To get started, you can use our smartphone finder to search for devices by price, model, manufacturer, features, color, and more. You can then use our plan comparison engine to compare wireless plans by data, minutes, text messages, carrier, and network type. If you'd like to compare prices on other services, navigate to the main menu and choose the service you'd like to start saving money on.
Sarah Schlichter is IndependentTraveler’s Senior Editor. She hails from Maryland and now resides in Pennsylvania, where she sings in a local community choir and enjoys experimenting with different international recipes (which has twice resulted in accidental kitchen fires — no humans or animals were harmed). The smell of Sarah’s delicious Moroccan couscous ignites a wave of envy in the office when she brings in leftovers for lunch. Sarah, IndependentTraveler’s resident travel expert, has visited more than 25 U.S. states plus dozens of countries including Belize, Guatemala, Morocco, Canada, Dominica, the U.K., Norway, France, the Netherlands and New Zealand … just to name a few.
If you’d like to save some money with a prepaid or resold plan (we talk about the differences below), we like Verizon Prepaid, which costs about a third less than Verizon’s postpaid service for a 7 GB plan ($50) on the same excellent network. As with Verizon’s postpaid plans, you’ll still get unlimited 2G data after you hit your plan’s data cap, but Verizon Prepaid bests the company’s postpaid plans in one way: It doesn’t limit streaming video speed. However, the prepaid plans don’t include calling and texting to Canada and Mexico unless you upgrade to the 10 GB plan or buy the international-roaming TravelPass at the postpaid rate.
Usually, unlocked cell phones have the carrier's branding on the device. To test whether your phone is locked, insert a Telestial SIM Card or a SIM Card provided by a different carrier (than that of your device). If your device connects to a network and you are able to use the service, your phone is not locked. If your device does not connect to a network or you are unable to use the service, your phone may be locked.
Why we love it: If you're looking for an extra line for a data-hungry teen, Sprint's Unlimited Plus plan makes a lot of sense. One line is $60, 2 lines are $100, 3 lines are $120, and lines 4 and 5 are free. This makes it easy to tack your son or daughter onto your plan without much financial outlay. And since each line is entitled to unlimited data, you don't have to worry about your Netflix and Spotify-streaming teen using up all of your plan's shared data. 
You can call over 200 countries and text to over 100 countries. View country list and codes or visit your local U.S. Cellular retail store or call 1-888-944-9400 (611 from your wireless phone). Country availability is subject to change. Messaging is available to certain wireless carriers' customers within a country. Please verify both country and carrier for messaging.
If you use more than 5 GB of mobile data most months, if you travel outside the country regularly, or if you want the greatest variety of phone choices, you should consider T-Mobile One Plus. This plan combines T-Mobile One, the carrier’s standard $70 subscription plan with the $15 T-Mobile One Plus add-on (which adds HD streaming video and LTE mobile hotspot speeds and ups T-Mobile’s included Gogo in-flight Wi-Fi from one hour per flight to unlimited.) At $85 per month, T-Mobile One Plus beats Verizon’s $85 Beyond Unlimited plan once you account for the taxes and fees that Verizon doesn’t list but T-Mobile folds into that total—and T-Mobile offers a wider choice of phones and delivers much better international-roaming options. Like its competitors, T-Mobile does reserve the right to “deprioritize” your data above a certain threshold, but it now sets this “soft cap” at 50 GB a month—more than twice that of AT&T and Verizon.
To get started, you can use our smartphone finder to search for devices by price, model, manufacturer, features, color, and more. You can then use our plan comparison engine to compare wireless plans by data, minutes, text messages, carrier, and network type. If you'd like to compare prices on other services, navigate to the main menu and choose the service you'd like to start saving money on.
Prepay accounts in the United States offer anonymity to criminals wishing to obtain telecommunications services. The phones cannot be easily traced to a specific individual. Without call patterns that can be correlated to placed or received calls, there are very few effective ways for law enforcement to monitor or intercept communications between unregistered phones. This becomes even more difficult if encrypted services are also utilized.
Why we love it: If you're looking for an extra line for a data-hungry teen, Sprint's Unlimited Plus plan makes a lot of sense. One line is $60, 2 lines are $100, 3 lines are $120, and lines 4 and 5 are free. This makes it easy to tack your son or daughter onto your plan without much financial outlay. And since each line is entitled to unlimited data, you don't have to worry about your Netflix and Spotify-streaming teen using up all of your plan's shared data. 

Wirefly offers great deals on a large selection of smartphones, cell phones, tablets, mobile hotspots, and other wireless devices for the nation's most popular carriers. Use Wirefly’s innovative cell phone and plan comparison tools to ensure you are getting the best deal on the market. Shop with confidence knowing that Wirefly wants to help you find the best prices on cell phones, cell phone plans, TV, and Internet service.


Verizon’s CDMA-based network (used when you don’t have LTE service) isn’t capable of simultaneous voice and data use. This means, for instance, that if you’re using your phone to navigate while you’re driving, and you get a voice call in an area without 4G service, you may lose the call. But the company’s far-flung LTE deployment has addressed this limitation in many areas.
AT&T also comes with varied international pricing depending on where you want to go. If you’re heading to Mexico or Canada, for instance, AT&T already covers all of your voice, data and text with its Unlimited & More and Unlimited & More Premium plans; you won’t incur additional charges. If you’re still on a tiered data plan with AT&T, you’ll pay $10 per day for unlimited talk and text in Mexico and Canada. Data will be governed by your plan’s monthly allowance.
I didn't like the deals Verizon offered for service while visiting Europe, so I put this Mobal sim in a cheap unlocked phone and got exactly what I needed - something to use to call ahead to hotels, send quick texts home, simple stuff. Most calls are a dollar a minute, which might be a problem for a heavy user, but for a tourist like me it doesn't add up to much. And it's so easy. They just bill your credit card for a call. Good sound quality, too. All for the price of a movie ticket. I recommend highly.
One of the key ways Sprint has been able to stay competitive in the U.S. mobile market is by pricing their plans very inexpensively. Take for example Sprint's Unlimited Freedom plan, just $50 for one line, or an incredible $100 for four lines. And this to say nothing of the carrier's $1 for a year of unlimited deal. No U.S. major is cheaper than Sprint. 

If you travel internationally, Verizon’s TravelPass can seem tempting. That option costs a reasonable $5 a day in Canada and Mexico to use voice, text, and data drawn from your domestic allowance, $10 a day in much of the rest of the world (with a few exceptions, such as Saudi Arabia and Qatar). But Verizon phones are all sold unlocked, so you can (and should) save money by using a local prepaid SIM when traveling internationally.

You can also look at phones that are ranked as best in class. This includes rankings for phones with the best battery life, thinnest form factor, highest quality display, and other high-end features. However, battery life is frequently dependent on your habits and how you use your phone. For example, if you check your email or text a lot, or you have lots of long conversations, you will burn battery life more quickly than someone else.

For years, cell phone carriers in the United States relied on technologies that were incompatible with those used in Europe, Asia and much of the rest of the world. Recently, two major U.S. cellular carriers -- AT&T and T-Mobile -- built nationwide networks based on Global System for Mobile communication (GSM) technology, the international standard for cell phone networks.

The phone you’ll receive will be a local phone, good for making calls in the country in which you are traveling. However, if you are spending more than a week or two in one destination overseas, you may save money by purchasing a local phone and subscribing to a local phone plan, as rates for renting a phone can quickly surpass the cost of a cheap cell phone in a few weeks. Also, domestic calling rates for rental phones may be higher than rates offered by local cell phone service providers.
Why we love it: T-Mobile's ONE plan has proven popular, so much so that it compelled the entire wireless industry in the direction of unlimited. ONE is still arguably the best of the bunch, though, packing in more features than the competition. If you're over 55-years-old and use your phone's data heavily, getting this plan at $50 is a steal and a half.
But like the Unlimited Choice plan that preceded it, the Unlimited &More plan comes with a few big catches. Video streaming is limited to standard-definition quality, with the speed capped at 1.5 megabits per second. The plan doesn’t provide mobile hot spot capabilities, so no tethering your computer to your phone. (Verizon has similar restrictions.) And people who subscribe to the cheaper unlimited plan no longer get free HBO.
AT&T’s prepaid service and Cricket Wireless offer comparable savings, as do T-Mobile’s in-house prepaid service and its Metro by T-Mobile subsidiary, but those networks aren’t as good as Verizon’s and their prepaid plans aren’t as good for world travelers. Sprint’s Boost Mobile and Virgin Mobile USA in-house brands are even worse for limiting the ability to bring your own phone.
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Even better, an unlocked GSM phone allows you to switch out the Subscriber Identity Module (SIM) card. -- the internal chip that stores your phone number and account settings -- for a local phone number. Outside of the United States, most GSM phones come unlocked, but inside the country, you need ask your carrier for a special code. So if you know you're going to be spending the next four months in Botswana, you can spend $20 for a local SIM card instead of paying hundreds of dollars in international roaming fees.

If you have eyes only for your budget, we’d suggest avoiding the Big Four entirely and instead choosing a cheaper MVNO provider like Cricket or Republic Wireless. MVNOs do not operate their own networks and instead offer access to one or several of the major carriers’ networks at a reduced cost. Choosing the right MVNO requires knowing which network it uses and whether that network works well where you live.


Verizon is the nation's largest carrier, boasting a staggering 149 million subscribers as of 2017. Pretty impressive for a company that's technically only been around since 2000 (after a merger between GTE Wireless and Bell Atlantic). Verizon was the first to launch a wireless high-speed broadband network, and the first to build a large-scale 4G LTE network. 
2GB Plan: No discounts apply (except AutoPay discounts). Includes unlimited domestic Long Distance calling and texting. Third-party content/downloads are add’l charge. Includes selected allotment of on-network data usage for phone and mobile hotspot use and 100MB off-network data usage. Add’l on-network high-speed data allowance may be purchased at $15/GB. Mobile Hotspot Usage pulls from your data and off-network allowances. High-speed data is access to 3G/4G. Add’l $25 line/mo. applies with subsidized phone until the customer enters into a new device transaction that does not have an annual term service agreement.
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