Best Cell Phone Plans and Deals in 2021

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Depending on your budget, lifestyle and preferred service provider, you may be able to save big money on your cell phone bill. If you’re willing to switch providers, there are cheap phone plans starting as low as $10 a month!

We’ve put together this comprehensive guide to help you choose the best cell phone plan for you — and your wallet. To begin, here are my top picks on the best cell phone plans in 2021.

Cheapest Cell Phone Plan
Tello Economy
Network
T-Mobile
Price
$10/month (plus taxes)
Highlights
  • Unlimited talk, text and 1GB of high-speed data
  • Cheapest pre-built plan available
Cheapest Unlimited Phone Plan
Mint Unlimited
Network
T-Mobile
Price
$30/month (plus taxes & fees)
Highlights
  • 35GB data cap before reduced speeds
  • Prepay three months in advance when you sign up
  • Although the contract changes, the plan price stays the same after three months.
Best Unlimited Data Plan
T-Mobile Magenta Max
Network
T-Mobile
Price
$85/month (taxes & fees included; autopay required to get best rate)
Highlights
  • Best price for high-speed data that never slows
  • 40GB of hotspot data
Best Multiline Phone Plan
Visible
Network
Verizon
Price
$40/month (taxes & fees included)
Highlights
  • Unlimited talk, text and data with max 8Mbps speeds
  • One of the cheapest prices for four lines ($25/line monthly)
  • Party Pay members pay individually
Best Cell Phone Plan for Seniors
Consumer Cellular
Network
AT&T
Price
$25/month (plus taxes & fees)
Highlights
  • Low prices on limited data plans
  • Discounts available for AARP members
  • Highest-rated service on Consumer Reports
Best Hotspot Plan
Boost Unlimited $60
Network
T-Mobile
Price
$60 (taxes & fees included)
Highlights
  • 30GB of mobile hotspot data.
  • Highest allotment of high-speed hotspot data with the best price for a single line

Choosing the Best Cell Phone Plan

Choosing the best cell phone plan can be a complicated task. Depending on your needs, the best plan for you may not be the same plan that’s best for someone else. However, if you’re simply looking to reduce your current cost, check out a prepaid phone plan or consider dropping unlimited data.

Money expert Clark Howard and his team have reviewed more than 100 cell phone plans to help identify the best options for you. Price, network reliability and customer satisfaction are three main factors that we considered. One thing we aren’t able to take into account is cell phone coverage in your specific area. For this reason, it’s important that you research a potential cell phone provider and its local coverage before switching.

The Best Cell Phone Plans in 2021:


Cheapest Cell Phone Plans

The cheapest cell phone plans start between $10 and $15 per month per line. These plans all offer unlimited talk and text and 1GB-4GB of data. Opting for a plan that isn’t unlimited is one of the best ways to save on your phone bill. Choosing a prepaid plan is another great way to save. Taking these tips into consideration, below you’ll find my top picks for cheap cell phone plans. For more options, check out our full list of the best cheap phone plans.

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Winner: Tello Economy (Review)

Tello Mobile review

Tello offers unlimited talk, text and 1GB of high-speed data for 10 monthly, making it the cheapest pre-built plan available from any service provider. Additional plans from Tello Mobile include 2GB for $14 per month and 4GB for $19 per month. If you’re switching to this plan, you may be able to bring your own phone with you to save additional money. You can check your phone’s eligibility online.

  • 2nd Place: Mint Mobile (Review) offers unlimited talk and text plus 4GB of high-speed data for $15 per month.
  • 3rd Place: Boost Mobile (Review) offers unlimited talk and text plus 2GB of high-speed data for $15 per month ($9 per month for the first six months.)
  • Other Plans To Consider: Spectrum Mobile (Review) offers $14 per GB for Spectrum customers, and Xfinity Mobile (Review) offers $15 per GB for Xfinity customers. Twigby’s current 50% off deal (for 6 months) gives you 5GB for only $12.50 for 6 months – Verizon network.

To see a full list of our top picks for the best cheap phone plans, check out this roundup.


Cheapest Unlimited Data Plans

When it comes to unlimited phone plans, there’s a lot of fine print to consider. Many plans advertise unlimited data, but this often includes slower speeds after a certain amount of use. While these plans have a limited amount of high-speed data, they are technically unlimited and come with better prices. Of course, you can always save more by choosing a phone plan with limited data, especially if you have access to Wi-Fi throughout the day. 

If you are looking for a cheap unlimited phone plan, below are my top picks. You can find a full list of the best unlimited data plans here.

Winner: Mint Unlimited (Review)

Mint Mobile Review: T-Mobile’s Network for Only $15 per Month

Mint Mobile offers unlimited talk, text and data for $30 monthly plus taxes and fees. The plan also includes an additional 5GB of mobile hotspot data. Data speeds reduce after 35GB, but you can still continue using unlimited data. Note that, to get this price, you must prepay for three months at a time, ($90 total). You can bring your own phone to Mint Mobile to save even more. Check your phone’s compatibility here before switching. 

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  • 2nd Place: Tello Mobile (Review) offers 25GB of high-speed data before reduced speeds for $39 per month.
  • 3rd Place: Visible (Review) offers unlimited data with no cap for $40 per month.
  • Other Plans To Consider: Total Wireless (Review) offers 1GB of high-speed data and unlimited 2G for $23.70 per month.

For more options, be sure to check out our full list of the best unlimited data plans.


Best Unlimited Data Plans

If you’re looking for a phone plan that’s completely unlimited with no caps on data speed, you can expect to pay a slightly higher price. Opting for a phone plan with limited high-speed data is the best way to reduce your bill. If you can get by on 15GB or less, you’ll find more affordable options. Still, you can get completely unlimited data for less than $100 monthly. Here are our picks for the best completely unlimited data phone plans. 

Winner: T-Mobile Magenta Max (Review)

T-Mobile unlimited plan deal

T-Mobile offers the Magenta Max plan for $85 monthly for one line. It includes unlimited talk, text and 5G data that never slows. The plan also includes 40GB of 4G LTE mobile hotspot data and a basic Netflix subscription. T-Mobile also offers the Essentials plan for $60 per month, which includes unlimited talk, text, and data as well as 3G mobile hotspot data. If you’re switching to this plan, you may be able to bring your own phone with you to save additional money. You can check your phone’s eligibility online.

  • 2nd Place: AT&T Unlimited Elite (Review) is available for the same price ($85 per month) with no data cap. If you’re getting four lines, T-Mobile Magenta Max ends up being slightly cheaper.
  • 3rd Place: Visible (Review) offers unlimited data for $40 per month, but speeds slow with congestion. 
  • Other Plans To Consider: Verizon’s Play More and Do More Unlimited plans include 50GB of high-speed data for $80 per month.

Best Multiline Phone Plans

If you have four lines of service, you can pay as little as $25 per month per line with a multiline plan. If you’re shopping for four lines, these plans are worth checking out.

Winner: Visible (Review)

Visible cell phone

Visible’s Party Pay is similar to a family plan, but every user on the plan is billed separately. The Party Pay discount gets you unlimited talk, text and 5G data for $25 per line with four lines. The plan also includes unlimited hotspot data (though it’s just 5Mbps), and you can bring your own phone. To see if yours is compatible, visit Visible’s website.

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  • 2nd Place: Total Wireless (Review) offers four lines for $95 per month with autopay. It includes unlimited talk, text and data as well as in monthly 10GB hotspot data per line.
  • 3rd Place: Cricket Wireless (Review) offers four lines for $100 per month with unlimited data.
  • Other Plans To Consider: H2O Wireless offers four lines for $100 monthly with unlimited data (slower speeds after 6GB data use per line). Boost Unlimited (Review) also offers four lines for $100 monthly with unlimited data.

For more options, check out our full list of the best family plans. If you need only two phone lines, you can see my top picks for the best phone plans for two here.


Best Cell Phone Plans for Seniors

When choosing the best cell phone plans for seniors, any of the phone plans on this list are great options. We’ve highlighted plans that include unlimited talk and text but limited data in order to stay at a low monthly price. These plans also offer discounts and/or senior services to anyone over the age of 55. For more options, be sure to check out our full list of the best cell phone plans for seniors here.

Winner: Consumer Cellular (Review)

Consumer Cellular

Consumer Cellular, which utilizes AT&T and T-Mobile’s networks, offers a 5% discount to AARP members. Although its prices aren’t the lowest, the carrier makes our list for its high customer satisfaction scores and Consumer Reports ratings. For one line, Consumer Cellular offers plans beginning at $25 per month for 500MB of data. For $30 monthly, you can get 3GB of data. The same plan is available for two lines at $45/month or three lines for $60 per month. If you do switch to Consumer Cellular, you may be able to bring your own phone to save even more money. You can check your phone’s eligibility online.

  • 2nd Place: T-Mobile Magenta 55+ offers two unlimited lines for $35 each (discount included).
  • 3rd Place: Lively offers unlimited talk and text along with 500MB of data or $24.99 monthly. Lively runs on Verizon’s network.

For more cell phone plans for seniors, see our full list of top picks here.


Best International Phone Plans

If you’re shopping for an international phone plan, you’ll want to look for unlimited international data. Most plans include Wi-Fi calling that can be used internationally, and many plans offer international roaming at an additional cost. If you plan on traveling only once or just calling internationally, consider these options before switching your phone plan. If you are a frequent traveler, here are my top picks for the best international phone plans.

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Winner: Google Fi (Review)

Google Fi

When it comes to traveling abroad, Clark says Google Fi has great international features. Google Fi offers unlimited calls and texts beginning at $20 monthly for a single line. This plan includes data at $10 per GB and no charge after 6GB for one person with the Bill Protection feature. Unlimited international data plans begin at $60 per month for a single line. If you’re switching to this plan, you can likely bring your own phone with you to save extra money. Check your phone’s compatibility here.

  • 2nd Place: T-Mobile Magenta (Review) is available for $70 per month and includes unlimited talk, text and data in more than 200 locations.

Best Hotspot Phone Plans

If you don’t have regular access to Wi-Fi, you may be looking for a plan with a high allotment of mobile hotspot data. Below, you’ll find my top picks for the best hotspot plans available now. You can check out our full list of the best hotspot phone plans here.

Winner: Boost Unlimited (Review)

Boost Mobile

Boost Mobile offers a couple of different unlimited plans. For $50 per month, you can get 12GB of mobile hotspot data. For $60 per month, you can increase the mobile hotspot data to 30GB. This plan also includes unlimited talk and text as well as 35GB of high-speed data before reduced speeds. You can add a line for $40 a month more, and you can bring your own phone to save even more. Check your phone’s compatibility online before switching.

For more options, be sure to check out our full list of the best hotspot phone plans available now.


Best Plans by Network

If you know you have good coverage with a specific network, you may want to stick with a phone plan that runs on that network’s towers. Still, that doesn’t mean that you pay the full price of a phone plan directly from that company. Instead, you could consider an MVNO (mobile virtual network operator) that works with the same service. Below, you’ll find my top picks for each network including affordable MVNOs and plans available directly from the service provider:

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Verizon

Verizon

Best Verizon MVNOs

If you’re willing to switch to an MVNO that still uses Verizon’s towers, you’ll likely find a better price for the same service. A few of the best plans highlighted throughout this article come from the following MVNOs that work with Verizon’s towers:

  • Visible (Review): This Verizon MVNO is our top pick for multiline phone plans and our third pick for both cheapest unlimited plans and best unlimited data plans. Lines begin at $25/month.
  • Total Wireless (Review): Our second pick for best multiline phone plans and an honorable mention for cheapest unlimited data plans, Total Wireless offers a few great plans including four lines for $95 per month with autopay.
  • Xfinity Mobile (Review): If you’re an Xfinity customer, you can find cheap phone plans from $15 per GB. Xfinity Mobile also runs on Verizon towers.
  • Twigby: Plans starting as low as $10 per months for 3GB for the first 6 months. 5GB plans are $12.50 per month for the first 6 months.

Best Verizon Plans

Some people want to buy their plans directly from the carrier. Here are a few of the best plans available from Verizon right now: 

  • Verizon Prepaid: 15GB of 5G data plus unlimited talk and text starting at $50 per month. After loyalty discounts and autopay discounts, the plan can be as low as $35 a month. 
  • Prepaid Unlimited: Unlimited talk, text and data starting at $65 per month with a prepaid plan.
  • Shared Data: Get unlimited talk and text plus 10GB of shared data on three lines for $115 monthly (after paper-free billing and autopay discounts). 

Select Verizon plans are eligible for discounts and savings when you switch to Verizon and bring your own phone. You can check online to see if your phone is compatible.


T-Mobile

T-Mobile

Best T-Mobile MVNOs

If you’re a fan of T-Mobile, consider an MVNO that uses T-Mobile’s towers. A few of our highlighted picks for phone plans came from these T-Mobile MVNOs:

  • Mint Mobile (Review): This T-Mobile MVNO offers several great, affordable plans. This earned Mint a spot as our winner for the cheapest unlimited phone plan as well as second place for cheapest cell phone plans. Plans begin at $15 monthly.
  • Republic Wireless (Review): Plans begin at $15/month for unlimited talk and text with this T-Mobile MVNO. You can also get 1GB of data per month for $200 annually.
  • Boost Mobile (Review): Boost offers the lowest prices for prepaid phone plans and runs on T-Mobile’s towers. You can find a 2GB plan beginning as low as $9 per month for the first six months. Unlimited plans start at $50 per month.
  • Metro by T-Mobile (Review): Plans from this T-Mobile MVNO begin at $40 monthly for unlimited talk, text and 10GB of high-speed data. Metro plans are prepaid and include access to T-Mobile’s 5G network.

Best T-Mobile Plans

When it comes to major carriers, Clark is a fan of T-Mobile. If you’re looking for the best T-Mobile phone plans, here are a few to consider: 

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  • Magenta: This plan includes unlimited talk and text as well as unlimited 5G & 4G LTE data for $70 per month for a single line or $40 per line with three lines ($120 monthly total). This plan also includes 100GB of “Premium” (read “high speed”) data per line, Netflix Basic for all accounts with at least two lines and 5GB of high-speed data/unlimited 3G mobile hotspot data.
  • Essentials: This plan includes unlimited talk, text and smartphone data for four lines for $105 per month plus taxes and fees. That works out to $26 per line. The plan also includes 3G mobile hotspot data per line. During congestion, customers may notice lower speeds. 
  • Magenta 55+: If you’re 55 or older, you can take advantage of this plan. It includes unlimited talk, text and 5G data for $35 per line when you get two lines ($50 per month for a single line). It also includes 5GB of 4G LTE mobile hotspot data for each line and a basic Netflix subscription.

If you like the phone you’re currently using, you can bring it to T-Mobile when you switch to one of its plans. You can check your phone’s eligibility online.


AT&T

AT&T

Best AT&T MVNOs

If you’re willing to switch to an MVNO that still uses AT&T’s towers, you’ll find better prices for access to the same network.

  • Cricket Wireless (Review): With several plans to choose from, Cricket Wireless is a great AT&T MVNO to consider. Its plan including four lines for $100/month with unlimited data earned Cricket Wireless third place for the best multiline phone plans.
  • H2O Wireless: This carrier provides access to AT&T’s network and offers a few different plans worth considering. It earned an honorable mention under the best multiline phone plans with $100/month for four lines and unlimited data.
  • Consumer Cellular (Review): This MVNO runs on both AT&T and T-Mobile networks. It won first place in the best cell phone plans for seniors category. Plans start at $25/month for seniors over the age of 55.

Best AT&T Plans

AT&T is another major cell phone service provider. If you’re looking for a plan directly from the company, here are a few of the carrier’s best deals:

  • AT&T Unlimited Starter: This family plan includes four lines for $35 per month per line. It includes unlimited talk, text and 5G data though AT&T may temporarily slow data speeds if the network is busy. 
  • AT&T Prepaid: AT&T offers a few different prepaid plans beginning at $30 per month for 5GB of high-speed data. For $40 per month, you can increase that data to 15GB with unlimited talk and text.
  • AT&T Prepaid Unlimited Plus: If you need an unlimited data plan, AT&T Prepaid Unlimited Plus is available for $50 per month with AutoPay. The plan includes unlimited data, 5G access and 10GB hotspot data. 

Select AT&T plans allow you to bring your own phone for additional savings. You can browse eligible plans and check your phone’s eligibility online.


Deal Alert: Cell Phone Plan Deals Available Right Now!

ProviderDealNetwork
Visible (Review)Visible: Unlimited talk, text and data for $5 a month after you refer a friend.Verizon
Twigby (Review)50% off for the first six months! Plans include unlimited talk, text and 5GB of data starting at $12.50 per month. 3GB data plans begin as low as $10 per month.Verizon
Redpocket (Review)50% off your first month of service plus $1 for the first month of each additional line.Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile
Boost Mobile (Review)Boost offers a 2GB plan for $9 per month for the first six months.T-Mobile

Clark’s Picks: Best Unlimited, Multiline and Cheap Cell Phone Plans

After comparing the prices and features of each available phone plan, here are my top picks for the best cell phone plans in 2021:

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(If you’re curious about Clark’s phone, he has a grandfathered unlimited data plan with T-Mobile and more than a dozen lines on his account. He likes T-Mobile if you want to stick with an unlimited plan from a major network.)

Of course, there are cheaper options that let you keep your preferred network. They fall into these categories:

  • Discount brands owned by major networks: Verizon owns Visible, AT&T owns Cricket Wireless and T-Mobile owns Metro by T-Mobile.
  • Prepaid brands from major networks: Verizon Prepaid, AT&T Prepaid, T-Mobile Simply Prepaid and T-Mobile Connect offer prepaid service from the major networks.
  • Mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs): These brands don’t own any cell phone towers, but they partner with the major networks to offer affordable wireless service.

These low-cost cell phone service providers have deals for people who need unlimited data, families and those who just want the cheapest phone plan.


Team Clark’s Methodology

For the purposes of this review, Team Clark determined that the top three things customers care about when it comes to cell phone carriers are price, network reliability/coverage and overall satisfaction.

Various members of our staff tried out each of these popular cell phone providers to get a feel for their reliability and service. We have individual reviews of those providers available on the website.

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We used analysis of the following characteristics when determining the best options for each category:

  • Price
  • Network reliability
  • Network coverage
  • Monthly data allotments
  • “Bring your own device” availability
  • Available deals and discounts (loyalty, autopay, additional lines, etc.)
  • Online reviews from real customers

Final Thoughts: How To Choose a Cell Phone Plan

Switching to a cheaper phone plan can be a great way to save on your monthly bill. But how do you know if one of these deals is right for you? Team Clark has come up with the top five questions you need to answer when shopping for a new cell phone provider.

  • How much data do I need? Unlimited plans prevent overage charges, but you may use less data than you think. This is especially true if you’re connected to Wi-Fi at home and work. Plans that charge for a fixed amount of data can be much cheaper.
  • Which network is best? Each wireless provider has its coverage map on its website. If you’re happy with your network (Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile), consider a low-cost carrier that uses your existing provider’s towers.
  • Single line or family plan? Looking for more than a single line? In general, you’ll pay a lower price per line if you add two, three, four or even more lines of service.
  • Prepaid or postpaid? Prepaid service is paid for in advance, while postpaid service is when you pay at the end of your billing cycle. No credit check is required for prepaid service and it’s often much cheaper than postpaid plans.
  • Is my phone compatible? Most carriers will sell you a new phone, but if you want to bring your own device it must be unlocked. Check compatibility on the wireless provider’s website before you sign up.

If this is your first time switching cell phone providers, check out this guide that we put together to take you step-by-step through the process. It’s easier than you think!

Let us know in the comments below if you’ve been able to save money by switching to a new cell phone plan!

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The best cell phone plans include Tello, Mint Mobile, Visible, T-Mobile, Consumer Cellular and more Best Cell Phone Plans and Deals in 2021 - Team Clark ranks the best cell phone plans and deals! See our favorites for unlimited data, families and cheap plans starting at $10/month.
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