The 9 Best Cell Phone Plans of 2021

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

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The Rundown

Best for Heavy Data Users: T-Mobile

"No better choice for heavy data users than T-Mobile's Magenta (formerly T-Mobile One) plan and its outstanding feature set."

Best High-Speed Data: Verizon Wireless

"Its mix of coverage, speed, and reliability make it well worth the extra monthly cost."

Best Family Plan: T-Mobile

"A bevy of features and extras that make it the best value across the board."

Best Prepaid: Metro by T-Mobile

"Boasts a nationwide LTE network with fast download speeds."

Best for International Travelers: T-Mobile

"Excels at international coverage."

Best Unlimited: Project Fi

"Great compromise if you're looking to accommodate power users and people who don't want to pay for 6 GB they won't use."

Best No Contract: Cricket Wireless

"A solid option for those looking to save without being tied down by a contract."

Best for Light Users: Republic Wireless

"An inexpensive solution that offers what you need without additional perks or glamour."

Best for Kids: Tracfone

"A no-frills way of keeping kids' usage in check."

The best cellphone plan for you will elevate your phone experience while saving your wallet from hefty overage fees. The first step in picking your service provider is deciding if it will be an individual or family plan. Next, you need to estimate how much data you'll need and which device you want to connect to your contract or contract-less program. Consider upgrading to a 5G phone if your new coverage allows for it. Lastly, international travel can play a role in your plan if you would like to use your network while abroad.

Once you decide your factors, it's time to look into your plan options. Companies like Project Fi are great for certain Android users, while active iPhone users may prefer T-Mobile for both their individual and family plans. Have no fear; no matter what your needs are, the best cellphone plan is out there specifically for you!

Best for Heavy Data Users: T-Mobile

T-Mobile is the best network for heavy data users.

For heavy data users, there's no better choice than T-Mobile's Magenta plan (formerly T-Mobile One) and its outstanding feature set.

Starting at $140 for a family of four or $70 for one line, T-Mobile Magenta customers receive unlimited data for every line, including 3 GB of 4G LTE data for mobile hotspot use.

HD streaming comes standard in the Magenta Plus plan ($85 per line), but you can upgrade your Magenta plan from SD to HD with a small upcharge. That upcharge comes in handy as T-Mobile's Magenta plan now includes a free one-screen Netflix subscription.

Add in unlimited international calls to more than 70 countries, in-flight texting on Gogo-enabled flights, and T-Mobile Tuesdays, which are full of free stuff and great deals like discounts on Shell gasoline or free coffee at Dunkin Donuts, and you're hard-pressed to find a better unlimited plan on any carrier.

Need a phone too? Take a look at our selection of the best T-Mobile smartphones.

Best High-Speed Data: Verizon Wireless

Verizon Wireless offers the best high speed data.

If you're searching for the best nationwide coverage, Verizon's the easy choice. The company's plans start at $140 for four lines ($180 on their higher tier offering, and $220 on the highest tier) and $70 for one line ($80 on the higher tier and $90 on the highest).

With four sets of rate plans, Verizon's higher costs make it less of a budget-friendly option, though the company does offer a Start Unlimited tier that caps streaming video at 480p and cuts back mobile hotspot speeds. Its Play More Unlimited plan adds 720p streaming video on phones and 1080p on tablets alongside 15 GB of mobile hotspot use every month.

As one of the first to offer nationwide LTE, Verizon's early start and network buildout has given it a solid 4G LTE experience that consistently wins coverage and speed awards.

In the end, Verizon's mix of coverage, speed, and reliability make it well worth the extra monthly cost.

Need to choose a phone too? Take a look at our selection of the best Verizon smartphones.

Best Family Plan: T-Mobile

T-Mobile offers the best Family Plan.

Grabbing another notch under its belt, T-Mobile's family plan is seriously hard to beat with a bevy of features and extras that make it the best value across the board.

The most popular option (Magenta Plus) is the four-line $170 plan, with that price already including taxes and fees (after AutoPay discount). Add in unlimited talk, text, and data alongside mobile hotspot data, 480p DVD-quality streaming, and free Netflix for the whole family, and it's easy to see why customers are flocking to T-Mobile's network.

Unlimited calling in Mexico and Canada alongside 5 GB of free data and in-flight texting on Gogo-enabled flights add to the reasons why T-Mobile's family plan is adding customers quarter after quarter.

T-Mobile's recent introduction of allowing customers to upgrade to a new iPhone after 12 equipment installments allow customers to purchase new devices with every yearly release.

Want to take a look at some other options? See our guide to the best family cellphone plans.

Best Prepaid: Metro by T-Mobile

The Metro By T-Mobile logo.

When it comes to prepaid service, Metro by T-Mobile (formerly MetroPCS) is the king of the hill. Starting at $40 for an individual line or $130 for a family of four, Metro by T-Mobile has plans that cover just about any budget.

Piggybacking on parent company T-Mobile's network, Metro by T-Mobile boasts a nationwide LTE network with fast download speeds. The ideal plan for most prepaid customers may be the company's $40 10 GB LTE data plan, which adds unlimited music streaming from 40-plus music apps that don't eat into your 10 GB data limit.

Customers can jump the plan north $10 ($50 total) and add unlimited LTE data and 5 GB of hotspot data or add another $10 ($60 total) for unlimited 4G LTE data plus a 15 GB mobile hotspot.

As a prepaid carrier, Metro by T-Mobile offers an extensive lineup of smartphones, including the latest from Apple and Samsung, but requires a full-price purchase. Alternatively, you can bring your own SIM-compatible device to the network.

Need some more help finding what you're looking for? Read through our best-prepaid cellphone plans article.

Best for International Travelers: T-Mobile

International travelers will find the best plans through T-Mobile.

The T-Mobile Magenta Plus rate plan includes a host of features, including free Netflix and unlimited data, but it also excels at international coverage.

Right off the bat, T-Mobile's offer stands out with free texting plus unlimited data at 2G speeds (128 Kbps) in up to 210 countries and destinations. Admittedly, 2G data isn't the fastest speed around, but it more than works for checking email or Facebook while abroad.

Traveling to Mexico and Canada offers something a little different, as T-Mobile adds unlimited calling, texting, and 5 GB of 4G LTE data. For something a little faster elsewhere in the world, T-Mobile offers double the 2G speed (256 Kbps) for an extra $25 per month.

While you're on your way to your destination, planes that are Gogo-enabled will let T-Mobile customers receive unlimited free in-flight texting and Wi-Fi.

Best Unlimited: Project Fi

Google Project Fi

As far as cellphone plans go, there are a lot of major players, and most of them offer some version of an unlimited plan. Though Verizon's unlimited option is a really great value, there's a new kid on the block, designed by one of the biggest names in tech: Google.

Opting for Google's Project Fi seems like a great idea for a variety of reasons. First, the nuts and bolts: You can get calls and texts starting at $17 per month, and data for $10 per GB of use (and you can add extra people for $16 to $18 each). But what exactly makes the plan unlimited? You're only charged $10 for each GB you use up to 6 GBs (on the two-person plan; for more people, the data limit increases), then beyond that, it's unlimited.

There's also an Unlimited plan that's $70 per month for one person or $45 per person per month for four. That's for unlimited data, and it comes with a Google One storage membership that gives you 100 GB of cloud storage for each line.

Project Fi is a great compromise if you're looking to accommodate power users, such as data- and app-happy teens, and those who don't want to pay for 6 GB in full if they won't actually use it. Add to that, coverage that delivers the same performance overseas as you'd get in your home country, and you have a really amazing contract.

If you can stomach being limited to Pixel, LG, and Moto phones, and you're willing to be an early adopter in a somewhat new network, this pseudo-unlimited plan is a great "best of both worlds." But it does mean you won't be able to jump on Apple's latest releases.

Best No Contract: Cricket Wireless

Cricket Wireless

With so many families and individuals looking for budget wireless plans, a slew of second-tier, contract-free brands have come into play. While Walmart's Straight Talk and the ubiquitous Metro by T-Mobile (formerly MetroPCS) would be perfectly serviceable options, our choice here is for Cricket Wireless.

Like all no-contract plans, with Cricket, you only pay month-to-month. What we particularly like about the company is that it's transparent with its fees. Cricket has a rolling structure, with a basic talk and text package starting at $25 per month and a premium high-speed data-connected individual line for $60 per month.

The real standout here is the $100 family plan, which gives you four lines of unlimited data. Heavy users: just note that once you reach 22 GB of use in a month, Cricket may throttle your speeds a bit to make room for other users.

When it comes down to it, what you see is what you get; those prices up there include taxes, and though Cricket's coverage isn't quite as dense as the ​Verizons and AT&Ts of the world, Cricket is a solid option for those looking to save without being tied down by a contract.

Best for Light Users: Republic Wireless

Republic Wireless logo, transparent background

The name Republic Wireless might not ring a bell to most wireless industry customers, but its rate plans are sure to capture attention.

For light users who use little or no data every month, Republic is an inexpensive solution that offers what you need without any additional perks or glamour.

Starting at $15 for unlimited talk and text, customers can add 4G LTE data to the plan for an additional $5 for each GB. If your use is smaller than 1 GB of data per month, Republic allows you to select no data whatsoever and keep your rate at $15 for just unlimited talk and text.

Piggybacking off T-Mobile and Sprint's cellular networks, Republic optimizes your signal by determining which of the two networks has a stronger signal at your location. To help keep costs down even more, Republic customers are required to bring their own phones.

Best for Kids: Tracfone

Tracfone offers the best mobile plans for younger kids.

While the best rate for a kid-friendly mobile experience is often to add them to your existing rate plan, options like Tracfone add a no-frills way of keeping your child's usage in check.

While smartphone plans start at $20 for 30 days with unlimited minutes and texts and 1 GB of data, parents can go even smaller on the bill at $15 a month for just 30 minutes of talk time and 500 texts on a basic phone.

For most kids, smartphones remain the best option, with plans going as high as $125 for a full year's worth of service (365 days) allowing for 1,500 minutes, 1,500 texts, and 1.5 GB of data, and alternative plans offering 60 and 90 days' worth of service for various amounts of minutes, texts, and data allotments.

Beyond plans, Tracfone adds an extensive line of basic and smartphones while allowing customers to use their older devices to activate service.

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