text plans starting at just $5. But the real standout here is the $25 plan, which adds unlimited 4G and 5G data to the mix. You also get free calls and texts to several dozen countries.
Hello is also among a relatively small number of MVNOs that caters to families: You can have up to five lines, with discounts the more you add. For a family of four, for example, the unlimited data plan would cost just $17.50 per line.
Here's the only real issue: If you want a mobile hotspot feature, it'll cost you another $15 a month.
Mint takes the notion of "prepaid" cell service to the next level: You get price breaks when you pay for three, six or 12 months in advance. So, for example, a payment of $45 would net you three months on the carrier's 4GB plan.
The deals get better as you go up the tiers, however. Prepay $360, for example (which works out to $30 a month), and you get 12 months of fully unlimited service. Mint relies on T-Mobile's network and offers both 4G and 5G: "Whichever is strongest" based on where you're located.
If you're seeking service for a backup phone that's rarely used or perhaps a preteen who needs a phone just for emergencies, consider TextNow's sounds-too-good-to-be-true free plan. All you need is a Sprint-compatible phone and you can get totally free unlimited talk and unlimited texting. (Everything else requires Wi-Fi, though you have the option of adding a 2GB data plan for $20 a month.)
Want to learn more? Read about TextNow's surprisingly good free plan.
US Mobile runs on T-Mobile and Verizon networks and offers service plans for just about every conceivable budget. That's because you can choose from fixed plans or build a custom one. One standout is the $15 plan, which includes unlimited calls and texts and 5GB of high-speed data. Bump that to 30GB for $30 a month.
The carrier also offers price breaks on multiple lines. For example, three lines on US Mobile's unlimited plan would cost $75 a month.
Visible is for those who don't want to sacrifice unlimited service. Now with 5G coverage in the mix, the carrier's one and only plan -- which runs $40 a month -- includes unlimited data on Verizon's network.
However, there's an easy way to get it for even less: Sign up for Visible's Party Pay option, which can bring the monthly plan rate to as low as $25 per person. This isn't a traditional family plan; you can do this with friends, co-workers, even strangers you meet on Reddit.
There are other inexpensive options out there, but these rank among our favorites. If you've found a cheap cell phone plan you like better, tell us about it in the comments!
Update, July 3: An earlier version of this story incorrectly attributed the network on which Altice Mobile runs. It now correctly reflects T-Mobile.