Best Cell Phone Plans Compared - And a 1 cent plan?!

     
 It can be frustrating to choose a cell phone plan. It seems no plan is just right, at a price that doesn't make you grimace. What if there were better options?

Good news - there are.


And I'm going to break them down as simply as possible below.

The Lowdown

It's not uncommon to think of prepaid plans as something only stooped to by the destitute - only buying calling cards from gas stations and dollar stores when a call must be made to call the bill collector before your car is impounded.

While plans that work like that are still available (used by the destitute and frugal alike) that is no longer the norm for use - and they compare to 'full-blown' contract plans in every way, except, often, in the way of cost. Which is why I'm featuring them today. 

Note: Prepaid services often also don't offer much in the way of technical support. But to be honest - I haven't been happy with ANY carrier's technical support. And I say that as a former Verizon Business customer. If you need technical support, libraries, Walmart, and local shops are a better bet anyway.


The Contenders 

(and the TL;DR/Short version)

Total Wireless (What I will likely switch to in the future, when it is time to get new phones for my family)
AT&T Prepaid (What I currently use.)
StraightTalk (What I would use if I traveled, needed to save money, and only had one phone I needed to activate.)
Consumer Cellular (What I would use if I was lower-income and needed a family plan - as well as good tech support for the initial setup.)
Verizon Prepaid (What I would use if money was no object, I traveled often, and needed truly unlimited data.)

Notice the lack of TracPhone or Ting? In my opinion, they charge too much for what they offer compared to our contenders, unless you plan on using them as burner or temporary phones. Ironically, TracPhone owns Total Wireless - which is perhaps the best all-around deal here. Cricket is also left out, as I don't see any advantages over their sibling - AT&T Prepaid. Group pricing may be an exception. T-Mobile technically behaves like a prepaid plan, but they often have extremely poor service - the same goes for the carrier they just merged with, Sprint.



Total Wireless

This stands out as the best of all deals, unless you have special requirements like unlimited data or international calling.

With plans like $30/m for unlimited calls and texts with 6GB of data (when purchased through Walmart) on the unbeatable Verizon network, and getting only better as you add lines - I'm really not sure how this deal could be beat. The only downside I've found is speeds average around 5Mb/s according to representatives. 


                                                      AT&T PREPAID

I've had AT&T PREPAID (formerly, GoPhone) for years, and they keep getting better. I pay $40/m for unlimited everything, with 8GB of high-speed data. AT&T PREPAID also includes free tethering (using your phone as a hotspot/traveling router for your other devices like laptops and tablets) and free calling to/from Mexico/Canada. My data speeds reach 25Mb/s!
The only catches are that 1. You need to be in the US for at least 50% of the month to maintain the last feature, and 2. It's not the Verizon network. AT&T is the runner-up to Verizon, however, and it was pretty rare that I ran into loss of signal all along the East Coast during a recent trip. Trust me, I would complain if that wasn't the case. 



                                                      StraightTalk

If you're single, want a lot of data, and don't mind terrible support and a bill pay portal - StraightTalk is the one for you! Their website is pretty broken at times and their support is not great. HOWEVER, they offer the best bang for your buck by offering $44/m plans that include 10GB of data and unlimited everything else, on the Verizon network if you choose carefully. Choose the wrong phone/SIM combo and you end up with Sprint or T-Mobile's network.



                                                     Consumer Cellular

CC is interesting because it allows you to mix and match features as you need, and share those features across multiple lines. For instance, it is possible to have unlimited calling and texting with 1Gb of shared data for two lines for $45/m. It runs on the AT&T network, and several of my less data-needing clients and family members love it. Ting offers more granular but similar mix & match options, and there is a chance you could pay less with it - but really, the data prices are not comparable.



                                                     Verizon Prepaid

Want truly unlimited, high-speed data on America's best network and can pay for it? At $75/m, Verizon Prepaid can offer exactly that. Price gets better overall as you add lines; the second line on an unlimited plan is only $55/m extra. Cheaper plans from this carrier exist - but you'd be better served by Total Wireless if truly unlimited isn't a game changer for you.



Freebie


                                                      FreedomPop

FreedomPop is a carrier that offers both the AT&T and Sprint networks, at technically unbeatable prices. For one thing, they have a free plan. Yes, free. For AT&T's GSM network - 200Mb of data, 500 texts, and 200 minutes of call time is technically free. I think they do charge 1 cent per month to keep your account active, and there is a startup fee of between $5 and $30 depending on your phone - but 1c/m service is real, and it is usable if you choose a GSM/AT&T networked device.

They now offer other exceptional plans if you prepay several months in advance - and if I'm understanding this grid correctly, that price is amazing. I probably should try it to find out...




But Where Do I Buy Phones?

Many of these provide phones you can either pay for outright, or add to the cost of your monthly plan. Unless you really want a cheap phone, or a particular one like an iPhone or Galaxy - I recommend you just order the Motorola G5, or whichever is the newest model by the time you read this. They are the best phones for the price - hands down - and can be had at Amazon or Walmart for around $150. Given that they are comparable to the best phones out there in terms of performance and quality, that cost is definitely worth it. Other phones are either an exercise in frustration or more expensive than they are worth.


Need Help Switching?

I offer to your home service starting at $90 for two hours of setup and training time if you live in or near Olean, NY. Reach out by heading over to my main site. I will handle every aspect of the switch over to your desired carrier and phone, and train you on the usage. Give me a call or text, or send off an email.