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Article updated on Feb 1, 2024

Best Prepaid Phone Plans for February 2024

When it comes to finding a prepaid phone plan, traditional carriers like AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile aren't your only options. Here are our top picks for the best prepaid phone plans.

Our Experts

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Written by 
Eli Blumenthal
Our expert, award-winning staff selects the products we cover and rigorously researches and tests our top picks. If you buy through our links, we may get a commission. Reviews ethics statement
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Eli Blumenthal Senior Editor
Eli Blumenthal is a senior editor at CNET with a particular focus on covering the latest in the ever-changing worlds of telecom, streaming and sports. He previously worked as a technology reporter at USA Today.
Expertise 5G, mobile networks, wireless carriers, phones, tablets, streaming devices, streaming platforms, mobile and console gaming,
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Our Picks

See at US Mobile
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Best unlimited prepaid phone plan
US Mobile Unlimited Starter for $23 per month (annually)
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See at Tello Mobile
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Plans starting at $5 per month
Sponsored - Tello Mobile
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See at Mint Mobile
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Runner-up for unlimited prepaid phone plan
Mint Mobile 12-month plan
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See at Google Fi
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Best plan for multiple lines
Google Fi Wireless Simply Unlimited
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See at Metro by T-Mobile
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Best unlimited plans with perks
Metro's Heritage Plan or Cricket
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See at Mint Mobile
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Best for under 15GB of data
Mint Mobile 15GB Plan
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See at Boost Mobile
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Best for under 5GB of data
Boost Mobile's 1GB plan
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Most people with cell phones opt to subscribe directly to mobile providers such as AT&T, T-Mobile or Verizon for wireless service. The major providers aren't the only option. You can actually save money on your mobile plan by going with one of the smaller providers around. Traditional wireless providers tout unlimited data plans as the big attraction, but smaller carriers still offer a variety of plans with high-speed data or even a better price on unlimited plans. Plus, there's no long-term commitment to worry about. If you want to switch over, these are the best prepaid phone plans right now.

I've covered the wireless industry for more than a decade and I know there are a ton of prepaid service providers. For this article, I'm going to focus on just a few: Boost Mobile, Cricket, Mint, Google Fi Wireless, MobileX, Tracfone, Metro by T-Mobile, Total by Verizon, Verizon Prepaid and AT&T Prepaid. Since these carriers also have so many different prepaid cellphone plan options, I'll focus on the best options for under 5GB of data, under 15GB of data and the best unlimited plans

Read more: Cheap Phone Plans Compared

Know your area

Before we get to the plans, to get the best deal you need to make sure you have the coverage that you need. This makes it very hard for us to give a blanket recommendation of any one carrier. T-Mobile's service in New York may be excellent, but if you're in rural Iowa, Verizon is more reliable. 

While your mileage may vary, the good news is that these networks are growing and improving all the time, particularly as the three major players race to blanket the US with 5G. It's quite possible that you left a network complaining about its sparse service a decade ago, but now it's beefed itself up because of that race to acquire customers.

If you know any friends or family in your area that already use the carrier you're considering, ask about their experience. You could also go to a carrier's store and see if they offer any free ways to try out the service before switching over, such as T-Mobile's Network Pass. Verizon offers a similar 30-day "Test Drive" program, while the Cricket prepaid service has its own trial program that lets you sample parent AT&T's network.

Boost Mobile, AT&T and T-Mobile logos on phone screens

Boost Mobile will use a combination of AT&T, T-Mobile and parent Dish's own network. 

Sarah Tew/CNET
See at

Know the prepaid phone plan promos and deals

As with the leading carriers, there are periods when the prepaid players offer deals. Boost Mobile used to run a promo for new customers that let you get three lines with unlimited talk, text and data for $90 per month ($30 per line) after "your first payment of $100." It has since added a new unlimited plan that is $25 per month for new users, although each line must be separate and cannot be grouped on a family plan. 

Some prepaid providers will even give discounts on buying a new device, but unlike the leading carriers, don't expect the same big promotions offering a free new iPhone or Galaxy S23. Those deals are often tied to 24- or 36-month installment plans, which prepaid -- by its nature -- does not offer. 

See at US Mobile

Best unlimited prepaid phone plan

US Mobile Unlimited Starter for $23 per month (annually)


US Mobile, which runs on Verizon's network for its "Warp 5G" service and T-Mobile's for its "GSM" offering, has updated its plans again. Now its cheapest Unlimited Starter option starts at $23 per line, per month when purchased annually. That's slightly cheaper than our previous pick in this spot, Boost Mobile's $25 per month unlimited plan.  

Taxes and fees are included in the sticker price, and you will now get 35GB of high-speed data and 10GB of hotspot data. To add more high-speed data, international roaming or streaming perks, you'll need to step up to the carrier's pricier Unlimited Premium plans.

If you don't want to prepay for a year, you can get Unlimited Starter for $29 per month.

See at Tello Mobile
Sponsored

Plans starting at $5 per month

Tello Mobile

Tello Mobile is a US mobile operator designed to save you money. With Tello, you can build your own phone plan by mixing minutes and data as you like, from $5 to $25 per month.

Customers enjoy flexible and affordable phone plans while still getting the same reliable 4G LTE/5G coverage, plus features like free hotspot, international calls to 60-plus countries, eSIM, Wi-Fi calling, etc.

Tello does prepaid and truly means it: no bulk buying, no advance or annual payments, no contracts.

As you are in control of your phone plan, you're free to upgrade/downgrade every time you want. It's that flexible.

Build the plan you need, starting at $5 per month, or choose a ready-made one with Unlimited Talk and Text + 1GB/2GB/5GB or Unlimited Everything (Unlimited plan comes with 35GB high-speed data), all under $25 per month.

See at Mint Mobile

Runner-up for unlimited prepaid phone plan

Mint Mobile 12-month plan

Ryan Reynolds' phone company has made a name for itself with its quirky advertising, but it also has one of the better offers for unlimited data that we've seen. For 12 months, you can get unlimited talk, text and data for $30 per month per line. Running on T-Mobile's networks, you get 40GB of high-speed data on 5G and 4G LTE per month, although if you do blow through that before your 30-day period resets, your speeds will slow to "3G speeds." 

There's also 10GB of high-speed hotspot data and free international calls to Mexico and Canada. 

See at Google Fi

Best plan for multiple lines

Google Fi Wireless Simply Unlimited

Google's phone service got a pricing revamp that makes it a much more appealing alternative to major providers. For a family of four, you can now get its Simply Unlimited plan for $80 per month ($20 per month, per line), which includes not only unlimited talk, text and 35GB of high-speed data but also 5GB of mobile hotspot use. There also is free roaming in Canada and Mexico, although taxes and fees aren't included in the sticker price. 

Google Fi Wireless runs largely on T-Mobile's network and its service includes 5G access, now including iPhones, which were previously excluded from the fastest data connection.

See at Metro by T-Mobile

Best unlimited plans with perks

Metro's Heritage Plan or Cricket

This one is actually a bit complicated. 

Cricket and Metro each offer perks with some of their top unlimited plans -- in the case of Cricket, you get a subscription to HBO Max with ads, while Metro's top two unlimited plans offer one year of ViX Plus and 100GB of Google One storage. While Metro used to be cheaper, it has become pricier and dropped the inclusion of Amazon Prime on its main plan. 

Metro actually still has those plans but has hidden them under a "Heritage Plans" section on its website that requires you to call customer support to get them. This runs for an undisclosed "limited time," but if you're willing to go down this route, it's the best option. A single line runs $60 per month, while three or four lines will cost you $120 per month. 

Taxes and fees are included in that price, as is 15GB of hotspot data, 100GB of Google One and a subscription to Amazon Prime. Again, you need to contact Metro's Customer Care team at 888-863-8768 to get this plan. More details can be found here.

Other options: As for the new main plans, for a single line or two lines Metro's middle plan is still actually a bit cheaper than Cricket's. A single line here is $50 per month while two lines are $80 per month. That's slightly cheaper than Cricket's option which runs $55 per month for a single line (with AutoPay) or $90 for two lines. 

Both cost the same $110 per month for three lines, though since Cricket includes HBO Max and more hotspot data (15GB versus 5GB from Metro's middle plan) it wins this battle. 

When you get to four or more lines, Cricket's plans are actually $10 cheaper than Metros, once again making it the better play. 

Verizon's Total by Verizon service includes Disney Plus' Premium no-ads option with its top plan, but at $60 per month for a single line and $165 per month for four lines, it's probably not worth it. 

If price is the biggest factor for you, look at Google Fi's Simply Unlimited plan we mentioned above. 

If you need anything less than four lines, Cricket, Total or Metro are a lot pricier than Mint. One phone line with this top unlimited plan runs $60 a month, two lines are $90 a month and three lines are $120.

It's worth mentioning that many of these providers -- including AT&T, Cricket, Metro, T-Mobile, Verizon and Boost -- work with the government's Affordable Connectivity Program. If you qualify for that program, Metro's $40 per month unlimited plan could be had for $10 per month (and the one with perks could be $30 per month instead of its regular $60 monthly). 

See at Mint Mobile

Best for under 15GB of data

Mint Mobile 15GB Plan

When it comes to data under 15GB, Mint once again has the best value if T-Mobile's network is solid in your area. 

Getting 15GB of 4G LTE/5G monthly data is $20 a month at Mint if you're a new subscriber and buy in 12-month increments. After that, you can buy three more months at $35 a month ($105 total), six months at $25 a month ($150 total) or another year at $20 a month ($240 total). 

This used to be a 10GB plan, but in April Mint raised the data it offered while keeping the price the same. 

Boost Mobile now has a similar 15GB per month plan for $20 per month, but it requires you to prepay for a full year, with no options for shorter periods. 

Other options: Google Fi has a "bill protection" feature designed to refund you for data you don't use, but with a maximum monthly charge of $80 per month for one line and 6GB of data and unlimited talk/text, I think you're better off looking elsewhere instead of having to calculate how much data you're using. 

AT&T has an online offer of 16GB per month if you prepay the $300 for a full year (equating to $25 a month). If you use up the 16GB you will still get unlimited data, but it will slow speeds down to 1.5Mbps until your month resets.

Tracfone doesn't have a 10GB plan but has two other options directly above and below it. The first is an 8GB-per-month plan that runs $35 a month if you enable autorefill, or $40 a month regularly. The provider does have a 24GB plan for one year that runs $199, though that 24GB is all the data you get for the year. 

The perk with the AT&T and Tracfone plans is that any unused data carries over to the next month. For the latter, if you're looking for a prepaid provider on Verizon it's hard to top what amounts to a monthly rate of $17.

See at Boost Mobile

Best for under 5GB of data

Boost Mobile's 1GB plan

Boost Mobile has a few enticing plans at 5GB or less, particularly if you're a new customer. The carrier offers a $ 14-a-month plan that offers 5GB of high-speed data per month with the ability to use that allotment for mobile hotspots. You'll need to prepay for 12 months of service to get this offer ($168), but it's better bang for your buck than the $15 per month for 5GB of data Mint Mobile offers new customers who prepay for a year.

Metro, Total by Verizon and Cricket each charge $30 a month for 5GB of data and Tracfone has a 4GB data plan but that runs $25 when on auto-refill ($30 without). 

Boost has a $100 deal that offers 1GB of data per month for a full year for new customers. That breaks down to $8 per month. If you don't have Boost, find yourself largely on Wi-Fi and the price is the biggest driver for you, this is the go-to pick if looking for a new service. 

While not as easy to find, you can access this plan by going to Boost's "plans" section, choosing "use my phone" and then selecting the "12 months" option. 

Other options: T-Mobile has a few T-Mobile Connect deals including a $25 per month option with unlimited talk/text and 6.5GB of data (with an extra 500MB of data added to your plan every year). The carrier also has a $10 per month Connect option that includes 1,000 domestic minutes for talk, 1,000 domestic and 1GB of data. 

As we said at the top, the best deal is the one that works best for you. 

Prepaid phone plan FAQ

What exactly is a prepaid phone plan?

There are two main types of ways to pay for phone service: postpaid, where you pay at the end of the month, and prepaid, where you buy service before you use your phone. The advertisements you see for AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon are almost always for postpaid plans, while the plans and carriers we're talking about here are all prepaid plans. 

You're buying the data and access to it in advance of using it. Prepaid plan providers let you purchase in various increments -- 30 days, 60 days, 90 days, six months or even a full year -- with prices often varying depending on how long you're willing to commit. 

In this story, I'm comparing single-year prepaid cellphone plans. 

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Will your area get good cell coverage?

As I noted when covering the best unlimited plans, to get the most out of your deal you need to make sure you have the coverage you need. This makes it hard to give a blanket recommendation of any one carrier: T-Mobile's service in New York may be excellent, but if you're in rural Iowa, for example, Verizon is more reliable. 

Prepaid providers almost always use someone else's service. Before you sign up for one, it's worth checking what the underlying network is. Each offers some version of 5G and I've broken this all down here, but to recap: 

  • Boost Mobile uses AT&T and T-Mobile for now (it's switching to a combination of AT&T, T-Mobile and parent Dish's own network in the future)
  • Mint uses T-Mobile (and is in the process of being acquired by T-Mobile)
  • Cricket uses AT&T
  • Google Fi Wireless uses T-Mobile 
  • Metro uses T-Mobile
  • Tracfone uses Verizon
  • Verizon Prepaid is on Verizon
  • Total uses Verizon
  • AT&T Prepaid is on AT&T
  • MobileX uses Verizon

If you have any friends or family in your area who already use the prepaid carrier you're considering, ask about their experience. As mentioned above, you could also go to a major carrier's store and see if it offers free ways to try out the service before switching over, such as T-Mobile's Network Pass, Cricket's trial program or Verizon's trial program.

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Read more: What to Know Before You Buy a New iPhone or Android

How we test

Picking a wireless plan and carrier is a very individualized process. What works for you and your family's needs may be vastly different from your friends or neighbors. Even geographically, some areas have better AT&T coverage while others work best on Verizon or T-Mobile (and vice versa). The picks we make are based on over a decade of covering and evaluating wireless carriers, their offerings and their performance. 

Since choosing a provider is unique, we focus on larger plans and the value they provide; as well as calling out ways you can test the different networks in your area for yourself so you can make the best pick.

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