The 8 Best Cell Phone Plans to Buy in 2017

Find the best carrier and cell phone plan that works for you

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Today’s wireless phone industry is full of endless choices. From expensive unlimited data plans, to budget-conscious bare-bones plans, the options are very varied and can be confusing. But selecting the best rate plan isn't about just how much data or minutes you can use in a month, it also comes down to good coverage. We’ve looked at the big four wireless carriers (Verizon, Sprint, AT&T and T-Mobile), but also identified opportunities where you can save with smaller options (Boost, MetroPCS, etc.) without losing coverage or data. So keep reading to see which cell phone plans will work for you, your family and your budget.

T-Mobile Logo
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As one of the lone carriers with unlimited data, T-Mobile’s Simple Choice plan stands on the shoulders of the competition. It’s T-Mobile’s rollover data and unlimited data options that should draw the eye of truly heavy data users. With BingeOn, T-Mobile’s Uncarrier-friendly move that offers dozens of services like Netflix, HBO, and Hulu without using data, it’s easy to see why T-Mobile was the easy choice. T-Mobile’s last 24 months have been spent truly beefing up its network and they’ve gone from last in many network tests years ago to at or near the top spot again and again.

The unlimited plan prices at $95 per month, before you include the monthly device payment. However, when you factor in unlimited video and music streaming on dozens of choices, frequent upgrades with JUMP! On Demand and more, there’s no question T-Mobile is your go-to for heavy users. The caveat with T-Mobile’s Simple Choice and the way the industry has moved is the monthly phone pricing which can start anywhere from a few dollars per month or, in the case of a 64GB iPhone 6s, around $27.09 per month on top of the $95 rate plan. As the industry moves past the two-year contracts, this type of pricing is now commonplace and doesn’t take away from the heavy benefits that come from T-Mobile’s services. An easy recommendation for heavy users. More »

Verizon Wireless Logo
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At the end of the day, a wireless plan is only as good as the network behind it. In that sense, Verizon’s superb nationwide coverage is our choice for best high-speed data. For truly nationwide coverage, it’s arguable that it comes down to both AT&T and Verizon since T-Mobile’s heavy focus on metro areas has shifted focus away from rural communities and Sprint’s network still has plenty of ground to make up. In the end, Verizon’s stellar network reputation combined with its LTE network make it the best choice for high speed data. With Verizon, you’ll pay more, but you’ll get a stronger signal and a stronger indoor signal where carriers like T-Mobile and Sprint tend to fall down.

With plans starting at $35 for 2GB of data, the most popular is likely the 8GB offering for $70 or the XL offering of 16GB of data for $90 per month. Verizon’s network is pricey but it is one of the most dependable networks in the U.S. Family plans aren’t any cheaper, but if the whole family wants to stay in touch, Verizon is the best choice. The good news is that if you ever take a road trip or travel outside of a metro area, you’re more likely to get a high-speed data connection than you are with any other network, save for maybe AT&T. More »

Sprint Logo
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The overwhelming set of family plan options is good news for customers as the more choices, the better. Sprint’s attempts to lure customers away from the likes of AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile are heating up with competitive rates and revamped marketing. Overall, Sprint’s family plan rings in at a lowest price and therefore our recommendation for the best family plan. Unlike T-Mobile, Sprint, Verizon, and AT&T have customers sharing pooled data resulting in a 4-line 12GB family plan on Sprint for $140. That breaks down to a $60-a-month flat rate, plus the additional $20 per line cost resulting in an additional $80. Realistically, if each family member uses less than 3GB of data, this family plan option should be just fine. However, Sprint’s unlimited data plan is one step up for an additional $40 per month, but there’s peace of mind not worrying if the next monthly statement is going to lead to bill shock. Sprint’s unlimited family plan is priced a little differently with $75 for the first line, $45 for the second and $30 for each line that follows. In total, a four-line family plan will equal $180 which remains far less than T-Mobile’s own 4-line unlimited plan offering at $220. More »

T-Mobile Logo
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In a marketplace that’s become truly saturated, the carriers have focused on attracting families as the best way to add new customers. Fortunately, options like T-Mobile’s Simple Choice exist with a very attractive $80 price point for 10GB of data with unlimited talk and text. The Uncarrier network offers more than enough data to stay up to date on Facebook, as well as stream video and music without the data cap worries. Thanks to BingeOn and data rollover, you’re covered with a host of streaming video and music services, but can also carry over any unused data for 12 months. In other words, if you don’t use 4GB of data in the month you’re in, it’ll carry over to the next month and expire 12 months later. While AT&T and Verizon have ultimately come down from their mountaintops and matched T-Mobile’s offering, they still can’t rival the host of free streaming services.

We should note some downsides to T-Mobile’s plan since it doesn’t offer every streaming service. It’s easy to get tripped up and think every music and video streaming provider is covered, but you should always check with T-Mobile first. The 10GB bucket of data is likely more than enough for all (except for maybe that most hardcore data user). There’s also some concerns about T-Mobile’s network, which has come a long way, but still doesn’t rival AT&T or Verizon. More »

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When it comes to saving money or living on a strict budget, choosing a prepaid phone can be a great choice. Our recommendation is to choose the MetroPCS plan, whether it’s utilizing a tiered data plan or unlimited. Our support goes to the 3GB, $40 monthly plan that piggybacks on T-Mobile’s LTE network. Unlike traditional MVNOs, which license spectrum space on a larger carrier, MetroPCS is owned and operated by T-Mobile, so there are no concerns over selectively slowed wireless service.

While options like Boost Mobile offers their 2.5GB plan for $35 per month, the few extra dollars with MetroPCS is worth the price of admission for a more dependable network. If you want to go the opposite direction, jump on Metro’s $60 unlimited plan which is $10 cheaper than Cricket’s unlimited wireless plan. Like most prepaid options, MetroPCS allows you bring your own phone or purchase one at retail price. Thanks to T-Mobile’s ever-improving network and value offering, choosing MetroPCS as your prepaid carrier of choice will be a fantastic decision. More »

T-Mobile Logo
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With unlimited data in 140 countries plus calls to/from Canada and Mexico counted the same as the US, there’s plenty of incentive to make T-Mobile your carrier of choice if you find yourself heading abroad frequently. Sure, the standard Simple Choice rate plan offers some less-than-fast 2G speeds but it’s fast enough for texting, social media, and e-mail if you’re careful. Want to make a call from abroad and you don’t find yourself able to use their ridiculously convenient WiFi calling feature? That’s just 20 cents per minute which is far below what some of T-Mobile’s main competitors charge.

The good news is that if you really want to grab some high-speed data while abroad, T-Mobile can help with that, too. You can pick up a high-speed data pass which offers $15 for 100MB as a single-day pass, $25 for 200MB over 7 days and a 14-day pass for $50 that’s good for 500MB of high-speed data. Once you hit each of these day caps you are slowed, dare we call it throttled back to the default 2G speeds. One a positive note, there’s no real risk of incurring more costs than the high-speed data pass charge, but T-Mobile doesn’t offer some of the higher tier buckets its competitors do. Still, when you factor in the “unlimited” data for simple browsing, social media and checking e-mail, plus the use of WiFi calling in any WiFi hotspot, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a better international offering than T-Mobile. More »

Boost Mobile Logo
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If the name Boost Mobile doesn’t mean anything to you, it’s not a big surprise. However, Boost Mobile has been around for years piggybacking on Sprint’s network as one of the more popular MVNO networks. While MVNO operators like Boost won’t give you the same level of service as one of the big 4, for a light user Boost is a big winner. A light user is someone who uses less than 2-3GB of data per month and is really focused on communicating with friends and family, rather than data-heavy streaming or gaming.

One caveat with Boost is to make sure the Sprint coverage in your neighborhood is satisfactory. Their $30 monthly rate plan is for unlimited talk, text and 2GB of high-speed data. In fact, if you enroll in auto-pay, you’ll end up saving an additional $5 per month. However, all this is contingent on Sprint’s network being up to par for your uses. While light users might not require heavy amounts of data, a cellular plan is only as good as the network it runs on. It’s a fantastic choice although you'll have to buy your smartphone outright. If you can handle the network constraints, then you’ll find a superb deal with just enough data to keep you happy with pricing that will make your wallet smile. More »

Tracfone Logo
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While the likely response for a kid-friendly mobile phone is to add them to your existing rate plan, that can bring a host of difficulties including tracking data usage. We’d make a wholehearted recommendation for TracFone as an easy, no-frills way to keep your kid’s phone use in check while still offering just enough that they aren’t unhappy. With smartphone plans starting at $15 for 30 days’ worth of 200 minutes, 500 texts and 200MB of data, it’s the perfect solution for the young ones who are just receiving their first phone. The next highest rate plans are good for 60 days, at $25 and $35, respectively offering 500 and 750 minutes, 100 texts and higher data buckets. You can also add an additional 1GB of data for an extra $10 per month.

Once you hit the limit on the 30- to 60-day timeframe, parents can set up auto-renew or manually add new increments as time goes on. It’s not a “set it and forget it” step like your traditional rate plan, but it can be a far better way to track and identify appropriate phone use for your children. Unfortunately, like most of the MVNO carriers on this list, you’ll have to purchase your own smartphone but this is a great time to repurpose a parent’s old device for their child. More »

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