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The best value smartphone data plans in the US right now for single lines and families

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What’s your relationship with your wireless carrier like? Are you heavily dependent on your 5G signal for home broadband or your massive mobile torrenting operation? Maybe you’re on your home broadband service all the time. Of course, there are plenty of us out there that pay too much and don’t get enough out of the bargain. Whoever you are on this spectrum of budgets and needs, we’re here to help you find the perfect balance.

We’ll be focusing on general service plans in this list which will offer talk, text, and data on one bill. We’re staying away from promotional plans as well as excluding separate data plans for hotspot and smart devices, add-on services like international connectivity, plus plans for business which are a bit more complicated. All of the ones we’re mentioning here like to say they include 5G access for free (how nice of these big businesses), but make sure if you’re bringing a device over that it supports the underlying network it will be on. If you’re concerned about whether you’ll need to buy a new phone to jump networks, fret not as carriers offer compatibility checks — all you need to do is put in your existing device’s IMEI number. You can also look up which cellular bands your phone supports and check it against what the networks operate on. As a rule of thumb, moving between UScellular or Verizon and most other wireless networks is typically more difficult.

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If you or anyone in your household are on low income or receive assistance from a number of federal or tribal programs, you may be eligible for credits towards your wireless internet bill from Lifeline or the Affordable Connectivity Program.

Program Typical benefit Tribal lands benefit One-time grant
Lifeline Up to $9.25/mo. Up to $34.25/mo. Up to $100 via Tribal Lands Link Up
ACP Up to $30/mo. Up to $75/mo. $100 towards a computer or tablet for all households (must pay $10-50 deductible)

The eligible income level criteria varies between the two — 135% of the federal household poverty level for Lifeline and 200% for the ACP — but if you’re on an assistance from Medicaid, SNAP, Head Start, or a whole bunch of other programs, you should be good to sign up.

WIthout further ado, here’s the list…

Single plans

On your lonesome? On Wi-Fi all the time? Trying to squeeze your budget? Maybe you just need a phone number so that people can get in touch with you. You may be best off with these cheaper all-in-one or pay-as-you-go plans.

RedPocket Mobile 360-day plans, sold on eBay

  • Cost: $30 or $99 + taxes/fees
  • Talk/text: 200 min., 1,000 texts ($30) or; unlimited ($99)
  • Data: 200MB or 1GB
  • Network: T-Mobile or; AT&T or T-Mobile
  • Restrictions: No further mobile data after allotment is used
  • International: No
  • Video: Full-speed capable
  • Hotspot: Uses plan data allotment

If you’re looking to keep your phone number warm, but don’t want to use either the number or the phone that much, you may want to consider spending $30 — what many people do in a month for their cell phone bill — for 360 days of service from RedPocket. The company has been running MVNOs for more than 15 years and it seems to get decent enough wholesale rates to justify making some of these extreme, budget-y, long-term plans feasible.


The $30 plan will provide more than enough for authentication texts (which shouldn’t be a thing, but they are) and emergencies below a critical level while the $99 plan (that’s the equivalent of $8.33 every month) eases any restrictions you might be wary of blowing through with voice and text. You do have to bring a phone to put your SIM in — the T-Mobile network is available with both plans while AT&T’s can only be used on the more expensive one. Mobile data is hard-capped at 200MB and 1GB, but you’ll be able to pick up 100MB of extra data for $2 or 250MB for $5 if you do need it mid-cycle. Otherwise, once you use up what you’ve got, you’ll need to be on Wi-Fi for internet. Keep in mind that new cycles come every 30 days and not by the calendar month.

Connect by T-Mobile – $10 Per Month Plan

  • Cost: $10/mo. + taxes/fees
  • Talk/text: 1,000 min., 1,000 texts
  • Data: 1GB + 100MB off-network roaming
  • Network: T-Mobile
  • Restrictions: No further mobile data after allotment is used
  • International: No
  • Video: Full-speed capable, limited to SD by default
  • Hotspot: Uses plan data allotment

The T-Mobile Connect plans, as they were originally known, came out right as the pandemic began and the economy basically put down skid marks. It began with two plans — unlimited talk and text with 2GB for $15/mo. or 5GB for $25/mo. — with a somewhat gimmicky benefit for long-term planholders where they receive an extra 500MB every year until March 2025. Since then and independent of the annual bump, T-Mobile upgraded the $25 plan (along with existing users on it) to 6GB. Thanks to a legal settlement with the state of Nevada, customers there who ask for the same plan at a network retail store receive 7GB. There’s also a new $35 plan with 12GB and a $10 plan with just 1GB of data, 1,000 texts, and 1,000 voice minutes.


The big catch on all of these plans is that the data use has a hard cap. For a pick-me-up, it’s $5 for a 500MB 24-hour pass or $10 for 1GB that’s good for a week. You get unrestricted tethering speeds, too, they just count against your total data cap. But if you’re mostly concerned about paying the absolute minimum for talk, text, and data on a monthly plan, the $10 plan will fit you best.

Unreal Mobile – 2GB plan

  • Cost: $15/mo. + taxes/fees
  • Talk/text: Unlimited
  • Data: 2GB full-speed, then 2G speeds
  • Network: T-Mobile
  • Restrictions: No further mobile data after allotment is used
  • Network speed: Full (subject to congestion throttling)
  • Video: Full-speed capable, limited to SD by default
  • Hotspot: Yes (full speed to cap)

Unreal Mobile is one in the newer crop of MVNOs trying to skew toward younger folks. RedPocket Mobile bought the carrier out in 2019 and it’s clear with the number of plans Unreal offers that new management has made its mark.

The reason we specifically chose this plan is that it’s one of the lowest if not the lowest price monthly plan that offers low-speed, unlimited data after you’ve used up your high-speed bucket. 2GB will be plenty enough for the right people, but the best thing about it is that if it isn’t, they won’t be going without. Top it off with unlimited voice and SMS plus the fact that new customers get their first month for $10 and it’s no contest.

US Mobile – 12GB and 18GB plans

  • Cost: $20 or $25/mo. + taxes/fees
  • Talk/text: Unlimited
  • Data: 12GB or 18GB
  • Network: T-Mobile or Verizon
  • Restrictions: No further mobile data after allotment is used
  • Network speed: Full (subject to congestion throttling)
  • Video: Full-speed capable
  • Hotspot: Yes (full speed to cap)

US Mobile was started by the entrepreneurs behind smartphone importer GSM Nation. They’ve been aggressive about building relationships with their host networks, adopting consumer-friendly features including eSIM, and offering a mix of service plan structures and it seems they’ve been able to achieve plans with the most data (even if hard-capped) at the $20 and $25 levels with 12GB and 18GB, respectively. These are the plans that let you have some running room if you’ve got a 5G phone and terrific throughput in your area without the need to burn a hole in your pocket.

Visible

  • Cost: $40/mo, taxes and fees included
  • Data: Unlimited
  • Talk/text: Unlimited
  • Network: Verizon
  • Network speed: Unlimited (subject to congestion throttling)
  • Video: Throttled (1-3Mbps)
  • Hotspot: Unlimited at 5Mbps (most users report full speeds)

We like Visible as a high data-use individual plan because it’s dead simple. $40 a month, unlimited data (subject to congestion throttling), unlimited tethering, and unlimited talk and text. Visible runs on Verizon’s extremely broad network, meaning the vast majority of Americans are covered. The only downsides? Video is throttled to 480p (around 3Mbps) and device compatibility outside iPhones is fairly limited — you can see the full list of supported Android devices here, though be warned that even the list splits hairs based on model. This is, admittedly, a very limiting factor for the service, and one which will leave many people ineligible. Frankly speaking, though, you’re not going to get any better from a Verizon prepaid plan nor from any other carrier that runs on Verizon. And for the people who rely on that one signal to be there, this is pretty much the only option they have if they’re paying attention to their bottom lines. Even absent Verizon’s network, Visible is a strong option in the prepaid space and has relatively few downsides as long as you have a compatible device.


Metro by T-Mobile – $60 plan

  • Cost: $60/mo. + taxes/fees
  • Data: Unlimited
  • Talk/text: Unlimited
  • Network: T-Mobile
  • Network speed: Generally lower than on T-Mobile, subject to congestion throttling after 35GB
  • Video: Limited to SD
  • Hotspot: 15GB with lower speeds than on-device use

It’s quite difficult to get a true “maximalist” solo plan north of $40, but if you aren’t too concerned with having the speediest of speeds, Metro by T-Mobile’s $60 plan will offer all the unlimited basics plus 15GB of dedicated hotspot data. Carriers are also leaning towards third-party perks to supplement the value proposition and, in this case, Metro has recruited Google to include a complimentary 100GB Google One account (or $2 off your existing account) and an Amazon Prime membership. If you are concerned with speeds, they aren’t terrible by any means, but with Metro behind T-Mobile in priority, it would only make sense to see slightly slower load rates comparing phones on the networks. There’s also a second level of deprioritization for Metro customers who use more than 35GB of mobile data in a month, but again, that takes effect when traffic management comes into play.


T-Mobile – Simply Prepaid Unlimited Plus $60 plan

  • Cost: $60/mo. + taxes/fees
  • Data: Unlimited
  • Talk/text: Unlimited
  • Network: T-Mobile
  • Network speed: Subject to congestion throttling after 50GB
  • Video: Limited to SD
  • Hotspot: 10GB at full speed, then 3G

On the flip side of the coin, if speed is the need, then T-Mobile’s own prepaid Unlimited Plus plan will be the way to go. As a tier one subscriber, you’re getting full speeds for longer than other users and the threshold for deprioritization is higher, too, at 50GB. There is less full-speed hotspot with this plan than the Metro one, but you do get further use at passable speeds after the 10GB are gone.

Families and groups

Economies of scale dictate that the more people are on a single plan, the less one would have to pay per person. It says nothing about fitting each person’s needs, though. We’ll try to find a size that’ll fit all.

AT&T Prepaid – 5GB Plan

Lines 1 2 3 4 5
Monthly cost $30 $50 $70 $80 $90
  • Data: 5GB
  • Talk/text: Unlimited
  • Network: AT&T
  • Network speed: Unlimited, 128kbps after
  • Video: Limited to SD
  • Hotspot: Uses plan data allotment

If you need to get your group set up with a data plan, this is the one to get on a value basis, especially if you have a person who can fill that fifth slot. AT&T’s prepaid division offers 5GB of high-speed data, then unlimited 2G speeds after that plus unlimited talk and text for $18 per line per month. It’s the lowest I’ve been able to chart across the major carriers and even across a number of MVNOs. If each member is paying their share, the account administrator should be aware that this rate has a $60 discount applied to it based on enrollment in AutoPay, so make sure you’ve got a reliable bank or credit account tied in.


Google Fi – Simply Unlimited plan

Lines 1 2 3 4 5+
Monthly cost $50 $80 $75 $80 +$20
  • Data: Unlimited
  • Talk/text: Unlimited
  • Network: T-Mobile
  • Network speed: Unlimited, subject to throttling after 35GB
  • Video: Limited to SD
  • Hotspot: 5GB

A very close second on pure cost, but with a higher ceiling on amenities is Google Fi’s new Simply Unlimited plan. Unlimited talk, text, and data (with traffic management throttling after 35GB of use) and 5GB of hotspot for $20 per line with four or more people.

T-Mobile – Essentials plan

Lines 1 2 3 4 5
Monthly cost $60 $90 $90 $105 $120
  • Data: Unlimited
  • Talk/text: Unlimited
  • Network: T-Mobile
  • Network speed: Unlimited, subject to throttling after 50GB
  • Video: Limited to SD
  • Hotspot: Unlimited at 3G speeds

As of writing, T-Mobile’s meat-and-potatoes postpaid side is running an indefinite “third line free” promo for most of its plans which makes it kinda hard to not talk about them. But I think if you have a little more to spare, the Essentials plan will get everyone over the line, no matter if your family or roommates use 1GB or 50GB. It also includes 12 months of Paramount+ if you’re interested in that catalog.

Prices listed above include a $5 AutoPay discount per line. If you’re a member of the armed forces or a first responder, you may qualify for a $10 line discount. If you’re age 55 or older, it’s a $15 discount. The carrier used to make a bigger deal about wrapping in taxes and fees with the advertised price, but it unfortunately has rolled back that perk from all but the prime Magenta and Magenta Max plans.

Visible – Party Pay

Lines 1 2 3 4 5+
Monthly cost $40 $70 $90 $100 +$25
  • Data: Unlimited
  • Talk/text: Unlimited
  • Network: Verizon
  • Network speed: Unlimited, subject to congestion throttling
  • Video: Limited to SD
  • Hotspot: Unlimited (Limited to 5Mbps, but many users report full speed)

The biggest challenge in getting your group (or into any group) on Visible Party Pay will be the device restrictions (again, see here). But if you’re making the tilt towards network coverage, hotspot usage, and the lack of Star Trek: Picard (sorry), then you should be in good company here. Party Pay also offers an advantage most “true” family plans don’t: zero need to share billing or personal information with other people on your plan. Everyone pays their own bill, separately, meaning you could probably convince your friends to join up a lot more easily versus sharing the commitment of a traditional family plan. And if you don’t have a group, but would like to join one, Visible offers a forum for you to match up with one of your own.

Honorable mention: US Mobile – Shared Data plan

Criteria Monthly cost
Line $9
Data (per GB) $2
  • Talk/text: Unlimited
  • Network: T-Mobile or Verizon
  • Restrictions: No further mobile data after allotment is used
  • Network speed: Full (subject to congestion throttling)
  • Video: Full-speed capable
  • Hotspot: Uses plan data allotment

We used to feature Google Fi’s Flexible plan as a way for a lot of people who don’t use much data at all to come under one phone bill. But with a minimum cost of $15 per line and $10 per gigabyte, it didn’t make sense to continue rating it as high as we did. Spectrum Mobile still offers a similar prorated plan at $14/GB and no line fees for 10 lines on an account, but it would throttle speeds down to 256kbps after 5GB per line. Xfinity Mobile used to do the same, but has foregone the scheme and is doing shared data buckets at fixed prices.

US Mobile offers the same concept as Fi and Spectrum with its Shared Data plan but at way lower rates: it’s $9.48 for each line and $2 per gigabyte of shared data (taxes are wrapped in). Just as a quick comparison, $90 at AT&T gets you five prepaid lines with 5GB of data. Here, $89.40 gives you an average of 4.2GB per line, but the great thing about this setup is that one member can use 9GB, the others can use 3GB each, and everyone would be happy. To a point, if you’re going to be tracking how everyone uses their own data, this plan will probably give you the most mileage.



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