List of Cheap Basic Cell Phone Plans on Every Network – From $1.25 a Month

phones7Updated. Cellular phone bills remain an area where many people can trim their budgets. If you haven’t shopped around lately, there are many new options available. All the major networks sell wholesale minutes to MVNOs (Mobile Network Virtual Operators), which they in turn sell at a significant discount to individuals. I would also observe that smartphone improvements are slowing, such that using your current phone for another year can also save you hundreds per year.

This post is restricted to talk & text only plans for both light and unlimited usage – no data (although some plans include some anyway). After looking at over 100 MVNOs and multiple comparison engines, and these are the cheapest I could find for each of the major carriers – Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, or T-Mobile. I organized in this way so that you can simply Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) and avoid the hassle of selling your used phone. You can now either go minimalist starting at $15 for an entire year ($1.25 a month), or you can fully replace your landline with an unlimited talk and text plan starting at $15 a month.

mvno_tT-Mobile Network

  • Light Usage – LycaMobile. Their barebones prepaid plan requires a minimum top-up of $10. You must have some sort of activity every 90 days to keep your service (make a phone call, send a text). The rate is a flat 5 cents a minute for talk, and 4 cents per text. If you only used 100 minutes a year, that would be $15 a year for the first year and then $5 a year afterward ($10 minimum recharge).
  • Unlimited Talk & Text – Republic Wireless. You can now buy a SIM and bring over your own device on their eligible list (no iPhones) and get unlimited talk and text for $15 a month. They have a somewhat unique service, see my Republic Wireless review for details. Also worthy of mention is Mint, which goes as low as $21 a month for unlimited talk, text, and 2 GB of data per month. However, you’ll have to pay for an entire year upfront to get that price.

mvno_s
Sprint Network

  • Light Usage – RingPlus. Their plans change constantly, but as of this writing you can get 1,000 minutes, 1000 texts, and 1,500 MB of data per month with a $25 initial top-up and a $0 monthly fee. In other words, your total cost could be $25 a year. I still don’t understand their business model, so be ready to port out your number in case the fun stops. See my Ringplus review for details.
  • Unlimited Talk & Text – Tello. Unlimited talk, text, and no data for $18 a month. I will mention that Republic Wireless has $15 a month plan for unlimited talk and text on the Sprint Network, but you can’t bring any used Sprint device over – you must buy a special RW-modified phone in order to use the Sprint Network (see above for their T-Mobile BYOD option).

mvno_aAT&T Network

  • Light Usage – Pix Wireless. Their GSM Blue service is on AT&T, and runs as low at $75 a year which includes 1,875 minutes, 3,750 text, and 938 MB of LTE data for 365 days. Overages are 4¢/Minute, 2¢/Text, and 8¢/ MB 4G LTE. Alternatively, H20 Wireless has a minimum top-up of $10 every 90 days, for a total minimum annual cost of $40 per year. At the flat rate of 5¢/Minute, 5¢/Text, that $40 would buy you 400 minutes and 400 texts over those 360 days.
  • Unlimited Talk & Text – Airvoice. Unlimited talk, text, and 100 MB of data for $20 a month (technically 30 days).

mvno_vVerizon Network

  • Light Usage – Selectel. $75 a year for a bucket of 2000 minutes and 2000 texts for the entire year (no data included, 3G phones only). The same plan costs $100 a year for 4G phones.
  • Unlimited Talk & Text – Boom Mobile. Unlimited talk, text, and 250 MB data for $20 a month. (Both 3G and 4G phones will work, but there is a separate plan for each.)

Let me know in the comments if you find a better deal.

Comments

  1. Page Plus Cellular is an MVNO using the Verizon network that I’ve been using for the past four years. With light usage, I’ve been paying $30 per year ($10 pay-as-you-go plans that are good for 120 days). It’s time to upgrade my phone, however, and I’m considering leaving them for Republic Wireless.

    • Yes, Page Plus is a great option for light usage. I also did this $30 per year plan. But then I switched to RingPlus and I love it. It is a free service (after initial $15 deposit). I get 1500 minutes, 1500 texts and 1500MB, which is more than I would ever use. Some might say that 1500MB is not enough, but unless you constantly stream video, you will be just fine doing emails, banking, facebook, twitter and using other apps.

    • Page Plus has been a reliable Verizon MVNO, they would have been on this list in the past. However, their Pay As You Go plan (the ones you describe) now only work on older 3G phones. Page Plus sells 2,000 minutes good for 1 year for $80, but again only for 3G phones. Selectel wins out here because their 2,000 minute 3G plan for 1 year costs $75 and they actually have a 4G option for $100 per year.

  2. SteveK_in_SanAntonio says:

    Jonathan — You’ve done us a public service with this report. I keep a flip phone in the car in case it breaks down or I need to call home. Typical use the past ten years has been about 20 minutes per year. (The car’s never broken down.) Some of these plans are perfect for me. Many thanks. — Steve

  3. Puretalk is an AT&T MVNO. Amongst their plans: Low usage –> $10/mo. for 300 minutes (texts count as 1/3 of a minute). Higher usage –> $29/mo. for unlimited talk and text and 1GB data. These are also out-the-door prices with all the “junk fees” (taxes, etc.) included.

  4. I couldn’t find the ‘barebones’ prepaid plan on LycaMobile. The least expensive plan available to new subscribers is $19/month for unlimited talk & text and 100MB data.

    • You don’t need to choose any plan with Lycamobile, it just reverts back to their Pay As You Go structure. You simply load up some funds onto your SIM and make calls as needed and they will charge you on a per minute and per text basis. You balance should never expire as long as you have some sort of activity every 90 days.

  5. I can’t rave enough about project FI – https://fi.google.com

    My bill does not go over $40 and I have all the data I need. It is also great for international travel and you get charged the same no matter where you go!

  6. does anyone know about the T-mobile pay as you go plan that says its $3.00 a month for 300 minutes and texts. Is it legit?

    • You only get 30 (thirty) total minutes or texts for $3 a month, and if you use less you still get charged $3 a month. That’s 10 cents per minute or text, which is at least double what Lycamobile will charge you (see post).

      • I realized I made a mistake about the minutes after I sent the comment but I was just wondering if there were any extras they added. The price seemed to good to be true. I just want an emergency phone to take to the gym. I don’t want to have to make sure I use it every so often which I believe you said is required for the lycamobile.

  7. BreakingBad says:

    Can anyone confirm whether H2O wireless discontinued theire $10 (90 days) pay as you go plan. I’ve been using it but when I tried to top up today the pull down menu no longer has it listed as an option.

  8. Fiscal responsibility over brand loyalty and flash – a good lesson for grown up Millennials. I am thinking of doing a post of my own on this very subject due to the fact that so much of our time and money is sucked into media content that we don’t necessarily need. Also, I appreciate the fact that you went with major carrier options to show that quality on a budget is still a viable option. Thanks for posting this.

  9. thank you for providing the Verizon options.

  10. Thanks Jonathan, this is a good article giving the low-cost options for cell phone plans.
    There is also another option to consider: Freedompop

    Recently I saw they have a promotion for a GSM sim card for $0.99 with free shipping.
    They offer a free phone plan with 200 minutes, 500 texts and 200 MB data every month.

    Here is the link:
    http://www.freedompop.com/offer/sim-voice-f16

    Best regards,
    Sam

  11. I’m impressed to find this collection of useful information. My only concerns are two. I want to continue using Verizon’s network, but I’m not impressed with their selection of basic phones. I might buy the Kyocera DuraXV. However, I visit a lake where only the newest Verizon phones can connect to their towers in many parts of the lake. Also, Verizon is rapidly replacing 3G bandwidth with 4G and as a result, my 3G speeds have dropped to almost zero. I want a basic phone, but I must be able to do basic web searches to navigate. Most basic phones have basic web browsing capability. Unfortunately, Verizon’s selection of basic phones leaves me wanting to look elsewhere. We need basic phones that can connect to the latest antenna technology.

  12. Thanks for this.

    I found out about TPO mobile 2GB plan that includes unlimited talk, text for $25 but currently $12.50 as they are offering 50% off on 1st month.

  13. My husband has a plan with net10 right now. 200 minutes every 30 days for $18.00. Started out at 300 minutes and then they took 100 minutes away. I am looking for another plan that is around $20.00 per month for talk only. no text or internet. Any suggestions? We live in rural WV and service is sketchy sometimes.

  14. We just moved two T-Mobile phones to the Boom Mobile Pink plan. It was easy and fast. The customer support is top notch. (They are clever, naming their plans after the major network marketing colors: Boom Red, Pink, Yellow or Blue.) Mobile. We are also planning on switching our land line to one of their Boom Boxes. We figure we’ll be saving a little over $86 per month by moving everything to Boom. Living on a fixed income is no fun, but we are glad we found Boom Mobile.

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