Sick of committing to annual contracts? Enjoy the flexibility of a prepaid wireless plan.
The days of being locked into a lengthy wireless contract are over, as there is a plethora of prepaid options that allow you to pay for your phone service on a month-to-month basis. We’ve taken the liberty of breaking down the top prepaid wireless options for you in this handy guide.
Check your coverage
One of the first things you should consider when deciding on a prepaid carrier is the coverage provided in your area. Prepaid carriers often have a smaller coverage map than postpaid carriers because of their limited roaming agreements, so it’s good to re-check your area, even if you’ve used the carrier before. Here are the coverage maps for the carriers we will be looking at:
- Metro by T-Mobile — Map
- AT&T Prepaid — Map (make sure to check the Prepaid map)
- Boost Mobile — Map
- T-Mobile Prepaid — Map
- Mint Mobile — Map
- Republic Wireless — Map
- Consumer Cellular — Map
- Straight Talk — Map (requires Zip Code, and preferred phone/carrier)
- Cricket Wireless — Map
- US Mobile — Map (requires Zip Code)
- Virgin Mobile — Map
- Simple Mobile — Map
- GoSmart Mobile — Map
- Project Fi — Map
Metro by T-Mobile
Metro uses T-Mobile’s HSPA+ and LTE network, as it is owned entirely by the larger carrier. You have the option to purchase a phone through Metro, or bring your own device that’s compatible with the T-Mobile network.
Plan pricing is based on how much high-speed data (LTE) you think you’ll use on a monthly basis. There are no annual contracts, and taxes and fees are included in the price.
- 2GB of high-speed data — $30/month
- 10GB of high-speed data — $40/month
- Unlimited LTE + 5GB hotspot — $50/month
- Unlimited LTE + 15GB hotspot — $60/month
All plans come with unlimited talk, text, data, Wi-Fi calling, caller ID, call waiting, 3-way calling, and Data Maximizer, a feature that helps optimize your high-speed data usage when streaming videos.
The unlimited data plans also include a free Google One membership, which includes 100GB of cloud storage on Google Drive, and the $60 plan even throws in an Amazon Prime membership. That’s a $12.99/month value.
In addition, Metro includes taxes and fees in its pricing, meaning the sticker price is exactly what you’ll pay each month — a carryover from T-Mobile and a first for the prepaid industry.
How to reload
AT&T prepaid plans include unlimited talk and text in the U.S., as well as unlimited messaging to Mexico, Canada, and over 100 countries. For data, AT&T offers several types of prepaid plans:
- Pay-as-you-go ($5 per 250MB) LTE data — $30/month
- 1GB of LTE, with rollover data — $35/month
- 8GB of LTE, with rollover data — $50/month
- Unlimited LTE data — $65/month
- Unlimited LTE + 10GB hotspot — $85/month
The 8GB and unlimited LTE plans also include unlimited talk and text within and between the U.S., Mexico, and Canada, and allow you to use your high-speed data allotment from your plan when in Mexico or Canada. You can also save $5 per month on any plan by signing up for Auto Refill.
You can also pay $2 per day for unlimited nationwide talk and text or pay $0.25 per minute and $0.20 per text message. Data is available at $2 per MB (based on their stated $0.01 per 5KB rate), or you can add on a data package that gives you 100MB for an extra $1 a day.
How to reload
Pay online via myAT&T using a credit/debit card or eCheck, buy a Refill card (available online, at AT&T wireless stores, and at more than 200,000 retail locations), or call 611 anytime from your phone (or 1-800-901-9878) and follow the prompts for Refill.
Boost Mobile uses Sprint’s nationwide LTE network. You have the option of buying a phone through Boost or bringing your own Sprint-compatible device.
Boost Mobile offers four types of monthly prepaid phone plans featuring LTE high-speed data. Once your plan’s data allotment has been reached, speeds are reduced to 2G for the remainder of the plan cycle.
- 3GB of LTE + hotspot — $35/month
- Unlimited LTE + 8GB hotspot — $50/month
- Unlimited LTE + 20GB hotspot — $60/month
- Unlimited LTE + 40GB hotspot — $80/month
Boost’s unlimited plans come in different tiers; the $50 plan reduces media streaming quality with unlimited LTE everywhere else, whereas the $60 and $80 plans offer up to 1080p streaming. The Ultimate Unlimited plan included for $80 also includes bonuses like TIDAL Premium and international calling and texting.
All plans come with unlimited domestic talk and text (available even if you haven’t paid for up to 60 days), unlimited music streaming with select music partners, call waiting, voicemail, 3-way calling, as well as the ability to turn your phone into a mobile Wi-Fi hotspot.
How to reload
Pay online via My Account on the Boost Mobile site or sign up for Auto Re-Boost. Pay by phone by dialing #-A-D-D (#-2-3-3) and following the prompts to pay with your credit, debit, or Re-Boost card, text ADD and the pin on the back of your Re-Boost card to 7225 (ex. ADD 12345678912345), or text "PAY," the dollar amount, and the last four digits of the credit or debit card associated with the account to 7225 (ex. PAY 50 1234).
Alternatively, you can pay in-store at any Boost Mobile location.
T-Mobile’s prepaid service gives you access to T-Mobile’s nationwide network without signing up for an annual contract. You have the option to buy a prepaid T-Mobile phone, or bring your own device for only the cost of the SIM card.
T-Mobile offers prepaid plans for individuals and families, as well as a pay-as-you-go option.
Individual plans include:
- 4GB of LTE + hotspot — $45/month
- 10GB of LTE + hotspot — $50/month
- Unlimited LTE + unlimited 3G hotspot — $60/month
- Unlimited LTE + unlimited 3G hotspot + 5GB data in Mexico and Canada — $70/month
All plans include unlimited talk, text, and data on T-Mobile’s nationwide LTE network, with data speeds slowing to 2G upon reaching your monthly data allotment.
The only difference between T-Mobile’s $60 and $70 unlimited plans is your data speeds when internationally roaming. The former offers unlimited talk, text, and data in Mexico and Canada, but only at 2G speeds, whereas the latter offers 5GB of LTE.
If you’d rather pay as you go, T-Mobile offers a plan that starts at $3/month for any combination of 30 minutes of talk or 30 texts, with options to add a high-speed data pass with daily ($5/day for up to 500MB of LTE data) and weekly ($10/week for up to 1GB of LTE data).
How to reload
To reload your account online, go to T-Mobile’s website, either through one-time payments or by setting up recurring payments. You can also call -A-D-D (-2-3-3) from your T-Mobile phone to reload your account via credit, checking account or T-Mobile Refill card. Refill cards are available to be purchased online or in-store at a T-Mobile location.
All of Mint’s plans include a 7-day money back guarantee, along with unlimited talk, text, and 2G data, international calls to Mexico and Canada, and mobile hotspot.
- 2GB of LTE per month — $45/3 months
- 5GB of LTE per month — $60/3 months
- 10GB of LTE per month — $75/3 months
- 2GB of LTE per month — $108/6 months
- 5GB of LTE per month — $144/6 months
- 10GB of LTE per month — $180/6 months
- 2GB of LTE per month — $180/12 months
- 5GB of LTE per month — $240/12 months
- 10GB of LTE per month — $300/12 months
If you try out one of the 3 month plans and decide to stick with Mint, you can retain the introductory pricing by buying a whole year at a time — otherwise, there’s a slight price increase.
How to reload
Republic Wireless is an MVNO that uses WiFi calling by default but also utilizes both the T-Mobile and Sprint networks. You can purchase a phone from Republic or bring your own phone, provided that it’s unlocked and GSM-compatible.
Republic has some of the simplest pricing around — in fact, there’s just one plan. You pay only for the data you need, maxing out at 15GB a month, and of course you can increase your data plan mid-cycle if necessary.
- Unlimited talk and text — $15/month + $5 per GB
Republic’s plan includes mobile hotspot, WiFi calling, and free domestic roaming. There’s no international calling, but you can call back to the U.S., Canada, or "per call countries" (which may cost up to $0.50 per minute) from anywhere in the world over WiFi.
Should you exhaust your data allotment for the month, Republic doesn’t fall back to unlimited 2G; you’ll need to pay for more data.
How to reload
Consumer Cellular operates off of T-Mobile and AT&T’s towers, and focuses on retirees — it offers a 5% discount on monthly services for AARP members, as well as other benefits including 30% off on accessories and an extended risk-free return policy.
- 250 minutes for talk and text — $15/month
- Unlimited minutes — $20/month
- 250MB of data — $5/month
- 1GB of data — $10/month
- 3GB of data — $20/month
- 5GB of data — $30/month
- 10GB of data — $40/month
If you go over your minutes or data plan, you’ll automatically be upgraded to the next level plan, and you can switch back to the lower tier the following month. Once you exceed the highest 10GB data plan, you’ll be charged an additional $5 per gigabyte until you reach 18GB, at which point your data will be suspended until your next billing cycle.
All of Consumer Cellular’s plans include caller ID, call forwarding, call waiting, 3-way conference calling, voicemail, and international calling at no extra charge — though there’s no mobile hotspot feature.
How to reload
You can log into Consumer Cellular’s site to pay your bill online or set up Autopay.
Straight Talk is a prepaid carrier that doesn’t rely on just one wireless network to provide services to it’s customers. It purchases the right to use other the towers of the four major carriers — AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon, and Sprint.
Straight Talk offers prepaid phones for purchase, and also lets you bring your own device. But just because it offers service from four carriers, that doesn’t mean you get access to all four at the same time — you get to choose between T-Mobile or AT&T if you bring your own phone, or Straight Talk may choose the right carrier based on your location when you buy a phone from it.
Straight Talk has five tiers of wireless plans available for your smartphone starting as low as a dollar a day, as well as extended plans up to a one-year unlimited plan for $495.
- 100MB of data, 1500 minutes of nationwide talk, unlimited texting — $30/month
- 2GB of LTE, unlimited talk and text — $35/month
- 10GB of LTE, unlimited talk and text — $45/month
- Unlimited LTE data — $55/month
- 10GB of LTE + international talk and text — $60/month
- 3-Month Extended Plan: Unlimited talk, text, and data (10GB of high-speed data) for 90 days — $130
- 6-Month Extended Plan: Unlimited talk, text, and data (10GB of high-speed data) for 180 days — $255
- 12-Month Extended Plan: Unlimited talk, text, and data (10GB of high-speed data) for 365 days — $495
How to reload
Cricket Wireless offers five plan levels, from talk and text to unlimited data.
- Talk & Text: Unlimited nationwide talk and text — $25/month
- 2GB of LTE, unlimited talk and text — $30/month
- 5GB of LTE, unlimited talk and text — $40/month
- Unlimited data at up to 3Mbps — $55/month
- Unlimited LTE data — $60/month
Any plans starting at $40 are eligible for a Group Save Discount when you add additional lines to your account. Save $10 when adding a second line, $20 off your third line, $30 off your fourth line, and $40 off your fifth line for a total eligible savings of $100.
Receive a $5 credit on your monthly bill by signing up for Auto Pay (not available with the Group Save Discount).
Cricket’s unlimited data plans include unlimited texts to 37 countries, as well as unlimited calls, texts, and data to and from Canada and Mexico — though Canada usage can’t exceed 50% of your overall usage for the month.
There’s also a bunch of add-on features available for each plan.
How to reload
US Mobile is an odd carrier with multitudes of different prices and even different types of plans made for different networks. When ordering a SIM card, you’re given the choice between GSM LTE or Super LTE; while US Mobile doesn’t specify which carriers it piggybacks off of, it claims to use the two best networks in the nation, and Super LTE runs off of CDMA, so … we can assume that’s Verizon.
Both types of LTE service come with their own sets of plans. You select your talk, text, and data tiers separately, and only Super LTE offers unlimited data plans. The easiest way to figure out your perfect plan is to use the configurator on US Mobile’s site, but for GSM LTE, talk plans range from $3 for 100 minutes to $15 for 5000 minutes. Texting ranges from $2 for 100 texts to $7 for unlimited, and data costs between $2 for 100MB to $35 for 8GB.
The unlimited plans available with Super LTE are slightly less complicated; rather than selecting talk, text, and data allotments separately, there are nine bundles to choose from, ranging from $35 for 100 minutes of talk, 100 minutes of text, and unlimited data capped at 1Mbps all the way up to $75 a month for unlimited talk, text, and data with mobile hotspot and unrestricted speeds.
How to reload
You can sign into the US Mobile site to view and pay your bill, though the carrier doesn’t have a dedicated app on Android or iOS.
Virgin Mobile uses Sprint’s CDMA and LTE networks. You have the option of buying a phone through Virgin or bringing your own Sprint-compatible device.
All of Virgin Mobile’s plans are no-contract and offer unlimited talk, text, and 2G data, along with the LTE data you pay for. You also get access to Virgin’s Member Benefits, including discounts on food and merchandise.
- 5GB of LTE — $35/month
- 10GB of LTE — $45/month
- Unlimited LTE data — $60/month
Virgin’s plans don’t include mobile hotspot by default, but you can add it for $3 a day (500MB), $5 a month (1GB), or $10 a month (2GB). You can also add international calling to your plan for $5 a month — unlimited calls to Canada and Mexico, and unlimited worldwide texting.
How to reload
You can top up your Virgin Mobile account by buying a Virgin Mobile Top-Up card and entering it along with your Virgin Mobile number online, or simply pay online with your credit/debit Card or PayPal.
Verizon offers monthly smartphone plans, featuring no annual contract, no activation fee, and no credit checks.
- 500MB with data rollover — $30/month
- 3GB with data rollover $40/month
- 7GB with data rollover — $50month
- 10GB with data rollover — $60/month
- Unlimited LTE data — $75/month
Verizon’s prepaid plans all include unlimited talk and text, but it’s important to note that they don’t fall back to 2G when you run out of LTE data. On the bright side, every plan includes mobile hotspot and unlimited international texting to 200 countries, and the 10GB and unlimited data plans include unlimited calling to Mexico and Canada.
How to reload
Simple Mobile uses T-Mobile’s HSPA+ and LTE network and offers options to <a href="https://www.androidcentral.com/e?link=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.kqzyfj.com%2Fclick-7293382-12992701%3Fsid%3DUUacUdUnU54349%26url%3Dhttps%253A%252F%252Fwww.simplemobile.com%252Fwps%252Fportal%252Fhome%252Fshop%252Fphones%252F%2521ut%252Fp%252Fa1%252F04_Sj9CPykssy0xPLMnMz0vMAfGjzOIt3Z0NDE0MDL3d3TwtDRx9TTzMnbxdDN09zfQLsh0VAaV3QjU%2521%252F&amp;token=ZmAPmruk">purchase a new phone</a> or bring your own <a href="https://www.androidcentral.com/e?link=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.kqzyfj.com%2Fclick-7293382-12992701%3Fsid%3DUUacUdUnU54349%26url%3Dhttps%253A%252F%252Fwww.simplemobile.com%252Fwps%252Fportal%252Fhome%252Fh%252Fsims%252F%2521ut%252Fp%252Fa1%252F04_Sj9CPykssy0xPLMnMz0vMAfGjzOJdDLx8jQMdPYyMQz0MDTx9TIP9gzyMDQwMjIEKIpEVBJkZWhh4Bvi4u7kY-hgbWJgT0h-uH4WqBIsJaAo8zE2BCjycg93N_Qz83YygCgxwAEcD_YLcCINMT0dFAEicg4E%2521%252Fdl5%252Fd5%252FL2dBISEvZ0FBIS9nQSEh%252F&amp;token=odw1uY7o">T-Mobile- or AT&amp;T-compatible GSM phone</a>.</p>
<p>Simple Mobile offers five prepaid plans, which all feature no contract or credit check, unlimited talk and text, unlimited international texting, international calling to <a href="https://ww2.simplemobile.com/ilddestinations" title="" rel="nofollow">68 countries</a>, and roaming to <a href="https://ww2.simplemobile.com/ildroaming" title="" rel="nofollow">16 Latin American countries</a>.</p>
<ul><li><strong>1GB</strong> of up to LTE speeds + hotspot &mdash; <strong>$25/month</strong></li>
<li><strong>2GB</strong> of up to LTE speeds + hotspot &mdash; <strong>$30/month</strong></li>
<li><strong>6GB</strong> of up to LTE speeds + hotspot &mdash; <strong>$40/month</strong></li>
<li><strong>Unlimited LTE</strong> data &mdash; <strong>$50/month</strong></li>
<li><strong>Unlimited LTE</strong> + 10GB hotspot &mdash; <strong>$60/month</strong></li>
</ul><h3>How to reload</h3>
<p><a href="https://www.androidcentral.com/e?link=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.kqzyfj.com%2Fclick-7293382-12992701%3Fsid%3DUUacUdUnU54349%26url%3Dhttps%253A%252F%252Fwww.simplemobile.com%252Fwps%252Fportal%252Fhome%252Freup%252Freup%252F%2521ut%252Fp%252Fa1%252F04_Sj9CPykssy0xPLMnMz0vMAfGjzOKdLAxDvCw8nB1DTM1dDDz9zPz9LVzcjN39TfQLsh0VAa15GU0%2521%252F&amp;token=wXOAclQ2">ReUp through the Simple Mobile website</a> via credit card or pin. You also have the option to pay in advance with Stash, allowing you to add money to your plan when you have it, so you don't have to worry about re-upping when your service runs out.</p>
<p><a href="https://https://ift.tt/2QdgbZd title="U.S. prepaid wireless guide in 2018"><img src="https://https://ift.tt/2NNYx1F
<p>Google's first foray as a wireless carrier only charges you for the data you actually use. Sounds great, huh? The only unfortunate bit is that the service is currently limited to to a handful of <a href="https://fi.google.com/about/phones/">Google-approved devices</a>. You can bring your own phone if you already have one of the approved devices, or you can buy one from Project Fi with some attractive pricing incentives and financing options.</p>
<p>Project Fi's pricing is fairly flexible and straightforward. For $20 per month, you get unlimited domestic talk and text, unlimited international texts, mobile hotspot, and coverage in 170+ countries.</p>
<p>You pay for data as you use it. Featuring LTE speeds, you set your own custom data budget at $10 for every GB of data you use &mdash; but you're refunded if you don't reach that limit, measured down to the MB. Once you've hit past 6GB, you're no longer charged for the extra data, but you may get slowed down for the month after exceeding 15GB.</p>
<p>In addition, you can add up to 5 people to your plan for $15 each, though the threshold to reach unlimited data increases with each user, and you all pull from the same collective data bucket.</p>
<h3>How to reload</h3>
<p>Everything is controlled through the <a href="https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.google.android.apps.tycho&amp;hl=en">Project Fi app</a> <a href="https://fi.google.com/about/?rc=1710KE&amp;utm_source=Website&amp;utm_campaign=Referral&amp;utm_medium=banner+codes">and website</a>.</p>
<p class="update"><strong>Updated September 2018:</strong> This guide has been completely revamped for 2018. Enjoy your bargain-hunting!</p>
September 27, 2018 at 08:06AM