Best prepaid phone plans in 2022

The best prepaid phone plans are more relevant than ever, with prices on so many products rising these days. Turning to prepaid phone service can save you money each month, as these plans often cost much less than postpaid offering at major carriers. 

You need to make some tradeoffs when opting for prepaid service, but at least you’ll be accessing the same network used by customers with postpaid plans. In some cases, you’ll even get 5G coverage as part of your service. Best of all, you don’t necessarily need to cut down on data to enjoy a lower rate. Sure, the less data you need, the less you’ll have to pay, but even the best unlimited data plans can be surprisingly affordable from prepaid carriers.

As we’ve learned by researching the best prepaid phone plans, there are a wide variety of options, highlighted by different data levels — and prices — that address your particular needs.

The best prepaid phone plans at a glance

We mentioned some tradeoffs with even the best prepaid phone plans, which don’t offer the same perks that come with more expensive plans from the big carriers. Forget about free subscriptions to streaming services included in your plan or using your monthly data allotment when you travel overseas. At most, you’re likely to get some hotspot data. And you’re also subject to slower speeds if the network your prepaid carrier uses is clogged with traffic. If you’ve need multiple lines, you may want to look elsewhere for the best family cell phone plan, as only a few of the options below offer discounts on extra lines.

Even with all that, though, there’s a lot to be said for a lower monthly bill, especially right now. And whether you’re shopping for a new phone and need a new wireless plan or just want to make sure that your current plan is among the best cell phone plans overall, it pays to consider the best prepaid phone plans as money-saving options.

The best prepaid phone plans for your smartphone

The best value prepaid cell phone plan:

Low cost-plan from T-Mobile:

Best prepaid plan for coverage:

Great value from a major carrier:

Best unlimited data prepaid cell phone plan:

Best unlimited data prepaid cell phone plan from a retailer:

A plan worth a second look:

The cheapest plan of all:

Most flexible prepaid for families:

Best free prepaid plan:

How to pick the best prepaid phone plans

When shopping for a prepaid phone plan, price is paramount. That’s because prepaid plans don’t often come with the kind of benefits postpaid cell phone plans offer. That said, some carriers — such as Metro By T-Mobile and Boost — do work in a few perks, so be aware of those when picking your plans.

You’ll also want to pay attention to discounts and special offers. Often, larger carriers like AT&T and Verizon will increase the size of their autopay discount, which can make a pricier plan more attractive. Metro by T-Mobile has been known to increase the size of the discount for when you add multiple lines of data.

Besides price, one of the most important things to consider is what carrier offers the best coverage around your home and workplace. That’s true even if you look beyond the Big Three carriers for service. Other wireless services — known as mobile virtual network operators, or MVNOs — use the cellular networks of AT&T, T-Mobile or Verizon for their coverage. (Some MVNOs turn to multiple carriers.) So if Verizon’s network is particularly strong where you are, for example, MVNOs that use Verizon’s network for coverage will perform well, too. Just be aware that MVNOs can see their traffic slowed if a carrier’s network gets too crowded.

5G coverage is now a part of what some MVNOs offer. Metro subscribers can access T-Mobile’s 5G with an eligible phone, as can Mint Mobile customers. Visible has added 5G access on Verizon’s network to select phones, while both AT&T prepaid and Cricket customers can get on 5G with the most expensive prepaid plans at each carrier.

For more on MVNOs, read our guides to AT&T MVNOs, T-Mobile MVNOs and Verizon MVNOs — we’ll tell you which discount carriers use which parent networks. 

How we pick the best prepaid phone plans

Finding the best prepaid phone plans means widening our search beyond the major carriers, though AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon all have prepaid offerings. We’re also researching plans from smaller carriers who use the Big Three’s cellular towers to provide their coverage. As smaller carriers usually offer their service at a discount, they make up a majority of the candidates that we consider for best prepaid phone plans.

When we pick the best plans, we put a premium on the monthly price, though we also pay attention to how much data comes with that plan. After all, a carrier may not charge you a lot for data, but it also may not provide enough data for your needs. We’re picking plans that offer the best mix of cost and data. We also consider a wide variety of data allotments, since some people can get by very happily using just a couple gigabytes of data each month, while others need an unlimited plan.

As noted previously, prepaid plans don’t offer much in the way of perks. That said, we do take note of any special add-ons included with the best prepaid plans, as those can add value to a plan above and beyond its monthly cost.

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