The best prepaid cell phone plans: Verizon vs AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint, Cricket, Boost and more

The best prepaid cell phone plans: Verizon vs AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint, Cricket, Boost and more
Ever since AT&T was the last major cell phone contract bastion to bite the dust, carriers have been falling head over heels to offer contract-less options that were somewhat negating the need for their previous prepaid offerings, so those plans had to be adapted, too.

All major carriers have had those crappy prepaid phones for a while now, for folks who don't really have the wherewithal to endure two-year contracts, or the credit history to get a subsidized expensive phone with set monthly outlays. The death of two-year contracts forced them to rethink the prepaid conundrum, too, and these are now much more moderately priced, plus the phones offered on prepaid are no longer scraping the bottom of the specs barrel. 

We've compared the current prepaid offerings from each major carrier below for your convenience, and have provided the best MVNO (virtual operators that piggyback on the big four networks) alternatives for each one that offer unlimited data. The vast majority of these plans, save for some basic ones, include unlimited talk and texts, but who's talking these days, it's the data that counts. Also, sometimes going the MVNO route is the only way to get unlimited data at reasonable pricing on your favorite carrier of choice now. Check out the current prepaid plan prices for easier comparison when you shop around.

PlansNo data2 GB5 GB
Monthly charge$30$45$60

Extra data: $20 for 3 GB (90 days), $10 for 1 GB (90 days), $5 for 500 MB (30 days)

Perks: 1 GB extra per month for setting up AutoPay on the $45 and $60 plans

Plans10 MB1 GB1.5 GB5 GB7 GB

MVNO network: Verizon

Perks: $10 international calling credit with each plan, and unlimited international texting.

PlansPay per use2 GB5 GB
Monthly charge$30 plus $5 per 100 MB$45$60

Perks: $5 less per month for setting up Auto Refill; unused data rollover and unlimited international texts for all but the basic plan.

Throttling: After high-speed data allowance is used, data speeds are reduced to a max of 128Kbps for the rest of the term.

Plans2.5 GB5 GB10 GBUnlimited
Monthly charge$40$50$60$70

MVNO network: АТ&T

Perks: $5 less per month for setting up AutoPay; unlimited international texts for all but the basic plan.

Throttling: After high-speed data allowance is used, data speeds are reduced to a max of 128Kbps for the rest of the term.

Plans3 GB5 GB10 GB
Monthly charge$40$50$60

Perks: $5 more per month for plan usage in Mexico & Canada;

Throttling: After high-speed data allowance is used, data speeds are reduced to a max of 128Kbps for the rest of the term.

PlansNo data4 GB5 GB10 GBUnlimited

MVNO network: T-Mobile

Perks: $2.50-$5 less per month with Auto ReUp, except the unlimited option; plans valid for Canada and Mexico, plus free international calling to mobiles in China, India and more.

Throttling: After high-speed data allowance is used, data speeds are reduced to a max of 128Kbps for the rest of the term.

Plans1 GB3 GB6 GB
Monthly charge$35$45$55

Extra data: $5 for 500 MB, $10 for 1 GB (30 days)

Plans2 GB5 GBUnlimited
Monthly charge$35$45$60

MVNO network: Sprint

Perks: $5 less per month with Auto Re-Boost; unlimited music streaming from participating services (Pandora, Slacker, Milk Music); free incoming calls and texts even with 60 days without payment, 500MB of extra high-speed monthly data after every 3 on-time payments (up to 3GB extra maximum in 18 months).



1. eN16HTMAR3

Posts: 253; Member since: Oct 08, 2013

Think Big Red takes the cake there. Now only if post paid customer could get prices like that.

2. titoandres

Posts: 17; Member since: Feb 25, 2012

So expensive...I'm so glad that I don't live in the States...

5. Arch_Fiend

Posts: 3951; Member since: Oct 03, 2015

What would the price of plans such as these cost in your country?

12. kanagadeepan

Posts: 1284; Member since: Jan 24, 2012

I pay Rs1599 (around 24.16$) per month and get almost unlimited SMS / calls (10000 minutes) and 8GB of 3G/4G data in India, from Airtel (No1 operator + most costly in India like Verizon in USA)

3. Omarc07

Posts: 589; Member since: Nov 12, 2012

there all ok except boost n virgin which are both what ghetto peoople use.

6. Arch_Fiend

Posts: 3951; Member since: Oct 03, 2015

All the ghetto people I know use straight talk lol. Straight talk should honestly be on this list, because their plan for 10gbs of high speed data for $55 is pretty damn good.


Posts: 655; Member since: Jun 28, 2014

I used to use Straight Talk and I'm not a ghetto person. It was great when it came out in 2009. I never had a dropped call or no-service-area and got unlimited data calls and text for $50. I would place it above all other prepaid services available at that time. I haven't used it for the last five years but it's probably still the best value out there.

24. Arch_Fiend

Posts: 3951; Member since: Oct 03, 2015

Of course not ghetto people use straight talk I have friends who use it and of course some ghetto people use VZW ATT TMm....ect. And yes I think ST is a good value for a single person.

17. JunitoNH

Posts: 1946; Member since: Feb 15, 2012

So you are saying ghetto people don't use Verizon or AT&T? The most ignorant people I know, use the main stream carriers. By the way, can you please define ghetto people? so we are clear on the definition

4. Arch_Fiend

Posts: 3951; Member since: Oct 03, 2015

Simple and Cricket seem like the best choices.

7. GreenMan

Posts: 2698; Member since: Nov 09, 2015

Holly Molly... American Cellular companies do know how to squeeze out as much dough as possible from rich white blondes with an IQ of a mongoose, Ha! You pay a FORTUNE compared to what I pay for my monthly "Hybrid" Plan! Oh, well... Like I care! You deserve it... G'Day!

8. KetchupsMustard

Posts: 28; Member since: Dec 18, 2014

Why do Americans deserve it? And by the way not all are "rich white blondes with an IQ of a mongoose."

10. XDAdam

Posts: 276; Member since: Feb 03, 2016

Because 'Merica. Thats why. Plus we pay to be the free country.


Posts: 1461; Member since: Mar 09, 2010

You are not free, but you think that you are.. I bet you can not grasp this with out a big fight or explanation. We do have the illusion of freedom...... Based on oligarchy rules that you are used to.

21. NobLeintentions

Posts: 9; Member since: Apr 19, 2016

"we pay to be free" Hmmmm.

30. ibend

Posts: 6747; Member since: Sep 30, 2014

maybe he mean "rich white blondes with majestic toupe with an IQ of a mongoose" #2016_election

9. cripton805

Posts: 1485; Member since: Mar 18, 2012

Boost Mobile Data is misleading. The data grows that high AFTER the 3gb increases. Each tier is 3gb less when you start and it grows over time. There are also cool new perks like 100% free mobile hotspot and your service can still get incoming calls and texts after you havent made a payment in a couple of months. Those are new.

13. Crispin_Gatieza

Posts: 3187; Member since: Jan 23, 2014

As far as I know, only Verizon specifically allows tethering on their prepaid plans. To me, that makes them the winner.

14. Rafishant

Posts: 408; Member since: Oct 13, 2015

MetroPCS is the cheapest pre-paid service in the US

15. 2faraway

Posts: 75; Member since: Mar 26, 2014

Straight talk will give u 5 for 45, 10 for 55 + taxes and the network you pick. yeah, the 4 of them!! so far AT&T and T-mobile get crazy speeds in LTE. Seen it over 50mbs, otherwise Verizon's LTE is set to 5mbs and never tried sprint. Hopefully they bring a familly plan pretty soon!

16. Quicksword_Phantom

Posts: 180; Member since: Jun 15, 2015

Verizon's LTE on prepaid is not set to 5mbps. That's hogwash. I had their prepaid service, it was pretty damn good. Consistently pulled over 40mbps. The service is equal to postpaid but you don't get advanced calling features like wifi calling or visual voicemail. I left because they are shady and refused to upgrade my account to the newer plans that have a little more data. Why would you wanna try sprint's prepaid? Trust me their ghetto ass Boost and Virgin is the most terrible and GHETTO service ever.

28. 2faraway

Posts: 75; Member since: Mar 26, 2014

I guess you didn't get it? Pardon my English! Straight talk using Verizon's towers won't get further 5mbps download speeds that's what I meant, of course you being a real verizon customer you at least should get full speed even prepaid service! Straight talk is an mvno that uses the 4 big networks to provide service of your choice!

18. difeo2

Posts: 25; Member since: Aug 26, 2013

I have a Moto X pure edition on Cricket. My wife uses the Idol 3, and my son uses the Samsung Galaxy Prime. All of us have unlimited talk/text with 5 gb of Lee each. Plus phone replacement insurance. We've been on this service for a little over a year. With taxes and all included, we pay $125 per month. I've tried several options in our area. Cricket is by far the best! No service issues at all anywhere! We are former postpaid Verizon customers. Where my wife used to lose service, drop calls, etc, on her commute to work, that happens no more. The service has been excellent for us. Also, a much better value for our dollar. We paid $100 more per month and had to share a pool of data. Plus, pay overages if my son used too much! Another thing I appreciate is I can change phones as often as I want, and if we ever chose to leave for another carrier, no ETF! The one downside I've heard people say is quality of customer service/tech support. So far, I've only called a few times for information and help with one of our phones. My personal experiences with CS have not been as awesome as Verizon. However, still pleasant and definitely above satisfactory. We're completely satisfied!

32. psaw27

Posts: 3; Member since: Apr 22, 2016

Hi difeo, I use Cricket and also have no problems with it, and love the price! Does your wife like the Idol 3? I was considering that phone. Thanks!

33. difeo2

Posts: 25; Member since: Aug 26, 2013

Hi psaw27, Yes! She loves it! I play with it sometimes too. Lol! It is a really great phone so far. It seems well made and the Alcatel skin seems pretty light. Great audio, and voice clarity. It's a great value. I'm amazed at the price for what you get. The one downside is that to keep the price low for the specs and screen size, they did not use gorilla glass. It may be more susceptible to cracks and breaks. I got a 2 piece slim fit case and a tempered glass screen protector for it. She's dropped it twice. Both times on concrete surfaces. So far, so good. If you like it, and are thinking about it, I'd say give it a shot. Just be sure to get a good case and tempered glass screen protector like we did. I got her accessories on Very affordable. Best wishes to you! I hope your experience with it will be as excellent as hers has been.

34. psaw27

Posts: 3; Member since: Apr 22, 2016

Hi difeo, Thanks so much for the information! I'm going to ask for it for Mother's Day :-) All the best to you!

19. difeo2

Posts: 25; Member since: Aug 26, 2013

Above comment should read 5gb of LTE each. Dang autocorrect! Lol

20. difeo2

Posts: 25; Member since: Aug 26, 2013

I forgot to mention another downside. Not to us, but maybe to some. Download speeds are capped at about 8 Mbps. Sometimes a little over. For what we do (apps, Internet browse, Amazon prime music and video streaming, YouTube, and the like). We have no issues. But we don't do heavy intense online gaming, or anything like that.

22. irossdrummer

Posts: 371; Member since: Jan 17, 2015

I have boost and a galaxy s6 with the growing plan. Service kinda sucks and the 4G speed is meh but I'll deal it's cheap

25. Bernoulli

Posts: 4364; Member since: Sep 01, 2012

Okay the chart is neat, but is completely leaving out family plans. I used to be in a family plan with cricket so they do exist.

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