The average monthly cost of a cell phone plan in the United States is $80/month. This is the price for just one line. If you purchase a family plan or five lines, your cost could exceed $200/month. The good news is that it doesn’t have to be so expensive thanks to these new affordable plans.
While cell phone plan costs have decreased in recent years, they are still not considered cheap. This is particularly true of plans offered through carriers like AT&T, Sprint, Verizon, and T-Mobile. So, how can you lower your cell phone bill costs while keeping the benefits of data downloads, texting, streaming, and wireless communication?
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The answer lies in signing up with other carriers that are not as well-known. They are able to offer cheaper plans because they are mobile virtual network operators. Such carriers do not own their own wireless network infrastructure. Instead, they pay to access other networks, such as those built and maintained by Sprint or AT&T. In so doing, they can afford to set their retail prices much lower.
Believe it or not, you can actually pay nothing for your cell phone usage through FreedomPop’s Basic Plan. This plan gives you 200 minutes, 500 text messages, and 200 or 500MB of data for zero dollars per month. If you go over your data limit, you’ll be charged $15 to “top up” your data. However, you’ll also receive an equivalent dollar credit, which can be used to cover future data usage that exceeds your limit.
If you use up your minutes or texts, you won’t be charged more money; you’ll simply have to wait until the next cycle before you can make calls or send texts. Alternately, you can upgrade to one of FreedomPop’s prepaid plans, which gives you unlimited talk and text, plus 500MB of data, starting at just $10.99/month.
FreedomPop operates via the Sprint network, so you can get significant coverage via this carrier. Another benefit of FreedomPop is that you can use your own cell phone. If you do not own a phone, FreedomPop sells new or refurbished ones starting at only $39.99. Finally, you can roll over your unused data into the next billing cycle.
2. FreeUP Mobile
Much like FreedomPop, this wireless carrier, which operates on the AT&T network, offers a free plan, which includes 500 minutes of talk and texts, plus 100MB of 4G LTE data. Should you require additional talk or text, you can add 250 minutes of talk for just $5. Each additional 200MB of LTE data also costs $5. International calling to over 100 designated countries can be added through the carrier’s “Pay As You Go” plan. A nice feature is that purchased minutes do not expire.
Should you require an upgrade, FreeUP Mobile offers several unlimited talk and text plans. The Starter Plan, which includes only unlimited talk and text, costs $15/month. The Global Plan, which includes unlimited talk and text plus 1GB of data, costs $20/month. Unused data, unfortunately, does not roll over.
Ting offers flexible pricing based on actual usage, which is great if your cell phone use varies month-to-month or you don’t use your mobile phone too often. Pricing options are placed in tiers. For example, each individual Ting line is priced at only $6. Using between one- and 100-minutes costs $3/month, sending one to 100 texts costs $3 month, and using one to 100MB of data costs $3 month. If you exceed those minutes or data, you will end up paying $9/month for 101 to 500 minutes, $5 for 101 to 1000 texts, and $12/month for 101 to 500MB of data.
Ting operates on the Sprint network and offers GSM support through the T-Mobile network. So, you are actually benefiting from some high coverage networks for a fraction of their usual price.
4. Project Fi
Project Fi, now known as Google Fi, utilizes T-Mobile, Sprint, and U.S. Cellular networks to deliver service. To ensure the best coverage, it switches between these networks depending on which one offers better coverage. Google Fi also links to Wi-Fi if it is available.
Subscribers start with unlimited talk and text, unlimited international texts, and Wi-Fi tethering, for $20/month. Additional lines cost $15/each per month, while data costs $10/GB. Once you use up 6GB of data, you enter a level called “Bill Protection,” which is an unlimited data plan. However, once you use up 15GB of data, your download speed is slowed to 256kbps. You can choose to restore your faster speed by paying $10/GB. So, while you need not pay for an unlimited data plan each month, you do get the protection of one.
With Google Fi, you do need to purchase your talk, text, and data up-front. However, you can request reimbursement from Google if you do not use everything. This reimbursement is divided up into MB, with you being credited one penny per each unused MB. So, if you purchase 5GB in advance but then use only 3.4MB, you get credited for the $16 in data that you didn’t use.