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Best low-cost cellphone plans for 2018

Best low-cost cellphone plans for 2018
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Have you taken a look at your cellphone bill lately? If you are like many of us, probably not. Instead you just set it up to be paid automatically and kind of forgot about it since.

In some ways that makes sense. After all, it's not like you aren't going to pay the bill and as long as your plan offers every feature you need, it's easy to put it all out of sight and out of mind.

But if you took a moment to look at your bill you may notice that it is higher than you thought. Along with that, you would likely be pretty confused as to why, exactly, it is so much.

Not every plan is expensive

When it comes to cellular service there are a handful of big-name companies that get most of the attention. That's because they generally offer the most stability and network range, both of which are important.

But as painful as it may be, what holds true in most of life is applicable to cellphones: we get what we pay for. If you go with the absolute cheapest phone on the cheapest plan, you're not likely to be too thrilled with the results.

Fortunately, even the most expensive of carriers offer cheaper options, and while they may not be offered at the same price point as what is sold by lesser carriers, they provide the top-notch quality at a more affordable rate.

Which are the best?

It depends on what features you want

Everyone uses their phones and devices for different purposes, and knowing exactly what yours are will help determine what is the best fit for you. Do you need a certain number of minutes or text messages? How about a good amount of data to burn through?

You have options.

T-Mobile

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Unlike other major carriers, T-Mobile does not offer plans that provide data sharing. That must be purchased separately for every phone on the plan.

As for the plans, the T-Mobile One unlimited plan costs $75 for the first line, with the price going up to $130 for two lines. The more lines you add lower the per-line price you pay, and there are very cheap deals for new customers who want to set up four lines.

Along with unlimited data usage, T-Mobile says their base plan normally streams video at DVD quality and while there is no added charge to turn your phone into a mobile hot spot, speeds are capped at 3G. T-Mobile is giving out free Netflix for customers who have two or more lines.

Now, for a little more you can get things like HD-quality video streaming and 10 gigabytes per month of 4G mobile hot spot usage. And it's important to note that while the data is unlimited, T-Mobile might slow things down once you pass 50 GB of use.

That is quite a bit, though, and most are not likely to reach that number. T-Mobile also offers a $5 per line discount for every month you are signed up for autopay and gives you the ability to text and use data in 140 countries.

To see more on T-Mobile's wireless plans, tap or click here.

AT&T

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Long in the phone game, AT&T has updated its plans in large part due to the acquisition of Time Warner. There is now more TV content offered by the carrier, and thus people will have a greater need for data.

When looking at their plans, AT&T's new Unlimited & More option is $80 for one smartphone line. You can keep adding lines to the plan and as you do, the per-phone price drops, with two being $145, three $165 and four for $180.

Making things even less expensive, AT&T offers a $10 monthly discount for one line and $20 for two or more lines if you sign up for automated payments and paperless billing.

If you already have AT&T and switch to the new plan it will be just $5 more per month, which may not seem like anything to celebrate until you realize what else you are getting for your money.

Along with the regular cellphone stuff, you will get access to 30 channels of live TV. Now the video streaming is limited to standard-definition quality -- if you want HD-quality video, you will want to look into the Unlimited & More Premium plan, which is $90 per month and has similar increases (and discounts) as the regular Unlimited & More plan.

Those are a couple of their plans. There are others, some of which are even cheaper for fewer options or pricier with more, and it really comes down to what exactly you need.

To see more on AT&T's wireless plans, tap or click here.

Verizon

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Generally more expensive than most, Verizon has recently changed its plans to add a third that offers unlimited data.

Verizon's Go Unlimited plan begins at $80 per month for one phone. With it you will get DVD-quality streaming while your hot spot usage is restricted to 600 kilobits per second.

If you want a bit more, another $10 per month will get you Verizon's Beyond Unlimited plan. It will give you better video quality and your hot spots will have 15 gigabytes of 4G LTE to use. Exceed 15 gigabytes and your speeds will be capped at 600 Kbs.

As for your data, Verizon says they will not slow your speeds down until you use 22GB in a given month. That is for the regular unlimited plan; for the Above Unlimited plan, Verizon will let you use 75GB of data before your speeds get dropped.

Verizon's regular unlimited plan also gives you talk, text and data capabilities in Mexico and Canada, whereas the Above Unlimited option allows you to use your phone in 130 different countries.

And like the other carriers, Verizon will give you a $5-per-device discount every month if you have automatic bill payments set up.

To see more on Verizon's wireless plans, tap or click here.

Sprint

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Sprint has long tried to be the least-expensive option among the main players, especially when it came to providing unlimited data. Nowadays they are offering a couple tiers of unlimited service.

The cheapest plan they offer is Unlimited Basic, which costs $65 for one line and $110 for two. The more lines you add, the cheaper the per-line price will be.

The cost of this plan is similar to what Sprint offered in its older Unlimited Freedom plan, but the streaming features are a bit more limited. Videos will be in DVD quality, while music is capped at a speed of 500 kilobits per second (compared to 1.5 megabits per second in the old plan). Gaming streaming speeds have also been cut, now at 2 Mbps from 8 Mbps.

You still get high-speed mobile hot spot ability, though it is capped at 500 megabytes per month. And once you use that data allotment, you will receive unlimited hot spot service but at 3G speeds.

For a little more -- starting at $75 per month, actually -- you can get the Unlimited Plus plan, which is similar to the old Unlimited Freedom plan and includes HD video streaming, faster music streaming and gaming speeds that reach up to 8 Mbps.

You will also get more high-speed hot spot service. A downside is that Sprint will have the right to limit your data speeds if demand is high. On the flip side, if you don't use much data at all, there are even cheaper plans that will run as low as $45 per month.

Saving more money, Sprint will give you $5 off per line each month you are signed up for autopay.

To see more on Sprint's wireless plans, tap or click here.

There are also the no-contract plans

One of the more frustrating parts of having a wireless plan is the length of contracts that also come with them. Being locked into an agreement that has a pretty steep penalty for backing out is not fun, and certainly can act as a deterrent.

There has been a rise in no-contract plans, though, with many of the biggest carriers providing them. They may have fewer features and frills, but if you are just looking for a low-cost way to have a phone they could be the right fit for you.

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