Updated on 06.29.16

Fed Up With Verizon and AT&T? Try One of These Cheap Cell Phone Plans Instead

Virgin Mobile, Cricket, and Ting give the big names a run for their money.

Are you starting to despise your Verizon Wireless cellphone bill? If so, you’re probably not alone.

According to CBS News, the average Verizon phone bill surged to a level never seen before late last year – $148 per customer, per month. In case you don’t want to do the math, that’s a whopping of $1,776 per year. Further, all of the other big carriers – Sprint, AT&T, and T-Mobile – had average bills of $120 per month or more last year.

Even worse, many of the “big carriers” are now asking you to pay $20 or more per month to lease a phone, which might just be the worst idea on planet Earth. (Here’s a thought: If you have to lease your cell phone, it’s too dang expensive. Am I right?)

11 Cheap Cell Phone Plans You Should Consider

If you’re hoping to get out from under your pricey cell phone and data plan, I have good news. More than a few disruptive technologies and new business models have emerged among existing cell phone providers and new companies, and some of them are offering great cell and data service for a fraction of the cost.

Even better, some of the most popular cut-rate plans will let you bring your own phone or purchase an unlocked phone that will work on their network. If you’re ready to break free of your pricey cell phone and data plan, here are a few discount carriers to consider:

Ting

Because of its flexible pricing schedule, Ting tends to attract the type of customer who only wants to pay for the minutes and data they use. To offer fair pricing based on actual usage, they place all of their services into pricing buckets and allow consumers to move freely through them each month as their needs change.

For example, keeping a device activated costs $6 per month, 1–100 minutes costs $3 per month, 1-100 text messages costs $3 per month, and 1-100 megabytes of data costs $3 per month. However, as you move up and start using more data or minutes, the pricing moves up another tier. For example, 101-500 minutes costs $9 per month and 101-500 megabytes of data costs $12 per month.

This pricing schedule means you never pay for more than you’ll use, which can truly benefit those who just need a phone for emergencies. Plus, no contracts and no commitments.

  • Network details: Ting uses the Sprint network. In March 2015, Ting announced support for certain GSM networks via the T-Mobile network.
  • Average bill: $26 per month
  • Average annual savings over Verizon: $1,464
  • Pros: No contracts; only pay for what you use
  • Cons: Sprint network may not work in your area; pay more for heavy use

Republic Wireless

Republic Wireless harnesses the power of free Wi-Fi to offer inexpensive phone plans for its users. And as of earlier this year, they have also started “paying customers back” for their unused data in the form of a statement credit. With their new “refund plan” customers are getting unlimited texts and data over Wi-Fi, plus unlimited talk and text through the cell phone plan, plus data – and all for around $14.82 per month.

Base plans before refunding start at $10 per month, and wifi only base plans start at only $5 per month. Another perk Republic Wireless offers – no contracts! The main drawback that comes with these plans is the fact that you can’t bring your own phone, and only a handful of phones are available.

  • Network details: Republic Wireless uses the Sprint network.
  • Average bill: less than $25 per month
  • Average annual savings over Verizon: $1,476
  • Pros: No contracts; refunds for data you don’t use
  • Cons: Sprint network may not work in your area; must purchase a Republic Wireless phone

Cricket Wireless

Although it started with humble beginnings, Cricket Wireless is now a key player among low-cost, no-contract mobile providers. Owned by AT&T, Cricket Mobile utilizes its parent’s network, but with cheaper plans and offerings.

They offer a wide range of prepaid plans that start at just $25 per month for unlimited talk and text. Meanwhile, unlimited talk and text plans with 2.5 GB of data start at around $35 per month. With Cricket Wireless, you can also save $5 per month by enrolling in auto-pay. Plus you can bring your own phone, provided it is already compatible with the AT&T network.

  • Network details: Cricket uses the AT&T network
  • Average bill: $25 and up
  • Average annual savings over Verizon: $1,476
  • Pros: No contracts; cheap unlimited plans; bring your own phone
  • Cons: AT&T dead areas with no service; reported subpar customer service

Virgin Mobile

Virgin Mobile is another discount provider with a wide range of pay-as-you-go plans available for cost-conscious consumers. Plans with unlimited texts, unlimited Wi-Fi data, and up to 300 minutes of talk start at just $20 per month, while a plan with unlimited data, talk, and text, plus international calling runs just $55 per month. All Virgin Mobile plans are also contract-free, which means you can switch between plans or shop around for another provider at any time.

  • Network details: Virgin Mobile uses the Sprint network
  • Average bill: $35 per month
  • Average annual savings over Verizon: $1,356
  • Pros: No contracts; unlimited plans
  • Cons: Must purchase a Virgin Mobile phone, although inexpensive phone options start at around $20

Boost Mobile

Boost Mobile is another low-cost provider offering no contract plans that operate on the Sprint network. Unlimited talk and text plans start at just $35 per month, and the most expensive plan Boost Mobile offers includes 10 GB of data plus unlimited talk and text for only $55 per month.

Although you can’t bring your own phone, offerings include a wide range of Android devices plus super affordable basic options from makers like Samsung, Kyocera, Motorola, and LG. In addition to its monthly unlimited plans, Boost Mobile also offers daily unlimited plans with no contract for as little as $2 per day.

  • Network details: Boost Mobile uses the Sprint network
  • Average bill: $35 per month
  • Average annual savings over Verizon: $1,356
  • Pros: No contracts; unlimited monthly and even daily plans
  • Cons: Must purchase a Boost Mobile phone, although inexpensive options start at around $20

GIV Mobile

GIV Mobile is the first discount, no-contract phone service dedicated to giving 8% of a customer’s monthly plan amount (starting at $20/month) to a nonprofit charity of the customer’s choice. Utilizing T-Mobile’s 4G LTE network, GIV Mobile’s five affordable, unlimited, no-contract plans allow users to have fast and reliable connections from nearly anywhere in the U.S.

In addition to great mobile service, GIV Mobile collaborates with charities to create a community that is dedicated to giving back. With GIV mobile, you can even bring your own phone provided it is compatible with the T-Mobile network.

  • Network details: GIV mobile uses the T-Mobile network
  • Average bill: $30 per month
  • Average annual savings over Verizon: $1,416
  • Pros: GIV Mobile donates some of its proceeds to charity; no contract; you can bring your own phone
  • Cons: No high-data plans available; phones can be expensive to purchase or return

Straight Talk Wireless

Straight Talk Wireless is a no-contract, discount provider that offers phones and plans through local Wal-Mart stores and online. Plans with unlimited talk and text plus 5GB of high-speed data cost just $45 per month, and Straight Talk will even let you bring your own phone. Free phones are offered with some monthly plan options, however. In addition to cell phones, Straight Talk also offers mobile hot spots and discount home phones.

  • Network details: Straight Talk uses the T-Mobile,Verizon, and Sprint networks
  • Average bill: $45 per month
  • Average annual savings over Verizon: $1,236
  • Pros: Bring your own phone; no contracts
  • Cons: Reports of awful customer service online; few plan options to choose from

Scratch Wireless

Scratch Wireless offers no-contract plans plus plans that are entirely free for Wi-Fi use only. Outside of the free use on Wi-Fi, you’ll have to pay for your voice minutes. Unlimited talk plans start at just $2 per day each, or you can buy bulk plans with minutes and/or texts starting at around $6.99 for 100 voice minutes.

On the free Wi-Fi-only plan, you can also buy “passes” that hook you up to cell service for $1.99 per use. Meanwhile, texting on Scratch Wireless is always free – whether you’re on Wi-Fi or not.

  • Network details: Scratch Wireless operates on the Sprint network
  • Average monthly bill: less than $10 per month
  • Average annual savings over Verizon: $1,676
  • Pros: Free to use on Wi-Fi; cheap plans and one-time-use passes available
  • Cons: Only one phone to choose from

GoSmart Mobile

With GoSmart Mobile, you can enjoy unlimited talk, texts, plus 1 GB of 4G Web browsing and unlimited 4G LTE Facebook access for $30 per month. Other plans with more data are available, however; the top-tier plan costs $45 per month but includes 10GB of data and Web browsing.

If you don’t need access to the Internet, unlimited talk and text plans start at just $25 per month. Added features include voicemail, call waiting, caller ID, free 411 calls, and mobile hotspot/tethering.

  • Network details: GoSmart uses the T-Mobile network
  • Average monthly bill: $35
  • Average annual savings over Verizon: $1,356
  • Pros: No contract; low-cost plans; bring your own phone
  • Cons: No online account management; slow customer service reported on message boards

Consumer Cellular

As a provider geared toward senior citizens, Consumer Cellular offers no-contract, “no-frills” plans that start at just $10 per month. Cellular minutes and data/text plans are billed separately, which allows you to pick and choose which services – and how much of them – you want to pay for.

A plan with 250 minutes plus 30 MB of web data and 300 text messages, for example, would cost just $17.50 per month. If you’re worried about coverage on the AT&T network, you’ll also benefit from a 30-day money back guarantee.

  • Network details: Consumer Cellular uses the AT&T network
  • Average monthly bill: $50 per month
  • Average annual savings over Verizon: $1,176
  • Pros: Pay-as-you-go; no contract plans; a la carte pricing; you can bring your own phone
  • Cons: Expensive data plans and add-ons

FreedomPoP

FreedomPop says it offers up to 200 voice minutes, 500 text messages, and up to 500 MB of data per month absolutely free with no gimmicks, no hassles, and no contracts.

If you need more, you can also pay for more. For example, a plan with unlimited talk and text plus 500 MB of data costs just $6.67 per month. You can bring your own phone to FreedomPOP if you want, or you can choose from one of their new or refurbished devices starting at $39.99.

  • Network details: FreedomPop uses the Sprint network
  • Average monthly bill: Less than $10 per month
  • Average annual savings over Verizon: $1,676
  • Pros: Free plans available for infrequent phone users; you can bring your own phone
  • Cons: Reports of “gotcha” pricing after free usage and bad customer service on message boards

The Bottom Line

While all of these plans seem amazing, it’s important to read through all of the fine print and check out some reviews before making the switch. While you may be saving money, you’ll usually have to give something up – whether that’s excellent customer service, unlimited service, coverage area, or phone options. While some sacrifices may be worth it, others – like spotty service in your home area – may not.

Still, if paying more than $100 per month for cell phone service irks you, it might be time to at least consider your options. While switching plans and providers can be a hassle, the savings could very well be worth it. Imagine what you could do with an extra $80, $90, or even $100 per month!

What low-cost cell provider do you use? Have you had good or bad experiences with any of these options?

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