The best prepaid and no contract plans in the US of 2014 (Updated May 2014)
When we first started this list in 2012, things were starting to get exciting. We were seeing processors with more cores, screens in true HD, and things were starting to get really exciting for Android. It’s now 2014 and we’re seeing a culmination of those efforts. Quad core devices that are focusing on power and energy efficiency, 1080p HD screens and beyond, and even wearables! However, at the back of it all is the same problem that there’s always been: finding a decent mobile carrier. In this list we’ll take a look at the top prepaid and no contract plans in the United States currently available.
Verizon Wireless Prepaid Plans
First on our list is the popular Verizon Wireless. They’re much more known for their contract plans, but they actually also do prepaid plans. Prepaid plans feature the same features as their contract plans, including their 4G data.
- Verizon now offers the AllSet plan which is a flat rate plan for prepaid. With it you pay $45 per month, have unlimited talk and text, and 500MB of data.
- They allow you to add more data if you prefer. You can add 500MB for $5, 1GB for $10, or 3GB for $20. 500MB expires after 30 days, 1GB and 3GB expires after 90 days.
AT&T Prepaid Plans
AT&T hasn’t been really known for their prepaid plans and are much more known for their contract plans. As a “big 4” designee, AT&T has one of the largest networks in the United States and they have also recently simplified and revamped their prepaid strategy.
- AT&T now has 3 tiered prepaid smartphone plans. For $25 per month, you get 250 minutes, unlimited messaging (includes picture, video, and text), and no data. For $40 you get 500 minutes, unlimited messaging, and 500MB of data. For $60 you unlimited talk and text with 2.5GB of data.
- Like Verizon you can add data packages to extend that. You can get 50MB for $5, 100MB for $5 (yes, same price for some reason), and 1GB for $10. They also have text messaging packages, although frankly all of their prepaid plans have unlimited messaging so I’m unsure why this option exists.
- They also have a pay-as-you-go service. It is $0.20 per text message sent/received, $0.25 for picture messages, $0.25 for international texting ($0.20 if you receive an international text), $0.50 for international picture and video texts ($0.25 if you receive an international picture or video text), and $0.01 per 5KB of data. Voice calls go for $0.10 per minute.
Sprint Prepaid Plans
We’re not entirely sure what Sprint is thinking these days. The Framily Plan sounds like something the Munsters would use and they haven’t been paying all that much attention to their prepaid. What they do have isn’t bad, though
- For smatphones, you can get unlimited talk, text, and data for $60 per month. For $45 per month, you can get unlimited talk and text with no data included
T-Mobile Prepaid Plans
T-Mobile has been the most exciting carrier to watch over the last year. Their uncarrier model along with the charismatic nature of their CEO John Legere has caused an untold number of eye brow raises. Their prepaid plans are simple because all of them are prepaid. That’s pretty nifty.
- T-Mobile offers 4 tiered prices. In all tiers you get unlimited talk and text. For $40 you get 500MB of high speed data, $50 you also get 1GB of high speed data, for $60 you get 3GB of high speed data, for $70 you get 5GB of high speed data, and for $80 you get unlimited data. In all plans, data is unlimited but you after you use your allotted amount, you are throttled to 2G speeds until the next month. All plans also include international texting. It should also be noted the unlimited data plan ($80) also includes 5GB of Hotspot data to use at your convenience.
- For an additional $15 per month you can add International calling. This is not available for the $40 plan.
Boost Mobile Prepaid Plans
Boost is the first MVNO on our list. MVNOs are companies that have their own name and brand but their service is piggybacked on the network of a larger company. In this case, Boost uses Sprint’s network. It’s a fairly well known prepaid carrier and fairly popular.
- Boost has three main plans. On all three plans you get unlimited talk text and data. However, on $40/month you get throttled after 500MB, $50/month gets you 2.5GB before being throttled, and $60/month puts you at 5GB before being throttled.
- Boost also offers daily prepaid plans. You can pay $3/day and get unlimited voice, text, and data.
- Boost also has the Shrinking Payments feature. For smartphones, you can do the $55/month plan (unlimited talk, text, and data with 2.5GB of high speed data) and after 18 months your payments drop to $40/month. This is the only Shrinking Payments feature for general smartphones.
Republic Wireless prepaid
Republic Wireless used to be one of the most simple companies on this list. However, over the last year they have gotten new phones in and have extended their plans. Their phone selections now include the Moto X and the Moto G but their plans remain fairly simple. Republic Wireless is an MVNO and they piggyback off of Sprint’s service. Their claim to fame is asking their customers to remain on WiFi as often as possible but in return they allow unlimited data when people aren’t near a WiFi hotspot.
- For $5 per month you get service over WiFi only. This is a funny plan because of how unusual it is. Essentially, you use WiFi to call, text, and use data on your smartphone. If you’re not near WiFi, your phone doesn’t work. Great for people who spend a lot of time at home.
- For $10 per month you get everything from the $5 plan plus unlimited talk and text over a cellular network. For $25 you get all of the above plus unlimited 3G data. For $40 per month you get all of the above plus unlimited 4G data. It’s worth noting that the $40 plan is useless if you buy a Moto G. If you’re going for $40/month, you may as well buy the Moto
Straight Talk Wireless prepaid
Straight Talk is one of the original MVNOs to set their prices to dramatically undercut the “big 4” carriers and thus helped facilitate a change in how mobile service is priced. Since then they have undergone a lot of changes. They are an MVNO and actually piggyback off of both T-Mobile and AT&T based on what phone you bring with you. They also give you the ability to buy a network access code for Sprint, so it’s probably a safe bet that they use Sprint’s network too. They may also use Verizon towers, but currently they do not support Verizon devices.
- Straight talk offers three basic plans. For $30/month you can get 1500 minutes, unlimited messaging, and 100MB of data. $45 earns you unlimited voice and messaging and unlimited data (throttled after 3GB). $60 gets you essentially the same thing but we assume with more data before you get throttled. From there you can also purchase your plan for 3, 6, and 12 months for $130, $255, and $495 respectively. This means you can fork out $495 all at once and not have a phone bill again until 365 days later.
Net10 Wireless Prepaid
Net10 is about as old school as it comes with prepaid services. Net10 is a subsidiary of TracFone, which is why we won’t be mentioning TracFone. They’re pretty much identical services available in the same places. That means that Net10 is an MVNO that piggybacks off of all four major US carriers. Enjoy that coverage map.
- Everything at Net10 depends on minutes. When you send messages, it actually uses your minutes. So what you do with Net10 is buy a bunch of minutes and consume until your minutes are gone. You can get 200 minutes for $15 and 500 minutes for $30. When you use this option, you have no data available.
- Net10 also has monthly plans. Unfortunately their Terms of Service and their website lists two entirely different sets of pricing so we’ll go with the ToC. For $35/month you get unlimited talk and text with no data. For $40 you get all of the above plus unlimited data but you’re throttled after 500MB. For $50 the data cap becomes 2.5GB. For $60, the cap raises to 3.5GB. For $65, the cap goes back down to 2.5GB but it includes international calling and texting (unlimited). For $75, you get 5GB of high speed data before you get throttled.
- For $170, you get 2.5GB of high speed data and unlimited talk and text for 4 lines. $130 is the same deal for 3 lines. $90 is the same deal for 2 lines.
Page Plus Prepaid
Page Plus is an MVNO that is powered by the Verizon network. It’s pretty under the radar in that it doesn’t really make a big splash anywhere. They do have some pretty decent offers.
- PagePlus has five big plans. For $12/month you get 250 minutes, 250 texts, and 10MB of data. For $29.95 you get 1200 minutes, 3000 texts, and 500MB of data. For $39.95, $55, and $69.95, you get unlimited talk and text along with 1GB, 3GB, and 5GB of data, respectively.
Midway through last year, PlatinumTel transitioned from a CDMA network to T-Mobile’s GSM network. They then proceeded to undergo a huge change in their plan pricing and policies.
- PlatinumTel has three main plans. For $35/month you get unlimited everything including data. However, high speed data is not included so you’ll be throttled 100% of the time. For $40/month you get unlimited everything plus 250MB of high speed data. For $50/month you get unlimited everything plus 2GB of high speed data.
- They also do a daily unlimited plan for $1.50 per day but that is the only plan that incurs data overages so be careful.
- They do a pay-as-you-go line too that costs $0.05 per minute, $0.02 per text, $0.10 per MB of data, $0.02 for unlimited texts, and $0.02 for MMS.
Ready Mobile PCS Prepaid
Ready Mobile PCS is another prepaid service that isn’t the most well known out there. They operate on Sprint’s service so customers will be able to enjoy nationwide service. Their plans are among the more conservative on the list. Ready Mobile PCS is definitely for people who don’t really use their phones very often. At least not for data.
- For calling and texting, customers have two big options. You can get 500 to 1000 minutes with 1000 to 1200 text messages for $20 to $30 per month. This now includes 20MB of data.
- There is an unlimited voice and text option for $50 a month. Alternatively, you can get 3 and 7 day plans for $9.99 and $14.99 respectively. Once again, no data.
- The last is called $.05 minutes where you can get 500 minutes for $25 or 900 minutes for $45. It comes with 50 to 100 texts respectively and costs $.10 per text afterward.
- All of the above can be augmented with a data plan. 300MB runs you a whopping $25, with 1GB for $45 and 2GB for $75.
- They now also have night and weekend minutes. They start at 30 minutes for $10 and go up to $150 for 1250 minutes. No texts or data. Yes, it’s a giant rip off.
Consumer Cellular Prepaid
Much like Ready Mobile PCS, Consumer Cellular does their prepaid plans in modules. There are minute plans and a separate messaging and data package added on. It runs on AT&T’s network, so customers will still enjoy nationwide calling, text, and 3G data. For now, there isn’t 4G data on Consumer Cellular. Unlike most of the other plans on the list, there is actually no unlimited plans on this carrier.
- The minutes plans are simple to understand. Customers start out at $10 just for service and 0 minutes, charging $.25 per minute. At maximum, you can pay $60 for 6,000 minutes and $.10 minutes after that. There $15, $20, $30, $40, and $50 options as well that provide 200, 600, 1200, 2500, and 4000 minutes respectively.
- The data and messaging minutes that have fewer options. You can spend as low as $2.50 for 200 messages and 20MB of data. There are $5, $10, $20, and $30 options as well. At $30 you get 2.5GB of data and 15,000 messages.
H2O Wireless Prepaid
H2O Wireless prepaid is next on the list and it is another prepaid service that uses AT&T’s towers. So if you’ve seen an AT&T coverage map, you’ve seen a H2O Wireless coverage map. When it comes to their prepaid service, they’re pretty simple. They have also revamped their offerings recently.
- They have 4 main plans. $30/month nets you 500MB of data as well as unlimited talk, text and MMS. $40/month bumps up your data to 1GB, $50/month increases it to 2GB, and $60/month boasts unlimited data.
- They have a unique pay-as-you-go scheme where you pay for plan features instead of individual features. So for $10 you get 200 minutes or text messages as well as 100MB of data or MMS. The max, $100, gets you 2000 minutes or texts along with 1GB or 1000MMS. The range lasts from 90 days on the $10 purchase to 1 year on the $100 purchase.
Kajeet is unique because this is a service plan designed specifically for kids and teenagers. It’s an MVNO that works on Sprint’s network and one of their defining features is the full ability to bring a Sprint phone to the service which is something pretty much every other Sprint MVNO lacks. It also features parental controls on all plans and all devices. They’ve also changed their pricing structure recently to make it plan based instead of module based.
- For $4.99 a month you get $0.10 text messaging, $0.25 MMS, $0.99 GPS locate, 10 voice minutes, and $1.00 per MB of data. This is recommended for very young kids.
- For $14.99 you get all of the above except you get 60 minutes and unlimited texting. $19.99 adds unlimited picture messaging and you get 150 minutes. $24.99 gives you unlimited GPS phone locator and 500 minutes along with 500MB of data. $34.99 gives you 1000 anytime minutes and 1GB of data. $49.99 gets you unlimited everything except you get 2GB of data.
- According to the website, the $24.99 and up options are limited time plans. Of course, Net10 has had the same “temporary web specials” up for 18 months now so we’ll let you know how that goes.
Red Pocket Mobile Prepaid
Next on our list is Red Pocket Mobile. This MVNO supports both GSM and CDMA networks via AT&T and Sprint and is one of the few MVNOs to support both CDMA and GSM.
- For GSM, there are three plans available. For $29.99 you get unlimited talk and text with 100MB of mobile data and free international calling. $39.99/month gets you all of the above with 500MB and free international texting. Finally, the $59.99 plan includes unlimited everything and 3GB of data. Data is unlimited, by the way, but it throttles after the aforementioned amounts.
- For CDMA, you can get $29.99/month for unlimited call and text with 100MB of mobile web. For $49.99 you can get unlimited everything but you get throttled to 3G if you go over 2.5GB of data usage.
- Red Pocket is one of the few carriers on this list with a data-only option. $10/month gets you 1GB. $30 gets you unlimited data but it’s throttled after 3GB. $50 gets you unlimited but throttled after 5GB
SIMple Mobile Prepaid
SIMple Mobile has also undergone a lot of changes since the last time we updated this list. They’re still an MVNO using T-Mobile’s network. They’re still a pretty decent option and they still market to the edgy, cool crowd but their rates are wildly different than they used to be. There are also more of them.
- Their unlimited plans start at $25 for unlimited talk, text, and international text. At $40 you get the same plus 1GB of data. At $50 you get the same but with 3GB of data. At $60 you get the same but with 5GB of data. Data is unlimited but you get throttled after the data limit. Yes, it’s LTE.
- Add $10 to any of those and you’ll get unlimited international calling.
- SIMple Mobile now does broadband plans. You pay $25 for 750MB and $45 for 2GB. If you use all of that up, you have to buy more. No unlimited, throttled data.
Total Call Mobile Prepaid
Total Call Mobile is a prepaid service that runs off of Sprint’s network. It’s a little more old school as these things go because they’re still focused around card refills as opposed to prepaid plans.
- Okay these are actually cards that you buy but they refer to them as “plans” anyway. The first “plan” is called Anytime plan and it comes with $0.10 per domestic minute, $0.05 per text and that’s it. You load a card up and use it til it’s gone. You also use these for international calls and texts as international services are not included on other “plans”.
- Next up is the 1000 Talk & 1000 Text. It’s a $29.99 card that expires after 30 days. As the title states, you get 1000 texts and 1000 minutes.
- For $39.99 you can get the unlimited talk and text card. Take a guess what you get with that one.
- For $49.99 per month you can get the unlimited talk, text, and data card.
Virgin Mobile Prepaid
Virgin Mobile is a CDMA prepaid service that runs on the Sprint network. Much like Boost Mobile, customers will get Sprint’s nationwide calling, text, 3G, and 4G WiMAX. While it isn’t Sprint’s LTE coverage, even WiMAX is better than just 3G. Virgin Mobile keeps it simple and actually doesn’t offer any contract plans. So no matter which one you choose, there is no obligation.
There are 3 plans that Virgin Mobile promotes the most and they’re pretty simple.
- The first is for $35 and it includes 300 anytime minutes, unlimited texts, and unlimited 3G and 4G data. The data is much like other deals on the list. You get 2.5GB of unlimited data at max speed, then unlimited at a reduced speed. The second is $45 and it’s the same as the $35 plan except you get 1200 total anytime minutes. Finally, the $55 plan is unlimited everything. Clean and simple.
- Virgin Mobile also has a new payLo talk and text plan. These are for people who don’t use data often or at all. For $20 you get 400 minutes, $.15 per text message, and $1.50 per MB. At $30 you get 1500 minutes and texts and 30MB included. For $40 you get unlimited talk and text with 50MB of data included. It’s worth noting that these are unavailale for smartphones.
- Mobile broadband plans are 250MB for $5/day, 1.5GB for $25/month, and 6GB for $55/month.
Ting Mobile Prepaid
Ting is perhaps one of the most interesting prepaid carriers on the list. They’re on Sprint’s nationwide 3G, call, and text network along with their 4G WiMAX. What’s interesting is that they also have Sprint’s LTE coverage as well.
- Here’s how Ting works. Everything is in t-shirt sizes from XS to XL for minutes, messaging, and data. Even more interesting is that you pay for what you use so you can kind of meta-game your monthly plan. Here’s how it works. If you use between 501 and 1000 minutes, you’ll be charged for the L minutes package. Minutes packages range from $0 for no usage to $35 for up to 2100 minutes. Messages range from $0 for no usage to $11 for up to 4800. Data is $0 for no usage to $29 for up to 2GB.
- If you go over the max, you’ll be charged $0.019 per minute, $0.0025 per text (4 texts for 1 cent), and $0.015 per MB.
MetroPCS is actually owned by T-Mobile and you’d think that would mean they run on T-Mobile’s network. You would be wrong. MetroPCS actually runs its own CDMA network totally independent of the major 4 carriers which is probably why T-Mobile bought them to begin with.
- MetroPCS has 3 plans and they all include unlimited talk, text, and throttled data. For $40/month you get 500MB of high speed web before you get throttled. $50/month gets you 2.5GB and $60 is unlimited. At this time we found no evidence of their unlimited being throttled although we’re sure that it can be if you go nuts with it.
Fun fact: Cricket Wireless used to be called AIO and it’s an MVNO that runs off of AT&T’s network. It’s one of the newer networks on this list as it’s about a year old.
- Cricket Wireless has some really simple plans. All plans come with unlimited talk and text along with unlimited throttled data. For $40/month you get 500MB of LTE data, $50/month gets you 2.5GB, and $60 gets you 5GB. If you use the auto-pay credit, all those prices are reduced by $5 per month.
- They also have a $25/month plan that is just unlimited talk and text.
- For $10/month you can add 1GB of data. For $15/month you can add full international calling and texting features. For $7/month you can get phone insurance.
So which of these prepaid plans are the best?
In our latest revision of this list, we have added numerical ratings for each carrier. If you wanna know which ones we think are the best, just take a look at the rating!
What are the up and coming prepaid carriers?
A lot of prepaid carriers are making huge changes. PlatinumTel, SIMple Mobile, Simple Talk, Republic Wireless, Cricket Wireless, and T-Mobile have made the biggest splashes in the prepaid world so far this year. Keep an eye on them because that’s where it’s at.
Are there any mobile services we should avoid?
You should avoid Ready Mobile at all costs. We probably shouldn’t have included them on this list but it’s better that we do so we can warn you as opposed to you finding them on your own. In terms of avoidance, there really aren’t any other bad carriers on this list. Take a good, hard look at your real usage from month to month and make your determination that way. These plans try to appeal to the lowest common denominator and if you’re not a part of that demographic, you will not be happy with your service. For instance, Ting is really cheap if you don’t use a lot of data. If you use a lot of data, Ting turns out to be one of the most expensive on this list!
The Best Phones for Prepaid Plans
Stay tuned, we will update this section soon with a link to our best phones for prepaid plans. Until then, check out the Moto X, Moto E, and Nexus 5 which are available on most carriers. Also, try using sites like eBay and Swappa to find used phones for lower prices. You can typically pick up a phone from last year’s flagship line up for half the retail cost.
Prepaid Monthly Updates
As the world of mobile technology moves at lightning quick speeds, we will be updating this as frequently as possible. So check back every month to see if there are any new deals or rate changes. Also, if there is a new wireless carrier that we don’t have on the list or an old favorite we missed, leave us a comment and let us know. We’ll check them out!