Paying for a cell phone really adds up. Month after month after month, it’s one of our most expensive bills.
There’s good news, though: Discount cell phone companies are getting better and more popular. They’re giving the three major carriers (Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile/Sprint) a run for their money.
Sure, sometimes discount carriers get a bad rap. Maybe you think the service will be spotty, there’ll be sneaky hidden fees, or you’ll have to buy a whole new phone. But with the best discount plans, you don’t have to worry about that stuff anymore.
In fact, all of these companies use the networks of the major carriers, so you can still get reliable coverage — just at a steep discount. Here are some of the top cheap cell phone plans we found:
1. Cut Your Cell Phone Bill to as Little as $5/Month
You’ve probably had the same cell phone company for a while, right? Which means you’re probably paying way too much.
We found a discount wireless carrier called Tello that offers plans starting at just $5 a month. How much are you paying now?
Tello operates on Sprint’s nationwide network, offering 4G LTE data everywhere Sprint does. It lets you choose a wireless plan based on how many minutes and how much data you want, and you can even use Tello’s coverage tool to see how strong the network is where you live.
You can bring your own phone (Tello works with any Sprint-compatible phone) or buy a new one through them. Even better: There are no early termination or activation fees, no contracts or phone-exclusive plans — no tricks of any kind.
We chatted with Fran DeRosier, a busy mom of four who used to pay more than $350 per month for her family’s plan. With Tello, she’s now paying $65 a month — for four lines!
“When I did the math, I was like, ‘Are you kidding me? That’s crazy!’” she says.
Tello doesn’t require you to sign a binding contract — it’s pay-as-you-go — so you can build your own plan and update it at any time. If you decide you don’t like it, you can always just change your mind.
See how much you could save here.
2. Slash Your Bill by More Than Half With This Alternative
Zak Wilson had been paying Verizon Wireless about $180 a month for two lines. So he tried a discount carrier named Twigby. Now, he’s paying $80 a month for four lines.
With Twigby, you get to build your plan. Each plan comes with unlimited texts, then you choose how many minutes and how much data you need each month. Plans also include free Wi-Fi calling and texting.
Twigby uses both the Sprint and Verizon networks for its coverage. Plans start at just $15 per month, and you can bring your own phone. You can check your phone’s compatibility on Twigby’s website. Just click “Bring Your Own Phone.”
Twigby offers smartphone value plans, which include unlimited talk and text, plus your choice of 3GB, 5GB or 10GB of high-speed data for $20, $25 or $35 a month, respectively.
Plus, new customers get 25% off the first six months of service.
3. Deep Discounts — If You Pay In Advance
Here’s Mint Mobile’s deal: It offers deeply discounted rates — as long as you pay for several months in advance. Also, it doesn’t sell phones. You bring your own phone.
When you sign up with Mint, you get a three-month introductory price, which starts at $15 a month for unlimited talk and text and 3GB of data. This includes your SIM card kit.
You can also choose to pay $20 or $25 per month for 8GB or 12GB of data. The $20 plan is Mint’s most popular choice.
After your first three months of service are up, you can renew your plan for a three-, six- or 12-month plan. The more months you sign up for, the more money you’ll save.
Mint Mobile operates on the T-Mobile network.
4. A Choice with Brick-and-Mortar Locations
Cricket Wireless might be the best-known discount carrier on our list. It’s definitely the one with the most brick-and-mortar storefront locations.
With Cricket, you can choose between 2GB, 5GB and unlimited data plans. The unlimited phone plans start at $40 a month when you bring along your own device. Additionally, you’ll save money when you opt into auto-pay.
You can also choose to add on a number of features, including mobile hotspot ($10 a month), an additional GB of data ($10 a month, as needed) and even device protection, which covers loss, theft, water damage and physical damage.
Cricket requires unlocked, LTE-compatible devices. You can check to see if your phone is a match on its website. Cricket SIM cards are $9.99.