What is the cheapest virgin mobile plan

The Best Cheap Cell Phone Plans You've Never Heard Of

There are a lot of smartphone options beyond the big four carriers in the US. If you're looking to save money, these lesser-known plans might be the ticket.

While most Americans are signed up with one of the four major carrier brands — AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, or Verizon Wireless — there are many more choices available to US cell phone customers looking for a bargain. Known as MVNOs (mobile virtual network operators), these low-cost carriers piggyback on the four major networks and can deliver lower prices, especially for individual users who aren't looking to be part of a family plan.

All the major carriers have low-cost spinoffs, and their deals are worth checking first. AT&T runs Cricket Wireless. Sprint has Boost and Virgin. T-Mobile owns GoSmart and MetroPCS. And Verizon, well, Verizon just has prepaid plans. If you're looking for a wide range of stores and solid customer service, these brands should be your first shopping stops.

What Do You Need?

We've been running this list for more than four years now, and we've decided to rearrange it this time to list carriers based on groups they might appeal to. If you're looking for a deal on wireless service and fit into one of the groups below, click on that link to see which carriers are right for you:

Are These the Only Carriers I Should Consider?

There are several carriers we're not listing here, and want to explain why. Google Fi is invitation-only and requires an expensive Nexus handset. Lycamobile's plans are extremely similar to Ultra Mobile, just a little more expensive. Ting's plans are extremely similar to US Mobile, just a little more expensive. TextNow has call quality problems. PTel and Giv Mobile just died. And we're putting FreedomPop in the doghouse because of too many complaints about their customer service.

One big change over the past year is how many of these brands are no longer focusing on selling phones. The AT&T- and T-Mobile-based brands, especially, work with unlocked phones, so take a look at our list of The Best Unlocked Phones and The Best Super-Cheap Unlocked Phones for a handset to use. They may also work with your old device from your previous carrier.

What is the cheapest virgin mobile plan

We also need to explain TracFone, which is the grandaddy of the MVNOs, and it appears in many guises. All of the TracFone brands tend to change their plans frequently, sometimes even trading bonuses between them, so it's good to know what's TracFone and what isn't. Family Mobile, Net10, Page Plus, Simple Mobile, Straight Talk, Telcel America, Total Wireless and yes, TracFone, are all TracFone.

Finally, these aren't the only carriers you should consider. Depending on your needs, even one of the big four networks could have a plan that works for you. For more plan shopping advice, check out our story on How to Save Money on Your Cell Phone Plan. And for the best carrier service where you live, check out our results for the Fastest Mobile Networks .

Group 1: Lowest Prices

Sometimes you just need a little bit of talk time, or at the very least a little bit of data. These carriers charge you $10 or less per month for service.

Red Pocket runs on several different networks and has a range of plans, but what we're focused on here are its one-year pay-as-you-go talk cards. There's a 1,000-minute card for $100 that runs on the AT&T network, and a 2,000-minute card for $100 that runs on the Sprint network (yes, Red Pocket has decided that AT&T's coverage is worth twice as much as Sprint's.) Texts "cost" one minute per text. You can use Red Pocket with an unlocked, AT&T-compatible device or with a used Sprint LTE phone.

Republic Wireless

Republic Wireless starts at $10/month for unlimited talk and text, with no data, on the Sprint network. Republic's secret is that it desperately hopes you'll do most of your calling, texting, and data usage over Wi-Fi, keeping its costs down. While its 1GB plan for $25 is also a pretty good deal, its higher-usage plans are much more expensive and less appealing. All plans also include unlimited free Wi-Fi calling from anywhere in the world, which is useful for international travelers. Republic offers three midrange Motorola smartphones, the 2014-era Moto X, at $249, is a very good price for a very good phone.

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