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The best cell phone plans in 2023: top picks for every budget

Whether you’re buying a new smartphone or just considering changing your carrier to get a lower bill, there are many, many cell phone plans to choose from. Just like most other things in life, there’s no single perfect plan that will suit every need, but we’ve rounded up the best cell phone plans you can consider, so there’s something for everyone here.

Why should you trust us? We test hundreds of smartphones at Digital Trends, so good service is essential. We pour through every detail of what each carrier offers and review coverage and service standards before making recommendations to ensure you find the right plan for you.

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At a glance

Service Category
T-Mobile Magenta Max Best unlimited data plan
Verizon Unlimited 5G Get More Best rural service
AT&T Value Plus Best for single-line users
Google Fi Unlimited Plus Best for Google users
Mint Mobile Unlimited Best value plan
Metro by T-Mobile Best affordable T-Mobile plan
Tello Best custom plans
Consumer Cellular Unlimited Talk & Text Best plan for seniors
US Mobile Pooled Plan Best family plan

T-Mobile Magenta Max

Best unlimited data plan

T-Mobile store.

Why you should buy this: It’s the best unlimited plan you can buy with international service and no data limits. Plus, your third line on any plan is free, making it perfect for small families.

Who it’s for: Anyone who wants an unlimited plan, lives in an urban area, or travels internationally a lot.

How much it will cost:

 People  Line cost  Data  Total
1  $85  Unlimited  $85
2  $85 + $55  Unlimited  $140
3 $85 + $55 + $0  Unlimited $140
4 $85 + $55 + $0 +$30  Unlimited  $170
5 $85 + $55 + $0 +$30 + $30  Unlimited  $200

These prices reflect the autopay pricing discount of $5 per line and include taxes and fees.

Read more about T-Mobile’s plans here

Why we picked T-Mobile Magenta MAX:

T-Mobile offers the best unlimited plan of all the carriers. If you’re a real data hog who gobbles up gigabytes of content on a monthly basis, T-Mobile’s Magenta Max unlimited plan is the best choice for you and your family. You’ll never have to pay for extra data or argue over who used up the last gigabyte — T-Mobile’s Magenta Max unlimited plan imposes no limits on data usage, so you should get all the high-speed data your heart desires.

Phone calls and texts are also unlimited, so you don’t have to worry about running up a huge bill after catching up with an old friend. Wi-Fi calling is also included, and you get a standard Netflix subscription to enjoy your favorite shows on up to two devices at a time. Not a fan of Netflix? You also get Apple TV+ and Paramount+ for one year with 4K UHD video quality whenever the streaming content offers it.

Travelers will be glad to know you get free in-flight Wi-Fi on select flights, and you only have to pay $0.25 per minute for calling in more than 200 countries. Texting and data remain unlimited in these destinations, so you can chat and stream as much as you want, no matter where you are. However, the speed will be limited to 256Kbps, except when you’re in Mexico and Canada, where you’ll still get 5G speeds. That said, the downside is that T-Mobile isn’t the best option for you if you live in rural areas.

Verizon Unlimited 5G Get More

Best rural service

verizon-store logo.

Why you should buy this: Verizon offers the best coverage in rural areas across the U.S., and its unlimited plan has everything you could ask for.

Who it’s for: Anyone who lives in rural America where Sprint and T-Mobile just don’t work.

How much it will cost:

People Line cost Data
1 $90 50 GB 5G/4G

Unlimited for lower speeds

2 $80 x 2 50 GB 5G/4G

Unlimited for lower speeds

3 $65 x 3 50 GB 5G/4G

Unlimited for lower speeds

4 $55 x 4 50 GB 5G/4G

Unlimited for lower speeds

5 $50 x 5 50 GB 5G/4G

Unlimited for lower speeds


Prices include $10-per-month savings per line when you sign up for paper-free billing and autopay.

Read more about Verizon’s plans here

Why we picked Verizon 5G Get More:

Verizon offers the best service in rural areas across the country. If you live in the boonies where T-Mobile and Sprint don’t reach, Verizon is your best bet for reliable coverage. The 5G Get More plan is expensive but offers unlimited data, no matter how much you use.

The biggest perks, though, lie in the streaming services and travel benefits you get. The plan includes a subscription to Disney+, Hulu, and ESPN+, giving you plenty of entertainment options to choose from. If that’s not enough, you also get an Apple Music subscription with millions of songs at your fingertips. More into gaming? Verizon has got you covered. The 5G Get More plan comes with Apple Arcade and Google Play Pass, so you can enjoy ad-free games with zero in-app purchases.

You also get a TravelPass® every month, which gives you unlimited texting, calling, and data use in 185 countries for 24 hours. Another benefit is the 600GB Verizon Cloud storage, which can help you store several pictures, videos, and important files on the go.

The only problem? These plans are quite expensive. If you don’t have $90 to $250 to throw at a phone plan and could do without all the fancy service bundles, you can opt for Welcome Unlimited, Verizon’s cheaper, no-frills unlimited plan. It starts at $65 for a single line and goes down to just $25 each for five lines.

AT&T Value Plus plan

Best plan for single-line users

Why you should buy this: AT&T offers reliable coverage across the U.S. and a strong phone selection.

Who it’s for: Single-line users who want cheaper plans with unlimited data.

How much it will cost: $50 for one line; $40 if you enable autopay.

Read more about AT&T’s plans here

Why we picked the AT&T Value Plus plan: 

Most phone plans tend to be expensive if you buy a single line, but the price goes down the more lines you add. As we saw above, even Verizon’s cheapest plan costs $65 for a single line but just $25 each for five lines. This kind of pricing can offer great discounts for families but end up penalizing individuals. Fortunately, the AT&T Value Plus plan offers a straightforward and affordable $50 plan for single-line users.

Customers get unlimited calling, texting, and data usage throughout the U.S., Mexico, and Canada. If you have international friends, you also get unlimited texting from the U.S. to over 200 countries, so you can keep in touch with everyone without burning a hole in your pocket. You can enjoy 5G service if your device supports it, but streaming will be limited to SD quality.

The downside is you’ll have to either switch plans or set up a new account if you want to add members, as this plan is good for one line only. If you decide to expand your family, you can choose AT&T’s Unlimited Starter Plan, which starts at $65 for one line and goes down to $30 each for five lines. If you want faster speeds and more quality streaming, go for the AT&T Unlimited Premium plan, which is more expensive but offers 50GB of high-speed data and 4K UHD streaming.

Google Fi Unlimited Plus

Best for Google users

Google headquarters logo.

Why you should buy this: Google is a well-known name in the tech world, and it offers a flexible and affordable plan.

Who it’s for: Users who regularly use Google services and want a reliable plan on a tight budget.

How much it will cost:

People Line cost Data
1 $65 50 GB 5G/4G

Unlimited for lower speeds

2 $55 x 2 50 GB 5G/4G

Unlimited for lower speeds

3 $45 x 3 50 GB 5G/4G

Unlimited for lower speeds

4+ $40 each 50 GB 5G/4G

Unlimited for lower speeds

$160 (+$40 per additional line)

Read more about Google’s plans here

Why we picked the Google Fi Unlimited Plus plan: 

Google Fi offers three plans: Simply Unlimited, Unlimited Plus, and Flexible. The Unlimited Plus plan is the most expensive among the three but still cheaper than the other cellphone plans we reviewed. Along with being easy on the budget, the plan offers unlimited data in the U.S., Mexico, and Canada. You can enjoy fast 5G speeds up to 50GB, after which you can continue using unlimited data but at slower speeds. One of the biggest bonuses is that you get 100GB of cloud storage with Google One, which is a major value addition for regular Google users. You also get a free year of YouTube Premium.

The plan also has some benefits for travelers. Users enjoy free, unlimited calling from the U.S. to over 50 destinations, while data remains unlimited in over 200 destinations. You do have to pay for any texts and calls you make from outside the U.S., but these are cheap at $0.20 a minute. Several phones are designed to work with Fi, and using these gives you even better coverage. Some of these include popular models from Samsung, Google Pixel, and Motorola.

The biggest downside is this plan isn’t suitable for non-Google users. If you have an iPhone or don’t use Google One, you can’t use most of these benefits, so it’s better for users deep in the Google ecosystem.

Mint Mobile Unlimited

Best value plan

Mint Mobile Unlimited plan.

Why you should buy this: Mint Mobile offers some of the most affordable unlimited data plans in the market.

Who it’s for: Students and users on a budget.

How much it will cost: 

One-year subscription $30 a month $360
Six-month subscription $35 a month $210
Three-month subscription $40 a month $120

New customers get a three-month trial for $30 a month ($90 total) and a seven-day money-back guarantee, where the company will refund your money if you cancel the service within seven days of activation.

Read more about Mint Mobile plans here

Why we picked the Mint Mobile Unlimited plan: 

Users on a budget shouldn’t have to settle for poor data plans. The Mint Mobile Unlimited plan offers everything you would need from a cellphone data plan but at a much cheaper price. You get 35GB of high-speed 5G data and unlimited lower-speed data thereafter. Calling and texting are free, and you can make free international calls to Mexico and Canada. The plan also offers Wi-Fi calling and texting if that’s something you prefer.

If you want to share your plan with your family, you can get the Mint Family plan, which lets you buy individual lines with custom plans for each user. This way, you don’t have to pay extra for all devices when only one person uses more data. Just buy the more expensive plan for the data hog, and the rest of the members can use the other, more affordable plans. The plans are available for both devices with a physical sim card and eSIM, including eSIM-only devices like the iPhone 14.

Metro by T-Mobile

Best affordable T-Mobile plan

 Metro by T-Mobile announcement.
Why you should buy this: It’s a budget-friendly alternative to T-Mobile’s expensive plans.

Who it’s for: Users looking for a T-Mobile plan with fancy features at a cheaper price.

How much it will cost: 

Package one Package two Package three
Single line $40 $50 $60
Two lines $80 $100 $120
Three lines $120 $150 $180
Four lines $160 $200 $240
Five lines $200 $250 $300

You can get multiple lines for even less when you switch to Metro by T-Mobile in a store rather than on the internet. Some of these savings are pretty significant and can rise to as much as 50% less on four or five lines on the most expensive package. In addition, those in the Affordable Connectivity Program can get packages for as low as $10 a month.

Read more about Metro by T-Mobile plans here

Why we picked the Metro by T-Mobile plan: 

The Metro by T-Mobile plan uses T-Mobile’s 5G network to give users unlimited high-speed data. However, if you use more than 35GB per month, you may experience some throttling to prioritize high-speed data for customers on T-Mobile’s mainstream plans. You’re eligible to get free protection on the ScamShield app, though, and get access to exclusive deals on the T-Mobile Tuesdays app. The more expensive plans offer more benefits like Amazon Prime membership, ViX+ subscription, and 100GB of Google one storage, but if you want to save money, you can skip these extras and still enjoy the same high-speed data.

If you’re switching to Metro from a different carrier, you can get up to four lines for $25 each, using a 5G network, making it one of the best switching deals. Plus, all taxes and fees are included in the prices.


Best custom plans

Tello Mobile SIM.

Why you should buy this: There’s nothing better than a custom plan where you only pay for the features you’ll actually use.

Who it’s for: People with unusual data needs.

How much it will cost: Prices are flexible depending on the add-ons you choose. The company also offers fixed plans:

Economy 1GB data $10
Value 2GB data $14
Smart 5GB data $19
Data Unlimited data $29

Read more about Tello plans here

Why we picked Tello:

Every user has different data usage habits. Maybe you spend a lot of time calling but hardly use mobile data. Or maybe you are a data hog but never call anyone. Either way, Tello lets you customize your data plans to suit your preferences. You can choose how much talk time you want, how much data you’ll use, or if you want everything unlimited. The unlimited options are pricier, so if you’re on a tighter budget, you can just pick the lower talk time and data options.

If building your own plan seems like a hassle, Tello also has readymade plans you can pick from. All these plans offer unlimited calling and texting, but the data is limited to 1GB, 2GB, and 5GB, except for the last, most expensive plan, which gives you unlimited data use. You can also make free calls to international countries like India, China, and Mexico, as well as free landline calls to other destinations like Belgium, Switzerland, Japan, and Russia.

A major downside is the throttle speeds drop down to 2G speeds after you reach your data limit, which may be too slow for high-quality streaming and gaming.

Consumer Cellular Unlimited Talk and Text

Best plan for seniors

Consumer Cellular display.

Why you should buy this: It’s a reliable plan with extra discounts for seniors.

Who it’s for: Seniors, especially AARP members.

How much it will cost:

 People 1GB of data 5GB of data Unlimited data
1  $20 $25 $50
2  $35 $40 $65
3 $50 $55 $80

Consumer Cellular has many more pricing options depending on how much data you need and how many lines you’re buying.

Read more about Consumer Cellular plans here

Why we picked the Consumer Cellular Unlimited Talk And Text plan:

AARP members get 5% monthly discounts on the Consumer Cellular Unlimited Talk And Text plan, making it ideal for seniors. Each plan offers 5G service and unlimited texting and calling, as the name suggests. AARP members also get a 45-day trial to see if the service is right for them. Switching between plans is easy, and you can buy the AARP membership right during checkout.

The company also has its own phones, specially designed for seniors, which are easy to operate, sturdy, and simpler than the fanciest smartphones. This way, you get the complete package for seniors. If you don’t use data too often, you can also get the $14 unlimited talk plan, which gives you unlimited calling across the U.S.

US Mobile Pooled Plan

Best family plan

US Mobile cartoon characters.

Why you should buy this: US Mobile lets you customize the plan based on your family size and data needs. You can even share the data with your friends.

Who it’s for: Families and groups of friends who want to share data plans.

How much it will cost: $9 per line and $2 per GB.

Read more about US Mobile plans here

Why we picked the US Mobile Pooled Plan: 

Sometimes your family size changes, and you need a custom plan to accommodate evolving data needs. The US Mobile Pooled Plan is perfect for this. Whether you’re sharing data with family members or friends, you get to customize how much data you need and how many lines you want to pay for. At just $9 a line and $2 for 2GB of data, everything is pretty affordable, even for larger groups. At this price, you get 5G access and Wi-Fi calling, making it ideal for both entertainment and those long phone calls without interruption.

The best part is that you can add as much data as you want and as many lines as you want, depending on your budget and group size. Changing plans is just as easy, so you never have to pay for data you aren’t using. You get analytics to see how much data you’re using so you can adjust your plans accordingly. You can also experiment with a 10-day free trial to see if you like the service.

Other things to consider

How much data do you need?

Perhaps the most important decision you’ll have to make when choosing a carrier plan is the amount of data you will need.

To determine how much data you need, consider two factors: the number of people in your family plan and how much data you think each will use. If you and your family rarely use mobile data when you’re away from a Wi-Fi network, you might want to buy less data. If you or your kids like to stream movies over the mobile network, browse the internet for hours, check your email 95,000 times a day, and live-tweet your day, you’ll want a huge chunk of data.

Lines Light data use Medium data use Heavy data use
1 2GB 4GB 8GB
2 4GB 8GB 16GB
3 6GB 12GB 24GB
4 8GB 16GB 32GB
5 10GB 20GB 40GB

Unlocked versus locked: How to buy your phone

When you buy a phone from your carrier, it’s locked to their network. You’re locked into the carrier’s payment plan. If you want the freedom to switch carriers at any point in time, you should buy your phone unlocked directly from the company that made it. Not all smartphone makers offer unlocked phones, but it’s becoming a lot more common. Some companies like ZTE and Apple even offer payment installment plans, so you can buy your phone in small payments just like you would at a carrier.

We recommend buying unlocked because the phone will be yours whether you switch carriers or not. You’ll also avoid bloatware and annoying carrier apps, and if your phone runs Android, you’ll likely get more timely software updates.

How to switch carriers

Switching carriers can be tough, but a lot of companies are offering attractive discounts if you switch. For example, the Metro plan offers a 5G network for $25 per line, only for new customers ready to switch carriers. Each carrier may have a slightly different switching process, so we’ve written a whole guide to help you make the switch.

How we choose the best plans

We start by checking out all the promotions, phones, and plans offered by the biggest carriers in the United States. After we work out the main benefits of each plan, we sift through the fine print to check for any catches. If something isn’t clear, we contact the press representative from the carrier for clarification. We look for special features and perks that are unique to the carriers, and we weigh that in our decision along with price and availability.

Not all carriers work in all areas, so we make sure to highlight where each carrier works the best. For example, T-Mobile excels in cities, while Verizon and AT&T are specialists in rural areas. We’ve personally used these networks, so we can verify coverage claims in the areas we travel.

We also look at prepaid plans and plans from smaller carriers that base their networks on the big carriers’ networks to see what they offer. Finally, details like the clarity and ease of use on a website or the kindness of customer service representatives also factor into our decisions. After all, we’re putting you first.

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