This post is for anyone who only uses their phone for voice calls and text messaging and doesn't need or want to pay for data. Some of the plans covered here do include data but it may be limited or overpriced. If you want to use even a little data along with your talking and texting see our companion post; The Best Deals On Prepaid Mobile Data.
The cost of prepaid unlimited talk and text plans is now just $25/month or less, and that's with two out of the four the major operators. AT&T's Cricket brand, T-Mobile's MetroPCS and GoSmart all have $25/month unlimited plans.
If you are ready to switch to prepaid or switch from one prepaid operator to another the first thing to do is check your coverage with all four national operators (AT&T, Verizon, Sprint and T-Mobile). Almost all prepaid operators rely on one of the big four for their coverage. At the national level, AT&T and Verizon provide service in more places than T-Mobile and Sprint. But all four have areas that they don't cover. I've created a page showing the national coverage maps for all prepaid operators. It has links to each operator's detailed block by block maps. Rule out the networks that don't provide service where you live, work and play.
Once you've found the networks that will work for you, dive into the tables below to find the best deal for your usage on your preferred networks. There are four tables aimed at heavy, moderate, light and text-only users.
In the grids below, click the operator's name in the first column for PrepaidPhoneNews' coverage of that operator. Click the plan name in the second column to go directly to the operator's site. Except as noted, prices include all fees and taxes with the exception of applicable state sales tax and e911 fees in some states.
Heavy users, talking over 1500 minutes and/or sending more than 3000 texts per month, should be on an unlimited voice and SMS plan.
|Operator||Plan||Network||Phones||Monthly Cost||Voice min.||SMS||Data|
|Republic||Talk & Text||Sprint||Republic Only||$10+ 2||Unlimited||Unlimited||none|
|RingPlus||Noelani||Sprint||Most Sprint||$17.99+ 6||Unlimited||Unlimited||400 MB|
|Ultra Mobile||$19 Unlimited||T-Mobile||T-Mobile or Unlocked GSM||$19.00+ 8||Unlimited||Unlimited||100 MB|
|PTel||$20 Unlimited||T-Mobile||T-Mobile or Unlocked GSM||$20||Unlimited||Unlimited||150 MB|
|Expo Mobile||$25 Plan||Sprint||Most Sprint||$25+ 1||Unlimited||Unlimited||none|
|GoSmart Mobile||Unlimited Talk & Text||T-Mobile||T-Mobile or Unlocked GSM||$25||Unlimited||Unlimited||Facebook Only|
|Cricket||Talk & Text||AT&T||Aio feature phones or AT&T or Unlocked GSM||$25||Unlimited||Unlimited||none|
|MetroPCS||Unlimited Talk & Text 3||T-Mobile or MetroPCS||MetroPCS||$25||Unlimited||Unlimited||none|
|Republic||Unlimited data talk & text||Sprint||Republic Only||$25+ 2||Unlimited||Unlimited||Unlimited|
|Red Pocket CDMAV||Unlimited Talk and Text||Verizon||Verizon 3G||$29.99||unlimited||unlimited||500 MB 2G|
|Airvoice Wireless||Unlimited Talk and Text||AT&T||AT&T or unlocked GSM||$30.00||unlimited||unlimited||500 MB 5|
|T-Mobile||Unlimited Talk Text||T-Mobile||T-Mobile or unlocked GSM||$35.00||unlimited||unlimited||not available|
|NET10||Unlimited Talk & Text||Verizon, AT&T or T-Mobile||NET10 non-smart-phones||$35.00||unlimited||unlimited||not available|
|Page Plus||Unlimited Talk n Text||Verizon||Most CDMA||$39.95||unlimited||unlimited||1 GB, Overage $0.05/MB|
|Boost Mobile||TMonthly Unlimites Select||Sprint||Boost phones||$40||unlimited||unlimited||unlimited, throttled after 500MB|
|AT&T||Unlimited||AT&T||AT&T or unlocked GSM feature phones||$45.00||unlimited||unlimited||unlimited (throttled after 2GB/mo.|
2 Republic - Calls and texts routed over Wi-Fi if available, approximately 15% additional monthly taxes and fees
3 MetroPCS - $25 plan is promotional, only available in MetroPCS stores, specific basic MetroPCS phones required, $10 activation fee.
4 Boost Mobile: BlackBerry (includes BBM) only. Initial plan cost of $45/month is reduced by $5 for every six on time payments. Minimum cost, after 18 payments is $30.
5 Airvoice - 500 MB is delivered in 250 MB increments. After using the first 250 MB, the user must call Airvoice to have them "release" the 2nd 500 MB
6 RingPlus taxes and fees average 20% and are charged in states like California and New Hampshire that don't normally tax prepaid airtime.
7 Promotional plan, new accounts only, limited phone choices, must activate by Sept 2, 2014 (more information)
8 Ultra Mobile charges a "cost recovery fee" of 50¢ on airtime loads of $10 or less and $1 on airtime loads of $10.01 or more.
Moderate users (between 500 and 2000 combined minutes and texts per month) can save with a limited monthly or yearly plan that includes a bucket of minutes or texts. This is particularly true if you need Verizon coverage.
|Operator||Plan||Network||Allowed Phones||Monthly Cost||Voice min.||SMS||Data|
|Selectel||Yearly Plan||Verizon||Verizon 3G||$6.25 ($75/year)||164 (2000/yr)||164 (2000/yr)||5¢/MB 3|
|Page Plus||The 12||Verizon||Most CDMA||$12.00||250||250||10 MB, overage 10¢/MB|
|Selectel||Value Plan||Verizon||Verizon 3G||$15.00||300||300||15 MB, overage 5¢/MB 3|
|Pure TalkUSA||Simple 1000||AT&T||AT&T or unlocked GSM||$20.00||1000||1/3 minute each||$9.95 for 200 MMS + 400 MB 2|
|NET10||1000 Minute Plan||Verizon, T-Mobile or AT&T||NET10 non-smart-phones||$25.00||1000 minutes or texts||1000 texts or minutes||charged 1 minute per minute of browsing|
|AT&T||$25 Monthly||AT&T||AT&T or unlocked GSM||$25.00||250, overage 10¢/ea||unlimited||1¢ per 5 KB ($2/MB) 150 MB $5 200 MB $15 1 GB $25|
|Page Plus||Talk n' Text 1200||Verizon||Most CDMA||$29.95||1200||3000||500 MB, Overage $0.05/MB|
|Selectel||Talk & Text Plan||Verizon||Verizon 3G||$30.00||1300||3000||500 MB, overage 5¢/MB 3|
|Virgin Mobile||payLo||Sprint||Virgin payLo||$30.00||1500||1500||30 MB overage $1.50/MB|
|Straight Talk||All You Need||Verizon, T-Mobile or AT&T||Straight Talk non-smart phones||$30.00||1500||unlimited||100 MB no overage|
2 $9.95/month data and MMS addon provides 200 MMS and 400 MB of data. Also available: 1 GB/ 400 MMS for $19.90. Unused add-on data expires after 30 days.
3 Selectel overage - 5¢ per minute, message or MB is available by using a $10 Smart Card which doesn't expire
Heavy texters who don't talk much can save with an unlimited text plan
|Operator||Plan||Network||Allowed Phones||Monthly Cost||Voice min.||SMS||Data|
|ChitChat||Basic Package||Sprint||Most Sprint||$9.99 4||250||unlimited||$5 for 100 MB|
|Kajeet||$14.99 / month plan||Sprint||Kajeet, most Sprint||$14.99 1||60 included/ overage 10¢/min||unlimited||$1 per MB 2|
|BYO||$15 Plan||Verizon||Verizon non-LTE phonesm except iPhones||$15 4||350||unlimited||50 MB|
|AT&T||Unlimited Messaging||AT&T||AT&T or unlocked GSM||$19.99||0.10||unlimited||1¢ per 5 KB ($2/MB) 3|
|Virgin Mobile||WiFi Lover's Delight||Sprint||Virgin Mobile smart phones||$20||300||unlimited||none|
|Verizon||Unlimited Messaging||Verizon||Verizon non-smart phones||$20.00||0.25||unlimited||0.99/day|
2 Monthly data add-ons available: 50 MB for $5, 500 MB for $9.99 and 1 GB for 24.99
3 Data not available with smartphones.
4 BYO and ChitChat add an average of 15% (varies by state and city) in taxes and fees to the monthly plan price.
Light users (under 500 minutes and texts combined per month) can save even more with a pay as you go plan.
|Operator||Plan or Package||Network||Phones||Minimum Monthly Cost||Voice min.||SMS||Data|
|Lycamobile||Pay As YouGo||T-Mobile||Unlocked GSM||0.7¢ 4||2¢||4¢||6¢/MB|
|T-Mobile||Pay As You Go||T-Mobile||T-Mobile or Unlocked GSM||$3 1||10¢||10¢||$5 500 MB/1 day, $10 1 GB/7 days|
|Page Plus||Pay As You Go||Verizon||Most CDMA||$2.50 2||4-10¢||5¢||10¢/MB|
|Airvoice||Pay As You Go||AT&T||AT&T or unlocked GSM||$3.33 3||8-10¢||10¢||6.6¢/MB|
|H2O||Minute Plan||AT&T||AT&T or unlocked GSM||$3.33||5¢||5¢||10¢/MB|
|PTel||Real PAYGO||T-Mobile||T-Mobile or unlocked GSM||$5.00||5¢||2¢||10¢/MB|
|Red Pocket||CDMA PayGo||Sprint||Most Sprint||$5.00||10¢||10¢||10¢/MB|
|Tracfone||TracFone||T-Mobile, Verizon or AT&T||Tracfone||$6.67||4.4¢ - 33¢||1.5-11¢||6.6-50¢/KB|
|AT&T||Pay As You Go||AT&T||AT&T or unlocked GSM||$8.33||10¢||20¢||1¢/per 5KB (non-smart phones only|
|Airvoice||$10 Plan||AT&T||AT&T or unlocked GSM||$10.00||4¢||2¢||6.6¢/MB|
|EcoMobile||Pay As You Go||Sprint||Most CDMA||$10.00||5¢||2¢||10¢/MB|
|Verizon||Pay As You Go||Verizon||Verizon non-smart phones||$10.00||25¢||20¢||99¢/day|
2 Page Plus deducts a 50¢ maintenance fee from your balance each month.
3 Airvoice deducts a $1 maintenance/e911 fee from your balance each month.
4 Lyca's minimum top-up is $10. Funds do not expire but you must make a voice call, or send a message or use data or purchase a top-up at least every 90 days to retain service. The 0.7¢ minimum monthly cost is based on a one minute, 2¢ call every 90 days.