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Home » Best of, Budgeting, Technology

The Cheapest Data Plans for Mobile Phones

Last updated by on February 17, 2016

Mobile Data Plans Vary Widely in Price & Usage Limits

We’ve already entered the era of smartphone – even though some of us may choose to stay behind. šŸ˜‰

With the smartphone emergence and the decline in cellular usage for actually calling people, the new challenge from a financial standpoint is to figure out how you can get the cheapest mobile data plan – without any other add-ons. Otherwise, the lifetime cost of a smartphone can really kill your savings.

I’m going to highlight the cheapest mobile data plans out there, but you can also check out this list of prepaid MVNO’s and cheapest mobile hotspots to find the plan that is right for your use.

Note that just about everyone throttles data once you hit a certain threshold and there are very few truly “unlimited” plans out there.

Unlimited Mobile Data Plans without Talk & Text Add-Ons

cheapest data plansAnd that’s the challenge – finding an unlimited data plan with no other services that you are paying extra for. With some of the unique low cost mobile VOIP and other free options available, a phone with a data plan can, in effect, serve as a phone with a talk plan. And if you’re using it for that purpose, you’ll rack up some bandwidth.

Most data plans today come with unlimited texting and some amount of talk minutes. Pro tip: since many of these plans come with free text messaging and but pricey data, you may want to learn how to send text messages to email, so you don’t have to constantly pay data fees when accessing your email account on a web browser.

Who wants to constantly worry about how much in charges they are racking up for using the web as they want to? To help guide you, here’s a run-down of all the national mobile phone providers who offer data plans.

Republic Wireless:

The clear #1 in the cheap smart phone data plan space now. A startup from Bandwidth.com, Republic Wireless charges $10 per month for unlimited talk, text, and wifi data ($5 per month if you only want wifi-only on everything). You then purchase the amount of 3G or 4G cell data you think you need per month and are actually refunded for unused data!

If no wifi is available, Republic kicks you over to Sprint’s network.

If you want a data plan that is supremely cheap, yet fits your needs, this is the one.

  • No Contract: $10+/month, includes unlimited talk, text, and wifi data. Uses Sprint’s 3G/4G network for cell data at extra charge of $15 per each 1 GB of used data.

T-Mobile Data Plans:

T-Mobile recently started offering a cheap unlimited data plan that is prepaid. For $30 a month, you get unlimited mobile web and text and 100 minutes of talk time, which is an outstanding value. Note that first 5GB of data are at up to 4G speeds (quite generous), and speeds are reduced after. This is a great mobile plan for how most people are using their phone these days.

T-Mobile also has “Simply Prepaid” (no contract) plans with no data overages that are more geared towards heavy talkers:

  • $40/month for up to 3GB of 4G LTE
  • $50/month for up to 5GB of 4G LTE
  • $60/month for up to 10GB of 4G LTE

Lyca Mobile

Lyca Mobile is an international MVNO that is headquartered in the UK and has 14 million subscribers. They offer some interesting cheap data plans and run off of the T-Mobile network in the United States. Their cheapest prepaid data plan is:

  • No contract: $35/month with unlimited talk, text, and data
  • up to 2 GB of 4G LTE per month
  • includes free international calling to China, Mexico, Canada, UK, and a few other countries.

Not bad!

FreedomPop

FreedomPop is a national Sprint MVNO that operates in a similar way to Republic Wireless with wifi calling in addition to basic talk, text, and data. Details include:

  • No Contract: $19.99/month, including unlimited talk, text, and 1GB data.
  • Earn free 4G LTE data every month by adding friends
  • Earn unlimited free data by completing partner offers
  • You can bring your own phone.

Verizon Data Plans:

Verizon prepaid data plans start at $45/month for 2 GB of data and come with unlimited talk and text. Contractual plans start at $50/month.

Recently, Verizon started giving more data if you sign up for auto pay. You can pay $45 for 2GB or $60 for 5GB on a prepaid plan with Verizon, currently. With the auto pay program, Verizon will add 1GB to each of these plans (for a total of 3GB and 6GB respectively).

Sprint Data Plans

If you’re looking for straight up cheap mobile data plan only, Sprint has a few options. They offer a “tablet” plan with starting at $10 (just 100 MB). You can get 1 GB for $15. You do have to lease the tablet, from as low as $10/month.

  • lease only: $10+/month + lease charges.

AT&T Data Plans:

AT&T data plans range from $30/month for 3 GB of data on up (there is a 250 MB plan for $14.99) with some free device offerings, but you do have to sign a contract. There are prepaid plans, but they are more expensive and require buying a device.

Straight Talk:

Straight Talk is a Tracfone subsidiary (like Net10). I just discovered Straight Talk recently, and they also offer an unlimited mobile plan. It looks like a great option for high data users, as data is not throttled until the 5 GB level.

  • No Contract: $45/month, unlimited data, text, and talk. 3G/4G availability varies by phone and location. Throttling begins at 5 GB.

Metro PCS:

Metro PCS is not nationwide in coverage and does have roaming charges. But they do offer some cheap data-only “tablet” plans if they are in your market area and you don’t travel frequently.

  • No Contract: starting at $15/month, unlimited text, up to 2 GB data w/roaming charges. Network is limited in coverage at 4G speeds.

Boost Mobile:

Boost mobile data plans include unlimited talk and text, starting at $35/mo. You can’t get just a data plan with Boost.

  • No Contract: starting at $35/month, unlimited talk, text and 2 GB data. No roaming charges. 3G/4G available with some phones.

Virgin Mobile Unlimited:

I reviewed the Virgin Mobile Unlimited plan previously, and the review wasn’t the most favorable because I was comparing the total cost of the plan for those who like to use their phones primarily for texting and calling to other low cost cell providers. Virgin Mobile runs off Sprint’s 3G/4G network and offers an unlimited data, talk, and text plan for just $35/month. Here’s a run-down.

  • No Contract: $35/month, includes unlimited data, talk, and text. Note that high speed data is throttled at the 1 GB level. You can get an additional 1 GB of high speed data for $5 more.

They have a few other plans as well, but this is the cheapest one that includes data.

Virgin Mobile is actually a Sprint subsidiary, and their offerings here for low cost data plans are superior to Sprint, and another Sprint subsidiary highlighted in this post, Boost Mobile. Check out my Virgin Mobile Unlimited review.

Mobile Data Plan Discussion:

  • Are you using your phone for data only? Which plan do you use?
  • How much data are you using each month?

Related Posts:


About the Author
I am G.E. Miller, & this is my story. My goal is financial independence ASAP. If you share that goal, join me & 7,500+ others by getting FREE email updates. You can also explore every post I have written, in order.


32 Comments »
  • MG says:

    Thanks for this. I’m looking to ditch my phone plan once my contract expires in June and I’m looking for affordable data-only as a replacement, since I’ve found several apps that can use a combination of VoIP and text by linking it to a pre-existing number. Unfortunately it’s near-impossible to find a plan that’s unlimited data-only, or even affordable data-only.

    • anon says:

      exactly what i was thinking… that is probably the reason theyre keeping data prices up, so people dont switch over from the more expensive tlak text plans šŸ™‚

      • Mike Tyson says:

        in usa the best data or data talk ect… is thru WALLMART. TMOBILE =30$ – 5GB + ULMD.TXT. UNLMD. SMS. & ONLY!!:( 100MIN TALJ(SO VOIP W/GOIGLE VOICE HANGOUT DIALET W YOUR PREEXISTING ###) <<BEST…
        OR WALLMART MOBILE IS COMPETITIVE… 25$—50… OR STRAIGHT TALK…60$ FOR TRUE 4G UMLMD.. ONLY GSM REAL UNLMD. NO THROTTLE..

        INHO 2 30$ TMOBILE/WALLMART 5GB PLANS AT 60$ =2PHONE DEVICE AT10GB SPLIT ON 2ACCOUNTS…BEST

  • AH says:

    When you can, will you take a look at Credo Mobile? thanks!

  • gary says:

    the best thing going right now is the framily plan with sprint – after the 7th person signs the rate is $25/mo unlimited talk & text with 1 gb of data… can buy more monthly data at $10 increments

    • gary says:

      You can go on Craigslist and find people looking for others to sign on their plans all you need is their id number and you will be on their plan – so you dont have to run out and find 9 more people yourself

    • Don says:

      I used to work for $print. I would not use their services if they were free. They have the worst customer service, screw up your billing repeatedly, and will do anything they can to shuffle you off the phone when you call in for support, as their helpdesk people are graded on how many calls they take per day. It’s a sweatshop. They have been in trouble for illegal labor practices more than once.

      Run AWAY!

  • Gary Jay says:

    How can one measure DATA usage in actual time units?

  • Keith says:

    You are all wrong, the best deal you can get is LYCAMOBILE, I discoveredLyca last time I was in England, you buy a SIM card for less than $2 And all calls cost about 7 cents a minute. ATT wanted about $1.20 a minute to use mu US phone.
    About 18 months ago I found out that Lyca was offering plans in the US, I and my wife are retired and we use our cell phones to contact each other when we travel and we use internet access sparingly. When we had an ATT plan with 700 minutes per month we only used 250 and the rest were wasted.. Cost was about $70 per month.
    With Lyca pre paid each call costs 2 cents per minute PERIOD. put $10 in your Lyca account and you get 500 minutes, and in addition the money in your account does NOT EXPIRE AFTER 30 or 60 DAYS. No it DOES NOT EXPIRE.
    you can use data fora very cheap price as well, you can setup your account so that it refills with say $10 when your balance reaches $5, automatically.
    Now Lyca does not serves all areas of the US, I live in TN and they say they do not provide service here. That really means that they do not have TN area codes such as 615 , so I ordered a SIM card ( $7 delivered) and activated the SIM with a Chicago area code 630. Lyca runs on the T-Mobile network and it works perfectly, you must have an unlocked GSM phone.
    Go to their web site and check it out, this may not be for everyone but for those who use their cell phones just for convenience it is by far the cheapest.
    You can get a regular plan, my son has a data and voice plan unlimited for $25 per month although I now understand it has gone up to $30.

    • Keith says:

      Follow up to my post on Lyca mobile.
      As of June 2014 the 2 cent per minute charge has increased to 5 cents per minute. It is still however a good deal to many low volume usage subscribers.

      • Mark says:

        I went to their website. Their cheapest pay as you go plan is $23 a month. Compared to T-Mobile’s pay as you go which is $8.33 a month ($100 for the year). Also minutes never expire, as long as you top off with at least $10 once a year. 10 cents a minute, but for low usage users it is by far the cheapest.

        • Rob says:

          I think I found what he’s talking about. I navigated through Lycamobile’s website to Lycatalk’s website here
          http://www.lycatalk.us/en/cheap-calls-to/usa
          and it does say 2Ā¢/min, but it looks like you need to have service from another carrier. It seems Lycatalk is only for international calls so you don’t get higher international charges from your current provider. So it seems to use your current providers minutes and the 2Ā¢/min is an additional charge. Your current provider will just treat it as a local call rather than an international call.

        • Rob says:

          Also, Airvoice is by far the cheapest option for low usage users. It can be as low as $3.33 a month if you almost never use your phone. It’s 10Ā¢/min and text sent/received, 6.6Ā¢ per MB of data, and funds expire in 90 days or more. The data being 6.6Ā¢ per MB might make it cheaper to use Google Voice or another free VoIP per minute than making a straight call.
          https://www.airvoicewireless.com/PlansB.aspx

        • Alberto says:

          You can order a Lycamobile sim card from Amazon for $0.01 delivered, then you go to the website and activate the sim. Put $10 there and you can start making calls for cheap.

          You only need to make a call or text once every 90 days to keep the service active. My father in law’s last top-up was 8 months ago and he just put $10 more a few days ago.

          They don’t have this information clearly displayed on their U.S. website but this is still working. A friend did this a few weeks ago and it is working great.

    • NANCY says:

      HI KEITH,

      SORRY, FOR THE CAPS BUT I HAVE VISION PROBLEMS. I DO APPRECIATE THE INFORMATION ABOUT LYCA CELL, I CURRENTLY HAVE REPUBLIC WIRELESS BUT THEY DON’T HAVE MUCH OF AN OPT FOR CELL PHONES. AND EVERYTHING IS DONE ONLINE.

      I’M ABOUT TO BUY A GSM PHONE TO GET THE SIM ALONG WITH THE SERVICE, I HOPE THEY SELL THE SIM CARD ONLINE.

      GOD BLESS AND THANKS FOR SHARING, IT’S THE 1ST TIME I HEAR OF THIS COMPANY.

    • wes says:

      This article is about data not minutes, thats a huge difference, and unlimited data is throttled at to a kbps. Before you try to add nonrelevent information to a great article. Understand the differences.. Its probably because your old and out of the loop

  • anna says:

    Is t-mobile’s $30/mo per line or can you use it with two phone lines and pay the same price? Sorry, I’m new to the whole smartphone stuff.

  • Josh says:

    Family mobile is what I have now. With tax it is about $46.38 or so a month, and has unlimited talk, text and data. It has more coverage than the regular T-moble network. I am a little torn, when I go on vacation, it does not always get service. However, I don’t know if I can really get a better deal. Tried Straight Talk, do not do this. My story would take a while to tell, but I will tell you that you better read the rules before you buy, or you may have to upgrade your phone and plan in order to get any data use that is any good. Sprint framily sounded good, but the more I read, I don’t know if it is worth the hassle and hidden things. I think maybe I will just stick with what I have.

  • ron s says:

    Hey check out http://www.harbormobile.com they are a reseller of tmo business plans but anyone can get & they get all the perks of service thru tmo such as music freedom, data stash & etc.

  • ethan says:

    Straight talk is the best outa all prepaid, had it now for 2 years got sme issues but also ill keep it to myself. BOTTEM LINE (BEST PREPAID)

  • Peter says:

    You can get 400MB and 80 minutes voice for $15 (including tax) per month at puretalkusa. For low usage this is a good deal. They use AT&T towers.

  • Richard says:

    Here’s a good deal. Take a look at Selectel Wireless. They have an annual plan for $75. It includes 2000 minutes and 2000 texts. You can add 200 mb data for $10, and the data rolls over. They use Verizon towers and you can bring your own Verizon phone.

  • JD says:

    Good review and comments.

    I’ve been with at least 7 different cellular providers since 1999.

    IF I could just talk a 100 or less minutes per month I’d get Freedompop with FREE (that’s F-R-E-E) 200 minutes per month 200 Texts and 500MB data. They use Sprint towers and phones and are CDMA only. There are super priced phone on ebay, ie S2, S3 ect…. about $80 and below. And if you divide 12 months into say.. $100 for a phone you get around $8.33 per month which is paying for the phone only.

    But I have to talk a whole lot more the 1000 minutes per month and need at least 1GB of Data, so I have the next best choice which is UltraMobile (T-Mobile towers and Unlocked GSM phones.) which
    I buy plans $29 month off of ebay sellers for between $10 to $16 first month and $29 the second month.
    Which comes close to an average of $25 per month.

    After the 2 month requirement, I go back and buy another plan for $10-$16 first month and $29 dollars for second month.

    Since I don’t need the same number as most of you do, since I do the calling, I can just call those who I want to talk to and let them know my new cell number for the 2 month span.
    The one I most use is Ezkonnect and they do all the activation of their sims.
    They have Unlimited Talk, Unlimited Texts, and 1GB data for the about $25.
    Happy shopping for better deal!

    • JD2 says:

      Can you use something like google-voice to have the same inbound number? I’ve swapped VoIP and cell phone numbers about 20 times in the last 15 years, but have been using the same GrandCentral (now Google Voice) inbound number all that time. Nobody needs to know my real phone numbers – I don’t know them either. Never use them.

      Looking for a data-only plan. Already have a $3/month t-mobile PAG setup that only needs $10/yr added. It was much nicer before t-mobile started the $3/month part (zero data) – used to be pure PAG and I was spending about $10/yr total for over a decade. Only trick was to put $100 in PAG money on the first year to get _gold_ level which makes all future minutes to last for 365 days. None of that 90 expiration crap. Can’t believe people put up with that.

      When I travel, I’ll add data for $10/week. Don’t have any use for it when in my home town. It isn’t like GPS or directions are needed there with all the off-line apps. Have wifi at the office and home and don’t need/want data while driving. That reminds me, it has been almost a year since I added $35 to my PAG account. Think I’m good until June, but need to check.

      Yep – that’s $35/yr – total – for voice and as-needed-data. Probably bit into the $100 initial funds (added in 2006) a little too. The way I see it, even if I put $10/month into data, I’ve come out so far ahead of the monthly plans it would be stupid to use one of those.

      I don’t want to be stupid.

  • JD says:

    UPDATE for prices I received in my email today.

    Here is something to brag about in the way of DEALS….. (I’m not an affiliate. or work for the following.) Ā 
    https://www.ezkonnect.com/ultra-mobile-prepaid-monthly-calling-plans.html
    Quoting….$29 Plan
    * Unlimited International Talk & Text Unlimited International
    * Calling To the USA and Over 60 CountriesĀ 
    * 1,000 Free Minutes to Over 15 More DestinationsĀ 
    * $2.50 Call Anywhere CreditĀ 
    * Unlimited Global SMSĀ 
    * 4G LTE Data 1GB of 4G LTE DataĀ 
    * Nationwide Coverage UltraUp More 4G LTE Data

    But if you pay 3 months at a time the Price drops to $26.10 per month on Tmobile GSM towers.

    And the SIM Card is Quoting . . .Ā 
    * ULTRA MOBILE TRIPLE PUNCH REGULAR, MICRO AND NANO ALL IN ONE SIM CARD + 1 MONTH $29 PLAN SERVICE INCLUDED for $26.10.. (New Activation only.)Ā 

    Cool huh?

    Since I live in a brick home… I don’t get real great service but do get 3 bars inside near my sliding glass doors.
    It’s just TMobile. . . so I don’t expect CDMA coverage, but I’m not paying 3+ the times the cost.
    I get the same amount of bars on my GS3 with Cricket / At&t.

    Now here is the KICKER plan….
    If you pay 6 months at $129.00 you will be paying $21 per month for all of the *above.Ā 

    So when I go on the road I’ll get the $44 per month plan which includes all of the above in the $29 plan with a extra 3 GBs of Data at 4G or a total of 4GB of 4G data. WOW. Rater do that than pay for “stuff” in wifi cafes etc.

    Again thanks very much for the this TOPIC.

  • Violet says:

    Your information is incorrect regarding Verizon. 2gb plus one free gb and $5 credit with Autopay making the final cost per month $40.

    Therefore this is more accurate:

    Verizon Data Plans:
    Prepaid plans cost $45/month for 3 GB of data, with unlimited talk and text. Contractual plans start at $50/month

  • Pizzed says:

    I clicked on “notify me of follow up comments” once and no longer am interested. However there is no way to remove myself, and there is no way to communicate with the web site owner. Any idea how to remove myself?

  • Robert says:

    Have you guys checked out 4GAS … their prices are awesome and on the T-Mobile network.

    4gantennashop.com

  • Jane says:

    I just changed to 4GAS and I have a great $28 plan with 2GB of data and other great plan features such as mobile without borders and music freedom; which is unlimited music streaming and it does not affect the 2GB of data you have!

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