The best prepaid phone plans for 2021


Nov 6, 2020 — 9 min read

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  • With prepaid phone plans, you pay for service upfront each month
  • Prepaid phones generally aren’t as heavily discounted
  • You can usually save around $10/mo. per line by going prepaid
  • Prepaid plans usually don’t come with perks like free streaming subscriptions

For cellphone users who do not want to be locked into long contracts, prepaid phone plans have evolved into cheaper versions of popular plans from big-name wireless carriers.

Many prepaid phone plans out there now offer items like hotspots, unlimited data, international travel capabilities and many other perks you would often find in a traditional cellphone plan. In fact, many of these prepaid cellphone carriers are child brands of some big names in the industry like Verizon and T-Mobile. This means users have access to their extensive network for a fraction of the cost. Options like this are ideal for those who find themselves with a lot of unused data at the end of each month. 

That said, prepaid phone plans do come with their downsides. While many have access through these larger networks, users are more likely to struggle with an occasionally clogged network and deal with the dreaded buffering signal more often than those who opt for a larger carrier. 

Options with prepaid phone plans are often more limited than traditional plans, too, and they lack the allure of a free year’s subscription to your favorite streaming service. However, if the savings appeal to you, a prepaid cellphone plan is absolutely worth a look.

How do prepaid phone plans work?

Prepaid phone plans are as straightforward as they sound. Users pay in advance for what they want to use each month. This payment often includes talk, text and data. With the plans expanding with the times, many prepaid carriers will even allow you to keep your current phone as long as it’s compatible with their network. This differs from common phone plans with the industry’s leading carriers, known as a postpaid plan, which bills you for your previous month’s usage and often shackles you with a contract. With prepaid phone plans, the user has more control over the services they pay for.

The beauty of prepaid carriers is that users are free to try out different carriers that suit them best due to its contract-free nature. Not every cellphone will be compatible with all prepaid carriers, but many are. While it may seem on the surface that the major carriers have retired the idea of mandatory contracts as standard practice, that’s not necessarily the case. In most cases, customers will be lured by purchasing a new phone at a reduced cost.

Best prepaid plans for unlimited data: Verizon

  • Best plan: Verizon 15GB Prepaid Plan
  • Price: $50/mo. ($45/mo. with auto-pay)
  • Data: 15GB
  • Who it’s best for: Users looking for a prepaid plan that is most like a postpaid plan

For those who don’t know, yes, Verizon does offer a prepaid phone plan option. It doesn’t come with a free subscription to Disney Plus, but it does come with a “save as you go” perk. The starting price for their 15GB data plan is $50/mo. ($45 if you enroll in their auto-pay program), but they promise a $5 reduction in your monthly rate after three months, and an additional $10 discount after nine months of service. This means that users can have their phone bill down to $30/mo. for 15GB of data and unlimited talk and text. 

Many prepaid converts find themselves gravitating toward this plan not only because of its exceptional value, but because this plan includes access to Verizon’s extensive LTE network. While those who opt for the prepaid plan compared to one of Verizon’s postpaid plans are paying a fraction of the cost, they might experience slightly slower service during times of congestion. But, in our book, that is a small price to pay for such a generous prepaid plan.

Best prepaid plan for families: Visible Wireless 

  • Best plan: Visible Party Pay
  • Price: $100/mo. (for 4 lines)
  • Data: Unlimited
  • Who it’s best for: Families or friends looking to save money together

Families that are looking for a multi-person plan on a budget need to look no further. Visible is a prepaid carrier under the Verizon umbrella. It only offers one plan at $40/mo. for unlimited data for one. However, what makes Visible stand out from the rest is they offer the ability to take advantage of their Party Pay plan. 

Their Party Pay feature is their version of a family plan. Users can come together, with a limit of four lines, and reduce their monthly bill to as little as $25/mo. This plan is not limited to just families. Roommates and friends can also take advantage of these group savings. Each person on the Party Pay plan is able to manage their own account and is billed separately, so no Venmo-middle-man is necessary. Visible also gives users access to Verizon’s exceptional network, which is the main selling point for many. 

Best prepaid plan for value: T-Mobile 

  • Best plan: T-Mobile Connect Plan
  • Price: $15/mo.
  • Data: 2GB
  • Who it’s best for: Users who are looking for a simple plan for a modest price

The T-Mobile Connect Plan is ideal for those looking for a simple prepaid cellphone plan that won’t cost them more than three trips to Starbucks each month. While the $15 monthly price tag is enough to stop many in their tracks, it needs to be noted that this plan only includes 2GB of data. It is one of the more limited plans on the market, but for those who don’t need a lot out of their phone — this is a great value plan.

This plan also comes with a yearly upgrade of 500MB of data. So users who find this plan fits their long-term needs, they will eventually gain more data at no extra cost to them.  

Best prepaid plans for flexible data usage: Republic Wireless 

  • Best plan: Republic Wireless My Choice Plan
  • Price: $15/mo. + $5 per GB
  • Data: Flexible
  • Who it’s best for: Users wanting Sprint and T-Mobile data networks with flexible usage

Penny pinchers rejoice — there is a plan out there for you! Cellphone users who require more flexibility in their data usage will probably find that Republic Wireless’ services best match their needs. With Republic Wireless, users pay just $15/mo. for talk and text, while any data used will only cost them an extra $5 per gigabyte. This plan allows users to only pay for what they use instead of what they might use. 

While this plan does have the potential to snowball data charges, it is an ideal option for seniors who keep their internet usage limited to the computer. This plan offers the usage of Sprint’s LTE coverage, a reputable service within the industry. If you’re an iPhone loyalist, this plan may not be for you as Apple’s most popular product is not supported in this network. However, Republic Wireless’ prices are the ideal match for Android users looking to make the switch.

Best prepaid plans for hotspots: Boost Mobile

  • Best plan: Boost Unlimited
  • Price: $50/mo.
  • Data: Unlimited
  • Who it’s best for: Avid hotspot users

Boost Mobile has been through quite the transition after being dropped by Sprint in its merger with T-Mobile. Under their new parent company, DISH, users will still have access to T-Mobile’s network until 2027. Not a bad switch for the company as they work on creating their own coverage during that time. 

Those who found themselves unhappy with Boost’s plan options in the past may want to consider taking a second look. With the changes in the company, their plans have received a significant upgrade. Their options have expanded in order to better serve all cellphone users. For those looking for a set data plan, they offer a 15GB option for only $45/mo. This plan also includes a loyalty discount after months three and six. 

Our recommendation for Boost is the unlimited data plan. For only $50/mo., prepaid phone plan users will have access to T-Mobile’s network, which also offers a 12GB hotspot incentive on top of a free six-month subscription to TIDAL, a Hi-Fi music streaming service. 

While this may sound like an ideal plan with all the bells and whistles of a postpaid plan, Boost does have streaming caps. Streaming content through Boost is limited and video streaming is only available at 480p resolution. So, if hotspots are your most used feature, this is the best plan for you. Otherwise, another unlimited prepaid plan may better meet your needs. 

Best prepaid plans for streaming: AT&T

  • Best plan: AT&T Unlimited Data Plus
  • Price: $75/mo. ($60 with auto-pay)
  • Data: Unlimited
  • Who it’s best for: Users who stream like it’s their job

AT&T is typically on the higher end when it comes to their prepaid cellphone plans at $75/mo., but not anymore. When users enroll in their autopay feature, they will snag an instant $15 monthly savings. Not only does it include unlimited data, but it also comes with a 10GB hotspot and streaming capabilities like no other prepaid plan. Users of the AT&T’s unlimited plan will be able to stream in HD video resolution, which is a major step up from other prepaid carriers’ resolution limitations. 

Best of all, many will be able to take full advantage of AT&T’s 5G network in supported areas on supported devices. If you are someone who streams frequently, but doesn’t want to pay for a contract binding data plan, you can’t beat this one. 

Best prepaid plans under $30: Mint Mobile

  • Plan: Mint 8GB plan
  • Price: $20/mo.
  • Data: 8GB
  • Who it’s best for: Low maintenance cellphone users looking for value, but more than 2GB

Mint Mobile is one of the more popular prepaid plans on the market due to its access to T-Mobile’s network and incredibly low rates. This plan is very straightforward for those willing to commit to a three-month trial. Mint Mobile offers unlimited talk and text alongside 8GB of T-Mobile’s LTE data for just $20/mo. for the first three months. The deal is unmatched, but it does come with a catch. 

After the three-months expire, the rates for this plan go up to $35/mo., but users who commit to a year of service will get to keep the $20/mo. price tag, but it means that they are locked into a contract. For many this defeats the purpose of looking for a prepaid plan, but it is an excellent option to have if you plan on sticking with Mint Mobile long-term.

Best prepaid plans for international travelers: Google Fi

  • Plan: Fi Unlimited
  • Price: $70/mo.
  • Data: Unlimited
  • Who it’s best for: International travelers

Google tends to be on the expensive end of most industries they dip their toes in, but for travelers, this is not a plan to overlook. Google Fi’s unlimited plan rings in at $70/mo., which is significantly more than most of the prepaid carriers charge. However, Google Fi makes its value known by offering users the ability to use their data in over 200 countries

If you do a lot of traveling out of the country, this is a steal compared to an international phone plan you’d get at a major carrier. Most prepaid phone plans don’t even offer any travel options.

Google Fi also gives users the flexibility to use any phone they want. They are compatible with all phones; however, their own devices have been known to work better with this service. Another major selling point is their data capabilities that use a hybrid of coverage between T-Mobile, Sprint and U.S. Cellular data. 

If your travel frequency does not justify the $70 price, but you still want to hop on the Google Fi train, there is an option for you. Google Fi also has a prepaid plan that allows users to have unlimited talk and text for just $20/mo. Any data used will be an additional $10 per gigabyte of data, but it is prorated, so you only pay for what you use. 

Compare prepaid phone plans

Let’s take a look at how prepaid phone plans compare with postpaid plans from bigger carriers like AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon

Prepaid phone plan FAQs

Where can I buy a prepaid phone?

You can purchase a phone compatible with the carrier you choose on their website. Some users can also bring their current phones as long as they are compatible with the network. 

For those looking for more affordable alternatives to traditional phone plans and are willing to sacrifice on features like speed, hotspots and other “extras” it can be a great way to save money while staying connected. 

This is entirely dependent on how much you are currently spending on a traditional plan and how much data you use. Most unlimited data plans will give you many of the same practical perks at a fraction of the cost. 

Most users find they do have more control with a prepaid plan. It allows them to only pay for what they need. However, for those who use their phones to stream a lot of content or travel out of the country, your prepaid phone plans will be limited to the offerings of Google Fi and the AT&T Unlimited Data Plan.

Nowadays, most prepaid plans are compatible with most phones, but some are not. We recommend checking the website of the prepaid plan that interests you to see if it is compatible with an iPhone. Carriers like Google Fi claim to be available for all phone models. 

Some prepaid phone carriers allow their customers to keep their existing phones, but others may not. We recommend checking the website of the prepaid plan that interests you to see specific requirements.

Surprisingly, yes. Families who are looking for an affordable phone plan will most likely find that Visible is best suited for them because they offer plans for up to four lines for as little as $100/mo. 

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By Kristen Bolden