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Prepaid Cell Phone Plans With Unlimited Everything
When it comes to the best prepaid phone plans, Verizon, T-Mobile and AT&T aren't the only names in town.
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Eli Blumenthal is a senior editor with a particular focus on covering the latest information in the ever-changing worlds of telecommunications, streaming and sports. He previously worked as a technology reporter for USA Today.
While most Americans subscribe to service directly from AT&T, T-Mobile, or Verizon, many smaller providers can give you better service at lower prices. While the major carriers now focus primarily on unlimited plans, these smaller carriers still offer a range of plans with certain high-speed data allowances -- or better prices for unlimited data. One of these could be the best prepaid phone plan for you.
There are many providers, but for the purposes of this story I'll focus on just a few: Boost Mobile, Cricket, Mint, Google Fi, Tracfone, Metro by T-Mobile, Total by Verizon, Verizon Prepaid, and AT&T Prepaid . Since these carriers have so many different plan options, I'll focus on the best options for under 5GB data, under 10GB data, and unlimited plans.
There are two main ways to pay for phone services: postpaid, where you pay at the end of the month, and prepaid, where you buy the service before you use the phone. The ads you see for AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon are almost always for postpaid plans, while the plans and carriers we're talking about here are all prepaid plans.
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You buy data and access before you use it. Prepaid plan providers let you buy in different increments -- 30 days, 60 days, 90 days, six months or even a year -- and prices often vary depending on how committed you are.
As I mentioned when looking for the best unlimited plans, you need to make sure you have enough coverage to get the most out of your deal. This makes it difficult to make a blanket recommendation of any carrier: T-Mobile's service in New York might be better, but if you're in rural Iowa, Verizon is more reliable.
Prepaid providers almost always use someone else's services. Before signing up for one, you should check what the underlying network is. Each offers some version of 5G, and I've broken it all down here, but to recap:
If you have friends or family in your area who already use the prepaid carrier you're considering, ask about their experience. You can go to a major carrier store and see if they offer any free way to try the service, like T-Mobile Network Pass, before switching.
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Like the big carriers, sometimes prepaid players offer deals. Boost Mobile is running a promotion that lets you get three lines with unlimited talk, text and data for $90 per month ($30 per line) after "your first $100 payment." A new unlimited plan has been added for $25 per month for new users, although each line must be separate and cannot be grouped into a family plan.
Some prepaid providers will even offer discounts for the purchase of a new device, although unlike the big carriers, they don't expect the same big promotions as the new iPhone 14 or Galaxy S22. These deals are often tied to 24- or 36-month installments, which, by their very nature, are not offered in advance.
Boost Mobile has added an unlimited plan for new customers that offers unlimited talk, text and data for $25 per month, including taxes and fees. Unlike Mint Mobile's 12-month plan, our previous pick in this slot, Boost's plan isn't tied to 12-month increments. However, you will need to be a new Boost customer to receive the offer.
The plan includes 5G access and 30GB of high-speed data per month (if you tick this, your data will slow down until the start of the next billing month). Hotspot is included in the data of your high-speed allotment. One thing to note: you'll need to set up automatic payments to get the $25 monthly rate.
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Ryan Reynolds' phone company has made a name for itself with its weird commercials, but it has one of the best unlimited data deals we've seen. Get unlimited talk, text and data for $30 per month per line for 12 months. Working on T-Mobile's networks, you get 35GB of high-speed data per month on 5G and 4G LTE, although if you check this before your 30-day period resets, your speed will drop to "3G speeds".
As with all plans, value will vary depending on your specific needs and whether that particular network works well in your area. Google has updated the unlimited plans on its Fi mobile phone service, which not only lowers the monthly price, but also adds several useful features. Although its $50 per line is much more expensive than Mint, you can save quite a bit if you have three or more lines.
Called simply Unlimited, the plan starts at $25 per month for three lines, dropping to $20 per month if you have four or more lines. Now includes 35GB of high-speed data and talk, text and data in Canada and Mexico. The plan also now offers 5GB of hotspot data, albeit with a "hard" cap that stops the hotspot feature after 5GB is used, as opposed to data throttling.
Other options: Metro and Cricket offer a similar $30 per line option if you have three lines, but the rate drops to $25 per line per month if you have four or five lines ($100 per month for four lines, $125 per month for five lines). Both are still more expensive than Fi's updated offering, and these plans also don't offer mobile hotspot data.
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Cricket says "data speeds may be temporarily reduced if the network is busy", while Google says it will reduce data if you exceed 35GB in a month. Metro speeds will similarly drop if you use more than 35GB in a month, and T-Mobile will prioritize its customers over those on Metro plans.
Tracfone does not offer a traditional unlimited data plan. Verizon and AT&T's prepaid options start at $50 a month with automatic payments ($65 without).
Both Cricket and Metro offer perks with their best unlimited plans -- in the case of Cricket, you get a subscription to HBO Max with ads, while Metro offers a subscription to Amazon Prime, a year of ViX Plus, and 100GB of Google One storage. But if you're looking for just one, two or three lines, those prices are higher per line.
If you're looking for four or more lines, the flagship Metro Unlimited plan is worth considering. The promotion brings it down to $30 per month per line, so you should consider that deal if it's in your budget, as you can get perks like Amazon Prime and Google One with the service for the same price per line.
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Verizon's new Total by Verizon service includes Disney Plus, but at $60 a month for one line and $165 a month for four lines, it might not be worth it.
If price is your biggest factor, check out the simple unlimited Google Fi plan we mentioned above.
However, anything less than four lines means that the Metro costs more than the Mint. This great unlimited plan starts at $60 per month for one phone line, $90 for two lines, and $120 for three lines.
It's worth mentioning that Metro -- AT&T, Verizon and Boost -- is working on the government's affordable connectivity program. If you qualify for that program, you can get Metro's $40/month unlimited plan for $10/month (and with benefits it's $30/month instead of the usual $60/month).
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When it comes to data under 10GB, Mint is again the best value if the T-Mobile network is solid in your area. Metro and Cricket charge $40 per month per line, Boost has a $35 plan for 10GB of data, and Mint beats them all on price.
Mint offers 10GB of 4G LTE/5G monthly data for $20 per month when purchased in 12-month increments for new users. After that, you can purchase three more months for $35 per month ($105 total), six months for $25 ($150 total), or one more year for $20 per month ($240 total).
Other options: Google Fi has an "account protection" feature designed to refund you for data you don't use, but
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