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. You can drop the cost of unlimited talk and text to $20 on AT&T, T-Mobile or Sprint or $25 on Verizon by using a Mobile Virtual Network Operator (MVNO), a 3rd party company that resells one of the national operator's service.
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). 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, check out my recommendations below to find the best deal for your usage on your preferred networks.
Recommendations: Unlimited plans have gotten so inexpensive that they are the most cost effective choice for anyone who averages more than a combined total of 500 to 1000 minutes and messages per month, depending on network. For users who need fewer minutes and texts a pay as you go or non-unlimited monthly plan can be an even better deal:
Here are the least expensive choices by network and usage:
- Verizon: Over 500 minutes plus texts per month, Total Wireless' $25 or Verizon $30 unlimited plan. Under 500, PagePlus Pay As You Go.
- AT&T: Over 667 minutes plus texts per month, Airvoice Wireless $20 unlimited plan. Under 667, Airvoice $10 Plan or H2O's Pay As You Go.
- T-Mobile: Over 667 minutes plus texts per month, Ultra Mobile's $19 Plan. Under 667, Lycamobile Pay as You Go.
- Sprint: Over 550 minutes plus texts per month, RingPlus' $9.99 or Republic's $10 unlimited plan. Under 550, RingPlus' Free Plan or Real Mobile Pay As You Go.
In the tables, 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.
|Operator (review)||Plan (operator site)||Network||Phones||Monthly Cost||Voice min.||SMS||Data|
|Republic||Talk & Text||Sprint||Republic Only||$10+ 2||Unlimited||Unlimited||none|
|Ultra Mobile||$19 Unlimited||T-Mobile||T-Mobile or Unlocked GSM||$19.00+ 1||Unlimited||Unlimited||100 MB|
|RingPlus||Malevich||Sprint||Most Sprint||$9.99+ 6||Unlimited||Unlimited||1 GB|
|Airvoice Wireless||Unlimited Talk and Text||AT&T||AT&T or unlocked GSM||$20.00||unlimited||unlimited||100 MB 5|
|T-Mobile||Unlimited Talk & Text||T-Mobile||T-Mobile or Unlocked GSM||$25||Unlimited||Unlimited||none|
|GoSmart Mobile (T-Mobile)||Unlimited Talk & Text||T-Mobile||T-Mobile or Unlocked GSM||$25||Unlimited||Unlimited||Facebook Only|
|Cricket (AT&T)||Talk & Text||AT&T||Aio feature phones or AT&T or Unlocked GSM||$25||Unlimited||Unlimited||none|
|MetroPCS (T-Mobile)||Unlimited Talk & Text 3||T-Mobile or MetroPCS||MetroPCS||$25||Unlimited||Unlimited||none|
|Total Wireless (TracFone)||Unlimited Talk & Text||Verizon||Total Wireless and Verizon non-LTE||$25||unlimited||unlimited||none, add 1.5 GB of rollover data for $10|
|Verizon||Unlimited||Verizon||Verizon phones only||$30||unlimited||unlimited||unlimited 7|
|AT&T GoPhone||Unlimited||AT&T||AT&T or unlocked GSM feature phones||30.00||unlimited||unlimited||none, add 100 MB for $5|
|Boost Mobile (Sprint)||Monthly Unlimited||Sprint||Boost phones||$30 8||unlimited||unlimited||unlimited, throttled after 2 GB|
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.
5 Airvoice - 50 MB of high speed data then 50 MB of throttled data.
6 RingPlus taxes and fees average 20% and are charged in states like New Hampshire that don't normally tax prepaid airtime. In addition to the $9.99 monthly charge, the Malevich plan requires a $20 top up for overages at activation and whenever the plan's balance drops to zero.
7 Verizon $30 plan includes unlimited 2G data for basic phones, smartphones on this plan get no data
8 $30 with auto pay, $35 without
Pay As You Go Plans are the best deal for light users. With pay as you go, you are only charged for actual minutes and texts used. If you need total voice minutes plus texts of less than 1000 on T-Mobile 667 on AT&T or 500 on Verizon pay as you go is your best value.
|Operator||Plan or Package||Network||Phones||Minimum Monthly Cost||Voice min.||SMS||Data|
|Lycamobile||Pay As You Go||T-Mobile||Unlocked GSM||1.33¢ 4||5¢||4¢||none|
|Real Mobile||Pay As You Go||Sprint||Most Sprint||$1.67||5¢||5¢||5¢/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||Verizon 3G||$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|
|Red Pocket||CDMA PayGo||Sprint||Most Sprint||$5.00||10¢||10¢||none|
|Tracfone||TracFone||T-Mobile, Verizon or AT&T||Tracfone feature phones||$6.67||4.4¢ - 33¢||1.5-11¢||6.6-50¢/KB|
|Tracfone||TracFone||T-Mobile, Verizon or AT&T||Tracfone smartphones & BYOP||$6.67||1.5¢ - 11¢||1¢ - 11¢||1.25-11¢/MB|
|AT&T||Pay As You Go||AT&T||AT&T or unlocked GSM||$8.33||25¢||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 Sprint||$10.00||5¢||2¢||10¢/MB|
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 1.33¢ minimum monthly cost is based on a one minute, 4¢ text every 90 days.
5 Real Pay As You plan costs $20 for 360 days of service.
Non-Unlimited Monthly Plans are no longer a very good deal for most users. Most of them either cost as much or more as unlimited plans or their price per "use it or lose it" minute or text is higher than the price of rollover units on the best pay as you go plans.
The sole exception is if Sprint coverage works for you. For less than about 550 minutes plus texts per month RingPlus' "free plan" costs less than even Republic's $10/month unlimited plan and the overage rate of 2¢ per minute or text beats the all the pay as you go plans
|Operator||Plan||Network||Allowed Phones||Monthly Cost||Voice min.||SMS||Data|
|RingPlus||Truly Free Plan 2||Sprint||Most Sprint||0||125, 2¢/min overage 1||50, 2¢/ea overage 1||15 MB, 2¢/MB overage 1|
|Selectel||Yearly Plan||Verizon||Verizon 3G||$6.25 ($75/year)||164 (2000/yr)||164 (2000/yr)||5¢/MB 3|
|Pure TalkUSA||Simple 300||AT&T||AT&T or unlocked GSM||$10.00||300||1/3 minute each||50 MB 2|
|Page Plus||The 12||Verizon||Verizon 3G||$12.00||250||250||10 MB, overage 10¢/MB|
|Verizon||Basic||Verizon||Verizon basic phones||$15.00||300 combined minutes & Messages||300 combined minutes & Messages||unlimited 3G|
|Selectel||Value Plan||Verizon||Verizon 3G||$15.00||300||300||15 MB, overage 5¢/MB 3|
|Pure TalkUSA||Simple 600||AT&T||AT&T or unlocked GSM||$15.00||600||1/3 minute each||100 MB 2|
|Virgin Mobile||payLo||Sprint||Virgin payLo||$20.00||400||15¢ each||1.50/MB|
|Page Plus||Talk n' Text 1500||Verizon||Any Verizon except non-LTE Verzion prepaid||$29.95||1500||unlimited||1 GB, Overage $0.05/MB|
|Selectel||Talk & Text Plan||Verizon||Verizon 3G or LTE||$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
Unlimited Text Only Plans. Unlimited Talk and Text plans have become so inexpensive that the unlimited texting plans don't make much sense anymore except possibly for Verizon users. For what it's worth, here are the least expensive unlimited text plans.
|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||4¢ per MB 2|
2 Monthly data add-ons available: 50 MB for $5, 500 MB for $14.99 and 1 GB for 24.99
3 Data not available with smartphones.
4 ChitChat adds an average of 15% (varies by state and city) in taxes and fees to the monthly plan price.