When working out the monthly budget for your family, it's useful to get a general sense of how much your cellphones are going to cost. This article relates only to monthly plans and not to any monthly installments or other arrangements for financing a new cellphone. The information discussed below is thought to be accurate as of March 2018; contact your preferred carrier for the latest offerings.
Prepaid Cellphone Rates
The pay-as-you-go phone options you can get from Walmart are generally among the most affordable, particularly for people who either don't want or don't qualify for traditional postpaid cellphone plans. This also means you don't need to sign a contract to get service too.
Prepaid plan options typically come in three different forms: pay-per-use, pay-per-day, or pay-per-month.
- Pay-per-use will always be the most expensive on a per unit basis, but it's perfect for emergency lines and other situations with very limited usage. For example, AT&T charges 25 cents per minute for nationwide calls.
- Daily bundles only incur a charge on the days you use your phone. Using AT&T as the example again, the fee is $2 per day for unlimited nationwide talk and text. With T-Mobile, you can get a 24-hour data pass for $5. That gives you 500 MB of 4G LTE data to use in one day.
- The best value in prepaid is with 30-day monthly plans. The $35 plan from Straight Talk, for instance, provides unlimited nationwide talk and text, plus 2 GB of high-speed data. If your needs are more modest than that, you can put together a starter plan with U.S. Mobile for about $10 per month, including 40 minutes, 40 texts, and 100 MB of data.
Basic Talk and Text Plans
Not everyone is interested in paying for wireless data on their phones. This is true whether you only have a feature phone or if you prefer to rely on Wi-Fi for internet connectivity on your smartphone. Most wireless carriers offer some variation of a monthly unlimited talk and text plan.
- In the case of Cricket Wireless, the rate for unlimited talk and text nationwide is about $25 per month.
- Even with a less conventional provider like Google's Project Fi, the monthly charge for unlimited calling and text messages is about $20, plus taxes and fees.
You should expect to pay about the same if you want an unlimited prepaid plan with no data included at all.
Smartphone Plans With Data
Most smartphone users likely fall within this range of monthly plans. They want to have unlimited calling and text messaging as well as a good amount of high-speed wireless data. Many major nationwide providers offer discounted rates for additional lines on the same account. Plans with these types of features typically range from about $35 to $75.
- With T-Mobile, you can get unlimited 4G LTE data, plus domestic calling and texting, and unlimited texting and data in over 140 countries around the world with the T-Mobile ONE plan. While this is priced at $70 for a single line, there are occasional promotions wherein you can get four lines for a total of $135, resulting in a monthly cost of $35, per line.
- The Verizon Go Unlimited plan is structured in a very similar manner. Like T-Mobile's plan, the Verizon plan also includes unlimited talk, text and 4G LTE data, plus roaming in Canada and Mexico. Whereas a single line costs $75 per month, four lines cost a total of $160 (or $40 per line).
- Prepaid 30-day plans from NET10 Wireless fall into a similar range. They all include unlimited talk and text. At the lower end of the range, you can expect to pay about $35 for 2 GB of high-speed data, going all the way up to about $60 per month for 10 GB of high-speed data. When your high-speed allotment runs out, your network connection falls to slower 2G speeds.
Identify Your Monthly Phone Needs
Remember these monthly prices include only the plans themselves. If you finance a $700 phone over the course of 24 months, you can expect to pay a monthly installment of about $30. Given this, your $50 plan will suddenly cost you $80 per month. Take the time to perform a comprehensive cellphone plan comparison. The cheapest plan might not be the best plan if you always incur overages or have poor coverage in your area.