The Ultimate 2023 Guide to U.S. Cell Phone Plans

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Cell phone plans: everyone needs them, but their cost can add up quickly – often without you realizing where the extra fees are coming from. We’ve cultivated a list of the seven most common cell phone carriers in the U.S., including their plans, prices, and features. 

There’s a cell phone plan for everyone: regular video streamers, military, first responders, frequent international travelers, and those seeking a no-frills, budget-friendly option.

Whether you’re in the market for a new cell phone plan or simply looking to trim costs, you’ll find all the information you need here.

Prices are current as of November 12, 2022.

1. T-Mobile

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If you’re looking for fast speeds and unlimited data, T-Mobile is the way to go. They offer three unlimited data plans but be aware that a data cap can throttle your access if you exceed a certain amount of data usage each month. 

Here’s the breakdown:

EssentialsMagentaMagenta Max
1 Phone Number$60$70$85
3 Phone Numbers$90$120$140
Talk & TextUnlimitedUnlimitedUnlimited
Premium 5G/4G LTE Data50 GB100 GBUnlimited
Taxes & FeesNot includedIncludedIncluded
NetflixNot included1 Screen ($9.99 value)2 Screens ($15.49 value)
Paramount+ (1 year)Included ($4.99 value)Included ($4.99 value)Included ($4.99 value)
Texting and Data AbroadUnlimited text5 GB data in 11 countries; 256KB in 215 countries5 GB data in 11 countries; 256KB in 215 countries

Best cell phone plan for:

  • People who qualify for Military / First Responder / Age 55+ Discounts
  • Families that use lots of data

There are better options for:

  • Individuals who need a single phone line
  • Frequent international travelers
  • Budget-minded families

If you go with T-Mobile, keep a few things in mind. Both the Magenta and Magenta Max include significant discounts for Military, First Responders, and adults over 55, but these discounts don’t apply to the Essentials Plan. The prices reflected in the table do not include discounts, which can be as much as $10 to $20 per line.

People who don’t qualify for discounts may be better off with the Essentials Plan. The only true advantage of Magenta and Magenta Max are free subscriptions to Netflix and Paramount+; however, Paramount+ only lasts for a year. While T-Mobile promotes full access to unthrottled data with Magenta Max, few people will exceed the 50GB provided in the Essentials plan.

A nice benefit that T-Mobile offers is transparency in its pricing. Few other cell phone providers include taxes and fees in their plans. Both Magenta & Magenta Max do so, so you won’t need to worry about unexpected extra costs in your monthly bill.

2. Verizon

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While Verizon is T-Mobile’s main competitor, the available plans are pricey. People most likely to benefit from Verizon live in an area where Verizon coverage outranks T-Mobile’s or high data users who don’t want to worry about throttling. Verizon offers some premium bundles that may be attractive to some.

Currently, Verizon offers the following unlimited plans:

Welcome UnlimitedOne Unlimited5G Get More
1 Phone Number$65$90$90
3 Phone Numbers$120$180$195
5G / 4G LTE DataUnlimitedUnlimitedUnlimited
Taxes & FeesNot IncludedNot IncludedNot Included
Hulu, Disney+, ESPN+Not IncludedNot IncludedIncluded ($13.99 value)
Apple Arcade or Google PlayNot IncludedNot IncludedIncluded ($4.99 value)
Apple One (TV+, Arcade, Music, iCloud+)Not IncludedIncluded ($39.95 value)Apple Music only ($9.99 value)

Best cell phone plan for:

  • People concerned about data throttling
  • Heavy users of Apple services, like Apple TV+ and Music

There are better options for:

  • Individuals who need a single phone line
  • Frequent international travelers
  • Budget-minded families

The main benefit of Verizon’s offerings is no cap on high data usage. You can stream movies and TV shows to your heart’s desire without worrying about speed throttling. 

In some areas, Verizon is the premiere phone carrier. If this is the case for you, you’ll find better coverage and fewer service drops with Verizon. You’ll also find multiple stores in your area, which you can visit if you need help with your service.

Verizon has an exclusive partnership with Apple, so you’ll likely receive the best deals on Apple products and services when you choose them as your cell phone carrier. 

However, anyone looking for relief on their monthly phone bill can find it through other cell phone plans.

3. Visible

woman sitting on sofa while looking at phone with laptop on lap
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Visible is an excellent no-frills service for people who want to stay on the Verizon network but aren’t looking for extra perks like streaming services. You can purchase or finance a phone with Visible or bring your own for maximum savings. 

There are two unlimited cell phone plans from Visible. Here’s the cost and feature breakdown:

1 Phone Number$30$45
3 Phone Numbers$90$135
Unlimited 5G Data / 4G LTEIncludedIncluded
Access to 5G Ultra Wideband Not IncludedIncluded
Taxes & FeesIncludedIncluded
International Calling (30 Countries) / Texting (200 Countries)Not IncludedIncluded
Talk & Text Mexico & CanadaIncludedIncluded

Best cell phone plan for:

  • Those who want to stay on the Verizon network at a cheaper price point
  • People concerned about data throttling
  • Budget-minded families who need unlimited data
  • People who need to make frequent international calls

There are better options for:

  • Frequent international travelers
  • People who live in an area where other carriers have better coverage

People who choose Visible will enjoy transparent pricing that includes all taxes and fees. You also won’t need to worry about data throttling; everyone enjoys full access to 4G LTE and 5G in areas where coverage is available. However, you may experience some slower speeds if there is significant network congestion.

There are no discounts on adding lines to your cell phone plan, so there are no additional cost savings for those who use multiple Visible lines. 

The difference between Visible+ and Visible is primarily the access to 5G Ultra Wideband and the ability to conduct frequent international calls. However, 5G Ultra Wideband isn’t available everywhere. International calling is an interesting feature, but you can easily use Viber, WhatsApp, or similar platforms to make international phone calls at no additional cost.

We don’t see many advantages to signing up for Visible+, but Visible is an excellent choice for individuals and families who prefer the Verizon network.

4. Mint Mobile

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If enrolling more than one line on a Mint Mobile plan, you can pick a different one for everyone. Heavy data users can sign up for the unlimited option, while lighter users can choose a capped plan of 4GB or more. The ability to mix and match is helpful for families and others who have different usage styles.

Mint Mobile operates on the T-Mobile network, so you can count on superior coverage no matter where you are. 

Keep in mind that Mint Mobile is a prepaid option; to get the best rates, you’ll need to pay a year in advance for the service. While this may be a turnoff for families without the savings available to pay upfront for a year’s worth of service, you won’t need to worry about a monthly cellular phone bill. 

Here’s what you can expect from Mint Mobile:

4GB 5G/4LTE10GB 5G/4G LTE15GB 5G/4G LTEUnlimited
1 Phone Number$15$20$25$30
3 Phone Numbers$45$60$75$90
Unlimited Talk and TextIncludedIncludedIncludedIncluded
Calls to Mexico & CanadaFreeFreeFreeFree
Taxes and FeesNot IncludedNot IncludedNot IncludedNot Included

Best cell phone plan for:

  • Budget-minded individuals and families
  • Those who don’t need lots of data
  • People in areas where T-Mobile coverage is superior

There are better options for:

  • Frequent international travelers
  • People who live in an area where other carriers have better coverage

Visible and Mint Mobile offer similar price points for their unlimited plans, but Mint Mobile does not include taxes and fees. If you have multiple lines, you can expect some additional costs. 

People who will benefit the most from a Mint Mobile plan are those who can keep their data usage under 4GB per month. While data usage of 4GB per month may not seem like a lot, it’s doable unless you regularly stream movies and TV shows on your phone. You can keep your data usage down by automatically switching to Wi-Fi at home or work. 

Mint Mobile offers an initial three-month plan that you can take for a test drive. You’ll pay for three months of service in advance. You can easily switch up your plan if you’re using more or less data than you signed up for. You’ll need to pay for an annual plan to keep your low rates at the end of the three months. 

5. AT&T

person holding smartphone on table while deciding on a cell phone plan
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Current unlimited plans available with AT&T include:

1 Phone Number$65$75$85
3 Phone Numbers$135$150$180
Unlimited Talk / Text / DataIncludedIncludedIncluded
Premium DataNo premium data50 GBUnlimited
Unlimited Talk / Text / Data to Mexico & CanadaIncludedIncludedIncluded
Unlimited Talk / Text / Data in 19 Latin American countriesNot IncludedNot IncludedIncluded

Best cell phone plan for:

  • People who live in areas where AT&T network coverage is superior
  • Frequent travelers of Latin American countries (Premium plan only)

There are better options for:

  • Pretty much everyone

Unfortunately, AT&T doesn’t have the advantages other major carriers have. While you can save a few dollars with AT&T’s Premium plan compared with Verizon’s 5G Get More plan, you’ll also miss out on the benefits of subscriptions to Hulu, Disney+, and ESPN+. 

However, most people won’t find any significant benefits with an AT&T plan. There are better alternatives available.

6. Metro by T-Mobile

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Here’s what you can expect from Metro by T-Mobile’s Unlimited plan:

1 Phone Number$40
3 Phone Numbers$90
Unlimited high-speed dataIncluded

Best cell phone plan for:

  • People who want unlimited 5G data through a prepaid solution

There are better options for:

  • Frequent international travelers
  • Budget-minded families or individuals seeking other benefits

Metro is unlike the other low-cost providers on our list, like Mint Mobile and Visible, in that they offer a discount on multiple lines. However, the total price is the same as for the other providers with three lines.  

Individuals who qualify for the ACP program may pay as little as $10 per month for their service with Metro. If you think you may qualify for ACP, it’s worth looking into coverage with Metro. You’ll have access to the complete T-Mobile 5G network, though you may experience slower speeds if the network gets too busy. 

7. Google Fi

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Interestingly, purchasing a family plan with Google Fi is cheaper than either Mint Mobile or Visible’s unlimited plans. Google Fi offers a discount on bundling, so if you’re looking for unlimited service for multiple lines, Google Fi is worth considering.

Google Fi offers the best options for international travelers who want to retain a U.S. number while abroad. Individuals and families who don’t want to worry about purchasing cell service when overseas will find Google Fi very attractive. 

Here are the plans available through Google Fi:

Simply UnlimitedUnlimited PlusFlexible
1 Phone Number$50$65$20 + data
3 Phone Numbers$75$135$50 + data
Unlimited dataIncludedIncluded$10 / GB
Premium data35 GB50 GB$10 / GB
International high-speed dataNot includedIncluded in 200 countries$10 / GB in 200 countries
Taxes and feesNot includedNot includedNot included

Best cell phone plan for:

  • Frequent international travelers
  • Families who bundle their plans for unlimited data
  • People who purchase a Google phone, like the Pixel

There are better options for:

  • People who don’t use much data
  • Individuals who don’t have a Google-approved phone

Google Fi is emerging as a competitive force in the telecom sector. The pricing for its plans has improved in recent years, and it’s one of the best international calling plans available. 

Google Fi uses both T-Mobile and US Cellular to support its network, so you won’t have to worry about a lack of network availability. However, people with Google phones, like the Pixel, will experience fewer service disruptions. Google designed its phones especially for its Google Fi service.

You can still purchase a plan even if you don’t own a Google phone. Google Fi is fully compatible with the iPhone and Samsung devices like the Galaxy.

What To Know About Capped and Unlimited Data Usage

data usage charts for cell phone plans
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While most of the current cell phone plans offer unlimited data, Mint Mobile sets itself apart by providing cheap plans for individuals willing to cap their data usage. If you’re considering Mint Mobile’s 4GB plan, it’s helpful to know how long 4GB will last. After all, you don’t want to sign up only to find yourself running out of data in a few days.

In most cases, 4 GB should be more than enough for standard usage. With 4GB of data, you can:

  • Stream 300 minutes of video monthly
  • Check out 50 webpages daily
  • Send 50 daily emails
  • Stream 15 minutes of music each day

Remember that you only use your data when you don’t have a Wi-Fi connection. If you automatically connect your phone to Wi-Fi when you’re at home or in the office, you can keep your data usage to a minimum.

The Final Take on U.S. Cell Phone Plans: 

So, which cell phone plan is the best? 

All the cell phone plans listed have certain advantages and disadvantages. T-Mobile and Verizon are the best-known providers and have extensive nationwide networks. However, you can still access their networks through lower-cost carriers, like Visible, Mint Mobile, and Metro. 

When deciding, you’ll want to consider coverage, cost, and data usage. Some plans are better than others if you’re looking for specific benefits, like access to streaming services or international coverage. 

The cost of cell phone plans is constantly changing, so it’s vital to do a yearly checkup on plan availability and cost to ensure you’re not overpaying for your service. 

Note: The views and opinions expressed are those of the author. Any content given is our opinion and is not intended to malign any religion, ethnic group, club, organization, company, individual, or anyone.

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