When we first started this prepaid carrier list in 2012, things were starting to get truly exciting. It’s now 2019 and prepaid is no longer just for those with poor credit or tight finances, it’s perfect for those that want more flexibility or the freedom to switch carriers as soon as a better deal comes around.
When it comes to the best-prepaid carrier, there’s no one size fit all approach. Some options offer the best pricing, at the cost of less extensive customer service. Others focus on unlimited data or other special features. There are literally dozens of prepaid carriers in the US, so picking the right choice isn’t always easy. Below we discuss some of the best options.
Customize your plan’s speed, data, and more with US Mobile
(Sponsored) If you love the idea of customization and flexibility from your prepaid plan, US Mobile is highly recommended. Not only are the plans flexible, but the carrier even lets you pause a line for $2 a month — perfect for that travel to the US and want to maintain a number here, or simply for those times when you’re tight on money but don’t want to risk losing your number. To make US Mobile even more enticing we’ve partnered up with the carrier to give you $15 0ffer upon initial sign up.
To save $15, you’ll want to pick your plan and order a SIM card. Upon checkout, enter ANDAUSM into the promo code box for a $15 credit towards the SIM card ($4) and your first month of coverage.
With US Mobile you can choose exactly how much talk, text, and data you need. Big talkers can get unlimited talk, while having cheaper text or data plans. Don’t talk much? You can get the base talk package (40 minutes) for $2.50 a month, and focus your plan on texting and/or data.
At a glance, here’s what you’re going to love about US Mobile:
- Plans begin at as low as $4 a month, but go up depending on your combination of data, text, and talk.
- Super LTE Unlimited plans with prices ranging from $40 to $65 a month. Super LTE Unlimited plans are on offer with three data speed tiers: Standard (1Mbps), Fast (5Mbps), Ludicrous (no limits).
- You can also add hotspot support for your unlimited plans for an extra $10.
- You choose between the biggest LTE network coverage (via Verizon) or the network with the broadest device compatibility (via T-Mobile).
MVNO vs traditional carrier options
While US Mobile is absolutely a great choice, there are dozens of others worth looking at as well. Before you jump into picking a prepaid carrier it is best to know what you are getting into. There are basically three types of carriers when it comes to prepaid:
The MVNO: A Mobile Virtual Network Operator is the most common type of prepaid carrier. An MVNO is a cellular network that doesn’t technically own its equipment or network, instead, they have a contract with another carrier like Verizon, Sprint, T-Mobile, or AT&T. MVNOs tend to be way cheaper than a carrier owned by a major cellular network but also tend to have compromises like less comprehensive customer support, restricted data speeds, and so on. Our absolute favorite MVNO is Google Fi, though we also highly recommend US Mobile or Mint.
The traditional carrier: A traditional carrier owns its own network and equipment, which typically means that you’re going to get the best customer service, speeds, and possibly a bunch of extras you won’t find with other prepaid carriers. On the flipside, traditional carriers tend to be more expensive than other prepaid options. T-mobile is probably our favorite traditional prepaid carrier, thanks to a great mix of value and features.
A carrier owned by a major network: Want more features and better options than you’re seeing from most MVNOs but don’t want to pay the traditional carrier price? There is a third door, and that’s a carrier owned by a major network. Basically, this is a carrier that doesn’t own its own network, but it’s parent does. For example, Cricket is owned by AT&T and Visible is owned by Verizon. This relationship means you get an experience that’s a bit of a mix between an MVNO and a traditional carrier. Visible, Cricket, and Metro are easily the best options in this category.
Best prepaid phone plans:
Despite having its own prepaid sub-brand (Metro), T-mobile still offers prepaid plans directly. T-Mobile has two prepaid plans to choose from. One is called Simply Prepaid which offers a limited amount of high-speed data a month. The other plan is T-Mobile One Prepaid, which offers unlimited 4G data speeds. There’s also a prepaid data-only option for tablets, smartwatches and hotspots.
Here’s a quick look at what you can get with T-Mobile Prepaid:
- The Simply Prepaid plan offers unlimited talk and texts, along with 10GB of 4G LTE data, for $40 a month for one line, with discounts when you add more lines.
- The T-Mobile One Prepaid plan includes unlimited talk and texts, and unlimited 4G LTE data, for $50 a month for one line, again with discounts when you add more lines.
- You can add coverage in Mexico and Canada to both plans for an extra $5 a month, and international calling for an extra $15 a month.
- Prepaid tablet, hotspot and smartwatches plans can be added for as low as $10 a month for 2GB of LTE data per line, to $85 a month for 22GB of data.
Like T-Mobile, AT&T has its own sub-brand (Cricket), yet still offers five prepaid plans directly under its main brand. Two plans offer a limited amount of high-speed data for your smartphone, and the others offer unlimited 4G LTE data. There’s also a fifth plan that offers no data for people who still want to use a feature phone.
Here’s what you can expect from AT&T’s prepaid plans:
- For feature phone users, you can get an AT&T prepaid plan for $30 a month, with unlimited talk and text in the U.S.
- For smartphone users, you can get a plan for $35 a month with 1GB of LTE data, unlimited talk and text in the U.S.
- There’s also another plan that costs $50 a month. It offers 8GB of 4G LTE data, plus unlimited talk and text to Canada and Mexico, and use of the plan when you are in both of those countries.
- The cheaper AT&T prepaid unlimited data plan costs $65 a month, or you can get the more expensive $85 a month plan that includes 10GB of high-speed mobile hotspot data.
Boost Mobile is a Sprint-owned carrier– at least for a little while longer. It has four plans to choose from, along with discounts if you add more than one line to your account. It also offers a standalone WiFi hotspot plan as well, along with add-on international calling plans. Boost offers some pretty great plans, especially for those who are looking to save.
Take a look at what you can expect from Boost Mobile’s prepaid plans:
- There’s a $35 a month plan with unlimited calls and texts, along with 3GB of LTE data.
- The three other plans all offer unlimited, calls, texts and high-speed data. They cost $50 a month, with 12GB of mobile hotspot data, $60 a month with 30GB of hotspot data, and $80 a month for 50GB of hotspot data, along with unlimited text and talk to landlines and mobile phones in Mexico and most of Canada.
- If you have a stand-alone mobile hotspot, Boost Mobile has a prepaid plan that offers 50GB of high-speed data for $50 a month
- Boost Mobile also offers add-on for its plans that include international phone services, phone insurance, and HB mobile video streaming.
Cricket Wireless is an AT&T-owned carrier running on the AT&T network. You can bring your own device, assuming it’s compatible, or you can choose from one of Cricket’s own prepaid phones. Keep in mind that if you buy a phone from the carrier, you will have to keep it on the network for six months before you are allowed to unlock the phone and use it on another network.
Let’s go over what you can expect from Cricket Wireless and its prepaid plans.
- There’s a cheap $25 plan with unlimited talk and text, but no data for feature phone owners.
- Two Cricket plans offer limited 4G LTE data. One costs $30 a month with 2GB of high-speed data and the other costs $40 a month with 5GB of data.
- Two Cricket plans offer unlimited data; one costs $50 a month with speeds capped at 3Mbps, and the other costs $60 a month with possible slowdowns in speeds after 22GB of data is used. You also get 15GB of mobile hotspot data.
- Both of the unlimited plans come with support for roaming in Mexico or Canada as long as your usage doesn’t exceed 50 percent of your total usage for the month.
Metro By T-Mobile
T-Mobile purchased MetroPCS a few years ago but recently decided to rebrand MetroPCS to more closely associate it with the main Tmo brand. The prepaid carrier is now called Metro by T-Mobile. It offers plans that use Tmo’s network and offer some extras on its plans that are similar in tone to the ones that its parent company provides. You can also get discounts on those plans if you add more than one line to the account.
Here’s a look at the plans that are currently offered with Metro by T-Mobile.
- There are two plans with limited 4G LTE data from Metro by T-Mobile. One costs $30 a month with Unlimited talk, unlimited text and 2GB of data. The other costs $40 and bumps up the data to 10GB.
- There’s a $50 Metro by T-Mobile unlimited data prepaid plan but your speeds may slow down if you go over 35GB a month. You also get 5GB of high-speed hotspot data a month, plus access to the Google One cloud storage plan that normal costs $1.99 a month.
- Finally, there’s the $60 a month prepaid plan, which has everything from the $50 plan, plus 15GB of high-speed hotspot data and a free Amazon Prime subscription that costs $12.99 a month.
- There’s also a standalone mobile hotspot prepaid plan, with prices starting at $35 a month for 10GB of data, all the way to $75 a month with $30 of data.
Google Fi is Google’s attempt at being an MVNO mobile carrier. It uses T-Mobile, Sprint, and US Cellular to provide a pretty decent coverage map. The service is compatible with most Android phones, and even Apple’s iPhones. However, only a few handsets (like the Pixel family) support all of Google Fi’s features. All plans include access to cell coverage in more than 170 countries, Wi-Fi tethering, and more.
Here’s what you can expect when you sign up for Google Fi:
- The super-cheap Google Fi prepaid plan costs just $20 a month, with unlimited talk and text, but no data. You can add up to five additional lines for $15 a month each.
- When you use cellular data on Google Fi, it increases your costs, starting at $1 a month for each 100MB of data, or $10 a month for 1GB.
- After you use up 6GB of data before your billing period ends on Google Fi, the rest of your data is free under bill protection. That means your total maximum monthly costs for the first line is just $80.
- That data ceiling goes up to 10GB if you add another line, 12GB if you add 2 lines, 14GB for 3 lines, 16GB for 4 lines, and 18 GB for 5 lines.
Straight Talk Wireless
Straight Talk Wireless is an MVNO that’s actually owned by Walmart, and uses Verizon’s or Sprint’s network for CDMA phones, along with T-Mobile’s or AT&T’s GSM network for its compatible phones. While it does sell phones on its own, Straight Talk’s main marketing push is for people who already own their phones to sign up and use its service.
Let’s go over what Straight Talk Wireless’ plans are like:
- One plan costs $30 a month with unlimited text, 1,500 minutes of talk in the US, and 100MB of data.
- Two of the plans offer limited data in larger amounts. The first costs $35 a month with unlimited talk, unlimited text, and 3GB of data. The other costs $45 a month and boosts the data cap to 25GB a month.
- There’s also another Straight Talk Wireless plan that costs $60 a month, with unlimited talk, unlimited text, and 25GB of data. It throws in unlimited mobile-to-mobile calling to Mexico, India and Canada.
- There’s also an unlimited data plan for $55 a month, but it does not have the international calling features.
U.S. Cellular prepaid
US Cellular is the nation’s fifth largest standalone wireless carrier. It’s a CDMA-based carrier with LTE coverage, so that means you’re mostly stuck with phones offered directly from the carrier. This carrier is particularly common in rural areas, often offering service where there are few other decent options. It also has great free-roaming that extends its coverage to more of the US when traveling.
Take a look at what you can get from the prepaid plans at U.S. Cellular:
- There’s a basic plan that costs just $30 a month, with unlimited talk and unlimited text but no data.
- You can bump up to the $40 a month prepaid plans, which adds 5GB of LTE high-speed data.
- The most expensive plan costs $55 a month, with unlimited talk, text and data. However, speeds are capped at 5Mbps and there might be some more speed throttling if you go over 15GB of data per month.
- All of these plans allow you to add unlimited talk and text to Mexico and Canada for an extra $5 a month.
Verizon Wireless prepaid
Verizon Wireless is still the nation’s biggest cellular carrier. While it doesn’t have a huge marketing push for its prepaid plans, it does offer a number of different options and you can either purchase your phone direct from Verizon or bring one of your own. Keep in mind that Verizon is a CDMA-based carrier so if you do want to bring your own phone, make sure it’s compatible with its network.
With that said, let’s go over what you can expect from Verizon’s prepaid plans:
- Verizon’s cheapest plan costs $35 a month, with unlimited talk, unlimited text, and 1GB of LTE data
- There are two more prepaid plans with limited data at Verizon. one costs $40 a month with 6GB of data, and the other costs $50 a month with 16GB of data. Both offer mobile hotspot support and the 16GB plan adds unlimited calls to Mexico and Canada
- There’s also an unlimited plan that costs $70 a month. It also offers unlimited calls to Mexico and Canada, but does not offer mobile hotspot data.
- If you want to add more than one line to your Verizon prepaid plan, you can get discounts on each line for up to five lines. You can also have a more expensive plan for one line, and cheaper plans for the other lines on the same account.
Originally known as Mint SIM, Mint Mobile is a T-Mobile MVNO that offers prepaid plans that customers pay over several months, rather than month to month. The result is customers could pay much less overall for their smartphones plans versus the competition.
Here’s a look at the rather unique prepaid plans from Mint Mobile
- The cheapest plans cover three months of service. You can pay $45 for the first three months on Mint Mobile’s prepaid plan and get 3GB of LTE data per month, with the price for the plan going up to $75 for an additional three months.
- You can also get up to 12GB of data per month for $75 for the first three months, with the price going up to $135 for each additional three months.
- There are also six-month plans that cost $120 for 3GB of data per month, $150 for 8GB of data per month and $210 for 12GB of data a month.
- If you really want to stick with Mint Mobile, it also offers 12-month prepaid plans. They cost $180 for 3GB of data per month, $240 for 8GB of data per month and $300 for 12GB of data a month.
- At the moment, Mint Mobile is offering a special deal: Pay for three months of service for $60, which has 8GB of data per month, and you can get the next three months of service completely free.
Visible is a recently launched carrier that is essentially owned by Verizon, and therefore utilizes its 4G network. It also is trying to do something different in that it has just one plan to choose from, with no other options or add-ons to make things confusing. There’s also no store to visit; Visible is only available on its official web site or on its Visible app.
Here’s a quick look at what makes Visible different:
- There’s just one Visible prepaid plan; $40 a month with no taxes or fees. That price gets you unlimited talk, text, data and hotspot support on that plan for your phone.
- At the moment, there are no speed caps or data throttling with’s Visible’s plan. However, the company has hinted 5Mbps speed caps will be put in place later so you might want to sign up now to avoid the cap limit.
- Visible sells a limited number of Android phones, but you can also use your own compatible phone if you want.
- Streaming video speeds are limited to 3Mbps and 480p resolution on Visible. Also, streaming audio is limited to 500Mbps, social networking scrolling is limited to 1Mbps, and video chatting with friends is limited to 2Mbps.