Cell Phone Service Recommendations

You don’t need to pay an arm and a leg for cell phone service. A handful of wireless carriers offer excellent, budget-friendly options.

The MMM cell phone service recommendations are maintained by Christian Smith, creator of Coverage Critic.

Affiliate Note: Some of these companies offer commissions for online referrals. Other ones don’t. Extensive details about financial arrangements can be found here.

“I’m an Xfinity Internet customer, and I want an awesome deal.”

Xfinity Mobile is available to Xfinity Internet customers and offers outstanding deals over Verizon’s network. Verizon’s already extensive network is further supplemented by millions of Xfinity Wi-Fi hotspots that subscribers can use without any data charges.

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 $45 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 $20 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 $12 per line each month.

Xfinity Mobile’s Website

“My family needs good coverage, but we barely use data.”

Ting offers subscribers coverage over Sprint, T-Mobile, or Verizon and arguably has the best customer support in the industry. Ting’s pay-for-what-you-use pricing model makes the service an especially good deal for families that don’t use much data.

Those looking for single-line plans or plans with large data allotments should look elsewhere.

Example plan: 4 lines with 1000 shared minutes, 1000 shared texts, and 2GB of shared data for $16.75 per line each month.

Ting’s Website | Coverage Check

I particularly recommend Ting’s Verizon-based service (details).

“I’m looking for a family plan with solid coverage and plenty of data.”

Total Wireless runs over Verizon’s extensive network and offers phenomenal prices on family plans with huge data allowances.

Example plan: Four lines with unlimited minutes, unlimited texts, and 100GB of shared data for $25 per line each month.

Total Wireless’ Website

+ Show more recommendations…

“I want a great deal, and I don’t need much data or extensive coverage.”

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 well-populated areas.

The Connect plans include unlimited minutes and texts. A version of the plan with a 2GB per month data allotment is $15 per month. A 5GB plan is available for $25 per month.

Example plan: One line with unlimited minutes, unlimited texts, and 2GB of data for $15 per month.

T-Mobile’s Connect plans require a one-time purchase of a SIM card for $10 per line.

T-Mobile’s Website | Coverage Map

+ Show more recommendations…

“I’d like a fair amount of data, but I don’t need extensive coverage.”

Mint Mobile runs over T-Mobile’s network and offers some of the best prices in the industry. Mint’s customers can choose plans with either 3GB, 8GB, or 12GB of full-speed data each month. Subscribers that use all of their full-speed data can continue using the internet at substantially reduced speeds.

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 monthly rate usually reserved for a year of service.

Example plan: One line with unlimited minutes, unlimited texts, and 8GB of full-speed data for as low as $20 per month.

Mint Mobile’s Website | Coverage Map

“I want solid service with great international coverage.”

Google Fi offers solid service with extremely user-friendly international roaming options. Phones designed specifically for Google Fi can seamlessly switch between access to T-Mobile, Sprint, and U.S. Cellular’s networks. Fi’s generous international roaming policies allow subscribers to receive service at no extra charge in roughly 200 countries.

While Fi is well-priced for those who don’t use much data, Fi’s pricing is not as competitive for heavy data users.

I generally recommend against using Google Fi if you don’t have a phone specifically designed for Fi.

Example plan: 4 lines with unlimited minutes, unlimited texts, and 2GB of shared data for $22 per line each month.

Fi’s Website | Coverage Check

My favorite budget-friendly phone at the moment is the Moto G7 Play.

It’s $160 without any carrier subsidies, and it offers great performance despite the low price point. Models of the phone purchased directly from Motorola can come unlocked with the hardware necessary to work well with each of the four largest U.S. carriers. Note: No Versions of the G7 Play work with Xfinity Mobile.

+ Show more recommendations…

Further Details

Example prices and plans: Settling on an example price and plan for each carrier is sometimes tricky. The prices listed above don’t necessarily account for all discounts, short-term promotions, taxes, or fees. The example price for Mint Mobile requires either a new subscription or an upfront payment for one year of service.

Ting networks: Ting determines the networks subscribers will be placed on based on the type of devices they’re using and the regions where they live. Most new subscribers will be placed on Ting’s Verizon-based service. You can verify you’ve been matched with Verizon’s network if a V1 SIM card ends up in your cart during Ting’s checkout process.

Phone models: Phone manufacturers often make multiple models of their devices with slightly different network hardware. Purchasing devices directly from manufacturers can be helpful for finding models with extensive compatibility across networks. Note that a few small carriers are more restrictive about allowed devices than the host networks they operate over (e.g., Virgin Mobile, Visible, Xfinity Mobile).

Canada: Recommendations for readers in Canada can be found on another page.

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. If you have any questions for him, leave a comment below.

  • Oliver May 7, 2020, 1:13 pm

    I am still paying for the iPhone XR for another 8 months so I am sticking to that.
    Yeah thats true, I am a bit comfortable in the apple ecosystem at the moment.
    If the iPhone SE wasnt 200 usd more expensive in Sweden that would be the right phone but right now Its probably smart to stick to the one I am still paying for until Its worth selling or breaks.

    Just need to pay this phone off so I can switch to a cheaper carrier, in the long run I guess thats whats most important.

  • Bernie Yeater May 7, 2020, 1:21 pm

    I once tried Metro PCS, a service of T-Mobile. I was managing a project near an Automotive plant on the north end of Detroit. No signal. It severely impacted my ability to coordinate things. I found about that Verizon has a program for Veterans and Military for $45 a month. it was $15 more a month but all my calls get through. I bought some Moto G6 of of Amazon for $85 a piece. We have three on the plan. Was considering Visable, but I understand that Verizon extends its service in areas they do not have towers by buying space on Sprint and T-Mobile. These extension agreements are not available to Visable.

  • Sarah May 8, 2020, 12:24 am

    Hi! I’ve been reading through the article, your site, and the comments and responses, and I know we all appreciate your help because we feel like we’ve been blindfolded for a long time. We live in a rural area so AT&T and Verizon networks are pretty much our only option. The catch is that we spend a little bit of time in Canada each year, and my husband spends a month or two in Europe (Switzerland, France, Austria) each year. AT&T had an international add on monthly fee and currently we have unlimited everything including Canada but I really don’t like the $130/month bill. Visible looks good for here (I kept re-reading their site trying to figure out the catch- unlimited everything?), Consumer Cellular? It’s so hard to find the details with each company like do they charge more or just slow your speeds if you go over on data or what really is their international policy? I loved Mint mobile’s concept but after digging for ages had to go to google to find out they use T-Mobile’s network. I still feel like I’m wading through the muck. Any suggestions? Much appreciated.

    • Coverage Critic May 8, 2020, 10:07 am

      Frequent international travel can definitely make picking a plan more complicated. How many lines will you need in total and how much data do you typically use?

  • Tom May 9, 2020, 5:00 am

    I use unlocked OnePlus phones with service by US Mobile, whom I found using the website http://www.whistleout.com. I was a little surprised none of these 3 have been mentioned by Chris or any of the commenters.

  • nice joy May 10, 2020, 10:33 am

    Thanks for your recommendations . I have 3 prepaid Verizon connection 3 GB +3 GB+ 15 GB pays around $97 including tax and fees. New connections get 6+ 6+16 get for $85. I was going to switch to t mobile with 2 GB + 2 GB +8 GB total 55… Then realized that t mobile prepaid don’t have any coverage for data [ can still make calls and text] in rural areas and small towns…. This is a problem when I take remote road trips. So I am planning to keep one phone with Verizon with 6 GB $35 and switch the other 2 lines to T mobile 15 +15 . What do you think?

  • Andy May 11, 2020, 2:29 am

    Hey Chris, This is really helpful!

    How do you handle phone numbers with all of the switching of carriers? Do you port one number, or never use your sim card number?

    I went about 2 years with using mysudo and google voice on my iphone, and they were so unreliable that I recently switched back to using a sim-number for “phone calls”. I try to do as much as possible through Wire and Signal, but still use my phone number a good bit.

    I’ currently on RedPocket’s verizon plan. It’s better than the ATT service I had on cricket, but still finicky service at my house (I live out in the country). I’d be interested in trying some other verizon options, but porting my number has always seemed to be a hassle and potentially dangerous (Lost my wife’s number accidentally several years ago…).

    I’d love to hear your thoughts!

    • Coverage Critic May 11, 2020, 1:54 pm

      Hey Andy,

      Great question. I tend to keep things simple and get a new number with each carrier I review. About a year ago, I ported my personal number over to Google Voice. For the most part, I love Google Voice, but I’ve definitely experienced my share of frustrations with it as well.

      I think the odds of losing a number while porting are awfully low these days, but it definitely happens. IMO, it’s worth the gamble to port unless there’s some unusual reason why losing a number would turn out to be a nightmare.

      I’m not super knowledgeable about all the under-the-good logistics of number porting, but I have the impression that the process has been streamlined in recent years. In some cases, it’s now possible to port numbers almost instantly.

  • Ted Gamble May 12, 2020, 12:35 pm

    Hello Christian, AKA The Coverage Critic, great stuff! I am wondering if you have any suggestions for Canada, specifically British Columbia. My wife and I are both nurses and have a corporate deal through our Health Authority, Island Health; however, I am still paying $160/month in Canadian $”s but still, I think we can do better. We are both only casual users really, no huge data or text usage, about average I guess. I really appreciate MMM and the work done by you all to bring financial understanding to the Masses. God know’s our educational systems do not provide financial literacy. Thank you, Be well. Tedg

    • Coverage Critic May 13, 2020, 2:44 pm

      Hey Ted, we’ve got a list of providers we recommend in Canada over at mrmoneymustache.com/coveragecritic-canada/. Public Mobile might be a good option for you two. You can see Public Mobile’s coverage map here.

  • Jennifer A Barrett May 13, 2020, 5:20 pm

    Any thoughts on PagePlus? They run on Verizon, and offer single plans with very low prices. We’ve had a great experience with the 2 GB and unlimited talk/text they offer for about $30/mo per line, after taxes.

    • Coverage Critic May 15, 2020, 3:29 pm

      I haven’t tried it myself, but my impression is generally positive. It shares the same parent company as one of our recommended carriers, Total Wireless. With the Verizon network, you should have pretty extensive coverage.

  • Peggy May 14, 2020, 5:04 am

    What’s the best option for a single line low usage service? Most usage is on home wifi, maybe 3 hours of call time a week and rare internet usage. I have a Republic Wireless internet only line on an older phone that I own, and my work Verizon iphone that I’ll lose when I retire next month. Was thinking of just adding cellular to my RW plan. Recommendations, anyone?

    • Coverage Critic May 15, 2020, 3:26 pm

      Mint or T-Mobile Connect will likely give you an experience similar to RW but at a lower price.

  • Dave May 14, 2020, 9:53 pm

    Thanks for the helpful comparison of cell plans!! I was curious why no one’s mentioned Cricket. Especially for locations that AT&T covers amazingly well, Cricket as a MVNO is very straight forward, easy to switch to, and have cheap phone options. (What average Joe needs a Pixel or an Iphone?!). It’s possible I might just be a naive loyalist, as my first phone back in the day was on Cingular…

    Right now I’m on a plan for 2 phones/$60 for 4 gigs. Great coverage for New England. Do I need to switch? It’s tempting to move to Mint Mobile, but I’m always suspicious of activation fees.

    • Coverage Critic May 15, 2020, 3:23 pm

      Hey Dave,

      I may add Cricket to the list soon. I don’t think Cricket’s current offerings are crazy well-priced for 1-3 lines, but the 4 & 5 line family plans are a pretty good deal.

      While you might be able to find something a bit cheaper, $30 per line is not bad. I don’t think it’s necessary for you to switch if you’re having a good experience. For what it’s worth, Mint doesn’t have activation fees.

  • ThisTooShallPass May 17, 2020, 4:26 pm

    Hi Chris,
    Am I missing something when you prefer T-Mobile connect over MINT? Because, MINT says they provide unlimited data (although at a reduced speed after monthly allowance). Everything else seems to be equal? Isn’t $15/month MINT is worth more than $15/month on T-Mobile Connect?

    Secondly, my wife and my son have being using H2O Wireless for years now (their emergency plan when no near WiFi).
    Prepaid $10/90days plan (100 minutes, 200MB data, WIFI Calling), which basically works out to $3.33 /month.

    Thanks for your passion in helping others.

    • Coverage Critic May 18, 2020, 10:18 am

      So I don’t always prefer T-Mobile Connect over Mint, but I do think T-Mobile Connect is the better bet for people who consistently use under 2GB of data per month. T-Mobile Connect doesn’t require upfront payment for multiple months of service. As far as I can tell, Connect subscribers get prioritized a bit better than Mint subscriber during periods of network congestion.

      On the other hand, if you need more than 2GB of data, Mint is probably going to be a better bet than T-Mobile Connect.

      One thing I would note–I wouldn’t think of Mint’s plans as conventional unlimited plans. After subscribers run out of data, they can continue using the internet at 128Kbps. It’s super useful if you’ve run out of regular data and need to pull up an email or a boarding pass. It’s too slow to provide a decent experience for more intensive data use (e.g., streaming video or surfing social media).

      Sounds like that H2O plan is a great deal for super-limited use!

      • ThisTooShallPass May 18, 2020, 11:15 am

        Great. Thanks for your research and all the info. Much Appreciated!

  • Susie May 21, 2020, 11:30 am

    I bought a Nokia 2018 phone for $215 (Amazon). My phone plan is Airvoice Wireless, $21.45/no. Unlimited calling & texts, 2GB data. Perfect for me. No dropped calls, enough data for me each day. I’m retired and do not work any longer.

  • Kelly Monaghan May 23, 2020, 12:24 pm

    I’m considering Visible and have a few questions: (1) Is there any downside to a party plan? And if not, how would I find two more folks to go i with me an my wife. (2) when no pandemic is raging, we spend 5 to 6 months in Canada; how does Visible work with that kind of situation?


Have a Comment?


welcome new readers

Take a look around. If you think you are hardcore enough to handle Maximum Mustache, feel free to start at the first article and read your way up to the present using the links at the bottom of each article.

For more casual sampling, have a look at this complete list of all posts since the beginning of time or download the mobile app. Go ahead and click on any titles that intrigue you, and I hope to see you around here more often.

Love, Mr. Money Mustache

latest tweets