There was a time when AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon, and Sprint were the only real options for cellular services. But there was also a time when you could get any color car you liked as long as it was black. A lot has changed since then, and today there are a number of so-called virtual mobile network operators that lease access from large network operators and offer similar services at a fraction of the price.
That means you can sign up for Mint Mobile for example and get some kind of T-Mobile-Lite service at rock-bottom prices. Before we get to the plans, however, keep in mind that you may not be able to jump a ship at this moment. In order to change the network operator, you have to conclude an existing contract with your current network operator or you will probably have to pay a penalty to get out early. And if you bought your phone directly from a wireless service provider, you will likely need to unlock it. However, once you've taken care of these preparations, you can change plans and save a bundle.
There are a surprisingly large number of wireless networks, but here are some that offer the best and most intriguing deals we could find.
As you can see on the website, the AT&T-based Consumer Cellular is aimed at an older population of the largest generation – but the resulting focus on simplicity and flexibility can serve everyone quite well. With Consumer, you can easily create your own à la carte WiFi plan by selecting each component of the plan and instantly see how it affects the bottom line. You can create a $ 20 monthly plan that includes 250 minutes, unlimited text messages, and 500 MB of data.
Consumer Cellular comes into its own when you want to buy a plan for yourself and a partner. You can add a second phone for $ 15 a month, and all minutes and data are shared – which is usually not the case with MVNOs. That means 250 minutes, unlimited texting, and 500MB only cost $ 35, or about $ 17 per line per month. Not a bad deal.
Mint Mobile runs on the T-Mobile network and should work with almost any GSM phone. Mint offers a dirt cheap test plan for $ 15 a month for your first three months. It offers unlimited conversation and text options as well as 3 GB of data and free access to T-Mobile hotspots. After the first three months, it jumps to $ 25 a month.
So, if you don't like jumping from plan to plan, you might want to start with Mint Mobile's Sweet Spot: with a six-month commitment, you get unlimited conversation and text, plus 3GB of data for $ 20 a month.
Red Pocket has a lot of plans, but the cheaper end of the spectrum is hard to beat. If your telecommunications requirements are modest, you can only spend $ 10 a month for 500 minutes, 500 texts, and 500 MB of data. Or use unlimited language and text, plus 3GB of data for $ 19 a month.
Unlike many MVNOs, Red Pocket offers a convenient alternative for family plans: the first line costs $ 30 and up to four additional lines cost $ 20 each. This gives you unlimited amounts of speech, minutes and data (although the data is throttled to 5 GB for LTE or 3 GB for CDMA). The family plan includes additional setup fees. Make sure to read the most important details on the website.
Regardless of whether you have a phone that is compatible with Tello's Sprint network, it is hard not to be enchanted by the network's own plan of choosing the dates and minutes you want and seeing them right away can do what it costs and even though you can choose unlimited language, text, and data for $ 39 a month, you can redial it to $ 6 for 100 minutes, free text, and 500MB of data. Or choose a very responsible 500 minutes and 1 GB for $ 9 a month.
You can use a similar set of sliders to dial a family plan for up to five people. Since you can configure each line separately, you can buy unlimited data for mom and dad, but only 500 MB for grandma.
Do you want to go straight? You can get it, so to speak, with TextNow, which offers an ad-supported voice over Wi-Fi service that provides calls, voicemail, and text in one app that you can install on your Android or iOS phone. But there is more. With a $ 10 activation kit, TextNow can port your phone to its sprint-based network. There you can get voice, data, and 2 GB of data for $ 20 a month.
Read more about TextNow.
Some car dealers offer a "no-hagging experience" by putting the final price – no negotiations – directly on the windshield. That's exactly what Visible, Verizon's MVNO, did. Visible has only one plan, and while not as cheap as some of the others on this list, it offers you everything you want. You pay $ 40 all-in, and that brings you unlimited voice, text, and data quality, as well as mobile hotspot features (limited to 5Mbps). This is a small thing, but very much appreciated: the sum of $ 40 is literally the price you see on your bill. There are no additional taxes or fees.
Even cooler, Visible also comes with family plans on board – except that your "family" doesn't even have to be related to you. You can invite up to four more people to join your group plan. The more people join, the lower the cost. Two people pay $ 35 a month, while four people pay only $ 25 each.
Read more about the Visible group plan.
Did you find a cheap phone plan that you like better than everyone else? Tell us about your favorite plan in the comments.