How To Pick The Right Cell Phone Plan in 2023
How To Pick A Cell Phone Plan (And Save Hundreds Per Year)
You’re looking for a new cell phone plan. Maybe something more affordable, perhaps something with better coverage, or simply a plan with a sweet deal on a new iPhone.
But with over 330 cell phone plans from over 140 carriers to choose from, how do you decide which one to pick?
And how do you make sure you’re getting the data you need, without overpaying for data you don’t need?
Thankfully, we’re here to help.
In this guide, we’ll walk you through the four steps to picking the perfect cell phone plan. We’ll help you find one that’s affordable, meets your needs, works with your current phone, and has great coverage.
And you may actually be excited by how much money you can save by switching.
4 Steps To Picking The Perfect Cell Phone Plan
Choosing a new cell phone plan is as simple as answering four questions:
- How much cellular data do you need?
- What features do you want?
- What network do you want for coverage?
- How many lines do you have?
Answering these questions will help you narrow down your search for the perfect cell phone plan, and it’ll make sure you’re getting a plan that meets your needs.
How Much Cellular Data Do You Need?
Most carriers want people to think that they need unlimited data.
That’s because unlimited plans are more expensive than data bucket plans, and the carriers make more money.
Do you actually need unlimited data?
It turns out that the average data use in North America is about 14.6GB per month, according to Ericsson’s November 2021 Mobility Report.
If we only look at customers on unlimited plans, then it turns out the average usage is only between 18GB and 20GB per month.
That means people are paying for data they don’t need!
Identifying your average monthly data usage is a great way to make sure you’re getting a plan that fits your needs without overpaying.
If you want to be time-efficient, you can estimate you’ll use about 15GB of data per month, which is just above the average for North America.
However, if you have a couple of minutes, checking your actual usage can save you a HUGE amount of money. The less data you need, the more affordable your options here.
Suggested: Best Cell Phone Plans with 10GB of Data
Suggested: Best Unlimited Data Plans
How To Check Your Data Usage
Here are two ways to check your data usage:
- Check your online account
- Check your phone’s settings
Watch our video below to see how to check your usage and figure out exactly how much cellular data you need per month.
Check Your Online Account
Most carriers typically list the data usage per line on their online accounts.
Log in to your account and tap “Usage” (or something similar) to see your data usage for the month.
Sometimes carriers will include your data usage in your monthly bill, too.
Here’s an example from Verizon’s website and app:
Check Your Phone
All iPhones and Android phones also automatically track your data usage. You can watch the video above, or follow these steps.
- Go to Settings > Cellular
- You will see your Current Period usage at the top. Make note of the number
- Scroll all the way down to the bottom to see when the usage statistics were last reset
- Divide your Current Period usage by the number of months (or days) it’s been since the statistics were last reset. That will give you your average data usage per month (or per day, if you chose to do days)
- Go to Settings > Connections > Data Usage. Here you’ll see your usage for the your current period
- Want to see historical usage? Tap “Mobile data usage” and use the date picker at the top to select a different period
What Features Do You Want?
When you’re browsing for cell phone plans, it’s important to make sure that you’re getting all of the features you want.
For example, how important are features like visual voicemail, VoLTE, or Wi-Fi calling? Do you need international calling to stay in touch with friends or family that live abroad? Or do you need roaming data to get coverage in Canada and Mexico?
Additionally, which features would be “nice-to-haves” for you? And which ones would be “need-to-haves”?
Taking a moment to identify which features you need in a plan can help you narrow down your options and make sure you’re getting a plan that fits your needs.
Here is a full list of features that we compare here on BestPhonePlans:
- Premium data
- Data speeds
- Video streaming quality (480p, 720p, 1080p, 4K)
- Unlimited 2G data after high-speed allotment
- Multi-Media Messaging (MMS, aka group and picture messaging)
- Visual voicemail
- Wi-Fi calling
- Domestic roaming
- International roaming
- Stateside international calling
What Network Do You Want For Coverage?
Probably the most important part of picking a cell phone plan is choosing what network you want for coverage.
There’s no point in getting an affordable cell phone plan if you never have the coverage to use it, right?
Thankfully, I have good news for you.
Every single cell phone carrier in the U.S. will use either Verizon, AT&T, or T-Mobile for coverage.
Yup. That’s right. From bigger carriers like Cricket Wireless, Boost Mobile, and Visible, to the smaller carriers like Mint Mobile and US Mobile, they all use one of the big three networks for coverage.
This means you can keep the same great coverage that you’re used to and simply switch to a more affordable cell phone plan.
Or, if you’d like, you can switch to a new network with better coverage in your area.
To check which network has the best coverage in your, plug in your ZIP code to CoverageCritic. It’ll automatically rank the coverage of the networks in your area.
Suggested: 7 Best Verizon Plans
Suggested: 3 Best AT&T Plans
Suggested: 5 Best T-Mobile Plans
How Many Lines Do You Have?
Finally, it’s important to ask how many lines you have.
The best option for single-line users and couples will be different than the best options for families.
Thankfully, it’s pretty simple.
One or Two Lines
If you have one line or two lines, then the best option for you will be to go with a single-line plan. Unfortunately, there are no good discounts for couples.
The good news is that single-line plans are incredibly affordable, and going with a prepaid carrier like Mint Mobile or US Mobile (where plans start at $15/line) will still save you plenty of money over going with a postpaid carrier (like Verizon, where plans are $60/line for two people).
Here are four top picks to get you started:
- Mint Mobile’s $15 4GB plan (T-Mobile network)
- US Mobile’s $15 5GB plan (Verizon network)
- Visible’s $25 unlimited plan (Verizon network)
- AT&T Prepaid’s 8GB annual plan (AT&T network)
For families, there are excellent multi-line discounts you can take advantage of.
Here are four top picks to consider:
- US Mobile’s Unlimited All plan ($25/line with 4 lines, Verizon network)
- Visible’s Unlimited plan ($25/line with 4 lines, Verizon network)
- Metro by T-Mobile’s Unlimited plan ($30/line with 4 lines, T-Mobile network)
- Cricket’s Unlimited Core plan ($25/line with 4 lines, AT&T network)
Compared to plans directly from Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile, which range from about $35 to $55 per line for a family of four, you can save yourself $480 to $1,440 per year!
Okay, I Know What I Need, What Are The Best Plans?
Once you’ve answered the four questions, the next step is to find a cell phone plan that meets your needs.
Lucky for you, you’re in the right spot!
Here are some suggested articles to check out with recommendations on the best plans:
- Top 10 Best Cell Phone Plans in 2022
- Top 4 Best Cheap Cell Phone Plans Under $29 in 2022
- Best Cell Phone Plans for College Students in 2022
- Best Cell Phone Plans for Couples in 2022
- Best Cell Phone Plans for Kids 2022
- Best Cell Phone Plans for Seniors 2022
- Top 7 Best Unlimited Plans in 2022