Looking for the best cellphone plans?

cellphone-plan-header

According to a recent Pew Research Center release, 64% of Americans use smartphones. This figure is up 6% from 2014 and will continue to increase. Much like a cable TV subscription, cellphone plans are designed to nickel and dime you whenever possible. Whether it is during sign-up process with activation-fees, going over monthly plan limits incurring overage charges or cancelling/switching carriers too early and paying termination fees, their profits are always maximized.


In order to help you determine if there are better options in the market we have researched and documented the best cellphone plans to save you money. We reviewed the top four carriers within the US (Verizon, AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile) as well as some of the second-tier pre-paid/budget providers (metroPCS, Boost Mobile, and Cricket Wireless) to determine who offers the most cost-effective plans for the average consumer.

 

Criteria for Determining the Best Cellphone Plans

  1. Plan Cost for Single Line and Family of 4 – Breakdown of average plan costs for both single and family plans
  2. Device Cost- Payment options for the newest iPhone and Galaxy devices
  3. Extra Fees & Charges- Current rates for early termination, overage and activation charges
  4. Customer Service Ranking- How they rank for customer support and service

The 4 Major Carriers Compared

Categories

Verizon

AT&T

T-Mobile

Sprint

Single Plan

$65/Month* 3 GB Plan

$55/Month* 2 GB Plan

$50/Month* 2 GB Plan

$50/Month* 3 GB Plan

Family of 4 Plan

$160/Month* Shared 12 GB Plan

$160/Month* Shared 15 GB Plan

$100/Month* 2 GB Per Plan

$140/Month* Shared 12 GB Plan

Customer Service Ranking

8th

9th

6th

10th

Overage Charges

$10 per GB

$15 per GB

$0 Dropped to 2G Data Speed

$0 Dropped to 2G Data Speed

One-Time Activation Fee

$20

$15

$0

$0

Early Termination Fee

$350 Minus $10-$60 for each month paid and/or pay remaining balance on device

$325 Minus $10 for each month paid and/or pay remaining balance on device

$0 Pay remaining balance on device

$350 Minus $10-$250 for each month paid and/or pay remaining balance on device

iPhone 6S Cost

$27.08 x 24 Months

$21.67 x 30 Months

$27.09 x 24 Months

$26.39 x 18 Months

Galaxy S7 Cost

$28 x 24 Months

23.17 x 30 Months

$27.92 x 24 Months

$25.99 x 24 Months


*taxes and fees are not included in totals

Additional Information About The 4 Major Carriers

One the major benefits of being a customer with one the big guys is the dependable coverage and connection speeds. While you may pay more for plans you are also most likely going to have service no matter where you travel within the US. Additionally, when it comes to purchasing a new device the larger carriers offer payment plans to lessen the immediate out-of-pocket burden. Finally, much like all wireless providers there are a variety of fees and charges associated with each cellphone service like one-time account activation’s, early terminations (ETF) and overages.

 Verizon Cellphone Plans

verizon-coverage-map
For both single and family plans Verizon had the highest rates at $65 and $160 (4 lines). However, Verizon has one of the largest and fastest networks available and if you live in an area with limited coverage they may be one of only feasible options for service.

AT&T Cellphone Plans

att-coverage-map

AT&T much like Verizon, is in the upper echelon of both plan pricing and network coverage. The single device plan with AT&T is $10 less than Verizon but, is a full 1 GB less of data. Both AT&T and Verizon charge fees for excess data consumption ($10/GB & $15/GB respectively)

T-Mobile Cellphone Plans

tmobile-coverage-map

T-Mobile is the 3rd largest carrier and has made many strides over the past few years in making their cellphone plans extremely competitive. The single and family plans rates are the lowest of the big four and are also ahead in customer service rankings at 6th. T-Mobile does not charge data overage fees however, they will downgrade your connection speed to 2G rates when exceeded.

Sprint Cellphone Plans

sprint-coverage-map

Rounding out the top 4 carriers Sprint is also priced lower than Verizon & AT&T in both single and family plans. Sprint also has no data overage or activation fees but, does downgrade connection speeds like T-Mobile.

Pre-paid/Budget Carrier Reviews

Categories

metroPCS

Cricket Wireless

Boost Mobile

Single Plan

$40/Month 3 GB Plan

$35/Month 2.5 GB Plan

$30/Month 2 GB Plan

Family of 4 Plan

$140/Month 3 GB Per Plan

$110/Month 2.5 GB Per Plan

$100/Month 1.5 GB Per Plan

Customer Service Ranking

6th For Pre-paid/Budget Tier

2nd For Pre-paid/Budget Tier

9th For Pre-paid/Budget Tier

Overage Charges

$0 Dropped to 2G Data Speed

$0 Dropped to 2G Data Speed

$0 Dropped to 3G Data Speed

One-Time Activation Fee

$15-25 Per Line

$25 Per Line

$0 ($10 Re-activation Fee)

Early Termination Fee

$0

$0

$0

iPhone 6S Cost

Must Purchase Unlocked From Apple Merchant

$549 After $100 Discount For Transferring # No Payment Plan

$459.99 After $90 Discount

Galaxy S7 Cost

$649 No Payment Plan

$649 No Payment Plan

$649 No Payment Plan

Parent Company

T-Mobile

AT&T

Sprint


*taxes and fees are not included in totals

Additional Information About Pre-paid/Budget Carriers
If you are fortunate enough to live in an area with solid coverage and connection speeds then service with a pre-paid/budget carrier can be one of the best cellphone plans to save money with. One of the best perks with the smaller carriers are the low or non-existent extra fees. While there may be activation fees associated with account setups you don’t have to worry about paying extra for going over data limits or cancellations. You can save over $60/month plus any additional taxes and fees versus what you would pay with some of the major carriers.

metroPCS

metropcs-coverage-map

metroPCS which was acquired by T-Mobile a few years ago and has taken a nice leap forward in coverage and connection speed due to the merger. Their rates among the 3 reviewed carriers are the highest for both single and family plans. Like most of the pre-paid/budget carriers you have to pay the full device price when upgrading to a new model.

Cricket Wireless

cricketwireless-coverage-map

Cricket Wireless was also recently acquired by one of the major carriers, AT&T. They too have expanded their coverage and speed due to the merger and offer rates lower than metroPCS for average plan sizes. Cricket however does not offer an unlimited 4G data plan like metroPCS.

Boost Mobile

boostmobile-coverage-map

Finally, Boost Mobile which also acquired by on of the larger carriers, Sprint. Boost’s network is not yet synced up fully with Sprint and is much more limited in coverage. Due to these restrictions they offer some of the lowest and most competitive plans of all the options reviewed.

Who I Use

Currently I am with metroPCS having switched about a year or so from AT&T.  I am fortunate enough to live in an area with strong coverage and connection speeds due to the shared T-mobile network. Additionally, I tend to churn through large amounts of data so I chose the unlimited 4G plan at $55 (which includes all taxes and fees) which is very cost effective. In total we have three lines, a 1GB, 3GB and the unlimited plan to satisfy the data needs of each user.  As a previous AT&T customer I was paying $220/month for the same number of lines under their “grand-fathered” data plan which always downgraded in connection speed after going through a few GBs. Now I save $110 per month and do not run into any risk of overage or early termination fees! These savings allowed me to allot more money for investing and paying off other bills. However, the main downfall of the metroPCS service is overall network coverage, if I travel to a rural location my phone gets zero service while others around me who have Verizon or AT&T are still connected. So evaluate your current plan and see if you can save with a new cellphone plan!

Sources
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_United_States_wireless_communications_service_providers

Share your experience or let us know how we can improve this article.