The 6 Best Cellphone Plans of 2021: How To Save on Your Cell Bill

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Choosing the best cellphone plan can be a confusing undertaking. Every carrier seems to have the best deal ever — until you read the fine print. Since the best plan for you depends on how you use it, GOBankingRates researched the best unlimited data plans, best cellphone plans for one person, best prepaid cellphone plans and more. Take a look at the following six options so you can save on the best plan for you.

1. Best High-End Plan: AT&T

This is the gold standard of cellphone plans and one of the best unlimited cellphone plans in terms of features. You get unlimited talk, text and data throughout the U.S., Canada and Mexico; high-definition streaming at 1080p quality; over 35 channels of live TV plus on-demand; and your choice of HBO, Cinemax, Showtime, Starz, VRV, Amazon Music Unlimited or Pandora Premium.

To get the prices shown, you need to sign up for autopay and paperless billing. If you want the best of everything and don’t want to have to worry about how much data you’re using, this is the plan for you.

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2. Best For Families With Different Needs: Verizon

If you need high-quality streaming and other high-end features, but your kids don’t, this may be the best cellphone family plan for you. Each line can have a different level of service, but everybody gets unlimited talk, text and data. You can get DVD-quality streaming; unlimited mobile hotspot at 600 kbps; talk, text and data in the U.S., Mexico and Canada; and free Apple Music for six months. Upgrade to streaming to 4K UHD quality, Apple Music and up to 600 GB of Verizon Cloud.

3. Best for Switchers: T-Mobile

Switching cellphone carriers can be a pain, which is why some carriers will give you a really good deal if you do. But they’re counting on the likelihood that you won’t want to switch again soon, so the good deal is often limited in duration. T-Mobile will give you Unlimited Basic for $140 for four lines. That means unlimited talk, text and data in the U.S., DVD-quality streaming, Hulu streaming and more.

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This is one of the cheapest unlimited data plans on this list — for the period that it’s available. Best of all, Sprint and T-Mobile merged, creating the largest mobile network in the country, reducing issues with limited connectivity.

4. Best Family Plan: Cricket Wireless

Cricket started as a simple phone and text service company for senior citizens and others. But it’s evolved into providing unlimited 4G and 5G with options for multiple lines and personal hotspots. The Cricket Wireless Unlimited plan gives you unlimited data, talk, texts and photo messaging between the U.S., Canada and Mexico. Video streaming is available in SD 480p quality. Texting is free to 37 countries. If you have a big family, Cricket’s plan may be the cheapest of the best cellphone plans around.

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5. Best International Plan for Travelers: Google Fi

Google Fi works differently. It uses service from the most convenient provider, depending on where you may be. This means your service could be from AT&T one minute, T-Mobile the next or whatever country’s carrier is strongest. For $50 per month, you get unlimited data in the U.S., Canada, Mexico and 200 other countries and unlimited calls to 50 nations without fears of roaming charges. Best of all, Google Fi’s plans are month to month. You can switch between Unlimited Plus and Unlimited for North America, which includes Mexico, Canada and the U.S., for $30 per month.

6. Best Promos: Boost Mobile

Boost Mobile offers some of the best prepaid plans that look like postpaid plans, without the contract. You get unlimited streaming, mobile hotspot and 99 percent coverage on the country’s largest network. Boost’s basic rates are not bad, but the limited-time promos could really lower your overall bill. You can get three lines for $30 after your first $100 of payments. If you bring your own phone, take $10 off the monthly fee for six months. That drops the monthly down to $40 for one and $20 for additional cellphones for six months, savings you at least $60.

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How To Choose From the Best Cellphone Plans

The right plan depends on three things: how you use your phone, how many lines you want and whether you want prepaid or postpaid. If you use a lot of data, choose a plan with unlimited data and watch out for data deprioritization — the point at which the carrier can slow down your data if the network is busy.

If you’re mostly looking for talk and text, a low-data option or pay-as-you-go data plan may be best. Be sure to compare prices for the number of lines you will use and factor in the number of new phones you want, if any. Finally, decide if you want a contract, which usually includes a penalty for terminating early, or if you want to pay as you go. If you pay as you go — prepaid — you’ll probably have to pay for any new phones upfront.

What About the Network?

There’s a lot of debate about the best cellphone network. There are three major networks: AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile. All the other carriers are either owned by or lease capacity from these networks. So if you’re considering moving to Cricket because you don’t like AT&Ts coverage, then you might want to think twice. They’re on the same network. Likewise, T-Mobile owns Boost Mobile.

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Final Take

Choosing an unlimited plan may not be the cheapest plan the carrier offers, but it’s the most value-packed. Besides, they’re still pretty affordable and you don’t have to worry about billing overages. As with all plans, you want the best network for you. So ask your friends, neighbors and co-workers which network they use and whether they have trouble with dropped calls. Then you can narrow your search by network to find the best cellphone plans for your specific needs.

Cell Phone Plan FAQ

Here are the answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about cell phone plans/.
  • Are the best cellphone plans really unlimited?
    • Carriers may throttle your speed after a certain amount of data usage, but you should still be able to surf the web and make unlimited phone calls and texts.
  • What are the best cellphone plans right now?
    • If you're in search of a single line, AT&T and Verizon both have solid unlimited plans. If you travel internationally often, Google Fi may be a good match. Families should look at Cricket Mobile for the cheapest prices for multiple lines. And if you have issues with your calls dropping off or low connectivity, T-Mobile has the largest and fastest 5G network.

Cynthia Bowman contributed to the reporting for this article.