The 5 Best Value Cell Phone Plans For 2021

A smartphone and a data plan are nearly essential to modern life. Yet, we are also aware that these things can be expensive every month, with a plan for the family easily reaching over $100 a month. Getting the most for your money whenever possible is important, and that includes your cell phone bill.

How does one save money or get more value from their service provider? There are plenty of small ways to help yourself out, but overall, the best way is to make sure to pick out the right plan for your needs from the get-go. Also, don't be afraid to switch if you are not happy with your current plan.

However, value is more than just getting the cheapest phone possible. Otherwise, anyone interested in thrift above all else would be miserable with a flip phone. The right plan for you can be a bit more expensive yet provide more, while another could be minimalist in both features and price. Before going further, we recommend considering just how much you use your phone, what you need it for, how much data you use, and what model phone you want. Once you have had a think, take a look at the following five plans and consider if they might be best for you:

1. Verizon Do More Unlimited

Verizon might be known as one of the larger and more expensive cell phone service providers in the country (among other things). However, that does not mean the Verizon Do More Unlimited plan does not provide excellent customer value with some extra features that could be useful and valuable to your family.

Verizon stands out compared to the cheaper options here for the simple quality of their service and their coverage across the country. Some perks include cloud storage, several online service subscriptions (for six months only, so do not let them be a deciding factor), and a discount on connected device plans.

In terms of cost, that will depend on how many people you have on the plan. At a base level, it will be about $80 a month for one person. That amount decreases by $10 or $15 for each additional person you add, $45 per line per month at four people and $40 a month at five or more people, with no decrease in quality or data as you add more. In truth, we would only recommend this plan to families or groups of committed individuals.

In terms of service, Verizon has the best coverage in the country, covering about 70 percent of the nation with 4G coverage. You will not find a better option than this. The general cell service is also excellent, with few dead zones to worry about.

There is, of course, unlimited talk and text. As the name implies, you can also get unlimited data with the plan, up to 50GB of unthrottled data (though throttling does not seem to be a significant issue for Verizon customers). Whether that implies 4G or 5G access (it depends on if it has rolled out in your area yet), the latest tech will be used. With the plan, you will always have access to the outside world, and to us, that means the Do More Unlimited plan provides excellent value.

We recommend the Verizon Do More Unlimited plan if:

  • You are OK with getting a slightly more expensive (and therefore comprehensive) plan but want to get quite a bit out of it for yourself and your family.
  • You are looking to get a high-end phone plan with all the extra features and even a few extra trial subscriptions to go with it, but want to have a balanced approach to this, avoiding features and subscriptions that you know you will never use.
  • You use mobile data constantly and genuinely want an unlimited plan for a reasonable price.
  • You need a cell phone plan with a carrier that has excellent coverage across the country.

2. Verizon Start Unlimited

An alternate Verizon plan if you are looking for something a bit simpler but still want unlimited data, the Verizon Start Unlimited plan is about $10 per month cheaper than the Do More Unlimited Plan. There is little difference outside of some of the extra services and perks you might not otherwise use. However, default video streaming might be a bit lower quality, and mobile hotspots might not be as accessible or useful.

Some of the 5G access might not be as available or as prioritized for you and your household as with the higher-tier plans. Speeds are likely fast enough already for your needs, and 5G might not be available yet in your area anyway, plus availability on any plan will eventually likely come as standard. There is an option to add 5G Ultra-Wideband, but considering the price, you might as well get a different plan.

Strangely enough, even the cheapest plan still has perks in the form of six-month subscriptions to Apple Music, Disney+, and Discovery+. These six months might be to get you hooked on those services, and like the other plans, should not be used to decide on a long-term phone plan.

Moving on from the negative and neutral points, with the Verizon Start Unlimited plan, you will be able to still take advantage of Verizon's massive coverage network for both cell service and 4G data. Coverage is unmatched in the United States and remains reliable for the vast majority of customers. Heavy travelers and the like may want to stick with Verizon one way or another.

Similarly, even with lower-tier options, Verizon also happens to be the fastest network on average across the country. People who like to download their content or want a fast download speed will want to stick with Verizon. Verizon boasts about its speed, and they have every right to.

Between the two plans on this list (not to mention all of the other providers and plans available), you will have to work out whether this is the better plan for yourself or your household. We lean towards this plan for either the thriftiest of families or individuals just looking for a reliable phone plan for themselves.

We recommend the Verizon Start Unlimited plan if:

  • You do not need everything in the Do More Unlimited plan but still like Verizon's coverage and options.
  • You have a larger family that requires an unlimited data allowance and wants to take advantage of the cheaper rates on a family plan.
  • You are an individual set on getting a plan with Verizon but do not want to break the bank.
  • You are not yet interested in some of the benefits 5G can offer or know you will not have access for some time.

3. T-Mobile Essentials

Another big-name plan you might hear often advertised or used across the country, the T-Mobile Essentials plan, can provide excellent value for you and your family.

You will get unlimited data alongside unlimited talk and text, but it will also be low-priority data. This means you might have speed issues in heavily trafficked areas or during periods of heavy usage. How tolerable this is depends on your personal preferences and usage habits, as well as those of your family. If you want to stick with T-Mobile but want something a little more robust, the Magenta or Magenta Plus plans come with some perks and a higher priority, but we think there are better options at that price tier.

As with other plans on this list, you probably only will get the true value if you get a family plan, as even this plan (relatively basic from them) will cost upwards of $60 a month if you are getting a single line. However, at four lines, you will only be paying $26 per line (assuming you enroll in autopay and disregard taxes).

T-Mobile provides mainly the same quality service compared to other major providers at those prices, making them a clear winner in terms of value. If you do not use your phone much or mostly rely on WiFi anyhow, you will not notice the difference except on your monthly bill. There are additional options and services available for a fee, such as additional mobile hotspot data, but adding them can significantly increase costs and, in our opinion, are not worth it to the customer interested in value.

One last note is that, like some other companies, T-Mobile does not include taxes and fees in most of their advertised prices (though they did this until recently.) You may want to add on about $5 a month (or even more in rare circumstances) to whatever you are getting from them.

We recommend the T-Mobile Essentials plan if:

  • You are looking for a cheap family plan that can still deliver all of the basic services you need from a major cell service provider.
  • You are willing to pay slightly less for slightly less speed compared to some of the top providers across the country.
  • You live in an area that gets good coverage from T-Mobile and generally do not travel to locations with problems getting coverage.

4. Visible Unlimited

Visible Unlimited is an excellent option that offers unlimited data and allows for group rates with some more independence than generally seen with a group plan. They also advertise no hidden fees and have no limits on hotspot usage, which gives them a few legs up already on similar low-cost plans.

In terms of services provided, Visible Unlimited offers unlimited talk and text and unlimited data as well. All of this is for a price of $25 per person if there are more than four people, with the price going up if you cannot find a larger group.

This might require some organization on your end, but the low rate is worth it to many. You might think it sounds like a typical family plan, but it seems as though Visible Unlimited caters to roommates or groups of friends more than it does nuclear family units, though it could work for either. This makes it easier for people to come in and out as they move forward with their lives, and Visible even credits people for referrals.

If you are worried about the quality of service you will be getting; you should know that Visible works with Verizon to grant coverage, including 5G data, making it one of the fastest and most reliable options you can pick.

Granted, if being organized isn't your thing, then Visible Unlimited might not be the best option for your group, and while the $40 a month single person plan is still competitive, exploring the market at that point still would make sense. It all comes down to how you organize your life.

We recommend Visible Unlimited if:

  • You have a family or group of four people who all need phones and are willing to get a cheaper plan together, or you have an even larger group that is willing to work together on this.
  • You like the idea of everyone being more independent in paying their bill and people being able to join and leave relatively easily.
  • You do not need all of the extras that come with more expensive plans, and you are willing to take care of a few more things yourself.
  • You like the coverage and speed that Verizon can offer but do not like the price. 

5. Mint Mobile 4GB

There are cheaper cell phone plans out there, but when it comes to extremely low-cost plans, we think that the Mint Mobile 4GB is a great choice, especially if you do not use much data and plan on just getting service for yourself. As expected, you will have unlimited talk and text, free calling to Mexico and Canada, and access to either 5G or 4G LTE data (whatever is best and available in your area). Despite the price, it is a perfectly modern solution and can be a great choice if you already have an unlocked phone or know you will get something for yourself anyhow.

Note that if you know you use more data than 4GB every month, you certainly can pick out a slightly more expensive plan with more data. You can get 10GB a month for $20 a month, 15GB for $25, and unlimited data for $30 a month. However, you are deprioritized after a certain point each month (usually 35 GB), and for this price, we think Visible Unlimited can be a better option. There may also be taxes and fees on your bill, but most would apply with any provider. Measure your data usage and see what works for you.

You should know that Mint Mobile does charge for three months of service at once, so you need to plan or have the credit to handle it. You will also need to commit to and pay for a full year of service after the first three-month stint if you want to stick to these low rates, though there are slightly more expensive six-month plans as well if you wish to remain a bit more flexible.

If you have not heard of Mint Mobile before and are worried about its coverage, Mint Mobile uses T-Mobile. It should be suitable for many people across the country, though you may want to check about the specific coverage in your area.

We Recommend Mint Mobile if:

  • You are OK with making a commitment after a few months to keep a low price and paying upfront for that price.
  • You do not need many of the bells, whistles, and added features offered by other service providers and want to stick to the basics.
  • You are fine with the coverage T-Mobile provides and do not anticipate issues with this.

Additional Notes and Tips

There is a lot of variance to all the above, so here are a few notes and disclaimers to go over:

  • Any of the above can change at any time. New features can be added to cheaper plans or more valuable features added to more expensive plans. Prices can also change. While it will not happen overnight, and if you have a contract, the commitment goes both ways (though be wary of the fine print), you should check up on your bill and the available options at least a few times a year.
  • Cell phone plans can have different costs based on your region (though this is becoming far less common as time goes on), so there may be changes from what is listed above. Some service providers might make changes while others are uniform. Similarly, there might be regional or timed promotions that could affect contracts and prices, at least at the start. These often do not last, however, and we advise you to think long-term.
  • You will also want to beware of hidden fees with low base cost plans. We checked as carefully as possible, but circumstances can change, and fees from a provider can go up over time (and rarely ever disappear or go down, save for a response to public outcry).
  • While some things are undoubtedly unnecessary fluff (think about how often you use warrantees and special service plans), other services and conveniences offered by larger providers might not be available with smaller ones. It might be something you do not realize you are using all the time currently.

On Bundles

While previously reserved for companies with regular phone service, internet service, and/or cable television service on offer, some companies have also been adding cell phone plans and mobile data to the list of bundling options.

If you are open to getting new services or switching providers for these other services, getting one of these bundles can mean significant savings for you and your household. You may also get access to perks or plans that would otherwise be walled off behind these bundles (likely not with your smartphone, but certainly with your cable TV or internet services). If you do not see an option right away, do not hesitate to call one of your service providers to see what they can offer.

On Smartphone Costs and Locked Phones

On top of the cost of the plan itself, you might need to find out whether you will be able to keep your current phone if you switch to a new provider. Perhaps the provider can arrange something, and it certainly will not be a problem if you are simply switching to a new plan with the same provider. Still, you might find yourself with an unusable phone if you change without doing your research ahead of time.

If you want to save the most money and have a bit of time and the ability to deal with the cost up-front, buying an unlocked phone, ideally on sale, might be the best way to go. Setting it up will be easy, and you can be confident you will be able to switch again down the line.

On Group or Family Plans

All things considered, sharing the costs via a group or family plan will always be cheaper than having a plan as a single user.

If you are looking to save money on your cell phone bill each month, we strongly encourage you to seek out such a plan with family members or even close, trusted friends (family plans do not have to have family members in them). In some cases, data might be shared between users, so be careful, but unlimited plans have few disadvantages if you pool your resources and stay on top of things.

Conclusion

You might not be in the exact position to change plans or start with a new one just yet, or you might have another tab open, ready, and raring to go. In either case, we hope that the above information and recommendations can save you money each year while getting you and your loved ones the maximum value possible from your services. Remember that you are the one with the purchasing power, and you have every right to seek out the best plan possible, whether that is from your current provider or not.