ATT logo on phone stock photo
Edgar Cervantes / Android Authority
AT&T is still in second place in the United States with 143 million subscribers, and it offers plenty of post-paid phones with excellent coverage. However, you might find some better value if you try prepaid service instead. You’ll want to do a little research first. Luckily for you, we’ve done the legwork and packed it all into this handy AT&T prepaid plan guide.

See also: The best AT&T deals

Here you’ll find everything there is to know about pre-paid AT&T plans, as well as phones that work well on the network. If you’re looking to save even more money, we have a few other MVNOs you might consider as well. Ready to try a new carrier? Let’s get to it.

AT&T at a glance

AT&T has been around for longer than just about any other carrier, though it’s had more than a few names. It began as Southwestern Bell in 1877 as a subsidiary of Alexander Graham Bell’s own Bell Telephone Company.

AT&T is not Better Business Bureau accredited despite its long history, but it does carry an A-plus rating. The customer reviews aren’t glowing, with a dismal one-star rating and an incredible 58,813 complaints addressed in the past three years. 20,752 of those complaints have come in the last 12 months alone.

As you would expect from a leading carrier with over 100 million subscribers, the AT&T 4G network extends through all 50 states. Its 4G coverage isn’t as extensive as Verizon’s, and its 5G lags behind T-Mobile’s, but AT&T has the most extensive 3G base of the three.

You can check out AT&T’s product map here to find out more about its coverage.

Pre-paid AT&T plans

AT&T offers four different prepaid plans and a few special offers for the middle-tier plan. 5GB of data per month costs as little as $30 each as long as you pay upfront. Check out all of the plans below before you make a decision.

Budget ConsciousSuper ValueUnlimited PlanUnlimited Plus PlanHotspot Plans
Cost
Budget Conscious:
$30
Super Value:
$40
Unlimited Plan:
$65
Unlimited Plus Plan:
$75
Hotspot Plans:
Best Value: $25 per month
Essential Data: $35
Great Deal: $55
Data
Budget Conscious:
5GB
Super Value:
15GB
Unlimited Plan:
Unlimited, may be temporarily slowed
Unlimited Plus Plan:
Unlimited, may be temporarily slowed after 22GB
Hotspot Plans:
15GB to 100GB
5G Access
Budget Conscious:
No
Super Value:
No
Unlimited Plan:
No
Unlimited Plus Plan:
Yes
Hotspot Plans:
Yes
Rollover
Budget Conscious:
Yes
Super Value:
Yes
Unlimited Plan:
No
Unlimited Plus Plan:
No
Hotspot Plans:
No
Hotspot
Budget Conscious:
Yes
Super Value:
Yes
Unlimited Plan:
Add on available
Unlimited Plus Plan:
Yes, 10GB
Hotspot Plans:
Yes
HD Streaming
Budget Conscious:
No
Super Value:
No
Unlimited Plan:
No
Unlimited Plus Plan:
Yes
Hotspot Plans:
Yes
International
Budget Conscious:
Pay per use in Canada and Mexico
Unlimited texting
Super Value:
Use in Canada and Mexico
Unlimited texting
Unlimited Plan:
Use in Canada and Mexico
Unlimited texting
Unlimited Plus Plan:
Use in Canada and Mexico
Unlimited texting
Hotspot Plans:
Not specified

Budget Conscious Plan

AT&T keeps things simple for its prepaid plans, starting with the 5GB Budget Conscious option. As you might have guessed, the plan offers 5GB of high-speed 4G LTE data per month. It’s the most affordable plan on the list at $30 per month per line, so there aren’t too many extra goodies included. You can use your data for hotspot and HD streaming up to the cap, but be ready for how quickly you can chew through 5GB.

A 5GB Budget Conscious plan is a solid option if you plan to spend some time in Canada or Mexico, as you can pay per use when it comes to calling. As with all plans, you can text from the US to over 100 other countries.

Highlights:

  • 5GB of 4G LTE data
  • $30 per line
  • Rollover and hotspot included

Best for:

  • Light data users who want to save some money

Big Deal Plan

If you don’t mind paying a bit more, AT&T’s 15GB Big Deal prepaid plan makes more sense for most subscribers. Not only do you get three times the data per billing cycle, but you’ll pay just $10 more per month for service.

Many of the 15GB perks match those of the 5GB plan — no 5G access, rollover is included, and you can use the entire cap for a hotspot. However, the 15GB plan drops the pay-per-use structure in Canada and Mexico, so you can call and text anywhere in North America.

Highlights:

  • 15GB of 4G LTE data with rollover and hotspot
  • International use in Canada and Mexico

Best for:

  • Users who are considering sticking with AT&T prepaid for the long run

Unlimited Plan

Although this AT&T prepaid plan comes with unlimited data, a few exclusions seem out of place. For starters, you’ll have to chip in extra for hotspot access, and HD streaming isn’t an option. Keep in mind that you’re paying $65 per month for this tier of service. There’s still no 5G access, and rollover data is gone too — though that’s because you don’t have a data limit.

Highlights:

  • Unlimited data
  • Use in Canada and Mexico

Best for:

  • Users who want unlimited data and select international usage without many extras

Unlimited Plus Plan

AT&T’s final prepaid option is the Unlimited Plus plan, which is about as close as you can get to the post-paid service. You can tap into the 5G network, and you get unlimited 4G LTE service that won’t slow down until you cross the 22GB threshold. The Unlimited Plus plan adds in 10GB of hotspot data, and although it’s limited, it’s more than the 2GB or 8GB plans offer.

HD video streaming makes a triumphant return, as does international usage, but you still won’t need rollover data because there’s no limit.

Highlights:

  • 5G access included
  • Unlimited data without limits up to 22GB
  • HD streaming and 10GB of hotspot data

Best for:

  • Users who want post-paid perks with pre-paid commitment

AT&T prepaid data-only plans

If you’ve just picked up an exciting new tablet or you’re looking to hook your laptop up with a hotspot, AT&T has you covered. It’s given its data-only plans a pretty serious boost, so you can enjoy 5G wherever you may roam. The previous 40GB for $75 plan now packs 100GB for $55 per month, and it’s tough to turn down more data. If you don’t need quite so much data, you can grab 15GB for $35 or grab a year of 20GB per month when you pay the entire $300 ($25 per month) up front.

Highlights:

  • Up to 100GB of 5G hotspot
  • Optional one-year plan

Best for:

  • Users who need a heap of data to pull from

Which of AT&T’s prepaid plans is right for you?

AT&T Prepaid Plans
Edgar Cervantes / Android Authority

The right AT&T prepaid plan for you is simply the one that meets your needs the best. If you don’t need much data or you’re confident that rollover can keep you afloat each month, opt for a limited plan. The unlimited options provide more peace of mind, but you won’t get 5G access unless you opt for Unlimited Plus.

AT&T’s basic unlimited plan doesn’t offer hotspot or HD streaming, though the rest of the plans at least cover hotspot. There’s no unlimited 4G hotspot, though, so you’ll have to monitor your speed and usage carefully.

AT&T Prepaid vs the competition

Sprint Verizon T Mobile and Verizon carriers stock photo 3

The best way to decide if AT&T’s prepaid service is right for you is to compare it directly to its top competitors. We’ve stacked Big Blue’s prepaid against Verizon, T-Mobile, and even Cricket Wireless — a wholly-owned subsidiary. Our top plans come from our list of the Best prepaid and no-contract plans in the US if you want to do more research.

Simply Prepaid Unlimited Plus (T-Mobile)Prepaid Unlimited Plus (AT&T)Prepaid Unlimited (Verizon)Cricket More
Cost
Simply Prepaid Unlimited Plus (T-Mobile):
$60 for one line
$90 for two lines
$120 for three lines
$150 for four lines
Prepaid Unlimited Plus (AT&T):
$75 per line
Prepaid Unlimited (Verizon):
$65 per line
Cricket More:
$60 for one line
$90 for two lines
$110 for three lines
$130 for four lines
Talk and Text
Simply Prepaid Unlimited Plus (T-Mobile):
Unlimited
Prepaid Unlimited Plus (AT&T):
Unlimited
Prepaid Unlimited (Verizon):
Unlimited
Cricket More:
Unlimited
Data
Simply Prepaid Unlimited Plus (T-Mobile):
Unlimited
5G Access
Prepaid Unlimited Plus (AT&T):
Unlimited up to 22GB 4G LTE
5G Access
Prepaid Unlimited (Verizon):
Unlimited
Cricket More:
Unlimited 4G LTE
Hotspot
Simply Prepaid Unlimited Plus (T-Mobile):
Up to 10GB 4G LTE
Prepaid Unlimited Plus (AT&T):
Up to 10GB 4G LTE
Prepaid Unlimited (Verizon):
Up to 10GB 4G LTE for $5 per month
Cricket More:
15GB Mobile hotspot
Streaming
Simply Prepaid Unlimited Plus (T-Mobile):
Standard Definition (480p)
Prepaid Unlimited Plus (AT&T):
High Definition (1080p)
Prepaid Unlimited (Verizon):
Standard Definition (480p)
Cricket More:
Standard Definition (480p)
International
Simply Prepaid Unlimited Plus (T-Mobile):
Available for $5 to $15 per month
Prepaid Unlimited Plus (AT&T):
Unlimited talk and text to Mexico and Canada
Roaming in Mexico and Canada
Unlimited text to over 100 countries
Prepaid Unlimited (Verizon):
Unlimited calls to Mexico and Canada
Calls, texts, and data in Canada and Mexico
Unlimited texts to over 200 countries
Cricket More:
Mexico and Canada usage up to 50%
Texting to 37 countries
Extras
Simply Prepaid Unlimited Plus (T-Mobile):
Music Unlimited
Prepaid Unlimited Plus (AT&T):
Save $25 with autopay
Prepaid Unlimited (Verizon):
Save with a loyalty discount
Cricket More:
None

Verizon prepaid

As the largest US-based carrier, Verizon can give AT&T a run for its money. Its prepaid unlimited plan starts at $65 per month and gets cheaper the longer you stay with Big Red. As usual, unlimited talk, text, and data are included. However, you’ll pay more for hotspot access if you need it.

Verizon’s prepaid plans offer solid international access — talk and text to Canada and Mexico and texting to hundreds of countries. You can also tap into Verizon’s Nationwide 5G network with most plans and spend an extra $10 per month for mmWave access.

Highlights:

  • Ample international access
  • Loyalty discounts
  • Hotspot access

T-Mobile Prepaid

T-Mobile’s prepaid service is another affordable alternative, and it’s another option with 5G access included. You’ll only be able to stream at 480p, and international service costs an extra $5 to $15 per month. It’s a great option if you plan on sticking to domestic data, and each line gets 10GB of a hotspot and unlimited 4G LTE.

One of the biggest selling points for T-Mobile’s prepaid service is the savings. The first line costs $60, but each additional line of service costs just $30 more.

Highlights:

  • 10GB hotspot included
  • Each additional line costs $30
  • Add-ons available

Cricket Wireless

Cricket’s most expensive option, the Cricket More plan, offers the best Cricket has to offer along with 15GB of a monthly hotspot. You can text 37 other countries, and you can even use your service in Canada or Mexico as long as it’s less than 50% of your overall usage.

Many of the best Cricket features are available as add-ons, so it’s easy to run your bill up by a few bucks. However, that’s the secret to unlocking Cricket’s full potential. Options include more hotspot data, better international access, and extra data on select plans.

Highlights:

  • Customizable service with add-ons
  • 15GB of hotspot included

The best AT&T prepaid alternatives

AT&T has several MVNOs that rely on its powerful network, many of which offer better pricing than AT&T Prepaid. One of the best options is Cricket Wireless, which we’ve already talked about, but you can also give Consumer Cellular, Straight Talk, Red Pocket, and Tracfone a try. Check out the table below before we break each carrier down.

Cricket Wireless (Cricket More)Consumer CellularStraight TalkRed PocketTracFone
Cost
Cricket Wireless (Cricket More):
$60 for one line
$90 for two lines
$110 for three lines
$130 for four lines
Consumer Cellular:
Limited plans for as low as $18.33 per month
Unlimited plans for as low as $30 per month
Straight Talk:
Basic plans from $30 per month
Unlimited plans from $55 per month
Red Pocket:
Limited plans as low as $10 per month
Unlimited plans for $60 per month
TracFone:
Limited plans from $15
Unlimited options from $20
Talk & Text
Cricket Wireless (Cricket More):
Unlimited
Consumer Cellular:
Unlimited
Straight Talk:
1500 minutes for $30 per month
Unlimited from $35 per month
Red Pocket:
$10 plan includes 500 texts and 500 minutes
Plans above $15 include unlimited talk and text
TracFone:
500 minutes and 500 texts for $15
Unlimited for $20
Data
Cricket Wireless (Cricket More):
Unlimited 4G LTE
Consumer Cellular:
500MB shared for $18.33 per month
Unlimited shared for $30 per month
Straight Talk:
100MB for $30 per month
5GB for $35 per month
25GB for $45 per month
Unlimited for $55 per month
Red Pocket:
Starts at 500MB for $10
Unlimited data for $60
TracFone:
500MB for $15
3GB for $30
Hotspot
Cricket Wireless (Cricket More):
15GB Mobile hotspot
Consumer Cellular:
Hotspot available
Straight Talk:
Hotspot available
Red Pocket:
Hotspot available
TracFone:
Hotspot available
International
Cricket Wireless (Cricket More):
Mexico and Canada usage up to 50%
Texting to 37 countries
Consumer Cellular:
Not available
Straight Talk:
Global calling cards from $10 per month
International unlimited for $60 per month
Red Pocket:
Free calls to 80 countries
TracFone:
International calling card available
Extras
Cricket Wireless (Cricket More):
None
Consumer Cellular:
AARP discounts
Straight Talk:
Multi-month discounts
Red Pocket:
Free SIM card
TracFone:
Talk, text, and data add-ons available

Cricket Wireless

We’ve mentioned Cricket previously as an AT&T Prepaid competitor, but it’s an MVNO as well. The top-end plan, Cricket More, offers unlimited everything as well as a 15GB hotspot included. You can even take your phone abroad in North America for free if it’s less than 50% of your service.

Consumer Cellular

Consumer Cellular is a network designed for users over 55. You can have up to three lines on an account, and an AARP membership can help you nab a discount. Plans offer unlimited talk and text, though it’s up to you to decide on data. There’s no international access or roaming to help protect against extra fees.

Straight Talk

Straight Talk is a popular MVNO, and signing up is as easy as going to Walmart. You can also sign up online and choose from various plans, both with limited and unlimited data. Like many MVNOs, you can pay monthly and reload your account as you need more data. Best of all, basic plans start at just $30 per month.

Red Pocket

Red Pocket is unique among MVNOs in that it works on all of the major carriers. However, you’ll choose your carrier at signup, and then you’re locked in for the duration of your service. Once again, there are limited and unlimited options, and it’s easy to bring a phone along, thanks to the network choices.

Tracfone

Tracfone is one of the oldest and best-known MVNOs on the market, and its staying power speaks volumes. You can choose from some plans with limited or unlimited talk, text, and data. Add-ons are another great way to flesh out your service for an added cost.

What phones can you use?

AT&T prepaid phones
David Imel / Android Authority

As far as prepaid phones go, AT&T is limited compared to Verizon and T-Mobile. The carrier offers just one dozen devices, with the highlight among them being the Motorola One 5G Ace. The options are very affordable, with the Samsung Galaxy A32 5G topping the scales at $279.99. Many others, like the LG Phoenix 4 and Samsung Galaxy A02s, cost less than $75 if you sign up for any AT&T prepaid plan.

Read more: Best AT&T prepaid phones

AT&T is a GSM carrier just like T-Mobile, so you’ll have to be careful if you plan to bring a device. You may have a bit of trouble grabbing a Verizon or Sprint device, but it comes down to band support. Check out the table below for the specific bands you’ll need.

FrequencyBandNetwork Supported
Frequency:
1900MHz
Band:
2
Network Supported:
2G
3G
4G LTE
Frequency:
1700/2100MHz
Band:
4
66
Network Supported:
3G and 4G LTE
4G LTE
Frequency:
850MHz
Band:
5
Network Supported:
3G
4G LTE
Frequency:
700MHz
Band:
12
17
Network Supported:
4G LTE

For a list of some of the best unlocked phones, you’ll want to head to our best Android phones or best cheap Android phones guide.