U.S. Cellular plans, phones and coverage: Everything you need to know


Nov 3, 2020 — 4 min read

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  • No contracts or credit check required
  • No activation fee or overage charges
  • Up to $700 off select phones for a limited time

U.S. Cellular is a wireless carrier serving 5.1 million people, government operations and businesses. The Chicago-based carrier is the fifth-largest full-service wireless provider in the nation. 

The company sets out to convey a message of fairness in pricing and service. U.S. Cellular’s service doesn’t come with any hidden fees, and they even offer a Payback plan that no other carrier in the industry provides. Customers who use less than 3GB per line qualify to get $10 back per month. 

U.S. Cellular is spending on technology to improve customers’ data experience, but they have relatively limited coverage on their primary network, so make sure to check that the coverage is adequate for the area you live in. U.S. Cellular offers both limited and unlimited prepaid data plans, each with unlimited talk and text, with prices ranging from $40 to $65/mo. There’s no contract to sign, no credit check required and no activation fee.

U.S. Cellular phones

U.S. Cellular offers a variety of devices at low monthly fees. 

  • Free iPhone 12 when you open a new line and commit to 30-month contract
  • Get $350 off the Apple iPhone SE when you sign up for an Unlimited Basic, Everyday or Even Better plan with a new line and credit approval. 
  • Get $700 off the Apple iPhone 11, iPhone 11 Pro or iPhone 11 Pro Max when you sign up for an Unlimited Everyday or Even Better plan with a new line and credit approval. 

U.S. Cellular plans

All of U.S. Cellular’s plans come with unlimited talk and text. 

With a prepaid plan, you pay upfront for the data you’re going to use each month. U.S. Cellular doesn’t charge overages if you exceed your data limit. Instead, your data access will slow for the rest of the billing cycle. And if you use less than 3GB for a month, you could qualify to get $10 back from U.S. Cellular. You’ll also save $10 on lines two through five. 

How do U.S. Cellular’s prices compare?

U.S. Cellular deals

There are several promotions that may be helpful if you’re switching to U.S. Cellular. 

  • Military discount: service members get 15% off
  • Get a free LG K8x when you sign up for a new prepaid plan
  • Get $150 for your old phone when you switch to U.S. Cellular

U.S. Cellular coverage

U.S. Cellular has limited coverage when compared to other major carriers. 

U.S. Cellular doesn’t cover every city, but that may not matter much to you if you live in an area that is well covered. The best states for coverage under the primary network include Iowa and Wisconsin, which both have 5G coverage in select areas. 

How is U.S. Cellular’s 5G network?

U.S. Cellular has a 10x10MHz channel of 600MHz for its 5G network, according to CTO Mike Irizarry. That could potentially mean speeds of up to 62 Mbps. But in practice, speeds may only reach 30 Mbps in addition to what’s offered with 4G. 

“What’s different about our deployment is that this 600 MHz channel is not used for LTE, it’s only going to be used for 5G NR,” he said. So the resources of U.S. Cellular’s spectrum will be exclusively directed to 5G NR. 

How does U.S. Cellular compare to other prepaid phone companies?

U.S. Cellular’s prices fall in the middle of the road when it comes to prepaid phone plans. Both the Consumer Reports data score and reception score were “Good,” and while reviews of the service are mixed on ConsumerAffairs, the company has an American Customer Satisfaction Index of 71, putting it ahead of Sprint. 

U.S. Cellular customer service

You can reach U.S. Cellular a few different ways:

U.S. Cellular FAQs

Who owns U.S. Cellular?

Telephone and Data Systems (TDS) is the parent organization for U.S. Cellular. 

How do you unlock a U.S. Cellular phone?

After the 120-day locking period, U.S. Cellular will automatically unlock your phone, assuming your device is eligible. 

What network is U.S. Cellular on?

U.S. Cellular owns and operates its own telecommunications network. 

Should you switch to U.S. Cellular?

U.S. Cellular has limited coverage when compared to other major networks, and their plans aren’t the most cost effective. In terms of cost, U.S. Cellular’s price per GB falls in the middle of the range. If you frequently use less than 3GB per month, however, the industry-exclusive Payback plan could end up saving you money. To ensure you get adequate coverage, enter your ZIP code on U.S. Cellular’s website to see a coverage map

By Lindsay Frankel