Verizon, T-Mobile and AT&T are heavy on the glitter. They offer plenty of shiny features like 1080p video streaming, generous hotspot plans, and very high data throttling limits. But if you don’t need blazing-fast features or super-fast streaming, you can save a lot of money each month by opting for one of the smaller, lesser-known cellular providers. Mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs) charge cheaper prices because they lease wireless capacity from larger companies, rather than maintain their own cell towers.
They may not have the money for smashing advertising campaigns, but an MVNO can provide many core features once limited to the Big Three. These days, it’s reasonable to expect the best cheap phone plans to include 5G network access with the option to use your phone as a Wi-Fi hotspot. These are our favourites.
Don’t see anything useful for you? Read our best unlimited plans, best Android phones, best iPhones, and best cheap phones guides for more recommendations.
Updated June 2022: We’ve updated pricing and details in all sections of this guide.
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Mint launched in 2016 and has become the best value among smaller mobile networks. The unlimited plan is our data service of choice and starts at $30 per month (for the first three months) for impressive benefits. This is a new introductory offer – it will revert to $40 per month when it comes time to renew at the end of those three months. With Mint Mobile, you can renew the service every three, six, or 12 months.
You get 4G LTE and 5G in each plan, although the Unlimited plan’s speeds slow down after you use 35 gigabytes of data per month (videos also stream at 480p unless you’re on Wi-Fi). All plans have unlimited calling and texting and free calls to Canada and Mexico. You also get mobile hotspot capabilities with your phone, so you can connect your laptop to the internet, although tethering data is limited to 5GB per month.
There are four tiers: 4 GB for $25, 10 GB for $35, 15 GB for $45, or unlimited for $40. Prices are lowest if you pay for a year. Mint has an offer that cuts prices to $15, $20, $25, and $30 per month, respectively, for the aforementioned plans, for the first three months. These prices will reset to actual rates if you choose to pay every three months, but if you commit for a year, you can keep the discounted rate. There is also a smaller discount if you commit six months at a time† Mint does not include wireless taxes and fees in its pricing. Both plans cost $10 more per month if you don’t pay annually.