Updated. Cellular phone bills remain an area where many people can trim their budgets. If you haven’t shopped around lately, there are many new options available. All the major networks sell wholesale minutes to MVNOs (Mobile Network Virtual Operators), which they in turn sell at a significant discount to individuals. I would also observe that smartphone improvements are slowing, such that using your current phone for another year can also save you hundreds per year.
This post is restricted to talk & text only plans for both light and unlimited usage – no data (although some plans include some anyway). After looking at over 100 MVNOs and multiple comparison engines, and these are the cheapest I could find for each of the major carriers – Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, or T-Mobile. I organized in this way so that you can simply Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) and avoid the hassle of selling your used phone. You can now either go minimalist starting at $15 for an entire year ($1.25 a month), or you can fully replace your landline with an unlimited talk and text plan starting at $15 a month.
- Light Usage – LycaMobile. Their barebones prepaid plan requires a minimum top-up of $10. You must have some sort of activity every 90 days to keep your service (make a phone call, send a text). The rate is a flat 5 cents a minute for talk, and 4 cents per text. If you only used 100 minutes a year, that would be $15 a year for the first year and then $5 a year afterward ($10 minimum recharge).
- Unlimited Talk & Text – Republic Wireless. You can now buy a SIM and bring over your own device on their eligible list (no iPhones) and get unlimited talk and text for $15 a month. They have a somewhat unique service, see my Republic Wireless review for details. Also worthy of mention is Mint, which goes as low as $21 a month for unlimited talk, text, and 2 GB of data per month. However, you’ll have to pay for an entire year upfront to get that price.
- Light Usage – RingPlus. Their plans change constantly, but as of this writing you can get 250 minutes, 250 texts, and 250 MB of data per month with a $10 initial top-up and a $0 monthly fee. In other words, your total cost could be $10 a year. I still don’t understand their business model, so be ready to port out your number in case the fun stops. See my Ringplus review for details.
- Unlimited Talk & Text – Tello. Unlimited talk, text, and no data for $18 a month. I will mention that Republic Wireless has $15 a month plan for unlimited talk and text on the Sprint Network, but you can’t bring any used Sprint device over – you must buy a special RW-modified phone in order to use the Sprint Network (see above for their T-Mobile BYOD option).
- Light Usage – Pix Wireless. Their GSM Blue service is on AT&T, and runs as low at $75 a year which includes 1,875 minutes, 3,750 text, and 938 MB of LTE data for 365 days. Overages are 4¢/Minute, 2¢/Text, and 8¢/ MB 4G LTE. Alternatively, H20 Wireless has a minimum top-up of $10 every 90 days, for a total minimum annual cost of $40 per year. At the flat rate of 5¢/Minute, 5¢/Text, that $40 would buy you 400 minutes and 400 texts over those 360 days.
- Unlimited Talk & Text – Airvoice. Unlimited talk, text, and 100 MB of data for $20 a month (technically 30 days).
- Light Usage – Selectel. $75 a year for a bucket of 2000 minutes and 2000 texts for the entire year (no data included, 3G phones only). The same plan costs $100 a year for 4G phones. Their website is very vague; call them directly at 877-218-5744. You can also try Page Plus Cellular for $80 for 2,000 minutes that last a year, but they only take 3G phones.
- Unlimited Talk & Text – Boom Mobile. Unlimited talk, text, and 250 MB data for $20 a month. (Both 3G and 4G phones will work, but there is a separate plan for each.)
Let me know in the comments if you find a better deal.