Affiliate Note: Some of these companies offer commissions for online referrals. Other ones don’t. For those curious, details about financial arrangements can be found here.
“I’d like a good amount of data, but I don’t need top-notch coverage.”
Mint Mobile runs over T-Mobile’s network and offers outrageously good prices. Subscribers can choose plans with either 5GB, 15GB, 20GB, or 40GB of full-speed data each month.
Mint prices plans based whether a subscriber pays for 3, 6, or 12 months of service upfront. Normally, subscribers who pay for 12 months of service get the best rates. However, new customers can purchase 3 months of service at the rate usually reserved for a year of service.
Promo: Mint is temporarily offering all plans for $15 per month for the first three months.
Example plan: One line with unlimited minutes, unlimited texts, and 15GB of data for as low as $20 per month.
“I’d like a good amount of data and great coverage.”
US Mobile’s Warp service runs over Verizon’s network and offers great prices. Unlimited data plans cost $20-$45 per month. The carrier’s limited-data plans with 5GB to 30GB of data each month have surprisingly low price tags.
Example plan: One line with unlimited minutes, unlimited texts, and 5GB of full-speed data for $15 per month.
Heads Up: US Mobile’s non-unlimited plans involve a few bucks per month of added fees above and beyond those typically charged by competitors.
“I want unlimited data and solid coverage.”
Visible is owned by Verizon and offers only two plans. Both plans include unlimited minutes, texts, and data. The standard plan is $30 per month. A premium plan, which includes features like high-priority data for better speeds when the network is congested, comes in at $45 per month.
Visible is running a promotion that brings the cost of the standard plan to $25. The premium plan is $35 per month for new customers that port in a number and use the code VISIBLE35.
Example plan: One line with unlimited calls, texts, and data for $30 per month.
“I want a great deal, and I don’t need tons of data.”
T-Mobile’s Connect plans are an awfully good deal for people who don’t use lots of data. While T-Mobile doesn’t have the best coverage among wireless networks, the company still offers solid service in most places.
The Connect plans include unlimited minutes and texts. Plans vary in their data allotments and monthly price:
- 1GB – $10 per month
- 3.5GB – $15 per month
- 6.5GB – $25 per month
Example plan: One line with unlimited minutes, unlimited texts, and 3.5 GB of data for $15 per month.
T-Mobile’s Connect plans require a one-time purchase of a SIM card for $10 per line.
Tello operates over T-Mobile’s network and offers extremely budget-friendly options for people who don’t use data heavily.
Example plan: 100 minutes, unlimited texts, and 1GB of data for $7 per month.
“I want solid service with great international coverage.”
Google Fi offers solid service with extremely simple international roaming options. Fi’s generous international roaming policies allow subscribers to receive service at no extra charge in roughly 200 countries.
Fi is decently priced for those who don’t use much data. For heavy users of data, Fi’s pricing is not terribly competitive.
Example plan: 4 lines with unlimited minutes, unlimited texts, and 2GB of shared data for $22 per line each month.
“I’m an Xfinity Internet customer, and I want an awesome deal.”
Xfinity Mobile offers exceptionally good deals and outstanding coverage over Verizon’s network. Unfortunately, the service is only available to Xfinity Internet customers. If you already happen to use Xfinity Internet, I strongly recommend the carrier’s plans.
All of Xfinity Mobile’s plans include unlimited minutes and texts at no charge. Customers pay only for data, and they can choose either (a) an unlimited data option for $30+ per month per line or (b) a pay-by-the-gig option. Within a single family plan, subscribers are free to mix-and-match with some unlimited lines and some by-the-gig lines.
Xfinity Mobile subscribers who don’t continue to pay for at least one other Xfinity service will be charged an extra $25 per line each month. Additionally, only a limited set of devices are eligible for Xfinity Mobile’s bring-your-own-device program (some iPhone, Galaxy, and Pixel devices).
Example plan: 5 lines with unlimited minutes, unlimited texts, and 10GB of shared data for only $12 per line each month.
Canada: Recommendations for readers in Canada can be found on another page.
Recommended phones: If you’re looking for a low-cost phone, consider Motorola’s moto g family. Phones in that line tend to offer solid performance and have prices starting around $150.
eSIMs: Many recent phones, including the last several iPhone models, support eSIMs. With an eSIM, a person can switch between carriers or add a second carrier without needing a physical SIM card.
- Many carriers offer an eSIM free trial
- You can beat expensive international roaming fees with data-only eSIMs from Airalo
Coverage quality: Verizon leads the nation in coverage quality. If you spend a lot of time in cornfields or climbing mountains, you’ll probably want to choose a carrier that uses Verizon’s network. AT&T’s coverage area is the second largest. T-Mobile’s coverage is more limited than the other major networks.
When a small carrier piggybacks on a major network, the small carrier’s subscribers usually get coverage in almost all the places the network is available. However, subscribers with small carriers may not get coverage from some of a host network’s roaming partners.
Coverage by city: Information about coverage quality in specific cities can be found by searching for a location on Coverage Critic. The database covers nearly every U.S. city from San Diego to Boston. Coverage Critic also offers an interactive coverage map for viewing and comparing coverage across providers.
About Chris: The cell phone service recommendations are maintained by Christian Smith. Christian runs Coverage Critic, where he helps consumers cut through bullshit and make sense of the wireless industry. He’s a Mustachian, bike addict, and nature lover.
You can find Christian on Twitter here.