Best Cheap Phone Plans: Affordable Alternatives to Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile

As inflation continues to rise across the US, you may be on the hunt for ways to save some cash. And while most people can’t afford to give up a cell phone, you may be able to get a better value by switching to a more budget-friendly carrier. 

There are plenty of ways to do just that in 2022, from prepaid carriers such as Mint Mobile to cable companies’ mobile endeavors like Comcast’s Xfinity Mobile and Charter’s Spectrum Mobile. All of them could be cheaper than an unlimited plan from AT&T, Verizon or T-Mobile. 

While there are dozens of options out there, I’ve listed a few for you to consider, as well as some other ways to save on your bill. This space can quickly get unwieldy so, as with some of CNET’s other wireless carrier coverage, I’ll focus on options for a single line and for those looking for four lines. 

Sarah Tew/CNET

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Read more: Best Prepaid Phone Plans

Know your area and which carrier runs on which networks

To get the best deal you need to make sure you have the coverage that you need. Cutting costs won’t help if it means the service won’t work. 

The complex geographic variables across the US make it hard for us to give a blanket recommendation of any one carrier. T-Mobile’s service in New York may be excellent, but if you’re in rural Iowa, Verizon could be more reliable.  While your mileage may vary, the good news is that these networks are growing and improving all the time, particularly as the three major players race to blanket the US with 5G.

It’s quite possible that a decade ago you left a network complaining about its sparse service, but now it’s been beefed up because of that race to acquire customers. If you know any friends or family in your area that already use the carrier you’re considering, ask about their experience. You could also go to a carrier’s store and see if they offer any free ways to try out the service before switching over, such as T-Mobile’s Test Drive.

Using Visible’s similar program you can try out its parent company Verizon’s network. Read more: Best Unlimited Plans From Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile When it comes to prepaid carriers you should also check to see which network they are running.

Mint Mobile, for instance, runs on T-Mobile’s service while Comcast’s Xfinity Mobile and Charter’s Spectrum Mobile use Verizon. In these cases downloading either of the two apps above could be a quick and easy way to try out T-Mobile or Verizon’s coverage before you switch.  We have a list of a few of the major alternative providers and which networks they run on broken down here.

Now, onto the picks. 

Single lines with unlimited data