The 10 Best Cell Phone Plans to Buy in 2018

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

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Today’s wireless phone industry has a seemingly endless supply of phone plan choices. From expensive unlimited data plans to budget-conscious bare-bones plans, options are plentiful and often confusing.

Selecting the best rate plan isn't only about how much data or minutes you can use in a month, it also comes down to good coverage. Keep reading to see which cell phone plans will work for you, your family and your budget.

We’ve looked at some big wireless carriers (Verizon, Sprint, T-Mobile), but also identified opportunities where you can save with smaller options (MetroPCS, Republic Wireless, etc.) without losing coverage or data. So keep reading to see which cell phone plans will work for you, your family and your budget.

Our Top Picks

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 “One” plan and its outstanding feature set.

Starting at $160 for a family of 4 or $70 for one line, T-Mobile One customers receive unlimited data for every line including 10GB 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 One plan now includes a free Netflix subscription good for the whole house and even for existing Netflix customers.

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 $160 for 4 lines ($200 on their higher tier offering, and $240 on the highest tier) and $75 for one line ($85 on the higher tier and $95 on the highest).

With two sets of rate plans, Verizon’s higher costs make it less of a budget-friendly option though they do offer “go unlimited” as the lower tier that caps streaming video at 480p and cuts back mobile hotspot speeds. Their “beyond 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.

Best Family Plan: T-Mobile

T-Mobile offers the best Family Plan.

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 is the four-line $160 plan with that price already including taxes and fees. 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

Best Individual Plan: Sprint

Sprint offers the best individual plans.

With pricing that bests the competition, HD streaming video and unlimited access to Hulu, Sprint’s $60 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.

Best Prepaid: MetroPCS

Mtro PCS offers the best prepaid mobile plans.

When it comes to prepaid service, MetroPCS is the king of the hill. Starting at $30 for an individual line or $120 for a family of 4, MetroPCS has plans that cover just about any budget.

Piggybacking on parent company T-Mobile’s network, MetroPCS boasts a nationwide LTE network with fast download speeds. The ideal plan for most prepaid customers may be the company’s $40 5GB LTE data plan which adds nearly 8 hours of video streaming or 300 hours of social media use before hitting the 5GB limit.

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

As a prepaid carrier, MetroPCS 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.

Best for International Travelers: T-Mobile

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

The T-Mobile One 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.

Best Unlimited: Project 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 for $20 per month, and data for $10 per GB of use (and you can add extra people for $15 each). But what exactly makes the plan unlimited? You're only charged $10 for the GBs you use up until 6 GBs, then beyond that, it’s unlimited.

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. 

Best No Contract: 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 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.

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 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.

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 kid’s usage in check.

While smartphone plans start at $15 for 30 days with 200 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.