The 8 Best Cheap Cell Phone Plans to Buy in 2018

Don't pay more than you need to for your wireless phone bill

Cheap cell phone plans let you have mobile service while keeping the bills to a minimum.

Phone companies are constantly trying to strongarm us by offering unnecessarily expensive, sticker-shock cell phone plans, but it's important to know there are much cheaper options available so you can avoid being nickeled and dimed.

Of course, cheaper means you'll likely have to be willing to accept some trade-offs. For instance, the phone carriers might not be particularly "name brand" and there are probably a few limitations (such as no unlimited texting or data/streaming), but if you're looking to keep costs to a minimum when it comes to your cell phone bill, then we can help. We’ve gone through the dozens of choices and selected the best cheap cell phone plans to fit every need.

Best Overall: Ting

Ting is a wireless re-seller that operates off both Sprint and T-Mobile’s 4G LTE networks and it's by far the cheapest. Unlike most wireless providers that offer pre-packaged plans, Ting’s offerings are a little more buffet style and allow you to select the number of lines you want (up to six), the number of minutes you want (up to unlimited), text messages (up to 18,000) and data plans that can go as high as 30GB.

To keep costs low, a single user can opt for 100 text messages, 100 minutes and 1GB of data for just $28 per month. A family of two with the exact same options increases that cost to only $34 per month. At the end of the day, customers use what they need and Ting bills appropriately.

Best Individual: Project Fi

With a base rate of just $20 per month for unlimited U.S. calls and texts, Project Fi is an inexpensive option with plenty of highlights. Unlike the more traditional carrier model that offers set plans, Project Fi allows you to select the amount of data you want each month, which is payable in different increments. And every month, you’re only paying for the data you use and anything unused is credited back to your next monthly statement.

With a set rate of $10 per GB, it’s easy to calculate your bill right from the start, so expectations are easy and budgeting is a breeze. There’s only a smaller selection of Android-based phones available, so iPhone fans are out of luck, but if you’re OK with the device selection, Google’s Project Fi runs on both the Sprint and T-Mobile networks for nationwide 4G LTE coverage.  

Best Pre-Paid: Mint Sim

For a bare-bones and inexpensive prepaid solution, Mint Sim is a pre-paid centric wireless re-seller with an interesting business model. Whereas most pre-paid carriers expect you to pay each month, Mint offers three-, six-, and 12-month packages (and the current three-month plan offers an additional three months free for new customers). With 2GB, 5GB and 10GB packages available, customers can choose from rates as low as $45 for the first three months on the 2GB plan to $180 for the 2GB plan for 12 months of service.

Each plan includes unlimited talk, text and data. Mint runs on T-Mobile’s 4G LTE network, which offers denser coverage in metropolitan areas. Adding to its bare bones aspect, Mint requires all customers to bring and activate their own devices, as long as they are compatible with SIM cards and the T-Mobile network.  

Need some more help finding what you're looking for? Read through our best prepaid cell phone plans  article.

Best No Data: Republic Wireless

For millions of wireless users around the country, having a data plan is a must, but that’s not the case for everyone. If it's not a necessity to you, check out Republic Wireless and their $15 monthly rate for a plan that includes unlimited talk and text, no data required. In fact, Republic says nearly 20 percent of their customer base is data-less, so you're not alone. And with Wi-Fi hotspots continuously added in malls and coffee shops, it’s not going to be impractical to get data access if you need it while you're out and about.

Republic works with both Sprint and T-Mobile's 4G LTE networks, though it primarily operates off Wi-Fi calling in your home for a boosted signal and then defaults to whichever of the two carriers have the strongest cellular signal. With low rates and support by two carrier coverage maps, Republic is a standout choice for going without data.

Best Everyday: Sprint Unlimited Freedom

For everyday cell phone users who want deep coverage and a slew of features, Sprint’s individual rate plan offerings are best-in-class. With two options overall, Sprint’s Unlimited Freedom plan adds the first line for $65 with an additional $5 savings if you sign up for autopay. For $60 a month, you receive unlimited talk, text, and data, as well as access to Hulu’s limited commercial plan that is full of thousands of shows and movies, as well as 1080p video streaming.

If that’s too rich, for $40 a month Sprint offers a similar plan with unlimited talk and text for 2GB of data that includes international text messaging, but loses the Hulu promotion that requires unlimited data. At the end of the day, Sprint’s individual rate plan is the least expensive among the four national carriers but still offers nearly the same features with Hulu streaming separating it from the pack.

Best Unlimited: Boost Mobile

If you’re OK sacrificing some of the extras such as international roaming or a specialized streaming service tacked on to your plan for free, Boost Mobile offers the best-unlimited plan, dollar-for-dollar. With unlimited talk, text and data available for $50 a month, the plan includes 8GB of mobile hot-spot and streaming mobile-optimized HD video up to 480p. Customers can upgrade for an additional $10 per month to increase streaming quality to 1080p HD, and with Boost Dealz customers can watch a few monthly advertising videos per month to reduce the cost of their billing statement.

Perhaps the biggest highlight of Boost’s $50 plan is the lack of additional taxes and fees. When the company says $50 per month, that’s the exact amount you’ll see on your bill every month until you make a switch. Add in BoostTV with free 24/7 live broadcasts and on-demand programming and Boost’s plan gets even more attractive.

Best for Seniors: Consumer Cellular

For senior citizens, the use of a cell phone is often more for emergencies, so peppering them with data plans and unlimited talk and text is unnecessary. Fortunately, providers such as Consumer Cellular offer rate plans dedicated to this age group and have inexpensive plans that keep costs to a minimum while providing peace of mind.

Consumer Cellular pricing starts around $25 for 250 minutes per month, 250MB of data, as well as unlimited text messages. Plans can jump north as high as $60 per month, but for most Consumer Cellular customers, the lower tier plans are the best solution.

As an added bonus, Consumer Cellular connects with AARP to offer their customers an additional five percent discount on monthly service. Customers can bring their own devices, but there’s also a wide selection of the latest devices, as well as flip phones that are designed with larger buttons and numbers for easier functionality.

Want to take a look at some other options for seniors? See our guide to the best senior cell phone plans.

Best for Families: Cricket Wireless

A subsidy of AT&T, Cricket Wireless is a less expensive solution that piggybacks on the AT&T network and has less expensive rates for a more budget-minded customer. The cost savings stands out right away for a family of four, with four lines of unlimited data for just $100 (and that includes monthly taxes).

To see the cost savings, a similarly-featured rate plan on the AT&T parent network would cost around $180, which is a saving of around $960 per year by selecting Cricket Wireless. The Cricket rate plan gets you unlimited talk, text and data. Also included are unlimited texts from the U.S. to 38 countries, as well as unlimited calls, texts and picture messages to/from Mexico and Canada to the U.S.

Cricket also offers additional international plans for customers traveling overseas, plus an optional 8GB mobile hotspot plan for an added cost each month.

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