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The Guide to Choosing the Right Cell Phone Carrier and Plan for Your Needs

Choosing the right cell phone provider and plan can save you money. Want to learn about the different providers and how their pricing and plans differ?

With so many cell phone providers and plans available today, the options are nearly endless. Every carrier has different selling points, and all of their plans offer different amounts of minutes, data, and package costs. So before buying a plan for yourself or your family, we thought we’d organize the madness to help you select the right one for your needs. Now selecting a plan isn’t daunting and scary, but rather methodological and clear. So which cell phone plan should you go with and where do you start?

Getting Started

Finding the right cell phone plan is all about knowing what you need, which is all about what you use your phone for. Are you a phone call kind-of-person, or do you spend most of your time texting? Do you spend your commutes to work catching up on the news and streaming videos, or do you prefer to listen to pre-downloaded audiobooks?

These are all questions you should be answering, as they will greatly help you whittle down your choices to find the right plan.

For Families

You must also take into account the people you’re purchasing the plan for. Buying a plan for yourself, where you know what you do and how many minutes or how much data you use is one thing, while buying one for your family is completely different.

If you’re going to be sharing a plan with a social media obsessed, series-streaming teen, you will get the most bang for your buck with a plan from T-Mobile or Sprint. The T-Mobile One plan is ideal for families, as it starts at just $160 for 4 lines. With the plan you also get a Netflix plan for free, unlimited HD streaming and 4G LTE data. Since you’re purchasing the plan for your family, you will likely have members that own a tablet or wearable, like an Apple Watch or other smartwatch. Adding these to your plan is simple and only costs an extra $20 per tablet, and $10 per wearable. If that’s not enough, T-Mobile also offers perks on Tuesdays with its T-Mobile Tuesday app. The company really does offer a great all around plan that you and your whole family will enjoy. Your kids and spouse will be able to do what they want on their phones, while you will feel you’re getting what you pay for. Another company offering a good all over plan comparable to T-Mobile is the well-known, Sprint. Its Unlimited Freedom plan offers a lot for the very reasonable price of $60 per month for the first line and $40 per month for the second line. If you have more than 4 people in your family, you will be glad to know that you can add up to 3 more lines for no extra cost. You’ll get unlimited talk, text, and data, and like T-Mobile, the extra perk of a free Hulu subscription.

If you’re looking for a good, but more simple family plan, check out AT&T. It has a $45 6GB prepaid plan that offers you more than enough data. Prepaid is a great choice when purchasing plans for your kids, as you can ensure they won’t go over their minutes or use too much data. The only downside to the plan is that it has slightly slower download speeds than others. Choosing the right phone plan for you family can save you hassle, frustration, and most importantly, money.

Is It Just You and Your Partner?

If you’re only buying a phone plan for you and your partner, you will probably need less data and a smaller amount of minutes compared to that of a family plan. Two really popular providers for couples are Boost Mobile and Cricket. Boost Mobile has a $60 a month plan that gives you unlimited talk, text, and data, as well as 20GB of mobile hotspot. Since it’s backed by Sprint, you will get top-quality nationwide LTE coverage. You can also add extras to your plan like BoostTV, Boost Dealz, and roaming. Cricket also has a plan ideal for couples, that gives you a whopping 8GB per user at just $90 a month. Cricket runs on AT&T’s network, so you know you will get good coverage in most places, and offers excellent customer service.

There are also more simple and straightforward providers like MetroPCS, where you can pay one upfront flat fee so you know you won’t incur extra charges. Other simple-plan favorites include Consumer Cellular and Republic Wireless. Republic Wireless works off both T-Mobile’s and Sprint’s wireless networks, and offers you a decent amount of talk and text time, and 2GB of data. The provider prioritizes WiFi for data use to help you consume less than if you were using a traditional provider.

If You Have Family Spread Out and Abroad

No matter if you’re a single person, family, or couple looking for a plan, if you have family living abroad that you plan on staying in contact with, you should choose Verizon or Project Fi. It’s important to choose a plan that lets you make international calls because if not, you will get nailed on your monthly bills. Verizon offers really great coverage and competitive pricing for international calls. Project Fi, which is a Google company, uses a combination of WiFi and cellular networks to reimburse its customers for unused data and minutes.

There’s a Plan for Everyone

Cell phone providers offer many plans to satisfy a broad range of customers. But before going into the store and getting overwhelmed by the choices, plan types, and differentiating factors, it’s important to be informed. So get the most bang for your buck by knowing what you need and how much of it you need. With that, you’re sure to leave a happy customer!

How we created this
Compiled from “Best of” lists published by the world’s most trusted sources, and with our own recommended brands peppered in - this Top10 list aims to help consumers make smarter decisions.