The best cell phone plans

The best family plan right now is T-Mobile’s Magenta, which offers unlimited data at unbeatable prices, including the option to add a third line for free right now. You can add up to eight lines, and additional lines beyond the first three are $20 each. We have some alternative options if T-Mobile service isn’t great in your area or if you’re looking for the best individual plan, best unlimited plan, and more.

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.

Editor’s Note: Each plan we’ve chosen lists only the price of your service bill. You will also pay monthly installments on your new phones’ balances, if you choose to buy new phones from your carrier. This is explained further in the section below titled “How do phone payment plans work?”

At a glance

Service Category
T-Mobile Best cell phone plan overall
Verizon Best rural service
Visible Best affordable service
Unlimited Extra, and Unlimited Elite Best AT&T plans
T-Mobile and Sprint Best plans for international travelers
T-Mobile Magenta Best unlimited data plan
T-Mobile Simply Prepaid Best prepaid plan (from a major carrier)

T-Mobile The best t-mobile-hq-sign_feat-2x3

Why you should buy this: T-Mobile leads the industry with plans that charge no overages, cost less than the competition, and offer more perks.

Read more about T-Mobile’s plans here.

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  $70  Unlimited  $70
2  $70 + $50  Unlimited  $120
3  $70 + $50 + 0  Unlimited  $120
4 $70 + $50 + $0 +$20  Unlimited  $140
5 $70 + $50 + $0 +$20 + $20  Unlimited  $160

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

Why we picked T-Mobile:

T-Mobile is the industry leader in the U.S. with its bold “Un-carrier” campaign. When T-Mobile busts out a new plan or feature, the rest of the carriers inevitably follow its example. T-Mobile started by ending overage charges, killing the two-year contract, and offering lower prices than its competitors.

Now, T-Mobile offers a wide range of perks, including free gifts on Tuesdays, unlimited data plans, video streaming, free international service, and more. As such, T-Mobile wins our awards for best unlimited plan, best international service, and best urban service.

Of course, you have to look beyond the gimmicks to see the core aspects of T-Mobile’s service. It offers one plan: T-Mobile Magenta.

There’s no contract, and you have to pay the full, unsubsidized price for each smartphone you buy on the plan. You’ll pay for each device in installments (typically $20 to $30 a month per phone), or you can bring your own phone instead of buying a new one.

T-Mobile Magenta MAX, a premium upgrade, starts at an additional $15 a month and includes unlimited GoGo in-flight Wi-Fi, voicemail to text, and caller ID. T-Mobile Magenta Plus customers get unlimited data at twice the speed of the basic T-Mobile Magenta plan (up to 256 kbps) and unlimited text and calling at $0.25 per minute in 210 countries.

Bottom line: Data hogs get a pretty decent deal with the T-Mobile Magenta Plan and its unlimited data and people who want a no-frills unlimited option will find T-Mobile’s One plan attractive. Large families who make international calls or tether to mobile hotspots should opt for Magenta Plus.

Disclaimer: If you live in a rural area, T-Mobile may not work for you. Coverage is still spotty in rural America, though it excels in cities.

The perks that come with T-Mobile’s plan:

  • Mobile without Borders: T-Mobile users get free calling and texting to and from Mexico and Canada and up to 5GB of free high-speed data when traveling there as well as unlimited text and data and low flat-rate calling in 210 countries worldwide. High-speed data passes are available for $5 per day.
  • Jump! on Demand: An 18-month agreement lets you lease phones for less and upgrade to the latest and greatest phone every 30 days.
  • Scam ID and Scam Block: The company offers free screening for scammers with no app or opt-in required — you’re alerted with a Scam Likely message if T-Mobile detects a scam call.
  • T-Mobile Tuesdays: Download the iOS and Android app to get free deals every Tuesday, like a Dunkin Donuts latte or Taco Bell tacos.
  • No overages on data: The unlimited plan has no overages.
  • Free Netflix subscription: For T-Mobile Magenta unlimited customers with two or more lines on their account.
  • Speeds won’t throttle until 50GB: For subscribers on the T-Mobile Magenta plan, speeds won’t throttle until your data usage reaches 50GB.

The downsides of T-Mobile’s plan:

  • Spotty coverage in rural areas
  • The tethering between your phone and other devices is limited to 3G speeds
  • Sign up for Auto Pay on your bills, or T-Mobile will charge $5 extra per line each month

Verizon The best rural service verizon-store

Why you should buy this: Verizon offers the best coverage in rural areas across the U.S. and its unlimited plan is a decent deal.

Read more about Verizon’s plans here

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 5G data + 4G LTE
1 $80 $70 w/5GB

$80 w/50GB

$90 w/Unlimited




2 $70 x 2 $60 w/5GB

$70 w/10GB

$80 w/Unlimited




3 $55 x 3 $45 w/5GB

$55 w/10GB

$65 w/Unlimited




4 $45 x 4 $35 w/5GB

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