Canada’s not great for cell phone plans. We don’t have access to the unlimited data deals or shockingly low prices available south of the border or across the pond. With that in mind, obviously you still need a mobile plan in the Great White North. To be fair, some of them aren’t that bad.
So how to choose? We have big, seemingly reliable brands like Rogers and Bell, and smaller discount brands offering what seem like decent savings. But is there a catch? Does a big name really mean better service?
We’ve gone through the current offerings from the major providers available across the country, and we think we’ve landed on the best Canadian phone plans you might want to check out from each one.
We determined the “best” plans according to a very precise and indisputable scientific rubric. By that I mean we looked at plans that seemed about right for a more or less average phone user. There’s a lot of filler and fine print on these websites, and it can be a chore to read all your options. If you’re looking for “normal” coverage — without things like international plan or 30GB of data —these plans are for you.
A lot of these companies offer plan customization, including family plans and service bundles, so don’t treat this as a complete and unabridged breakdown of offerings.
When it comes to finding the best phone plans in Canada, I have to level with you, Bell plans aren’t great ways to save money. You can bundle them with other services, like internet, TV, and even a landline, which can save you some money and reduce the hassle of multiple monthly bills.
If you want unlimited local calling, unlimited text, and 1GB of data, Bell offers that at $85 per month. Keep in mind shared data on a family plan can also potentially save you some money and get more data.
Call it the curse of the major Canadian providers: Rogers plans aren’t going to save you much either. They have the advantage of getting you savings if you also have Rogers internet or TV, though. You can also share data on family plans, which might be worth factoring into your decision making.
For a simple 1GB plan with unlimited local calls, you’re looking at $80 per month. An extra $5 per month on any plan will bump you up to unlimited Canada-wide calling. Unlimited messaging is included either way.
You can also get a new phone through a two-year contract and a Rogers “tab.” For an extra monthly fee, your tab plan allows you to get a free device, or a heavily discounted one. The only catch is you’re locked in for two years. For example, that 1GB plan with unlimited local calls goes up to $105 per month (from $80), with a “Premium+ Tab,” but you can get a Samsung Galaxy S8 for free, or an S9 for the discounted price of $249.
Fido Pulse plans are the way to go for standard smartphone use. Fido offers basic talk and text plans, but for your everyday talk, text, and data plans, Pulse is where you want to look. $50 will get you 500 minutes of phone calls, unlimited texting, and 1GB of data (and an extra GB for two years if you sign up now).
You can bump up your minutes or data for additional fees, but that’ll get you started. Need a new device? For an extra $10 on a two-year plan, you can save $300 on a new phone, and an extra $5 on top of that gets you $500 off.
Telus tends to rank alongside Bell and Rogers, though its presence is a bit smaller in Eastern Canada. As such, it has those big-name plan rates, unfortunately.
For $80 per month, you get unlimited local calling and nationwide texting, along with 1GB of data. That number splits the voice and data features, so you can add some data if you need it. 1GB represents $25 worth of monthly data. You can bump that up to 2GB for $30 per month and 5GB for $45 per month. That means you might be better off with Telus than Rogers or Bell if you’re looking for more than 1GB of data.
Check out family plans for savings, or, if you need a new phone, upgrade to a two-year contract for an extra $5 per month and get a free or discounted device.
Freedom plans are known for being very cheap. Formerly known as Wind, Freedom has limited coverage, but the company is refreshingly candid about its shortcomings. It recognizes it’s not perfect, but seeks to offer an affordable alternative to Canadians.
A basic talk and text plan gets you 250 minutes of Canada-wide talk, unlimited incoming calls, and unlimited texts to anywhere in Canada and the U.S., for $25 per month ($20 for a limited time).
For $30 per month, you can get unlimited Canada-wide calls, unlimited texts anywhere in Canada and the U.S., and 250MB of data. And for $40, you can make that unlimited global texting, and go up to 2GB of data.
Those are rock-bottom rates by just about any standard.
You can also get free or discounted phones with MyTab, by adding $20 to any monthly bill over $50 and signing up for two years.
Koodo plans are another way to save money without sacrificing data or coverage. Though if data isn’t too important to you, you can get Koodo plans for as little as $35 per month.
For $50 per month, you can sign up for a pretty solid standard plan that gets you 500 minutes of calling across the country, unlimited texting, and 1GB of data.
Koodo also offers “shock-free data” on all its data plans. That means you can’t go over your data limit and rack up overage fees. Instead, your data shuts off automatically when you reach your limit. You do get a heads up before that happens though, and Koodo will offer you the chance to buy more data. It may not be a game changer, but shock-free data can avoid some nasty surprises when your bill reaches your inbox at the end of the month.
Koodo’s tab lets you can pay a little extra every month for savings on a new device, too.
There’s no easy calculation to tell you which of these are the best phone plan in Canada, because these companies offer some seriously different levels of service.
Freedom wins the bargain basement award for its $40 plan (which gets you unlimited Canada-wide calling, unlimited global texting, and 2GB of data). Freedom Mobile is also the least likely to work everywhere you go, or to have a fast internet connection — but maybe that’s still worth it to you.
Then there’s the question of service bundles, family plans, and savings on new devices which can complicate your choice. That doesn’t mean we can’t make a few overarching judgements.
Overall winners: Fido and Koodo Mobile.
It’s tough to beat $50 for a basic plan. That’s a huge discount from what you’d get from the bigger providers, and Fido and Koodo also have solid networks.
For my money, the shock-free data pushes Koodo just an inch ahead.
Ultimately the choice comes down to your particular needs, so do look over the pros and cons of each provider above.
We’ll update this list with more providers over time, but this should get you started. Let us know if you’ve had great or awful experiences with any of these companies in the comments below.
(Full disclosure: I’ve been a generally happy Koodo customer for about six months. While I wish they were paying me to sing their praises, they’re not.)