The American cell phone market is highly competitive, with three major cellular carriers (AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile) and more than 120 mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs) offering plans through the major carriers’ networks.
From a consumer perspective, lots of competition means lots of choice. While cell phone plans may all appear similar – most of them offer more-or-less nationwide coverage, unlimited minutes, and unlimited data – there are subtle differences.
There's no one plan that fits all, so how can you choose the best one for your needs? That's exactly what this guide is here for. We reviewed the top cell phone plans, so you don't have to do any guessing work.
Here’s a look at our picks for the top 10 cell phone plans, to help you find the right one for you.
Our Top 10 Best Cell Phone Plans in 2023:
- Mint Mobile - Best call phone plan overall
- Tello - Best for affordable plans
- AT&T - Best for families that use lots of data
- Visible - Best for rewards for referring friends
- Xfinity Mobile - Best for spreading costs across up to 10 people
- Verizon Wireless - Best for gamers and streamers
- PureTalk - Best for Affordable data plans
- Reach Mobile - Best for people who use a different amount of data each month
- Cricket Wireless - Best for affordable, no-contract plans with 5G data
- Boost Mobile - Best for cheap pre-paid plans with some high-speed data
|Compare the Best Cell Phone Plans|
3-month trial at discount prices
Cheap, bare-bones phone plan
Families that use lots of data
No activation charge for bringing your own phone
Spreading costs across up to 10 people
High-speed data and lots of extra perks
Affordable data plans
People who use a different amount of data each month
Affordable, no-contract plans with 5G data
Cheap pre-paid plans with some high-speed data
$15 per month
$5 per month per line
$35 per month
$15 per month
$35 per month
$20–$55 per month
$20-$45 per month (plus taxes and fees)
$25 per month
$10 per month
Free text plus your choice of minutes and data
Unlimited talk, text and data
Unlimited; By the Gig (1-10 GB)
Unlimited talk and text; 5G data from 2 GB to unlimited
T-Mobile (will move on to Dish Wireless in future)
A Closer Look at Our Top 10 Cell Phone Plans
- 3-month introductory offerRead Mint Mobile Review
- Best For3-month trial at discount prices
- Starting Price$15 per month
Mint Mobile offers a choice of four cell phone plans on T-Mobile’s nationwide 5G and 4G LTE network. It is best known for its unique marketing approach, which includes a substantial 3-month introductory discount, free SIM card and 7-day trial for a friend of your choice, and promos featuring part-owner and Hollywood star Ryan Reynolds.
Mint Mobile has one of the best customer ratings of any mobile plan provider, with a 4.6-star rating from around 5,000 customer reviews on Trustpilot. Customers say they value Mint Mobile for its superior prices (compared to the big three carriers), reliable service, and user-friendly website and app.Pros
- User-friendly app and website
- Free instructional videos on website
- Refer-a-friend bonus
- Unlimited plan slows down after 35 GB monthly data usage
- Quite expensive after 3-month trial is up
- Plans for as little as $5 per monthRead Tello Review
- Best ForCheap, bare-bones phone plan
- Starting Price$5 per month per line
- PlansFree text plus your choice of minutes and data
Tello has built up a reputation as one of the leading providers of budget, bare-bones cell phone plans. Tello’s custom plans give you as many minutes as you want (zero to unlimited), as much data as you want (zero to 25 GB), and unlimited texts – and Tello charges you accordingly. Plans start from as little as $5/month with unlimited minutes and limited data.
True to its status as a budget cell phone operator, Tello lets you bring over your existing phone for free or purchase a new or refurbished device for as little as $69. The end result is that Tello is much cheaper than the big mobile operators and it doesn’t require any contracts or commitments.Pros
- It’s really cheap
- No contracts
- Strong customer approval ratings
- Limited amount of high-speed data
- Data slows down to 2G after monthly limit is exceeded
- Tello doesn’t sell the latest devices
- Unlimited talk, text, and data on all plansRead AT&T Review
- Best ForFamilies that use lots of data
- Starting Price$35 per month
- PlansUnlimited talk, text and data
AT&T offers a range of cell phone plans on its own AT&T Mobility mobile network, covering 99% of American households. Its 5G mobile coverage now covers more than 225 million people in 14,000 cities and towns across the U.S., while its 5G Plus is available in various parts of 13 cities. All plans come with unlimited minutes, text, and data – although high-speed data is capped.
Subscribing to AT&T is worthwhile for families, but less so for individuals. That’s because the plans are quite expensive on a per-user basis for one or two users, but decently priced if you’re paying for four or five lines. AT&T offers faster speeds than third-party operators that use its infrastructure, making it a good option for families that use a lot of mobile data.Pros
- 5G access included with all plans
- Unlimited talk, text and data in U.S., Mexico and Canada
- Advanced mobile security with premium plans
- Data speeds may temporarily slow down if network is busy
- Very expensive for individual users
- Bring a friend and get $20 creditRead Visible Review
- Best ForNo activation charge for bringing your own phone
- Starting PriceFrom $30/month
Visible Wireless is one of the few providers to offer genuine unlimited data without the prospect of having your data slow down after passing a certain amount of usage. In times of high traffic on the Verizon Wireless network (on which Visible Wireless rents space), your data may be slower than usual, although this is the case for everyone no matter the cell phone provider. However, Visible Wireless doesn’t cap your high-speed data, so you can use as much as you like.Pros
- Big discounts for referring friends
- Genuine unlimited data
- Flexible billing options
- Only one type of plan
- Data slows down at peak times
- Data bundles for groups up to 10 peopleRead Xfinity Mobile Review
- Best ForSpreading costs across up to 10 people
- Starting Price$15 per month
- PlansUnlimited; By the Gig (1-10 GB)
When you sign up to Xfinity Mobile, you can apply for up to 10 lines on the one account. The number of lines you qualify for is based on a credit check. Unlimited nationwide talk and text is included with all plans. The only difference between the plans is how much data you get – and this begins with whether you choose an “Unlimited” or “By the Gig” plan.
With Unlimited, you pay $45/line per month, e.g., $45/month for one person, $135/month for three people or $450/month for 10 people. Each line gets 20 GB of high-speed data use. After that, the data slows down till the next billing month, but you won’t be charged for the extra data. With By The Gig, you only pay for the amount of data you need, with the choices being 1 GB ($15/month), 3 GB ($30/month), or 10 GB ($60/month). The great thing about By the Gig is it can also be spread across multiple lines, so if you’re part of a group of people only needing 1 GB each per month, you’ll pay $6/month per person.Pros
- Allows you to spread costs among up to 10 people
- Runs on Verizon Wireless 5G network
- Switch plans any time you need
- Unlimited plans slow down after 20 GB data usage
- By the Gig plans only run on 4G LTE
- Premium data plans with plenty of perksRead Verizon Wireless Review
- Best ForHigh-speed data and lots of extra perks
- Starting Price$35 per month
Verizon offers a choice of five feature-rich, high-speed cell phone plans. All plans include unlimited minutes and texts as well as unlimited access to the Verizon Wireless 5G Nationwide network, the second-largest 5G network in the U.S., covering more than 230 million customers in 2,700+ cities. The plans have different limits for premium data, depending how much you’re willing to pay for a subscription.
Like the other big telecommunications companies, Verizon targets the premium segment of cell phone customers. It isn’t the cheapest cell phone plan provider, but it more than makes up for this with its high speeds and extra perks like 6-12 free months of Disney+, Apple Music, and Discovery+. The child-friendly plan (with parental controls) makes it a particularly good option for families with underage kids.Pros
- Up to 50 GB of 5G / 4G LTE premium data per month
- Kid-friendly phone plans
- 600 GB wireless cloud storage (with premium plans)
- At busy times, data may temporarily slow down
- Fairly expensive (but has more features and perks)
- Affordable data plans with no overage chargesRead PureTalk Review
- Best ForAffordable data plans
- Starting Price$20–$55 per month
- PlansUnlimited talk and text; 5G data from 2 GB to unlimited
PureTalk is a cellular provider that offers plans starting at just $20 per month. All plans include unlimited talk and text, and there are no contracts or data overage charges. PureTalk operates on AT&T’s nationwide network, so you can count on coverage across 99% of the US and get 5G coverage in most major cities.
PureTalk allows you to bring your own phone and keep your existing number if you want to. If you need a new phone, you can choose from hundreds of Samsung, Apple, Nokia, and ZTE models and get a discount when you sign up for a plan. There are no fees for activation and no hidden charges.Pros
- No data overage fees
- 5G data plans starting from $20 per month
- Keep your existing phone number
- Deprioritization when AT&T’s network is busy
- Mostly Apple and Samsung phones available
- Automatic discount when using less dataRead Reach Mobile Review
- Best ForPeople who use a different amount of data each month
- Starting Price$20-$45 per month (plus taxes and fees)
- Plans2-25 GB
Reach Mobile is a mobile virtual network operator running on Verizon Wireless’s nationwide 5G and 4G LTE network. It offers a choice of five plans ranging from 2 GB of high-speed data to 25 GB of high-speed data. Network coverage extends to 99% of Americans, including 5G coverage for around two-thirds of Americans.
Reach is best known for its “Best Fit” plans, where your monthly bill is automatically discounted if you don’t use all your data. For example, if you choose the 10GB ($35/month plus taxes and fees) but use under 5 GB in a given month, you’ll only pay the price of the 5GB plan for that month ($30/month plus taxes and fees). And if you sign up for the 5GB or 10GB plans but use less than 2GB in a month, you’ll only pay $20/month plus taxes and fees that month – a saving of $10 or $15.Pros
- No contracts
- Automatic discount if you don’t use all your monthly data
- Excellent customer service
- Expensive compared to similarly-sized competitors
- Max 25 GB before data slows down
- Competitive cell phone plans with 5G dataRead Cricket Wireless Review
- Best ForAffordable, no-contract plans with 5G data
- Starting Price$25 per month
Cricket Wireless is a mobile virtual network operator owned by AT&T Inc. It currently provides cell phone plans to more than 10 million subscribers across the United States. As part of AT&T, it offers 5G mobile coverage to more than 225 million people in 14,000 cities and towns around the U.S., with more areas being added all the time.
Overall, Cricket Wireless offers everything parent company AT&T offers in its cell phone plans – but for a lower price and without the need for an annual contract. Subscriptions for one or two users are a little pricey, but if you’re purchasing for three or four users then Cricket Wireless offers affordable and commitment-free access to the best of AT&T Mobility’s high-speed data network.Pros
- No annual contracts
- AT&T 5G coverage in most areas
- Built-in fraud protection (with compatible phones)
- Limited speeds for all but most expensive plan
- Cricket may slow data speeds if network is busy
- Prepaid plans with low monthly costsRead Boost Mobile Review
- Best ForCheap pre-paid plans with some high-speed data
- Starting Price$10 per month
Boost Mobile is an MVNO formerly owned by Sprint and recently bought by Dish Wireless, a Dish Network subsidiary. Boost Mobile uses T-Mobile’s network to provide service to customers in the United States, but will move over to Dish Wireless’s own 5G network in future. (Dish Wireless is in the process of building the first standalone 5G broadband network in the United States and has committed to covering 70% of Americans by June 2023).
Boost Mobile is a leader in prepaid plans, where you pay at the start of the month. The benefit to this type of service is that it’s super-cheap – with plans starting from $10/month for unlimited talk and text with 1 GB of high-speed data through to $45/month for unlimited talk and text and 15 GB high-speed data. The premium $45 plan discounts to $35/month after six on-time payments.Pros
- Cheap pre-paid plans
- Discounts for on-time payments
- Mix and match or create a family plan
- No 5G coverage (4G LTE coverage only)
- Service disconnects if you miss a payment
Building wireless infrastructure is expensive, which is why there are only three major nationwide networks (and a handful of regional ones). More of the 120+ cell phone plan providers in the countries don’t have their own networks. Instead, they rent space on one of the big three networks: AT&T Mobility, Verizon Wireless, and T-Mobile US.
No. When you sign up for a new cell phone plan, you usually get a choice of buying (or more often, financing) a new device or bringing your own device. However, note that your phone must be compatible with whichever network your cell phone provider is on. You can usually check compatibility for free on the provider’s website.
If you need high data usage, then you’ll need an unlimited plan – and preferably one with as much high-speed data usage as possible. Obviously, these plans tend to be more expensive than basic ones with limited high-speed data.
To switch cell phone plans, you will need to contact your current carrier and request a cancellation. Once your service is canceled, you can sign up for a new plan with a new carrier.
With prepaid, you pay for your service in advance, while with postpaid, you pay your bill at the end of the month. Prepaid plans can be less expensive than postpaid plans, but they can also be less convenient because you have to pay for your service in advance.
Reviewing the Top Cell Phone Plans: Our Methodology
Top10.com cell phone plan reviews are based on objective facts. Our reviews are based on research via the cell phone plan provider’s site, trusted 3rd party sites, customer reviews, and use of the product through free trials, or through paid use in some cases.
It is not always possible to use the product through its entire lifecycle. However, reviewers will try the signup process, make customer service queries to check response times and perform any other possible function within the review period. For the rest of the information, we rely on what the brand says about its own product offering, customer reviews, and complaints, ratings from independent agencies like the BBB, and trusted journalistic publications.
Some of the key features we compared when looking at the cell phone plans on our list were:
- Monthly price
- Plans available
- Customer service
What You Need to Know Before Choosing a Cell Phone Plan
Price is the most obvious factor people look at when comparing cell phone plans, but there are actually a lot of other things to look for in your research.
Decide how many lines you need
A single line plan is just for one phone number but if your family has more than one person using a cell phone, you might want to get a multiple line plan instead. This costs less money per phone number than buying multiple single line plans. The data allowance will also be higher than in a single line plan, but it is shared between all the lines.
Determine how you will use your device
Will you need your device solely for emergencies? Or will you use it constantly? If you’re using your phone just for calling and texting, then your requirements will be different from using it for social media, streaming videos, and playing games. You may want to consider unlimited talk text and data if you use your phone a lot.
How much can you afford a month?
Most cell phone plans use a one-month billing cycle. Postpaid plans are typically more expensive than prepaid plans. Prepaid plans are best if you want to avoid a contract or if you have bad credit, whereas postpaid plans offer better data packages and features.
Do you have a phone, or will you need one?
If you don't have a phone, you can purchase one, and the cost of the phone will be added to your monthly bill. If you already have a phone, you can keep it and switch your service to the new provider. You may be able to trade in your old phone for a discount on a new phone.
What discounts could you qualify for?
Some providers offer discounts for seniors, students, military personnel, first responders, and others. Some providers also give out discounts if you set up auto-pay.
How reliable is the service?
When choosing a cell phone provider, you want to make sure that the service is reliable. Check if the wireless plan includes mobile hotspot data and, if you need to make business calls, ensure that there’s good call quality.
What type of wireless technology does the service have?
4G LTE and 5G networks are the main types of wireless technology. Most newer phones are compatible with these. However, if you have an older phone that uses 3G, check the provider has 3G in your area.
Does the company have a trial period or money-back guarantee?
When looking for a cell phone plan, look for a company with a trial period or money-back guarantee. If you’re dissatisfied with the service, you can cancel within the trial period and get your money back.
Do you travel internationally?
If you travel overseas frequently, you’ll want to ensure that your cell phone plan offers international services. This can include international calls, texts, and data. You don't want to be stuck without service or have to pay high roaming fees when you’re abroad.
What Types of Cell Phone Plans Are There?
Another important thing to think about when comparing providers is the types of cell phone plans they offer.
- Unlimited. The most common type of plan offered by cell phone companies, this includes unlimited talk and text and an unlimited amount of data (although many companies cap the amount of 4G/5G high-speed data, after which it slows down to 2G until the next billing month).
- Talk and text only. This is great if you want to use your phone the traditional way and don’t need to use the internet or apps (or are happy to only use these things via Wi-Fi access)
- Data only. These are tailor-made for other devices such as tablets and smart watches.
- Pay as you go. A handful of providers offer alternative plans, e.g., text-only plus pay-as- you-go for any minutes or data usage.
MVNOS and Main Carriers: What's the Difference?
When choosing a cell phone carrier, you have two main options: a mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) or a main carrier.
MVNOs are smaller carriers that piggyback off the major carriers' networks. This means they don't have their own infrastructure, so they can offer cheaper plans than the big carriers. However, it also means they don't have as good coverage as the main carriers.
Main carriers are the major wireless providers in the United States, such as AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, and T-Mobile. They have their own networks, so they can offer better coverage than MVNOs. However, they also tend to have higher prices.
How Much Do Cell Phone Plans Cost?
Cell phone plans can be divided into roughly two groups: limited (usually prepaid) and unlimited (often, but not always, contract) plans.
Limited plans start from as little as $5-$10 a month for bare-bones plans with very limited data (500 MB to 5 GB). They’re perfect if you only need a little bit of data but can quickly rise to $50-$60/month if your data usage gets out of control.
Unlimited plans start from $25-30/month in some cases, although you’ll need to pay at least $35/month for features like mobile hotspot. Prices can reach up to $60/month for plans with lots of extra features. The great thing about unlimited plans is that the price is fixed. If you exceed your data limit, your data will simply slow down from 4G/5G to 2G but you will never pay extra.
How much data do you need?
The amount of data you need affects the cost of your cell phone plan. If you only use a few gigabytes per month, you can find plans that are quite cheap. However, if you use a lot of data, you will have to pay more for your plan. Unlimited data is the most expensive plan option, but some providers offer unlimited data plans at a reasonable price.
Should you buy postpaid, prepaid, or resold service?
Postpaid plans - pay your bill at the end of the month
These are the most common type of plan and are suitable for people who’d rather not worry about paying in advance. However, they can be more expensive than prepaid plans.
Prepaid plans - pay for your service in advance
A good choice for people who want to save money on their cell phone bill and not be tied into a long-term contract.
Resold plans - someone else buys the service and then resells it to you
Suitable for people who want to be able to cancel their service at any time without having to pay a cancellation fee. However, resell plans can be more expensive than postpaid or prepaid plans.
How to Save Money on Your Cell Phone Plan
No matter which type of cell phone plan you choose, there are ways to save money on your monthly bill. Here are a few tips:
Review your plan and usage often. This will help you identify areas where you can reduce your usage or downgrade to a cheaper plan
Make use of switching offers. Many carriers offer incentives to switch to their service, such as a free month of service or a credit on your first bill
Make use of discounts. Many carriers offer discounts for people who meet specific criteria, such as students, military personnel, and seniors
Use Wi-Fi whenever possible to avoid using data
Disable features you don't use, such as visual voicemail and cloud storage
Pay your bill on time to avoid late fees.
How To Choose a Cell Phone Plan
Like any other sector with hundreds of providers, there are good cell phone providers and not-so-good ones. Therefore, always check a provider’s reputation before handing over your billing details or signing a contract. Also, read plenty of reviews and read through the fine print to make sure you aren’t putting yourself at risk of hidden fees.
As a cell phone user, it’s worth noting that you may also be the target of scammers trying to steal your identity. Thankfully, some of the top cell phone providers offer extra protection to block scam calls and messages. Alternatively, there are plenty of third-party call-blocking apps you can use to prevent unwanted callers.
No two cell phone plans are the same and no two cell phone customers are the same. Therefore, it pays to think about what you need before comparing cell phone providers. Here are a few things to consider when doing your comparison shop:
- Data usage. Most people use their phone to talk and text, but where people really differ is data usage. Do you use a lot of data? If so, you’ll probably want an unlimited plan. If not, you can get by with a cheaper, limited plan.
- Bringing your own device (BYOD). Do you have a device you’d like to bring with you to your new cell phone plan? Most providers allow BYOD in principle, but don’t forget to check compatibility on the provider’s website.
- How many people? As our cell phone provider reviews above show, some providers offer generous discounts for grouping together on one plan. If you have a large household (or just a group of friends willing to share one bill), then you have the power to pay less.
Here are a few steps to take when choosing a cell phone plan:
- Compare prices and choose between a prepaid and a postpaid plan
- Watch out for extra fees
- Check if your phone is compatible with the plan
- Make sure your area is covered by the provider
Make the Right Call
The more competition there is, the more power consumers have. The cell phone plans market is highly competitive, which means the power is in your hands. Before switching cell phone providers, always shop around to see who has the best prices, best features, and best terms and conditions for your lifestyle.