In some ways, prepaid options are like the secret menu of cellphone plans.
Major carriers tend to push postpaid plans over prepaid plans because they want to keep your automatic payment active every month.
Prepaid cellphone plans put you in control of your payments and can save you tons of money if you hop on the right deal. Here are the best prepaid cellphone plan deals available right now:
Mint Mobile Prepaid Unlimited Data Plan
Arguably the best cellphone deal out there is Mint Mobile’s prepaid unlimited data plan. You get unlimited data, unlimited talk and unlimited text for $30 per month.
The wild part is that price isn’t even a promotional offer: Mint Mobile’s $30 per month unlimited plan is here to stay. You can even sweeten the deal by buying three months of service in advance and getting a month of service for free.
Granted, buying several months of cellphone service in advance can start to make your prepaid plan feel like a postpaid plan, but it’s worth it if you’re saving money. At least you know you can cancel your prepaid service easily without incurring any fees, as opposed to a postpaid plan.
Mint Mobile is a Mobile Virtual Network Operator (MVNO), which is a fancy way of saying that Mint doesn’t use its own wireless network. Mint uses T-Mobile’s network to provide service for its customers.
The good news is that you get a much cheaper rate for your cellphone service, while the bad news is that your data speeds might not be as fast. Networks give priority data speeds to proprietary customers, and MVNO users can get their data speeds throttled from time to time.
For example, you might be at a crowded grocery store and find that you can’t refresh your Instagram feed while waiting in line to check out. A T-Mobile user might have no problem refreshing their Instagram feed in that situation, but you might be stuck with the dregs of slow data.
If you can live with that occasional annoyance, Mint Mobile’s value is unmatched in the prepaid wireless world.
Visible Prepaid Unlimited Data Plan
Visible can’t quite keep up with Mint Mobile in terms of price, but it makes up for it with coverage. Like Mint, Visible is an MVNO carrier, but it uses Verizon’s awesome network.
Verizon offers the most reliable coverage in the country, which is why Verizon cellphone plans cost an arm and a leg. Visible is the most affordable way to get an unlimited plan on Verizon’s network.
If you live in an area with spotty coverage, then jumping on Verizon’s network can make a world of difference. You can still encounter data throttling on Verizon’s network, but you may encounter data throttling less often due to the fact that Visible is owned by Verizon.
AT&T Prepaid $30 Monthly Plan
If you want to stick with a major carrier, AT&T offers the cheapest prepaid plan among the big three (AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon). The plan comes with unlimited talk and unlimited texts, but only 5GB of data, which can run out quickly — especially if you frequently stream, use your maps apps or FaceTime without a Wi-Fi connection.
Thankfully, because it’s a prepaid plan, AT&T can’t throw any annoying overage charges at you. When you run out of cellular data, your speeds will dramatically slow down, but you can still technically use wireless data and not get any overage fees.
Before you get too excited about gaming the system, realize that your wireless speeds will be so slow that you can barely do anything on the internet. If you’re willing to wait a couple of minutes, you might be able to do a Google search. But you can always connect to Wi-Fi and use as much internet data as you want.
US Mobile Prepaid 12GB Data Plan
You can save even more on a prepaid cellphone plan if you’re willing to live without the “unlimited data” tag line. US Mobile offers a data plan that hooks you up with unlimited talk, unlimited text and 12GB of data for only $15 per month.
That’s literally half of the price of AT&T’s cheapest prepaid plan, and you get more than double the data with US Mobile. Plus US Mobile uses Verizon’s network to provide service coverage.
Like Visible and Mint Mobile, US Mobile will be subject to data throttling in congested areas.
Other Popular Prepaid Cellphone Plans
Just so you can get a better idea of the prepaid landscape, here are some of the most popular prepaid cellphone plans right now: