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CostHelper > Consumer Electronics  > Phones & Communication > Cell Phone Plan

Cell Phone Plan Cost


How Much Does a Cell Phone Plan Cost?

 
low costPre-Paid Cell Phone Plan: $30-$100 a monthaverage costBasic Talk and Text Plan: $40-$60 a monthhigh costUnlimited Talk and Text Plan: $70-$110 a month
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The first step in selecting a cell phone plan is to decide on a carrier, ideally one that offers the best coverage in the area the phone will most often be used. Check the cell phone reception coverage maps for the carriers available. Customers interested in smartphones and accompanying data plans can read How Much Does a Smartphone Cost.

Typical costs:

  • Basic text and talk phone plans generally cost $40-$60 a month. Basic plans typically have a restricted number of talk minutes (often less than 500) and unlimited texting. Basic plans also often include free mobile-to-mobile calls to lines on the same carrier and free nights and weekends. For example, AT&T[1] charges $40 for 450 minutes per month and $20 for unlimited texting. T-Mobile offers an unlimited talk, text and web plan starting at $50 a month that is unique because most basic plans don't include web access.
  • Plans with greater amounts of talk-time minutes cost more. For example, Sprint[2] offers plans with 900 minutes for $60-$110 per month.
  • Verizon[3] offers unlimited talk and text plans that also include limited data plans that start at $80-$90, depending on the type of phone used. Unlimited talk plans through AT&T[4] start at $70 per month.
  • Pre-paid cell phone plans typically cost $30-$100 per month, depending on usage needs. Basic talk and text plans are less expensive than plans that include data or unlimited talk time. For example, Sprint[5] has unlimited pre-paid phone plans from $50-$70 per month. Virgin Mobile[6] has plans for $35-$55 per month.
  • Family plans allow share allotments of talk, text and data and generally cost less than multiple individual plans. For example, Verizon[7] has "share everything" plans that cost $30 per basic phone, $40 per smartphone and $50-$100 for unlimited talk, text and tiered data allowances. Family plans from T-Mobile start at $80 for two lines, $90 for three lines, $100 for four lines and $110 for five lines. Additional data allowances cost more.
Related articles: Cell Phone, Smartphone, Text Messaging, Internet Phone Service

What should be included:
  • Most cell phone plans include voicemail and caller ID.
  • Many cell phone plans allow for free mobile-to-mobile calls on the same network. Many plans also offer free evenings (typically after 7 p.m. or 9 p.m.).
Additional costs:
  • There are typically $30-$40 activation fees for new phones and contracts.
  • Additional minutes usually cost extra.
  • On some plans, roaming outside of the local region can cost extra.
  • Breaking a cell phone contract early will entail a sizeable penalty. It varies by phone and by carrier, but typically the fines are between $175-$350.
  • Depending on the plan, text, IM (Instant Messaging), picture and video messaging can also cost extra. Unlimited text messaging typically costs $20 per month. See: How Much Does Text Messaging Cost.
  • There are state and local taxes on monthly plans, but these are generally minimal.
Discounts:
  • When consumers agree to a new two-year contract the cost of the phone is often heavily discounted. Many phones are available for free or less than $1 with an agreement for a two-year contract.
  • When a cell phone contract term is up, users can renegotiate with the carrier and may get better terms or a new phone.
  • Some national companies offer discount plans for employees.
Shopping for a cell phone plan:
  • Shop around. Different retailers will offer different incentive plans for signing up for a contract, which can include free activation, free or discounted phones, or other promotions.
  • TopTenReviews evaluates cell phone plans, coverage and features[8] .
  • Consumer Reports has a cell phone service buying guide[9] .
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What People Are Paying - Recent Comments
new phone
Amount: $0.00
Posted by: Robert W Barrow in Greenville, NC.Posted: June 3rd, 2014 09:06PM
Carrier: US CellularMonthly Minutes: 500
Plan: basicOther Features: none
My plan is with US Cellular, 2 phones with basic features, calling & voicemail. I had 21,000 points which could be used to purchase a new phone. The phone was about 7,800 points with 5,000 points activation fee. 5,000 points just to activate the new phone. I also had to sign a new contract with a $150 termination fee. I've been with US Cellular about 7 or 8 years. This phone was suppose to be free with my points. It appears that it was not free since I had to sign a new contract. Anyone who walks in off the street can probably get just as good a deal as I got after having been a customer for 7 or 8 years. They never mentioned that some of their phones were 0 points. I found this out on the internet later. A supervisor on US Cellular's help line informed me that about 2 years ago they polled some of their customers & they said they just as soon get a new contract when they upgrade their phones (with a $150 termination fee attached). REALLY! I told her they must have polled some of their employees. Who in their right mind would agree to such a scam as this. US Cellular doesn't value their long term customers and have become pros at scamming people.
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Virgin is the BEST!
Amount: $25.00
Posted by: shellb in Kensington, CT.Posted: October 26th, 2011 09:10AM
Carrier: Virgin MobileMonthly Minutes: 300
Plan: 300 miutesOther Features: unlt\'d web and text
Best ever! I get enough minutes and unlimited text and data for $25/month with no contract! I guess that plan is now $35, but I was grandfathered in so I still pay $25. Only drawback is pretty expensive phones, but between the monthly savings and not being locked into a contract it's easily worth it!!!
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virgin mobile prepay
Amount: $25.00
Posted by: George B. in Phoenix, AZ.Posted: March 18th, 2011 10:03AM
Carrier: virgin mobileMonthly Minutes: 300 + unlimited data
Plan: beyond talkOther Features:
I got an LG Optimus V android smart phone on sale for $129 at Best Buy. I understand Target has them for $129 too, and they give you a $20 gift card.
Phone is great. No contract. $25 a month for 300 talk minutes plus unlimited data. Great deal!
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had to upgrade plans for smartphone
Amount: $75.00
Posted by: firsttimesmartphoneowner in santa clara, CA.Posted: August 28th, 2010 06:08PM
Carrier: verizonMonthly Minutes: 400+
Plan: Other Features: unlimited data
I used to have a $40 r400 min plan, but when i got my smartphone (an htc incredible) they said i needed a $45 month plan plus the $30 month for unlimited surfing, email, etc., so $75 a month plus taxes. It's really awesome and a great tool, but I must admit the Internet connection has been getting slower, especially for watching videos. I guess these smartphones are getting so popular, the traffic is getting a little worse even on Verizon.
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StraightTalk
Amount: $30.00
Posted by: loaferman in Phoenix, AZ.Posted: March 1st, 2010 04:03AM
Carrier: StraightTalkMonthly Minutes: 1000
Plan: All you needOther Features: 1000 text
I couldn't be happier with Straight Talk. I've cut my bill by over half and I even have a better plan as well. I think they have an unlimited plan for 15 bucks more, but I'm ok with 1000 min and texts. The best thing is that my service is run through Verizon towers so it is very reliable.
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Tracfone
Amount: $11.00
Posted by: J. Hancock in Miami, FL.Posted: August 16th, 2009 10:08AM
Carrier: Monthly Minutes: 80
Do not be decieved into using this company. They held up my ported in phone number for 3 weeks-I was stuck with a unusable cell phone for the three weeks. I spent 23 calls of an average of 1 hour and 20 minuites on the phone trying to get the situation straightened out and finding my number I had had for over 8 years. I was trasfered from person to person-hung up on, lied to. I've never been treated this way by a company that wants your business.
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J D Powers Comparison Survey
Amount: $0.00
Posted by: Jesse Kloss in Various, Other.Posted: May 6th, 2009 03:05PM
Carrier: Compares 9 CarriersMonthly Minutes: Varies
JD Powers Prepaid Wireless Customer Satisfaction Survey

http://www.jdpower.com/telecom/ratings/prepaid-wireless-ratings/sortcolumn-0/ascending/page-1#page-anchor
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cell phone
Amount: $74.71
Posted by: Dominique C. in Grand Rapids, MI.Posted: June 9th, 2008 07:06AM
Carrier: t-mobileMonthly Minutes: 600
I am on the my favs plan: talk to any 5-people for free and have 600 any time mintues and a 400 message bundle(4.99) and internet (5.99) for a total 74.41
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Beware international Cingular/AT&T rates
Amount: $3,500.00
Posted by: pswms in Boulder, CO.Posted: August 29th, 2007 08:08PM
Carrier: Cingular/AT&TMonthly Minutes: 1000 voice/1000 text
With an international calling plan, and all the non-roaming features we could buy from Cingular (now AT&T), we had bills of $1600/$1500/$3500/$2500 this spring and summer when two of our phones were traveling in Mexico ($2.00/minute) Honduras ($2.50/minute), Barbados ($2.00/minute), Greece ($2.00/min), etc., etc. These are the voice rates. Text rates must be even higher.
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Renewed 2 year contract w/Verizon in San Francisco
Amount: $42.84
Posted by: PCGuyinCali in San Francisco, CA.Posted: December 15th, 2006 02:12PM
Carrier: VerizonMonthly Minutes: 450+unlimited night+weekend
I just re-signed with Verizon Wireless. My old plan had expired and my old phone had died, and by signing a new 2 year contract I got a good deal ($100 after rebate) on the new Motorola KRAZR phone, which I've been very happy with. I'm now on the American's Choice II plan for 39.99 a month with 450 anytime minutes and unlimited nights and weekends. So far, so good, and the KRAZR is way, way better than my old LG phone, which got terrible reception.
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External Resources:
  1.  www.att.com/shop/wireless/plans-new.html#fbid=XFRiYaG7fFe
  2.  shop.sprint.com/mysprint/zipcode_intercept.jsp?showZipPTNSection=false&redirectURL=http...
  3.  www.verizonwireless.com/wcms/consumer/shop/share-everything.html
  4.  www.att.com/shop/wireless/plans-new.html#fbid=XFRiYaG7fFe
  5.  shop.sprint.com/mysprint/zipcode_intercept.jsp?showZipPTNSection=false&redirectURL=http...
  6.  www.virginmobileusa.com/cell-phone-plans/beyond-talk-plans/overview/
  7.  www.verizonwireless.com/wcms/consumer/shop/share-everything.html
  8.  cell-phone-providers-review.toptenreviews.com/
  9.  www.consumerreports.org/cro/cell-phones-services/buying-guide.htm
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