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These are the cheapest data plans you can buy in the U.S.

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These are the cheapest data plans you can buy in the U.S.

Have a carrier in mind or just looking for a cheap plan? Here are the cheapest plans you can get from every one.

All prices valid as of July 20, 2017

If you're hellbent on saving money on your wireless plan, then you have to get away from the Big Four carriers (T-Mobile, AT&T, Sprint, Verizon). Smaller carriers, called mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs) or alternative carriers, lease coverage from the larger networks and resell it for less.

That being said, depending on your usage and needs, a plan from one of the Big Four might actually be your least expensive option. Here we go.

Before choosing a plan

Before you choose a carrier and/or a wireless plan, it's best to first determine your needs and usage habits. If this is your first smartphone, I'd like to first welcome you to the 21st Century and secondly encourage you to try out your options without getting yourself into any yearly or multi-year contracts.

If this ain't your first rodeo, then reflect on your phone habits from the past. How much data have you actually used in an average month? Do you really need an unlimited plan or are you actually on Wi-Fi more than you realize? Could you benefit from an international plan of sorts?

Take time to analyze your usage and then choose the plan that best fits those needs. Most carriers are more concerned with making you overbuy by convincing you that you need unlimited everything, when the fact is that 90% of Americans don't.

Don't let carriers dictate what they think you need, because it will almost always be much more than what's necessary. Figure out what you need and make carriers work for you.

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Plans

You could opt for the cheapest data plan there is, but if you end up using more than what's allotted, you could pay far more in overages when you could've just picked the right plan for you. See if these options fit your usage habits.

You use less than 2GB of data per month

Many, many Americans use significantly less data than they think. If you've realized that you're using less than 2GB of data per month, then these are the best cheap plans for you:

Mint SIM: Mint SIM is an MVNO that leases coverage from T-Mobile. You don't sign up for a contract, but you pay in advance for 1 month, 3 months, 6 months, or 12 months, saving you more money the longer the term.

  • Cheapest plans: $11.67/month for 3 months ($35 up front), after your first 3-month term, the price goes up to $23/month ($69 up front)
  • What's included: 2GB 4G LTE, unlimited talk, text, and 2G data, tethering

Republic Wireless: Republic operates on the Sprint and T-Mobile networks. No fixed contract required. It encourages users to spend time on Wi-Fi by making it easy to automatically connect to many hotspots around the country.

  • Cheapest plan: $20/month
  • What's included: 1GB 4G LTE, unlimited talk and text, tethering

Project Fi: Project Fi is owned by Google and operates on the T-Mobile, Sprint, and U.S. Cellular networks. Project Fi's most interesting feature is the refund you get for data you pay for but don't use.

  • Cheapest plan: $30/month
  • What's included: 1GB 4G LTE and "The Basics" — unlimited talk and text, unlimited international texting, tethering, data-only SIM, international roaming

MetroPCS: MetroPCS is owned by T-Mobile and operates on the T-Mobile network. Its cheapest monthly plan includes all taxes and regulatory fees and requires no contract.

  • Cheapest plan: $30/month
  • What's included: 1GB 4G LTE, unlimited talk, text, and 2G data, tethering, voicemail, visual voicemail, Wi-Fi calling

Boost Mobile: Boost is owned by Sprint and therefore uses its network. You just pay month to month, with no contract necessary.

  • Cheapest plan: $35/month (must sign up for Auto Re-Boost, $35/month without)
  • What's included: 3GB 4G LTE, unlimited talk, text, and 2G data, unlimited music streaming from select services (may require monthly subscription)

Cricket Wireless: Cricket is owned by AT&T and operates on the AT&T network. You pay monthly for Cricket, with no fixed contract.

  • Cheapest plan: $30/month
  • What's included: 1GB 4G LTE, unlimited talk, text, and 2G data (incompatible with tethering)

You use an average amount of data

The average American uses around 4GB of data per month. If you've noticed this trend for yourself, then consider these your cheapest options:

Mint SIM: Mint SIM is owned by Ultra Mobile and operates on the T-Mobile network. You pay upfront for 1 month, 3 months, 6 months, or 12 months. The longer your term, the more money you save.

  • Cheapest 4GB plan: $16.67/month ($50 up front for a 3-month term), after the first 3-month term, your price goes up to $33/month ($99 up front)
  • What's included: 5GB 4G LTE, unlimited talk, text, and 2G data, tethering

Simple Mobile: Simple Mobile is owned by TracFone Wireless and operates on the T-Mobile network. No fixed contract required.

  • Cheapest 4GB plan: $37.50/month
  • What's included: 4GB 4G LTE, unlimited talk, text, and 2G data, unlimited international calling to mobile lines 20 countries, unlimited international calling to landlines in 65 countries, unlimited international text, data roaming in Mexico

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You're a data hog!

If you're one of the few people who uses more than 10GB of data per month, then you'll probably want to go with an "unlimited" plan from one carrier or another. These plans will usually give you 4G LTE up to around 20GB per month, and if you're going over that, then you deserve a medal.

Keep in mind that no "unlimited" plan is truly unlimited. Every carrier has a certain cap, and after you reach said cap, your speeds will likely be slowed to 128Kbps (2G speeds).

T-Mobile: T-Mobile's single-line unlimited plan isn't cheap, but if you have 4 lines, you end up saving $35/month per line.

  • Cheapest unlimited plan: $40/month/line for 4 lines ($75 for 1 line, $50/line for 2 lines, $47/line for 3 lines)
  • What's included: 30GB 4G LTE, unlimited talk and text, Music Unlimited, tethering (at 3G speeds), unlimited video streaming, free in-flight texting and 1 hour of data on Gogo-enabled flights

Boost Mobile: Boost is owned by Sprint and uses the Sprint network. No fixed contract required.

  • Cheapest unlimited plan: $50/month
  • What's included: 23GB 4G LTE, unlimited talk, text, and 2G data, unlimited music streaming from select services (may require monthly subscription)

MetroPCS: MetroPCS is owned by T-Mobile and operates on its network. No fixed contract required.

  • Cheapest unlimited plan: $50/month
  • What's included: 30GB 4G LTE, unlimited talk, text, and 2G data, unlimited music streaming (may require monthly subscription), voicemail, visual voicemail, Wi-Fi calling

Cricket Wireless: Cricket is owned by and operates on AT&T's network. No fixed contract required.

  • Cheapest unlimited plan: $55/month (with Auto Pay)
  • What's included: 22GB 4G LTE, unlimited talk, text, and 2G data, unlimited international texting, roaming in U.S., Canada, and Mexico (50% of usage must be in the U.S.)

Family matters

You can often save money on your monthly phone plan by entering into family plans with various carriers. You'll usually pay full price for the first line but receive a discount on subsequent lines. Not every carrier offers family/multi-line plans. Here are the cheapest around:

Cricket Wireless: Cricket is owned by AT&T and operates on the AT&T network. No fixed contract required.

  • Cheapest family plan: 5 lines for $100/month (with Auto Pay)
  • How it works: The initial line must be a Basic $40/month plan. You get a $10 discount for the second line, an additional $20 discount for the third line, an additional $30 off for the fourth line, and an additional $40 for the fifth line, for a total discount of $100.
  • What's included: 3GB 4G LTE (per line, per month), unlimited talk, text, and 2G data

MetroPCS: MetroPCS is owned by T-Mobile and operates on its network. No fixed contract required.

  • Cheapest family plan: $40/month for the first line and $25/month/line for up to 4 more lines
  • What's included: 6GB 4G LTE data/line/month, unlimited talk, text, 2G data, music streaming from select partners (may require monthly subscription), voicemail, visual voicemail, Wi-Fi calling

Boost Mobile: Boost is owned by Sprint and operates on the Sprint network. No fixed contract required.

  • Cheapest family plan: $30/month/line for up to 5 lines (with Auto Re-Boost)
  • What's included: 3GB 4G LTE, unlimited talk, text, 2G data, unlimited music streaming from select services (may require monthly subscription)

Sprint:

  • Cheapest family plan: $50/month for the first line, $40/moth for the second line, lines 3 to 5 are FREE until September 30,2018, then $60/month for the first line, $40/month for the second, $30/month for the rest.
  • Whats included: 10GB 4G LTE/line/month, unlimited talk, text, and 2G data, unlimited HD video streaming, unlimited music streaming, unlimited streaming gaming, tethering (up to 10GB/line/month)

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For the globetrotter and those with family overseas

If you often travel internationally or you have family abroad, then you'll want a carrier with a good international calling plan for cheap.

Project Fi: Owned by Google and operates on the T-Mobile, Sprint, and U.S. Cellular networks. You can use your Project Fi data in 135 countries just like you would at home. Unlimited texting is also included, but international calling is subject to various fees.

  • Cheapest international plan: $30/month
  • What's included: 1GB 4G LTE, unlimited talk, text, unlimited international texting

Boost Mobile: Boost is owned by and operates on Sprint's network. No fixed contract required.

  • Cheapest international plan: $35/month plus $5 for Todo Mexico or $10 for International Connect Plus
  • What's included: Todo Mexico plus gets you unlimited calling to all of Mexico, unlimited calls to Canada, Unlimited international SMS (text) messaging. International Connect Plus gets you all of the above plus MMS messaging, unlimited calls to landlines in over 70 countries, 200 minutes to select mobiles lines in over 50 countries, and reduced per-minute rates to over 200 destinations.

Virgin Mobile USA: Owned by Sprint, operating on the Sprint network. No fixed contract required. Virgin's international add-ons are essentially the same as Boost's because they're both owned and operated by Sprint.

  • Cheapest international plan: $50month plus $5 for International and $10 for International
  • What's included: International includes unlimited calls to Mexico, unlimited calls to Canada, unlimited international text messaging. International includes all of the above plus unlimited calling to landlines in over 70 countries, 200 minutes to select mobile lines in over 50 countries, and reduced per-minute rates to over 200 destinations.

What motivates you?

Are you on a super cheap data plan? Let us know in the comments below and tell us about your experience!

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