Best Cell Phone Plans 2017


WhistleOut
01 September 2017

There's no such thing as a one-size-fits-all cell phone plan. 

Just as it would be reductive to declare one car "the best," so it is with cell phone plans; we all have different needs and wants, and no single one serves them all. With this in mind, we've compiled a list of what we think are the best picks for cell phone plans for different groups of people, whether you're looking for unlimited data, unlimited talking and texting, international calling, multiple lines for families, prepaid plans, and so on. 

The best for you might be the worst for someone else. In order to find the right cell phone plan, you'll need to decide which features are important to have in your cell phone plan. The following checklist can help you narrow down your hunt: 

Checklist for the Best Cell Phone Plan

  • Unlimited Talk and Text
  • Unlimited Data
  • International Talk, Text and Data
  • Prepaid Plan
  • Multiple Lines for Family
  • Cell Phone Plan for Teenager
  • Cell Phone Plan for Senior
  • Cheap Cell Phone Plan
  • Plan for Hot Spots/Tethering

Bear in mind that carriers are constantly switching up their plans and deals, so this is only a current snapshot. We update this list frequently and, as always, you can use WhistleOut's industry-leading comparison tool (now supercharged with a coverage check feature!) to further customize your search.

Summary: Best Cell Phone Plans in September

Here's our pick of the top cell phone plans in September. We've included a mix of single line and family deals based on current promotions and value. Our weekly best cell phone deals are here.

 Plans & Current Deals
Carrier Plan Lines Data Price We like
ROK Mobile Unlimited CDMA Plan 1
1GB$20/mo Extremely inexpensive for unlimited talk and text
MintSIM
3 Month - Large 10GB plan  1
10GB$25/mo Massive data if you buy in 3 month blocks

Sprint

Unlimited Freedom 1 Unlimited data $50/moCheapest price of the big 4 carriers for unlimited data--and $0 for a year when you switch!
T-Mobile T-Mobile One  2 Unlimited data $100/mo Excellent price, 2 lines, no additional taxes and fees
H2O $30 Monthly Unlimited 1 3 GB $27/mo Most data under $30
Cricket Group Save
4
12 GB
$100/mo 4 lines of unlimited talk and text, 12 GB of data for only $100
Last updated: September, 2017.

Best Unlimited Talk and Text Plans


Whether you're keen on keeping in touch with friends on the other side of the country or just the other side of the office, unlimited, catch-all talk and text plans can alleviate your worries about overages. Nearly every carrier offers some sort of unlimited talk and text plan nowadays, and it can be hard to navigate through them all. We sorted through hundreds to present the ones we believe represent the best bang for the buck. 

WhistleOut's Pick

ROK Mobile 1GB Unlimited CDMA Plan

Why we love it: ROK Mobile recently signed a deal to offer service on Verizon's network, so you'll not only be getting industry-leading value for unlimited talk and text with this plan, but the security of America's best coverage. Plus, 24/7 roadside assistance! 

Carrier Inclusions  
ROK Mobile
ROK Mobile
  • 1GB Unlimited Sprint Plan
  • 1GB Data
  • No Contract
  • $25/mo

ROK Mobile is an MVNO co-founded by John Paul DeJoria of Paul Mitchell hair product fame. The company began as a niche brand that bundled music streaming with its plans, but has since moved to lifestyle services (like the aforementioned roadside assistance). 

Also consider:

For a more detailed explanation of options, check out WhistleOut's comparison tool.

Best Unlimited Data Plans


For many of us, smartphones have supplanted PCs for our usual internet tasks. We use our phones to browse the web, stream music and movies, read and watch the news, and use email, all while our laptops gather dust in the corner. With the increasing reliance on our phones for everything digital, getting adequate—and affordable—data has become a central priority. Cell carriers have recognized this, and most now offer excellent unlimited data plans. 

WhistleOut's Pick

Sprint Unlimited Freedom for $0

Why we love it: Sprint desperately wants your business, so much so that they're willing to give you an entire year of unlimited data for free when you switch from a competitor. As long as you live in a place that gets good coverage from Sprint, this really is an unbeatable deal. 

Cell Phone Plans

With unlimited data | Filters
Carrier Inclusions  
Sprint
Sprint
  • Unlimited Plan - Free for 1 Year if you Switch
  • Unlimited Data
  • No Contract
  • $0/mo + $12.99 Upfront

Sprint has made a name for itself in recent years with its unlimited plans. The Unlimited Freedom plan is the company's latest offering, and includes unlimited talk, text and 4G LTE data at an amazing $0/month if you switch from T-Mobile, Verizon or AT&T. 

Also consider:

These selections are just the tip of the iceberg; for a more detailed list, check out WhistleOut's comparison tool

Best International Plans


For those with friends or family in other countries—or those who travel abroad frequently—good international talk and text rates can be of major importance when shopping for cell phone plans. Fortunately, several of the smaller cell carriers (MVNOs) specialize in affordable international calling plans, and the major carriers have improved in this area as well.

WhistleOut's Pick

T-Mobile ONE Plus International

Why we love it: Plus International is an $25 add-on to T-Mobile's unlimited ONE plan that provides some key international benefits. 

Cell Phone Plans

With unlimited data | Filters
Carrier Inclusions  
T-Mobile
T-Mobile
  • ONE Plus International
  • Unlimited Data
  • No Contract
  • $95/mo + $25 Upfront

The basic ONE plan comes with talk, text and data in 140+ countries; unlimited talk, text and data in Mexico and Canada; and unlimited texting and 1 hour of data on Gogo-enabled flights. ONE Plus International includes all of these features, and adds unlimited international calling to landlines in 70+ countries and mobiles in 30+ countries; 2x the data speed abroad; and unlimited in-flight WiFi on Gogo-enabled flights. 

Also consider:

Check out WhistleOut's comparison tool for more options. 

Best Prepaid Cell Phone Plans


Once primarily favored by parents of teens and credit score-challenged adults, the world seems to have woken up to the fact that prepaid cell phone plans often offer the best deals out there, without overages or binding contracts. Also, the prepaid plans themselves have become more sophisticated.

There are two types of prepaid plans: "pay as you go" ones that that require customers to manually submit payment, at any time, for any additional use, and "auto top-up" plans that bill customers automatically on a recurring date, ensuring they are never without service. Now that carriers have moved away from annual contracts en masse, the difference between auto top-up prepaid plans and traditional postpaid ones (like the kind you'll encounter on major carriers) is that prepaid ones require payment at the beginning of the month as opposed to the end.

WhistleOut's Pick

MintSIM 3 Month Plan (Large)

Why we love it: MintSIM is a year-old MVNO that offers steep discounts to customers willing to pay for three, six or twelve months of service in advance. The company's 3-month deal gives you 10GB of data and unlimited talk and text for $25/month, which is an incredible deal. 

Cell Phone Plans

With at least 10GB data | Filters
Carrier Inclusions  
Mint SIM
Mint SIM
  • 3 Month Plan (Large)
  • 10GB Full Speed Data
  • No Contract
  • $25/mo + $1 Upfront

Since MintSIM uses a GSM network, there's wide compatibility for bringing your own phone. 

Also consider:

For more options, check out our more detailed guide to prepaid plans or use WhistleOut's comparison tool.

Best Family Plans


Cell phone carriers want your business. Not only yours, but your entire family's. Enter family plans, which offer some of the best deals in the mobile market, reducing the cost per line dramatically.

Even if the plan you're shopping for is only for you and your spouse, you can see the cost per line nearly halved by adding the extra person. That makes family plans a no-brainer, assuming you're on good terms with yours. 

WhistleOut's Pick

Cricket Group Save

Why we love it: If you're looking for a family cell phone plan, Cricket's Group Save is an affordable option. The first two lines are only $70, and include unlimited talk and text and 5GB of data. The third line costs $20 and includes an additional 2.5GB of data, while the fourth line is a mere $10, and adds another 2.5GB of data. Cricket runs on AT&T's very reliable network, so you'll be able to stay in touch with your family members easily (assuming they pick up). 

Shared plan with 4 lines

Bring Your Own Phone Bring Your Own Phone Bring Your Own Phone
+ 1 More
Carrier Inclusions
T-Mobile
T-Mobile
  • ONE | Family Plan
  • Unlimited Data
  • $160/mo

Also consider:

For more options, check out WhistleOut comparison tool


Best Cell Phone Plans for Teens


Today's teens (and, admittedly, many of us) treat their smartphones like permanent appendages, texting, Facebooking, Instagramming, streaming and playing games like the outside world doesn't exist. 

If you're the parent of a data-hungry teen, unlimited plans can be the way to go, since they eliminate concerns about overages. Alternatively, you might consider a bare-bones "lifeline" cell phone plan that provides your teen with a means to make a calls, and not much else. Finally, a third possibility is a group plan that's cheap to add lines onto. We've chosen our favorite lifeline and affordable group plan options below. 

WhistleOut's Pick: Additional Line

Sprint Unlimited Freedom 

Why we love it: If you're looking for an extra line for a data-hungry teen, Sprint's Unlimited Freedom plan makes a lot of sense. One line is $50 (without their current $0 promo), two lines are $90, and lines 3-5 are free. This makes it easy to tack your son or daughter onto your plan without much financial outlay. And since each line is entitled to unlimited data, you don't have to worry about your Netflix and Spotify-streaming teen using up all of your plan's shared data. 

Carrier Inclusions  
Sprint
Sprint
  • Unlimited Freedom Plan
  • Unlimited Data
  • No Contract
  • $50/mo

WhistleOut's Pick: Lifeline

Cricket 4GB of High Speed Data Plan

Why we love it: Cricket's plans are also a solid "lifeline" solution, offering unlimited talk and text, and 4GB of data in case your teen is in a crunch and needs to look up the location of the nearest movie theater.  

For more options, check out WhistleOut comparison tool

Carrier Inclusions  
Cricket
Cricket
  • 4GB of High Speed Data with Auto Pay
  • 4GB Full Speed Data
  • No Contract
  • $35/mo + $9.99 Upfront

Best Cell Phone Plans for Seniors


Just as there's no one-size-fits-all cell phone plan for 30-year olds, so it goes for seniors: there are tech savvy seniors and those less versed in technology; those who rely on their cell phones to keep in contact with loved ones, and others who use their landlines for this purpose; and those for whom built-in emergency response features are of great benefit and those who don't require them (just to name a few variables).

With the understanding that any cell phone plan could potentially suit a senior, we've chosen to focus in on the ones specifically geared towards this market, and selected the best of the bunch. Whether you're a senior shopping for yourself or a loved one looking for a gift for a relative, it's worth taking a look at the following plans. 

WhistleOut's Pick: Light Use

Greatcall 1,000 Minute Plan

Why we love it: Greatcall's plans are a great call for seniors who use their phones exclusively for making calls, and who could benefit from the security of 24/7 emergency services. For $35, their 1,000 minute plan comes with Greatcall's signature 5Star Urgent Response service, which includes 911 support and follow-up. 

Carrier Inclusions  
GreatCall
GreatCall
  • 1000 Minute Plan
  • No Data Included
  • No Contract
  • $34.99/mo + $35 Upfront

Greatcall's plans combine talk time with access to 24/7 emergency services for very affordable prices.  

WhistleOut's Pick: Heavy Use

T-Mobile ONE 55+

Why we love it: T-Mobile's ONE plan has proven popular, so much so that it compelled the entire wireless industry in the direction of unlimited. ONE is still arguably the best of the bunch, though, packing in more features than the competition. If you're over 55 years old and use your phone's data heavily, getting this plan at $50 is a steal and a half.

Also consider:

For more options, check out WhistleOut comparison tool

Best Cheap Cell Phone Plans


Given the nature of most mobile carrier ads, you'd assume everyone's priority is getting ahold of the latest devices on the fastest networks with the biggest talk, text and data allotments. But there's a portion of us out there who only care about one thing: price. If you count yourself as someone who simply wants a cheap plan—regardless of bells and whistles—then read on.

There are plans out there that cost $0 (you read that correctly); specifically, both FreedomPop and ringplus offer modest 500GB plans with 200 and 500 talk minutes, respectively. However, calls are sent via VoIP (voice over IP)—think Skype-style calling—which is less reliable than cellular networks. Both plans fall into the "freemium" category, as they require upgrades to turn them into something resembling conventional cell phone plans.

Other MVNOs—i.e. smaller providers who rent space on the major cellular networks—offer talk, text and data via traditional channels for very affordable prices. If you're more than a very occasional cell phone user, these plans can be the way to go. Our top selection is one of these.

WhistleOut's Pick

FreedomPop Unlimited Talk & Text w/ 500MB Data

Why we love it: For roughly $11, you get unlimited talk and text, and 500MB of data. If you're someone who doesn't plan on using your phone for much else than talk and text, this is a pretty unbeatable deal. 

Carrier Inclusions  
FreedomPop
FreedomPop
  • Unlimited Talk & Text with 500MB data
  • 500MB Data
  • No Contract
  • $10.99/mo

FreedomPop is a low-cost prepaid carrier that runs on Sprint's 4G LTE network. Talk and texts are converted to VoIP either via cellular network or WiFi. For an extra $3.99/month, you can upgrade to premium voice which allows you to use Sprint's network in areas where there is a weak signal otherwise. 

Also consider: 

For more options, check out WhistleOut comparison tool

Best Plans for Hot Spots/Tethering


Tethering means turning your cell phone into a mobile WiFi hotspot for the purposes of using the web on your laptop or tablet, sharing your phone's data connection. This can be a life saver if you need to do something on, say, your laptop, but happen to be somewhere without an available—or free—WiFi signal. 

Most popular devices allow tethering, but not all plans do. And some that do, like T-Mobile, downgrade tethering to a 3G signal, from a 4G one. For a complete list of all of the plans that allow tethering, check out this handy search results page. As for our picks for the very best plans for tethering, read on.

WhistleOut's Pick

T-Mobile ONE

Why we love it: This is third iteration of the ONE plan to appear on this list, and for good reason. The basic ONE includes features aplenty, not the least of which is unlimited 3G mobile hotspot usage. If you're constantly looking for a WiFi signal, knowing you have one--albeit at 3G speeds--in your pocket, at your disposal anytime, is reassuring. 

Carrier Inclusions  
T-Mobile
T-Mobile
  • ONE
  • Unlimited Data
  • No Contract
  • $70/mo + $25 Upfront

Also consider: 

For more options, check out WhistleOut comparison tool

Compare Carriers to Find the Perfect Cell Phone Plan



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