3 cheap cell phone plans that run on AT&T’s network

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3 cheap cell phone plans that run on AT&T’s network
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Millions and millions of Americans choose AT&T for its reliable wireless network, but did you know that you can get the same great coverage at a much lower price?

Many people only stick with AT&T for its dependable service, which RootMetrics consistently ranks second behind Verizon.

RELATED: The #1 mistake people make when switching cell phone carriers

Switch to a low-cost provider and cut your AT&T wireless bill in half! 

However, more than a handful of smaller wireless providers called mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs) partner with AT&T to offer cheap cell phone service, including:

  • Cricket Wireless
  • Unreal Mobile
  • H2O Wireless
  • FreeUp Mobile
  • Straight Talk

Unlike the rest of the MVNOs mentioned above, Cricket is a wholly owned subsidiary of AT&T. The other MVNOs are independent of AT&T and only rent space on their network.

These low-cost providers are an obvious option to consider for people who are already happy with AT&T’s coverage.

An MVNO may not flat-out say which of the Big 4 networks that they partner with, but you can typically figure it out by comparing the MVNO’s coverage map to the major network’s coverage map.

For example, here’s a comparison of the coverage maps for AT&T and FreeUp Mobile:

AT&T Coverage Map

AT&T Coverage Map
AT&T Coverage Map

FreeUp Mobile Coverage Map 

FreeUp Mobile Coverage Map
FreeUp Mobile Coverage Map

You also need to consider your phone options. Some MVNOs that run on AT&T’s network sell their own phones and others will allow you to bring an unlocked GSM phone. Always check device eligibility on the provider’s website.

Many MVNOs are also prepaid carriers, which means that you pay for service in advance with no credit check required.

3 cheap cell phone plans you need to know about 

AT&T is heavily promoting two new unlimited data plans that start at either $70 or $80 for a single line of service before taxes and fees. But how would you like to cut that bill in half?

We’ve reviewed dozens of plans from the AT&T MVNOs and identified three of the best options…

Cricket Wireless: Unlimited Extra

Cricket’s two unlimited plans are called Unlimited and Unlimited Extra. There’s only a $5 price difference between the plans, but Unlimited caps data speeds at 3 Mbps and Unlimited Extra doesn’t.

Cricket Wireless

Plan name Unlimited Extra
Price 
  • $60/month or $55/month after Auto Pay
  • Multi-line discounts available
  • Monthly taxes included
Key details
  • Unlimited nationwide talk, text and high-speed data access at 4G LTE speeds
  • Video streaming at SD quality (about 480p)
  • Unlimited texts from the U.S. to 37 countries
  • Data access plus unlimited calls, texts and picture messages to and from Mexico, Canada and the U.S.
  • Cricket may temporarily slow data speeds when the network is congested

RELATED CONTENT: 5 things to know before you switch to Cricket Wireless

Straight Talk: Unlimited Nationwide 10GB 

Available at Walmart, Straight Talk operates on all four of the major wireless networks, which makes it simple if you want to keep your own phone and bring it to the prepaid service.

Straight Talk

Plan name Unlimited Nationwide 10GB
Price
  • $45/month or $44/month with Auto-Refill
  • Extended plans offer savings if you prepay for longer than a month
Key details
  • 30 days
  • No contract
  • Unlimited nationwide talk and text
  • Unlimited data with the first 10GB at high speeds, then at 2G

Unreal Mobile: Unlimited Everything + 3GB LTE

Unreal Mobile has two network partners, AT&T and Sprint. The provider offers several data plans with between 1GB and 5GB of high-speed data for as low as $10 a month. You can bring any unlocked GSM phone.

Unreal Mobile

Plan name Unlimited Everything + 3GB LTE
Price
  • $20/month
  • Taxes and fees are extra
Key details
  • Unlimited nationwide talk and text
  • Unlimited data with the first 3GB at high speeds, then at 2G
  • VPN service for added privacy and data encryption
  • Ad Blocker to protect you from intrusive ads
  • Data Rollover to save your unused data

RELATED CONTENT: Clark Howard reviews Unreal Mobile’s $10/month plan

Final thought 

We’ve highlighted MVNOs that run on AT&T’s network, but many more carriers have arrangements with Verizon, T-Mobile and Sprint that can also save you lots of money.

If you live in an area where all of the Big 4 networks have good coverage, read about some of your options here. 

Several members of Team Clark have saved hundreds of dollars a year simply by changing cell phone providers. To help you through the switch, we put together this step-by-step guide.

More Clark.com stories about cell phone service: 

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Michael Timmermann paid off his mortgage in two years. Now, he shares his money-saving tips on his blog, MichaelSaves.com.
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