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Best cheap plans for individuals and family in the US – types, pricing and differences

ByinTips & Guides | March 9, 2015

Wireless Phone

Living in a world ruled by wireless technology is not an easy task, since there are so many important choices to be made. Take for example the mobile market. If you want something more than just a simple handset to keep in touch with the world, you would have a dozen or so variables to consider before you can enjoy a new device and service that won’t ruin your finances. First, you need to decide on the brand and model of your new phone and if you are picky, you might spend a little extra time choosing your favorite color.

Now that you know what you want from your phone, the real challenge is to find a carrier and good plan. With the variety of offers available on the market today, it can be painfully time-consuming process, especially if you are not an expert. But maybe we can make it a tad easier for you. Here’s all you need to know about cheap plans for individuals and family.

Types of plans

Let’s start from the basics, that is the types of plans. One of the most popular options available in the market is a two-year contract. In a nutshell, when you sign a two-year agreement with carrier, you promise to stick with the service provider and obviously pay bills for the duration of the contract. It is possible to terminate the contract earlier, however, in such case you will have to pay a hefty fee which can be as high as $350. Two-year contracts can be pretty costly, but they allow users to buy phones at subsidized prices. Such plans are offered by US largest carriers that is AT&T, Verizon and Sprint.

Two years is a long time and if you don’t feel confident to be committed to one carrier for 24 months, you can opt-in for a month-to-month prepaid plan. Such plans are usually simpler and may be cheaper, however, they don’t include subsidized cheaper phones, so you will have to pay full retail price for your new handset.

No-contract plans need distinguishing from prepaid plans. When you go prepaid, you first buy minutes and then use them. Such plans are typically cheaper but for obvious reasons you won’t have unlimited talk, text or data.

Another option to consider are MVNOs (mobile virtual network operator) such as Boost MobileStraight Talk or Republic Wireless. These companies don’t have their own infrastructure and rely on bigger carriers’ network, like Verizon or Sprint. It allows MVNOs to bring reliable service and consequently offer more affordable plans; however, such plans typically have some limitations.

Cheap plans for individuals

The selection of individual plans in the market is huge. They are offered with or without long-term contracts and with different amounts of data ranging from 250MB to unlimited which naturally influences the price. The cheapest individual plan with sufficient 1GB of data is currently offered by Sprint. The plan costs $35 per month, however, the carrier requires an original Sprint’s CDMA phone, which means that unlocked phone won’t work with this plan.

If you have certified Sprint device then good for you, but if you don’t then you will need to join the “Easy Pay” program which will add at least $20 to your bill. You will end up paying $55 or more per month which is more that T-Mobile’s cheapest plans which is priced at $50 per month. When it comes to plans with unlimited data, again Sprint appears to be the best choice with its $60 plan. T-Mobile charges $80 per month; however, it doesn’t require contracts and has arguably better speeds.

Sprint T-Mobile  Verizon  AT&T
 $35 w/ 1GB $50 w/ 1GB $60 w/ 1GB  $55 w/ 1GB
$45 w/ 3GB $60 w/ 3GB $75 w/ 2GB $65 w/ 3GB
$60 w/ unlimited  $70 w/ 5GB $90 w/ 3GB $95 w/ 6GB
$80 w/ unlimited  $100 w/ 4 GB data

Best family plans

If you have a family, a family plan, either with or without contract, should be the right option to consider. Such plans offered by all major carriers in the US offer more talk, text and data caps. While obviously more expensive than individual plans, they can be utilized by few relatives which bring some savings per user. Prices of family plans depend on the number of lines per account and the amount of data, text and talk included in the plan.

The cheapest 2-line plans with 2GB of data are offered by Sprint and start at $75 per month. T-Mobile is right behind with its $80 plan with 2GB of data and $100 plan with 3GB of data. The Magenta network seems to be the best choice if you need a 3-, 4- and 5-line plan. Such plans will cost you $90, $100 and $120 per month and you will get 3GB, 4GB and 5GB of data, respectively.

Families who use a lot of data will benefit more from joining Sprint – the carrier offers plans with 20GB of data starting at $145. All in all, T-Mobile appears to be the winner when it comes to family plans. Moreover, the network offers Data Stash which allows users to save unused data for the next month.

Lines  T-Mobile  Verizon  AT&T Sprint
 2 $80 w/2GB $100 w/6GB $100 w/2GB $120 w/4GB $130 w/6GB $90 w/2GB $120 w/4GB $130 w/6GB $75 w/2GB $90 w/4GB $120 w/8GB
 3 $90 w/3GB  $120 w/9GB $140 w/3GB $160 w/6GB $175 w/8GB $145 w/4GB $155 w/6GB $145 w/10GB $115 w/4GB $145 w/20GB ** $145 w/20GB **
 4 $100 w/4GB  $140 w/12GB $120 w/4GB $145 w/8GB $170 w/12GB $170 w/4GB $160 w/10GB  $190 w/15GB $140 w/4GB $160 w/20GB ** $160 w/20GB **
 5 $120 w/5GB  $160 w/15GB $145 w/6GB $175 w/10GB $195 w/14GB $205 w/6GB $175 w/10GB  $205 w/15GB $175 w/20GB ** $175 w/20GB ** $175 w/20GB **

Best plans offered by Mobile Virtual Network Operators

Mobile Virtual Network Operators plans can be an interesting option for users who are on a tight budget and use very little data on the go. Such plans typically include just enough data to check your mail every once in a while, but a huge plus is that they are very affordable and almost free. For instance, if 500MB of data would be enough for you, FreedomPop plan won’t cost you a penny and for $20 per month you get unlimited data. Republic Wireless also offers inexpensive plans that start at $10 per month. Keep in mind, though, that the cheapest plan requires access to Wi-Fi to use the service. Unlimited plan with access to 4G speeds costs $40 per month.

MVNO services may not seem like an attractive option mostly due to the fact that in many cases they require Wi-Fi coverage to upkeep the service and their selection of phones is limited to say the least. However, some operators allow users to bring own unlocked devices as long as they are compatible with the network’s frequencies.

Republic Wireless  Ting Metro PCS FreedomPop
 $10 w/ unlimited data over Wi-Fi  Customizable $40 w/ 2 GB Free w/ 500 MB data
$25 w/ unlimited 3G data $50 w/ 4GB $20 w/ unlimited
$40 w/ unlimited 4G data $60 w/ unlimited

Choosing the right plan

Choosing a plan for your phone is not a decision you should take lightly. In fact, we advise you to take a considerable amount of time comparing different offers and going over pros and cons of every single one of them. Even though it may seem like a waste of your precious time, we can assure you that it will pay off in the future. After all, you probably will be stuck with the plan for many months during which time it will affect your budget and the level of your satisfaction so you may want it to suit all you needs perfectly.

source: Digital Trends

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