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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 Individual Plan: Sprint
"Sprint’s individual rate plan is hard to beat."
Best Prepaid: Metro by T-Mobile at Metropcs
"Boasts a nationwide LTE network with fast download speeds."
Best for International Travelers: T-Mobile
"Excels at international coverage."
Best Unlimited: Project Fi at Google
"Great compromise if you're looking to accommodate power users and people who don’t want to pay for 6GB 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."
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 4 or $70 for one line, T-Mobile Magenta customers receive unlimited data for every line including 3GB of 4G LTE data for mobile hotspot use.
HD streaming comes standard at 480p but can be easily upgraded to 1080p quality 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.
If you’re searching for the best nationwide coverage, Verizon’s the easy choice. The company's plans start at $140 for 4 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 they do offer “start unlimited” as the lower tier that caps streaming video at 480p and cuts back mobile hotspot speeds. Their “play more unlimited" plan adds 720p streaming video on phones and 1080p on tablets alongside 15GB 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.
Grabbing another notch under their 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 5GB 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 cell phone plans.
With pricing that bests the competition, HD streaming video and unlimited access to Hulu, Sprint’s $70 individual rate plan is hard to beat.
Right out of the gate there are some restrictions including limited streaming for gaming at 8Mbps and music streaming is limited to 1.5Mbps, but if you can handle those limitations, the Sprint plan is hard to beat on a nationwide network. The good news is that while you might have some data restrictions, you’ll also find unlimited calling, text, and data in Mexico and Canada as well as the United States.
For traveling abroad in nearly 180 countries around the world, Sprint adds unlimited and 2G data speed with calls costing 20 cents per minute. Beyond international travel, each customer inside the US also receives 10GB of LTE mobile hotspot data and plans like iPhone Forever or Galaxy Forever that offer a new iPhone or Samsung device after 12 equipment installment payments.
Need a phone? Take a look at our selection of the best Sprint smartphones.
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 4, 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 10GB LTE data plan which adds unlimited music streaming from 40+ music apps that don't eat into your 10GB data limit.
Customers can jump the plan north $10 ($50 total) and add unlimited LTE data and 5GB of hotspot data or add another $10 ($60 total) for unlimited 4G LTE data plus 15GB 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 cell phone plans article.
The T-Mobile Magenta Plus rate plan includes a host of features including free Netflix and unlimited data but also excels at international coverage.
Right off the bat, T-Mobile’s offer stands out with free texting plus unlimited data at 2G speeds (128kbps) in up to 140 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 5GB of 4G LTE data included. For something a little faster elsewhere in the world, T-Mobile offers double the 2G speed (256kbps) 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.
As far as cell phone 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 really great idea for a variety of reasons. First, the nuts and bolts: You can get calls and texts starting $17 per month, and data for $10 per GB of use (and you can add extra people for $16-$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 4. 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—like data- and app-happy teens—and those who don’t want to pay for 6GB in full if they won't actually use it. Add to that even 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, then 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.
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 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 they're transparent with their fees. They have 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 hit 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 their 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.
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 utilize 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 even smaller than 1GB of data per month, Republic allows you to select no data whatsoever and keep your rate at the $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.
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 kid’s usage in check.
While smartphone plans start at $20 for 30 days with 500 minutes, 500 texts and 500MB of data, parents can go even smaller on the bill at $9.99 a month for just 30 minutes of talk time 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 1.5GB of data with alternative plans offering 60 and 90 day’s 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 utilize their older devices to activate service.