Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many people have lost shifts at work or even lost their jobs entirely. While your landlord may not be very understanding of your financial hardships at this time, many cell phone companies are. The Big Four and U.S. Cellular have signed FCC’s Keep Americans Connected Pledge, which forbids companies from charging late fees or suspending service if a customer cannot pay. As of now, this initiative ends in mid-May 2020. Judging by the escalating coronavirus cases in the United States, we could be facing a much longer quarantine period than initially expected. There’s no way of knowing just how long we’ll be spending the majority of our time inside.

And if you, like so many other mobile customers, are on an unlimited data plan, you may want to consider switching to a cheap phone plan to save money while you’re stuck at home. Considering the high price of unlimited data plans these days, switching to a cheap cell phone plan and using your in-home WiFi could save you upwards of $76/month or $912/year.

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Switching to a Limited Data Plan & Using WiFi

Unlimited data is a great thing to have when you rely heavily on your smartphone for everyday activities, such as social media, browsing the internet, and streaming music and videos, particularly when you’re not at home or don’t have access to WiFi. But if you’re currently practicing social distancing and only leaving your house for necessities, chances are you don’t need that much data.

In fact, you could probably switch to a plan with between 1GB and 4GB—just make sure your smartphone is connected to your at-home WiFi. Plus, you’ll probably be using your laptop far more while quarantined, whether you’re video-chatting friends for a virtual happy hour, having a long-distance movie night with Netflix Party, or hosting a conference call on Zoom. Although times are scary right now, just remember that we won’t be housebound forever; once things return to relative normalcy, you can always switch back to an unlimited plan.

How to Check How Much Data You Use:

If you have an iPhone, click Settings > Cellular Data and you will see the amount of data you’ve used during your current billing cycle. For Android users, open your phone’s Settings app, then tap Network & Internet > Data Usage. Under Mobile, you’ll find how much data you’ve used this month.

Save Nearly $1,000 Per Year

Most unlimited plans offered by the Big Four run anywhere from $60/month to $90/month. That means you’re spending up to $1,080/year on your cell phone bill. While it may be worth it under typical circumstances in which you’re out and about, traveling, camping, and going to restaurants and bars, there’s no reason to spend that much money when you’re housebound—your WiFi at your apartment or house will do.

You may be surprised to learn that cell phone plans start as low as $8/month for unlimited talk and text. That would cost you a grand total of $96/year, no more than the price of one or two grocery shopping trips. If you know that you won’t need any data while leaving the house to get groceries or toiletries, you might want to look into a budget talk and text plan.

If you still want at least a little bit of mobile data, you could look to switch to a cheap limited data plan with enough data for you to look up store times, use Google Maps, or browse social media while you’re in an obnoxiously long line outside the grocery store. You can still save anywhere from $500/year to $912/year, depending on the plan you choose.

You can still save anywhere from $500/year to $912/year, depending on the phone plan you switch to.

Best Cheap Phone Plans

Many MVNOs (small carriers that run on one or more major networks) offer cheap, no-contract plans you can switch to rather easily. The benefit of most of these MVNO plans is that they’re prepaid, meaning you don’t need a credit check to get started. Moreover, some of them offer build-your-own-plan options so you can pay for exactly what you need.

Affordable MVNO Plans

Some of the best cheap phone plans offered by MVNOs include:

Plan Name Price Network Talk & Text Data
Tello Value Plan $14/month Sprint Unlimited 2GB
Twigby 3GB Plan $15/month Sprint Unlimited 3GB
Mint Mobile 3 Month Small $15/month for 3 months T-Mobile Unlimited 3GB
Red Pocket $19 Plan (GSMA) $19/month AT&T Unlimited 3GB
Simple Mobile $25 Monthly Plan $20/month T-Mobile Unlimited 3GB
Good2Go Mobile 2GB Plan $15/month AT&T Unlimited 2GB
Gen Mobile 2GB Plan $17/month Sprint Unlimited 2GB
FreeUP Mobile $20 Unlimited Global $20/month AT&T Unlimited 2GB
Ultra Mobile 3Gb 3-Month Plan $22/month T-Mobile Unlimited 3GB
Cricket Wireless 2GB Plan $30/month AT&T Unlimited 2GB

You can check out all of the plans with at least 2GB below.

Cheap Phone Plans Offered by the Major Carriers

Likewise, the Big Four—Verizon, T-Mobile, AT&T, and Sprint—offer some affordable limited data plans as well. If you’re already with one of the Big Four carriers and don’t feel like switching to a different carrier, you may want to look into their affordable options, such as:

Plan Name Price Nationwide Coverage Talk & Text Data
Verizon $35 Prepaid Plan $35/month 70% Unlimited 6GB
Sprint Unlimited Kickstart* $35/month 30% Unlimited Unlimited
T-Mobile $15 Connect Plan $15/month 62% Unlimited 2GB
T-Mobile $25 Connect Plan $25/month 62% Unlimited 5GB
AT&T Prepaid $30 Plan $30/month 68% Unlimited 1GB

*Available for new customers only

How to Switch to a Cheap Phone Plan

Let’s face it, a lot of us can be lazy when it comes to figuring out the logistics of switching phone plans. It can also be difficult to focus on tasks when the world is experiencing a pandemic. Luckily, switching phone plans is generally fairly easy, especially if your phone is paid for and unlocked.

Here’s what you need to do before switching to a new carrier:

  • Make sure you own your phone and it is unlocked: If not, you may have to pay off the remaining balance on your phone before making the switch and bringing your own phone (BYOP). This may not be ideal if you’re trying to save money during the COVID-19 pandemic, but if the amount is relatively low, it may be worth it.
  • Ensure your phone is compatible with the new carrier’s network: If the MVNO you’re looking to switch to runs on the same network your previous plan did, then it’s most likely compatible (e.g. if you’re switching from AT&T to Red Pocket or Cricket Wireless, you’re probably good to go). Every carrier has an easy-to-find page on their site for you to enter your phone’s IMEI and check compatibility.
  • Check if your new carrier offers solid coverage in your area: You can check by scanning the various network coverage maps.

Once you’ve chosen the right plan for you, follow these steps to switch to a new carrier:

  • Avoid canceling your current phone plan before you make the switch or else you may lose your phone number.
  • Purchase your cheap plan from your new carrier.
  • Contact your new carrier and inform them you’d like to port your number in.
  • Activate your new SIM card and wait for the porting process to be completed.
  • Once your phone number has successfully been ported over, your account with your previous carrier will be closed and you’ll receive a final bill with any outstanding balances.

For the most straightforward process, we recommend switching to either a cheaper plan offered by your current carrier or to an MVNO that runs on the same network as your current carrier. That will mitigate any compatibility issues that may arise with your device. Plus, if you already get good coverage through your current carrier, you know that you’ll get that same quality coverage with the new one.

It’s easy to make the switch back to an unlimited plan once you’re ready—you’ll already have paid your phone off and unlocked it in order to switch to your cheap plan, so you won’t have to worry about that. You’ll just follow the same steps as above, making sure not to cancel your current plane before switching to the new plan.