Taking your iPhone to a pre-paid plan can save you quite a bit of cash and if you live in the United States, there are quite a few options these days. Whether you’re a talker, texter or web surfer, there’s something to be had for everyone when it comes to moving to a prepaid plan. Some may require tweaking a few settings to get things like picture messaging fully up and running, but if you need to save some cash or just don’t fancy signing contracts, pre-paid is a great option.
- Best Value: Boost Mobile
- Best Overall: T-Mobile
- Best Coverage: AT&T Prepaid
- Best Bulk package: Mint Mobile
- Best International: Straight Talk
Best Value: Boost Mobile
Boost Mobile is a CDMA carrier that utilizes Sprint’s network. The carrier offers two different data options for customers, with pricing starting as low as $30 when you sign up for monthly autopay. With the base plan, you get 3GB of LTE data each month, which you can also use for tethering.
The next step up would be $50 a month for unlimited LTE data. It includes a base 12GB worth of tethering, and the option to bump it up to 30GB increases the price to $60. Or take it the whole way to 50GB of hotspot data for a total price of $80. All of the plans include unlimited talk and text, and unlimited music streaming without using your monthly data allotment.
- Low price
- Hotspot included
- Option for 50GB of Hotspot use per month
- Sprint’s network isn’t great everywhere
- CDMA limitations can mean no simultanious voice and data
If you need to cheapest plan possible for your iPhone, Boost Mobile offers it. Pricing starts at $30 per month, with an unlimited option for $50 that includes tethering. All plans include unlimited talk, text and music streaming.
Best Overall: T-Mobile
T-Mobile has grown in popularity since it ditched contracts, but the company offers pre-paid plans that are quite a steal as well.
You have two options for pre-paid service starting at $40 per month for 10GB of LTE data. There is also the T-Mobile One Prepay plan that gives you unlimited LTE data for $50 per month. The 10GB plan includes tethering at LTE speeds, but the ONE plan cuts things down to 3G speeds.
All plans include unlimited talk and text and unlimited streaming through most services with T-Mobile’s Binge On feature. The T-Mobile One pre-paid plan works throughout North America, not just the U.S., so if you’re traveling to Canada, Mexico, or Latin America, you won’t have any problems.
- Fast LTE network
- Nationwide coverage
- Works throughout North America
- T-Mobile coverage can be weak in rural areas
- 3G speeds for tethering on the unlimited plan
T-Mobile offers a fast nationwide LTE network and has unlimited prepaid service for $50 per month. the service works in Canada, Mexico and the U.S. and includes Wi-Fi calling and texting if your outside North America.
Best Coverage: AT&T Prepaid
AT&T Prepaid is the new name for the GoPhone brand, with the same great AT&T coverage. The entry-level plan starts at $35 a month and includes 1GB high-speed data. A $45 plan with 8GB is also available, as is an unlimited plan for $65 each month. All three plans offer unlimited talk and text in the U.S. and unlimited texting to over 100 different countries. the $65 plan and the $45 plan also offer unlimited talk and text between and within Mexico and Canada, and you can add mobile hotspot to the $65 plan for an additional $10 each month.
Signing up for Autopay will save you $10 a month any of the AT&T Prepaid plans.
- AT&T’s nationwide network
- Fast network speeds
- More expensive that other plans
- Entry-level plan is overpriced
AT&T has one of the biggest and most robust networks of any carrier in the U.S. and its pre-paid service uses it, too. If you value coverage above all else AT&T offers a plan that will fit you.
Best Bulk Data : Mint Mobile
Mint Mobile is a T-Mobile MVNO (Mobile Virtual Network Operator) that offers cheap data when you buy in bulk. You can pay for 3 months, 6 months or 12 months in advance and get service as low as $15 per month for 3GB of high-speed data each month. If you want the convenience of paying for the whole year in one shot, a 3GB per month plan still comes out at just $15 a month. The value scales well, too: 12GB per month plans are just $25 per month.
All plans include unlimited talk and text, and Mint Mobile is super iPhone friendly — activate your account, put in the SIM card, turn on your phone and it just works.
- T-Mobile’s nationwide network
- Cheap data plans
- Buy up to a year in advance
- No unlimited option
- Data prioritization can mean slow service in congested areas
Best Bulk Data
Buy in bulk and save
If you don’t need an unlimited data plan but still want great service and all the features, buying data in bulk from Mint Mobile can save you money. And you’ll have use of T-mobile’s nationwide network to use it!
Best International: Straight Talk
Straight Talk is a MVNO that piggybacks on AT&T’s network to provide great coverage at an affordable cost. Plans start at just $30 a month with 1500 minutes and 100MB of data, which likely won’t meet the needs of most. For an extra $5, you jump up to unlimited talk and text and 2GB of high-speed data. For the data hungry, Straight Talk offers a $55 plan that has 12GB of data and a $60 plan plan that offers 8GB and unlimited talk and text to mobile numbers in Canada, China, India, and Mexico.
With Straight Talk you can pay for 30 days, 3 months, 6 months or even a full year at once. For some, this is a great advantage, as you just pay once and then know your phone will work for the year.
- Plans with unlimited talk and text to China and India
- Uses AT&T’s network
- Buy up to a year in advance
- No unlimited option
- Can be expensive for heavy data users
Talk and text in China and India
Straight Talk may not offer the lowest prices or unlimited plans, but if you need to talk or text with friends or family in China or India, it has you covered. The $60 plan can mean a big savings over other plans with calling and texting fees.
Buying an unlocked iPhone
There are a number of places that you can grab an unlocked iPhone from these days. Apple is now offering its own financing plan, so if you want to buy your iPhone right from Apple, you can now stretch the payments over 24 months. If you don’t need the latest, and are looking to save a few bucks on the phone, there are a few other places to shop for a phone.
Online sites such as eBay, Amazon, and Swappa allow you to shop used phones, and find something that better meets your budget needs. Most pre-paid carriers offer the option to purchase an iPhone from them, but most will require you to pay the full cost of the phone upfront.
When it comes to choosing a prepaid carrier, all of the above have their advantages and disadvantages. For most of us, carriers that piggyback on At&t or T-Mobile’s network will have the best coverage, but if you live in an area where Sprint has you covered, carriers like Boost offer some nice plans — don’t rule them out!.
If you’re looking to get the most bang for your buck with the best coverage, we’d recommend AT&T Prepaid or T-Mobile. They offer moderately priced unlimited plans and have nationwide LTE coverage.
If you don’t need a lot of data, you can save a lot of money by going with Mint Mobile and buying three months of 2GB LTE data at once for $15 each month ($45 total).
The best part is that there are plenty of options. You’ll be able to find one that works for you!