Most people would be lost without their phones, with the average American using their phone for upwards of three hours on their phones on a daily basis. With that in mind, having a solid phone plan is incredibly important, especially for families with multiple people on their plan. That is easier said than done, given that there are so many companies out there offering so many different types of varying phone plans.
Making that choice becomes exceedingly difficult once you realize just how many phone plans actually exist in this country. The big three telecommunications companies in the United States are T-Mobile, AT&T, and Verizon, and each of these has multiple phone plans on its own. Once you take into account all of the smaller companies out there, it can be tough to figure out how to choose a plan.
You need to have a solid understanding of your own personal preferences before you take a look at the options available. Individuals will expect radically different things from their phone plan when compared with a family of five. Here are some tips on how to sift through all of these different phone plans and make the choice that is right for you.
What To Look For in a Cell Phone Plan
- 5G capability and coverage
- Unlimited versus prepaid data
The price of a phone plan varies wildly depending on your circumstances. One of the biggest factors here is how many people the plan is meant to serve. Many plans offer significant discounts per person the more people are added to the plan. For example, while the Verizon 5G Start plan costs $30 per person for a family of five, the cost shoots up to $70 if you buy it for yourself alone.
The big three companies also tend to be more expensive while also offering a lot more features than some of the smaller companies. Companies like Verizon and T-Mobile have access to better internet infrastructure and even tend to own the networks that smaller companies use to power their plans. If you want all the bells and whistles of a high-quality internet plan then there is going to be some extra cost involved.
In order to stay competitive, phone plans rarely just power your phone these days. In addition to network connectivity, a good phone plan comes with a variety of features such as mobile data, hotspot data, cloud storage, 5G capability, and entertainment subscriptions. Given the breadth of options out there, these features became necessary for companies to stay on top and successful.
With these in mind, your phone plan can end up affecting more than just your phone, meaning that it has the potential to become a big part of your daily life. These plans determine how good your internet is and where in the world you can use it. No two phone plans are the same, given that every company has different partnerships, so look closely at the options available before you make your choice.
5G Capability and Coverage
A phone plan lives and dies by the level of coverage it has. It doesn’t matter how fast your speeds are if you can’t consistently and reliably connect to your network. 5G is becoming a staple of modern phone plans, and as it becomes more and more integrated into our infrastructure, it is important to look for phone plans that can support the transition.
Different companies offer different coverage areas, so check in on what coverage looks like in your own neck of the woods before you pick a plan.
Unlimited versus prepaid data
The biggest plans touted by each company tend to be unlimited plans, meaning the consumer gets unlimited talk and text. In a world where we spend so much time on our phones for work and at home, having unlimited talk and text can be very important. Look for plans where the fewest possible restrictions are placed on you while using your phone.
Alternatively, if you don’t plan on being a heavy network consumer, keep an eye on prepaid plan options that allow you to choose your levels of talk and text without paying for features you don’t need.
Knowing what type of plan you prefer is very important given that it is more than likely that you will only be seeing advertisements for the high-cost unlimited plans.
Cheap Cell Phone Plans
- Mint Mobile Unlimited
- Tello Economy Plan
When looking for cheap network plans, it is good to broaden your scope outside of the big three telecommunications companies. Smaller companies tend to stay competitive by offering more attractive pricing and deals.
Mint Mobile Unlimited
The Mint MobileUnlimited plan is great because it caters well to customers who only want to purchase one line. For only $30 per month, customers get access to unlimited nationwide talk and text with unlimited data (although speeds do decrease after 35GB). Calls to Mexico and Canada are free under this plan; you even get a 5GB mobile hotspot.
There aren’t any extra features or amenities because the Mint MobileUnlimited plan is focused specifically on providing low-cost network access to people who don’t need the bells and whistles of one of the more expensive unlimited plans. It would be very hard to find a better value than this as far as cheap plans go.
With that in mind, you also can’t expect to get the same service that you would with a more expensive plan. Mint Mobile’s unlimited plan only offers 4G internet, which will become increasingly obsolete as the world transitions to 5G. It is also important to note that this deal requires that you pay for at least three months upfront, with a year upfront offering the best rates.
Tello Economy Plan
If you want ultra-affordable, Tello has you covered. For only $10 per month, you get access to unlimited talk and text plus the opportunity to upgrade at any time. Tello is compatible with most phones, making it a very attractive offer for people who prioritize low cost. It also comes with free hotspot tethering.
The economy plan only comes with a single gigabyte of data, which is a fraction of what the average person uses. If you plan on using a lot of data you are going to want to upgrade to a better plan. The $39 plan at Tello does offer unlimited data, but at that point, it is outperformed by Mint Mobile anyway.
The Tello Economy plan is best for people who just want to use their phone to talk and text with minimal distractions otherwise. This is a great option for people who want a second phone for work and don’t need anything but the basics to get their needs met.
Best Unlimited Cell Phone Plans
- T-Mobile Essentials Plan
- AT&T Unlimited Starter Plan
There are a wide variety of options when it comes to unlimited plans. At the unlimited tier, there are a ton of perks that get thrown into the mix by big companies, complicating the decision of which provider and plan are best.
T-Mobile Essentials Plan
T-Mobile Essentials is a 5G compatible plan that offers unlimited talk and text plus unlimited texting abroad. The plan comes out to $60 for a single line and $105 for four lines. Unlike many of T-Mobile’s plans, the Essentials plan is stripped to the basics so that its best-in-class network options can be provided at a relatively low price. T-Mobile has some of the best 5G coverage in the nation, making it a great option even without the perks.
There are a ton of plans that T-Mobile offers with more options available, but if unlimited talk, text, and data are the key for you, then this will work perfectly. It lacks the hotspot data and perks you would find with something like the T-Mobile Magenta plan, so look into all the options available before you choose.
AT&T Unlimited Starter Plan
While it isn’t as cheap as the Essentials plan, the AT&T Unlimited Starter plan is still a great value for your money. For $65 for a line or $140 for four lines, you have access to AT&T’s entire 5G network. Otherwise, the experience runs parallel to what you can get with T-Mobile Essentials, so consider the price and the coverage map of the two companies when deciding.
Best Family Cell Phone Plan
Purchasing a phone plan for a family is very different from just purchasing one for yourself. Prices are often discounted with more lines, and amenities are often built around a family unit. Sometimes it can be very financially efficient to aim for family plans instead of trying to get a plan for yourself alone if that is an option for you.
The best family plan out there today is the T-Mobile Magenta plan. The Magenta plan is the same price as the basic offering from AT&T with a ton more features. The plan comes with 100GB of premium data free of slowdown, plus a Netflix Basic subscription. It also includes 5GB of mobile hotspot data before reverting to 3G.
All of that comes out to around $35 per person for a family of four, making this a great value compared to other plans that offer much less for the same price point.
Best Prepaid Cell Phone Plans
It is tough to beat Mint Mobile when it comes to prepaid offerings. For $180 upfront for the year, you have access to unlimited talk and text with 4GB of 4G or 5G data. Financially, this all comes out to about $15 per month. Data is technically unlimited, although speeds slow down after 4GB.
Given the lack of group discounts, prepaid plans tend to be best for individual lines. Very few companies offer anything as cheap and all-encompassing for a single prepaid line as Mint Mobile.
While the three-month plan for Mint is a solid investment, going for the full year of prepaid content is the best value for your money for any prepaid phone plan.
Best Cell Phone Plans for Seniors
If you are a senior or purchase a phone plan for a senior, we recommend Mint Mobile’s prepaid option. Seniors are becoming more and more likely to purchase a smartphone, and they must have a phone that fits their needs. Mint Mobile is a simple plan that only requires one payment per year and doesn’t overload you with too many unnecessary options.
Many seniors use their phones to stay in contact with family, which Mint Mobile allows easily through unlimited talk and text. While data usage is only high speed for 4GB, the fact that it is otherwise unlimited means you don’t have to worry about running out. While this plan is good for seniors, it’s really also good for anyone who doesn’t want too much fuss with their cell phone plan.
Best International Phone Plans
The Verizon Do More plan is the middle-tier unlimited plan that Verizon offers. What sets it apart is the one TravelPass day per month that you accrue by having this plan. TravelPass is Verizon’s system where you can get unlimited talk and text in over 185 countries. This means that as you build up months on this plan, you can get enough TravelPass days to go on a vacation without having to mess with your existing phone plan.
If you are interested in staying abroad more long term, however, consider the AT&T Passport. For $70 per month, you can get basic text plus 35 cents per minute talk almost anywhere in the world. Overall this comes out to less than what you would pay if you stuck to the TravelPass plan without accruing hours, which comes out to $10 per day. You won’t get the amenities that you’d have from staying in the United States, but you wouldn't be breaking your wallet as a traveler.
Best Hotspot Phone Plans
As far as hotspot data alone goes, the winner is the Verizon Get More plan. This plan offers 50GB of high-speed hotspot data with unlimited lower speed data after that. T-Mobile and AT&T only offer 40GB with their best plans, making Verizon the clear winner here.
The Get More plan is also a fantastic deal on its own, sitting at $55 per line for four lines with a ton of extra features it boasts in addition to the hotspot data. If a powerful hotspot is your top priority, then the Get More plan will give you that and more.
H2 - Best Plans by Network
Each of the big three telecommunications companies offers a ton of plans, but some of them are definitely more impressive than others. While none of these big companies will have plans as cheap as something you would find with Tello or Mint Mobile, they have different plans that are meant to be more affordable than their bigger offerings.
Verizon’s 5G Get More plan is an absolute powerhouse of a phone plan. This plan specifically leans into its perks more than any other phone plan on the market. With the Get More plan, you get access to Disney Plus, ESPN Plus, Hulu, TravelPass, Apple Music, 600GB of Verizon Cloud storage, and either Apple Arcade or Google Play.
There is no other plan out there offering this many different things in addition to a huge 5G network with unlimited talk, text, and data. This comes out to $55 per line for four lines, or $220 total. The plan basically pays for all of the extras included here. It isn’t for anyone, especially given the fact that most people won’t even be interested in all of these perks, but it is a fantastic value for your money.
The T-Mobile Magenta plan knocks it out of the park, especially for family units. The family plan for the Magenta plan is relatively cheap compared to its contemporaries, but the addition of Netflix basic makes it a much more worthwhile investment.
The Magenta plan doesn’t have all the perks of something like the Get More plan, but that’s because no plan does. The Magenta Max upgrade is significantly more expensive, but the improvements don’t allow it to stand up to the competition. T-Mobile’s best plan is the Magenta plan because it is accessible to a wide range of consumers while still having great extra features.
The AT&T Unlimited Extra plan costs $40 per month with four lines, and it offers the basic features you would expect out of an unlimited plan plus a subscription to Google Stadia. This is a little less popular than the perks you would find with T-Mobile and Verizon, but AT&T is a tried and true company with the largest network on earth.
While the other Unlimited plans from AT&T lag behind a little, the Unlimited Extra plan offers very solid premium data for the price. This is a good all-around option for people who want the basics from a top-tier provider. It may not come with a ton of extra features, but it is hard to compete with AT&T’s basic service options.
While these phone plans are all very different, it only takes a little research to determine which plan is right for you. When choosing a phone plan, factors like price, connectivity, coverage, extra features, and international capability are all worth looking into.
If you want a low price, consider a company like Tello or Mint Mobile. These companies have great plans for people who are looking for individual lines at a low price. Mint Mobile stays competitive with the big companies by offering great low prices with prepaid rates, making them perfect for seniors or people who generally don’t care about all the bells and whistles of your average phone plan.
If you are aiming to put together a family plan, then the T-Mobile Magenta plan is hard to beat, given its great amenities and relatively low cost. This is also great for anyone who is trying to put together a multiline plan in general due to the value per line.
Whatever your price point or location is, you can be certain that one of the above phone plans will cater to your specific needs. Take some time to reflect on your own preferences as needed while looking at all the great extra features that come with these plans to be sure of your decision.
Visit Navi for more information on choosing a plan for yourself or your family.
2022 Cell Phone Usage Statistics: How Obsessed Are We? | Reviews.org
VerizonUnlimited Data Plans for Talk & Text, Now with 5G | Verizon
New customers get great deals | Mint Mobile
Our Best Basic Unlimited Data, Talk & Text Plan | T-Mobile Essentials
AT&T UNLIMITED STARTER PLAN | AT&T
T-Mobile Magenta Plan | T-Mobile
Technology use among seniors | Pew Research Center
Enjoy AT&T Passport for International Travel | Wireless Customer Support