Lesser-Known Cheap Talk & Text Only Cell Phone Plans on Every Network – From $1 a Month

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phones7Updated October 2018. Cell phone bills are getting cheaper than ever. Have you checked prices recently? All of the major networks sell wholesale minutes to MVNOs (Mobile Network Virtual Operators), which they in turn sell at a significant discount to individuals. If you choose to Bring Your Own Device (BYOD), every MVNO will have a form where you can check compatibility via identification number (IMEI or MEID).

This post includes light and unlimited talk & text only plans – no data (although some plans include some anyway). Here are the cheapest plans with unlimited talk & text and 2+ GB LTE data. A minimalist plan is good for people who only want to make short calls, while unlimited talk and text plans allow you drop that landline completely for under $18 a month. After looking through what must have been over 100 MVNOs, here are the cheapest options by network below (Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint).

T-Mobile NetworkT-Mobile Network Color: Hot Pink


  • Light Barebones Usage. Lycamobile has a barebones Pay As You Go plan where you just buy a SIM and there is a minimum top-up of $10. The rate is a flat 5 cents a minute for talk, and 12 cents per text. You must have some sort of activity every 90 days to maintain your service (make a phone call, send a text). If you only used 200 minutes a year, that would be under $1 per month ($10 a year).
  • Unlimited Talk & Text. Mint Mobile has a $15 a month plan with unlimited talk, text, and 2 GB of LTE data. You even get slower 2G data speeds if you exceed your LTE allotment. Their intro offer is 3 months at $15 per month. After that, you’ll have to buy 12 months of airtime upfront to get the $15 per month price. They offer a 7-Day Money Back Guarantee (starts upon SIM activation) so you can test them out before making the multi-month commitment. If you don’t want that 2 GB of data, you can go with Republic Wireless and get unlimited talk and text with zero data for $15 a month with no bulk requirement.

I recently switched to Mint Mobile myself – see my Mint Mobile SIM Activation and Number Port Transfer Review for tips based on my experiences.

Sprint NetworkSprint Network Color: Yellow

  • Light Barebones Usage. Tello Mobile has a Pay As You Go plan where there is a minimum top-up of $10. The rate is a flat 3 cents a minute for talk, and 1 cent per text. You must have some sort of activity every 90 days to maintain your service (make a phone call, send a text). If you used 400 minutes a year, that would be $1 per month ($12 a year).
  • Unlimited Talk & Text. Tello Mobile also has an unlimited talk, text, and no data for $11 a month. You need to choose a custom plan to find this option. You can get the same plan with 1 GB of data for $14 per month. I will also 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 specially-modified phone.

Sprint “Secret” Offer: If you switch in from AT&T, Verizon, or T-Mobile, Sprint itself is offering one year of unlimited talk, text, and unlimited data for $0/month + some taxes for a year via this unadvertised Sprint Free Year offer. (You can’t be an existing Sprint customer.) You’ll need to bring over own phone, port-in a phone number, and undergo a credit check.

AT&T NetworkAT&T Network Color: Blue

  • Light Barebones Usage. H2O Wireless has a Pay As You Go plan where you can buy a $10 card that lasts 90 days. The rate is a flat 5 cents a minute for talk, and 5 cents per text. You must buy another card after it expires in 90 days. This means you could use 800 minutes a year for $3.33 per month ($40 per year).
  • Unlimited Talk & Text. Red Pocket Mobile via eBay offers unlimited talk, text, and 1 GB data for $17.08 a month when you pay for 12 months upfront ($205 for one year) with a free SIM included in the kit. You can choose the AT&T network when you sign up.

Verizon NetworkVerizon Network Color: Red

  • Light Barebones Usage. PagePlus Cellular has a Pay As You Go plan where you can buy a $10 card that lasts 120 days. The rate is a flat 6 cents a minute for talk, and 5 cents per text. You must buy another card after it expires in 120 days. This means you could use 500 minutes a year for $2.50 per month ($30 per year). PagePlus now accepts 4G smartphones.
  • Unlimited Talk & Text. Red Pocket Mobile via eBay offers unlimited talk, text, and 1 GB data for $17.08 a month when you pay for 12 months upfront ($205 for one year) with a free SIM included in the kit. You can choose the Verizon network when you sign up.

Here are the cheapest plans with unlimited talk & text and 2+ GB LTE data.



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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.

      • What plan is that on Ring plus?

        • RingPlus_TERRIBLE says:

          RingPlus are complete losers – they actually bankrupted and that’s actually a favor to the clients – as I was one of them – PHONE SUPPORT FORGET IT, THEY LEFT MY WIFE without service Multiple times without reason – that was the worst customer care ever.
          Luckily for all of us consumers they are gone for good!

          • Tom Martin says:

            Real Mobile now seems like the cheapest solution for Sprint users, but I haven’t pressed the “buy” button yet. $20 gets you a year of service and 400 minutes. You can buy as little as $5 at a time.

          • Tom Martin says:

            FreedomPop gives you 200 minutes a month free on Sprint devices. One catch is that the free service won’t deliver the performance of the paid ones but I assume it must work fine in urban/suburban areas.

          • Tom Martin says:

            And if you feel guilty about paying nothing at all, Tello is available. It’s 3¢/min voice, 1¢/min SMS, 2¢/MB data. A $5 minimum refill is required that doesn’t expire if some phone use occurs within 6 months. And there’s no charge for BYOD (as with FreedomPop).

    • 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.

    • I agree with Mike — I have been quite satisfied with PureTalk. It’s the best basic deal I’ve found so far. I currently have four PureTalk phones with basic voice & text service — one for each family member — for a total of $25 a month (including the basic Samsung “old-school” flip phones). That’s just over $6 per phone and service plan per month. And they are easy to reach on-line or by phone (and have been very helpful). I haven’t seen a better deal out there.

  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.

      • Sounds GREAT ! Problem is LycaMobile never heard of this. Read your statement to them, they had no idea what was talking about. Should’nt someone at their 1-866 # have at least heard about “reverts back”, maybe you could convince them, I couldn’t. Be nice to get.

        • Here’s a link where they talk about PAYG vs. Monthly:

          http://www.lycamobile.us/en/pay-as-you-go-v-pay-monthly

          There are really two options when you have a cell phone, either pay as you go or pay monthly. There are advantages to both, depending on your situation.

          The simplest option is to join a pay as you go scheme. There’s no contract to sign up to, and you simply pay for the calls and texts that you make, paying in advance and topping up your credit when you need to. A phone is not included in pay as you go deals, so you will need to use one you already have, or source one from elsewhere. It’s a great option if you’re going to be travelling through a lot of different countries as there is no minimum time restriction on how long you have the phone, and it’s also a great option if you don’t see yourself making a lot of calls.

        • Looks under “International Recharge” for the details. Lyca is definitely pushing their monthly plans now, but they do still offer “Pay As You Go” (or “Without Plan”).

          Rate of 1¢ per minute only applies with purchase of a Plan. Without Plan, rate is 5¢ per minute for all calls made from or received in the US. Surcharge applied for calls made from the US to international destinations – to determine total rate (5¢/min rate + country rate/min surcharge) per destination, use International Rate Finder at http://www.lycamobile.us/en/internationalrates. US includes 50 states and Puerto Rico. Roaming surcharges apply for usage from outside the US. Offer of unlimited international calls to Lycamobile numbers only valid with purchase of a Plan and when both numbers are not roaming. For non-commercial, personal use only. SIM and assigned number expire after 90 days of non-use. Plans, rates & services are subject to change without notice & are not available in all locations or for all phones.

  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

    • David C Jackson says:

      It’s VOIP for the voice mins and the app rarely seems to function well enough to complete a call (S6 Active), almost as if it’s intentional. My service on AT&T network, Google Voice / Hangouts works really well with this. Would not consider this for “emergency” phone service, it’s not 100% reliable. Can be difficult to make a call (even with Hangouts) when you need to.

  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.

  15. Anyone try to sign up with Selectel recently? I can’t find the $75/year plan on their site and they don’t respond to their chat.

  16. Tracfone is another good MVNO to look at. It accesses several major networks, including Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile. If you have a smartphone or you bring your own phone (BYOP) the minutes on the pay as you go and monthly plans triple in every bucket: the minutes, text messages, and data buckets. For instance, I purchased the 400-minute one year card and received 1200 minutes, 1200 text messages, and 1200 MB of data to use for the next year. There are also smartphone and BYOP only plans that don’t triple. You can often find discounts on Tracfone plans through eBay.

  17. Maggie Zeng says:

    how come no one mentions US Mobile? I have been using it for one year both in the suburb and in city of chicago with great speed. 24/7 customer service via chat.
    Most month, I spend $11 to get minimum talk, text and 100mb of data.

    • Tony Gore says:

      Maggie, US Mobile is who I’m looking at for my unlocked iPhone5S. I like their “mix and match” plan and you can customize it differently for each line account. For instance, if one family member does nothing but texting, you can select unlimited texting for that account line only and then select the level of each (talk, text, data) for each other family member. It’s great to have the option to configure each account line differently according to how that family member uses their phone. We are all different and it’s about time someone realized it instead of trying to dump us all into a “one size fits all” bucket.

  18. I followed your Links and still could not find the bargainsPlans you are talking about. Wanted to try the “Light Usage – Selectel. $75 a year for a bucket of 2000 minutes and 2000 texts for the entire year” but could not find it anywhere on their website?

    • Here is the link. I would recommend calling them directly to get the details as their website is not very good.

      http://www.selectelwireless.com/product/yearly-plan/

    • Page Plus Cellular also has an $80 prepaid card with 2,000 minutes that expire in 365 days. However, note that they state “This is a 3G-only plan. You cannot activate a 4G device on this plan.” If you have an older flip phone, this is perfect.

      https://www.pagepluscellular.com/plans/

      • For Pageplus, it doesn’t expire in 365 days. You just have to add more money within 365 days to keep whatever balance that has been unused. It rolls-over.

        • This is most definitely not my experience with Page Plus, in CA. When I run out of minutes, either talk or text, and have to add onto a plan, I lose whatever minutes are left over and must start a new “month” talk, text or data. I’m not a heavy user at all but I do run out. They charge for 611 customer and checking balance.

          • Unless they changed their policy, that should never be the case. Are you on a monthly plan and supplementing with the cash cards? That doesn’t apply to what I’m stating. In that case your cash expires in 120 days. “*When used on the Standard pay-as-you-go plan. 120 day expiration when used as a cash balance on a monthly plan.” See: https://www.pagepluscellular.com/plans/

            My point above is with regards to phones using only prepaid cash cards (no monthly plan), i.e. $10, $25, $50, $80 refill cards. With the 10,25,50 cards, you need to add another cash card within 120 days or you lose your entire balance. With the 80 card, you need to add within 365 days. I kept an excel spreadsheet for years, showing when I added new money (the old money never disappeared, it always rolled-over permanently as long as I kept adding money before the last cash card’s expiration date).

  19. oldschool phone user says:

    Hi! I am a non-smart phone user and want to stay that way. I have had the same LG Cosmos phone for years and want to keep it; it’s very durable and would like to keep using it. For years I’ve paid $35/month to Verizon for texting and calling, but no data (my phone can’t do data or internet, it only takes and receives pictures, and I like it that way), but I feel like there MUST be a better plan out there for me that is cheaper. I have higher usage, of course, than the person in this forum who keeps his phone as a backup in his car– this is my everyday phone!- so I need a reliable plan. Not sure of usage, exactly, but I bet I send at least 500 texts per month and use 500 minutes per month. Any suggestions?

    PS I have looked at Ting already. My phone is not compatible so I would need to purchase a new basic phone. That seems like the best option I’ve found so far. What else do you recommend?

    • Red Pocket Mobile. It’s prepaid and you can buy the plan through ebay. Works with the four major carriers. You can bring your own device.

      1000/minutes 1000/texts 1 GB/Data per month
      $199 paid upfront for one year (=$16.59 per month)
      Type this number into the ebay search box to find it: 131593551826

      or

      500/minutes 500/texts 100 MB/Data per month
      $99 paid upfront for one year (=$8.25 per month)
      Type this number into the ebay search box to find it: 132043269270

      • Linda M Buchanan says:

        After investigating several options, I decided to buy a new tracfone through QVC. It came with a one year service plan. That meant the phone was basically free, after considering what a one year service plans costs. Tracfone customer service can be spotty. But I’ve been with them several years now and, when you consider costs, I still think it is worthwhile. One word of advice, be sure to buy a phone with more memory than you think you will need. I have found that 8 GB is not enough for me. I kept running up against storage problems. This time I bought a Galaxy Sky with 16 GB. So far I don’t have storage problems.

  20. After I originally left a comment I appear to have
    clicked the -Notify me when new comments are added- checkbox and now evdry time a comment is
    added I recieve four emails with the exact same comment. There has to be a means
    you are able to remove me from that service? Thanks!

  21. any flip/basic phones I could purchase from a retail location and activate under pageplus or slecttel. Ideally, I’m looking for a Verizon pay as you go, but ATT carriers work for me too. It seems like the only way to purchase a device under pay as you go through a retail is by going with Tracfone ?

    Thanks

  22. I would check out puretalkusa, they run off ATT and have several options and if your a senior they have even a 5 buck a month plan and I think senior starts at 55yrs cant remember for sure, Got hubby on that plan as he likes a flip phone, I been meaning to go that route too they have both 3G and 4 G lite I believe.

  23. Baking Bread says:

    RingPlus is dead. Where can I get a Lycamobile sim for cash?

  24. My trak phone recharges now, but offers no phone or cell service. Lacking a working device and seeing how much $$ every plan wants, I think I’ll start carrying $1s and asking others to make my calls for me. Probably don’t use it more than 6 calls a month, most of those about a minute. And my last two trak phones just have not lasted. Die without warning. and “Dead Trak Phones aren’t much fun….When you’ve got one yer almost done….De–ad trak phones aren’t much fun.” (—Thanks Weird Al)

  25. I am currently with almost no service. By almost I mean that I went and got a pay as you go with T-mobile for $3 a month. I did not read too well into detail but noticed that i am getting 30 min/text no data for 30 days. I thought it was a good deal but not enough text that i need. I prefer the T-mobile network as i get good coverage. I dont use much about 300 texts a month a rarely use phone unless making needed calls for making appts and ordering out. I use Wi-fi most of the time. I am stuck at looking for better deals. I have looked into Ting, Tello, LycaMobile US, and Freedompop.
    If anyone can help me out in choosing one that will be great.

  26. Pix Wireless is only CDMA as of this post date.

  27. Hey My Money Blog team,
    Would you bee interested in reviewing https://BestCellular.com (a Quad-Carrier American MVNO that uses Every Tower from Every Major Carrier in America)?

  28. Koji Kabuto says:

    I started to use Mint about 8 months ago. It has been pretty good. It is nice not to have to worry about minutes since is an unlimited plan and I use it as my work phone. $16.58 a month at of this moment but you have to pay all at front. They also have an offer were you can get 3 months for $11.67 a month. That’s with 2GB of data.

  29. Tina Wilis says:

    Hello. I’m a little confused. Where would we but the devices, then would we get SIM cards from these various plans, without having to buy a new phone?

  30. Jonathan,
    This site is great! I only have one question. Since this was written 26 October 2016, what changes should I be aware of now, 31 December 2017?
    I am considering using a Boom Mobile plan for my brother’s first mobile phone. I’ve used Verizon for years and am quite happy with them.

  31. Steve in KC says:

    Ting is another good option for low-usage customers; my mom uses Ting (Sprint and ATT mono). I was on Harbor (T-Mo mvno) for about 3 years – was $30 for 2gb data, unlimited Talk n Text. Recently migrated to another T-Mo mvno, Teltik…$20/month for 2gb and unlimited Talk n Text. Satisfied.

    • Steve, if you like T-Mobile, try MintSim. If you prepay 1 year, you get unlimited talk/text/data (where 1st 2GB is high speed LTE).

      MintSim uses T-mobile network.

  32. US Mobile is the best for using your cell phone for talking only, I joined with US Mobile about a year ago and will not join AARP again because they say Consumer Cellular is the best and pay 15.00 for 250 minutes and I pay 10.26 for 1,000 minutes.

    • whmitty says:

      If US Mobile has the same nationwide access as AT&T then I may switch from Consumer Cellular as well. I have been using Consumer Cellular strictly for voice communications (~600min/month) and pay $19/month (AARP member) for a grand total of $23.90/month which includes unlimited talk, 300 texts and 30MB of data. I occasionally text and never use data. Still cheap compared to the $67/month I paid AT&T for 1500 minutes/month albeit with rollover minutes. I’ll be looking into US Mobile.

  33. I like to spend a lot of time in areas that are not so populated. I have been having issues with my trac phone service, no reception in areas where other people do. I’m guessing it’s my carrier and so I’m thinking of changing but would like some input on who has the best coverage for the least amount of money.
    Thanks 🙂

  34. I have https://myrealmobile.com/ for my mom. $5 CDMA addon for a year of year at $0.05 per minute.
    kind of use it when you’re out of the house.

    The initial activation and add on is a bit more($20???), I forgot what it was. sprint service for the CDMA

  35. Looks like Lycamobile is now 12 cents/sms.

    https://www.lycamobile.us/en/rates/

  36. Extremely helpful! After reading your article I was able to find a cheap plan and if I hadn’t read your article I would not have known anything about how to find a cheap plan and would have ended up with an expensive plan from one of the big companies.

    Thank you so much for an extremely helpful and extremely wonderful article!

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