Cellphone costs: Average price of a U.S. mobile plan is $144

Robin Layton

Aug 8, 2023 — 4 min read

To get the best cellphone plan, compare the taxes and fees, data caps and available discounts. You may also save money by bundling with your internet plan.

Key facts

  • The average cost of a cellphone plan in the U.S. is $144
  • Illinois has the highest wireless tax rate, at nearly 35%

Having access to the internet has essentially become a requirement for accessing our data, our jobs and even our offline social circles. Our cellphones give us that access in the palms of our hands, anywhere, anytime, so it’s no wonder most folks would rather give up home internet than their phone if forced to choose.

With prices rising on the cost of a phone and mobile plans, how much does the average mobile plan cost these days?

According to JD Power, as reported by CNBC in June 2023, the average monthly cost of a cellphone plan is $144. At over $1,700 a year, it’s not an insignificant cost. It pays to look for deals, promotions, discounts and bundle savings to trim that cost.

Major national mobile networks include:

Factors affecting your mobile plan’s final cost

Of course, your plan’s final cost will vary due to several factors that might be different for you.

Number of devices on the plan

This is the largest variable that could increase the average cost of a wireless plan. Additional lines cost anywhere from $30-$60 to add to a plan. For example, a plan with four people would cost around $190 and a plan with five would be over $220 with unlimited data.

Device choice

The type of smartphone you pick can also drive up your monthly bill. If you need the latest tech for a cellphone camera, extended battery life or the newest market gadget, like a foldable phone, be prepared to pay a bit more each month.

Some providers break up your device price over your contract term, so you pay that cost monthly, which adds to your final bill. 

If you value money over having the latest tech, look for plans that include a phone – those will save you the most money.

Wireless taxes and local fees can vary by state and city

Like your cable and internet bill, several taxes are levied on carriers to help build and maintain local infrastructure. They then pass those fees on to us, of course, but they vary by state. The best deal to find is one that says taxes and fees are included in the advertised price. This way, you don’t have sticker shock with your first monthly payment. 

Where you live matters to the bottom line. If you’re in Illinois, you should know that your state has the highest wireless state tax at 22.65% for a total of 34.89% total tax on your monthly plan.

The cheapest state to pay for a mobile plan is Idaho at 2.80% for a total of 15.04%. 

For example, in Illinois, your T-Mobile Essentials plan of $60/mo., which doesn’t include taxes and fees, will be $20.93 extra in taxes for a grand total of $80.93/mo. This same plan is only $69.02/mo. in Idaho. These are just based on federal and state taxes; some localities also have local taxes on mobile services.

Cellphone advertised prices and fees

The monthly advertised price is often an eye-catcher, like $15 or $30/mo. Read the fine print, though, as that price may not include the various fees other than taxes that can be tacked on: 

  • Early termination fees ($150-$300)
  • Roaming and international fees (varies)
  • New phone activation fees (typically $20-$40 per device, sometimes waived)

Bundling internet and phone

Several internet service providers (ISPs) also offer mobile phone plans, using the coverage of larger cell carriers like Verizon and T-Mobile.

It can be a cost savings to combine both services. For example, Spectrum mobile plans start at $29.99/mo. per line, but can be combined with internet and Wi-Fi with Spectrum One at $49.99/mo. Considering the internet plans alone start at $49.99/mo., that’s a great deal of savings. 

The only catch is that for most ISP mobile plans, you have to be an internet customer. Optimum is open to non-internet customers, but there will be a surcharge. 

Other cellphone plan discounts

If you’re a senior, military veteran, or student, or qualify for other low-income assistance programs, you’re likely qualified for a discount on your cellphone plan. Some programs available include:

Alternative plan options

If you want the cheapest phone plans available, your best option may be a mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) like Red Pocket and Mint Mobile.

These carriers have agreements with larger providers like Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile, to use their infrastructure to provide service to their own specific customers. MVNO costs are lower since they do not have the expense of cell tower construction, upkeep, etc. A potential downside of signing up with an MVNO is that their customers are often de-prioritized by the larger network during high-volume times, so your service may see periods of slow-downs.

Summing it up

Doing your homework can save you money when purchasing a cellphone plan. If you have an internet plan with AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, Optimum, Spectrum or Xfinity, check to see if you can save by bundling it with their mobile phone plans

Not sure if you are serviceable by one of these ISPs? Check your address to see if you can save a bundle while bundling.

See Allconnect’s research hub for similar articles.

Robin Layton

Written by:

Robin Layton

Editor, Broadband Content

Robin Layton is an editor for the broadband marketplace Allconnect. She built her internet industry expertise writing and editing for four years on the site, as well as on Allconnect’s sister site MYMOVE.com. … Read more