Prepaid cellphone plans allow users to completely avoid contracts and operate purely on a pay-as-you-go structure.
You pay for your cellphone plan at the beginning of the month, you get whatever you pay for and the service terminates at the end of the billing period.
Other than avoiding long two-year contracts, the best part about prepaid plans is that they generally cost less than their postpaid plan counterparts.
Consider AT&T, for example. Check out the price difference between AT&T’s basic unlimited plan as a prepaid and postpaid option:
You can save $15/month by opting for the AT&T prepaid unlimited plan as opposed to the postpaid Unlimited Starter plan.
All you need to do is sign up for the AT&T Prepaid $65 Monthly Plan and agree to the Auto-Pay system (where you automatically pay for another month’s service at the beginning of the pay period), and you’ll get a $15 discount on your bill.
There are a few caveats worth considering, like the fact you can’t access AT&T’s 5G network on a prepaid cellphone plan, but if you want to save money on a cellphone plan, prepaid is the way to go.
Now that we’ve established why prepaid cellphone plans make sense, let’s take a look at the most popular prepaid cellphone plans available right now.
T-Mobile Simply Prepaid Unlimited
Currently, in 2021, T-Mobile’s Simply Prepaid Unlimited is the top unlimited plan.
It costs the same as the previously discussed AT&T’s prepaid unlimited plan, but it comes with access to T-Mobile’s 5G network.
You won’t get much in the way of perks, like free calls to Mexico or Canada (that will cost you an extra $5 a month), but such is the nature of bare-bones prepaid plans. If you want an inexpensive unlimited plan that grants you access to 5G, T-Mobile’s Simply Prepaid Unlimited is your best bet.
Verizon Unlimited Prepaid Unlimited Smartphone Plan
Verizon’s basic prepaid unlimited plan isn’t as cheap as what you’ll find with T-Mobile or AT&T, but it makes up for it with excellent coverage, along with unlimited talk, text and data in the U.S., Mexico, Canada, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
If you have any interest in combining international coverage with your prepaid plan, then Verizon’s prepaid unlimited plan makes a lot of sense.
AT&T Prepaid $65 Monthly Plan
As mentioned previously in this article, AT&T’s basic unlimited prepaid plan costs significantly less than the basic unlimited postpaid plan, with the main downside being you can’t access AT&T’s 5G network.
For some, the lack of 5G coverage will be a major deal-breaker, but for those of us who don’t even have a 5G-ready phone, it’s not the biggest issue in the world. Especially considering the fact that 5G coverage isn’t even widely available yet.
In a couple of years, we’ll all scoff at the idea of not having 5G service, but for now, it’s a manageable tradeoff.
U.S. Cellular Prepaid Basic Plan
U.S. Cellular is a stand-alone wireless carrier and network that specializes in providing excellent coverage in the Midwestern U.S.
For folks who struggle to find reliable coverage in the more rural areas of the Midwest, U.S. Cellular was basically built with you in mind.
Beyond the niche coverage, U.S. Cellular doesn’t offer much in the way of features or major discounts. If you don’t live in the Midwest, you would probably be better off choosing one of the prepaid plans listed above.
Other Prepaid Plans
There’s a whole world of Mobile Virtual Network Operator (MVNO) carriers out there that specialize in offering prepaid cellphone plans. All MVNOs operate on major networks, like AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile.
The caveat with all MVNOs is that your data speeds can be throttled out of the blue as the network favors its own customers over MVNO users. Usually this will occur during peak usage periods or in crowded areas where the network is congested.
As long as you’re prepared for occasional slowdowns with your data speeds, you can get a serious bargain by going with an MVNO carrier. Here are the most popular MVNO prepaid cellphone plans right now: