The best no-contract data plan for every type of person

There’s no need to sign up for a new service contract with your carrier.

That’s because most of them either no longer offer contracts, or have no-contract alternatives. The benefit of this is that you only have to pay your carrier month to month and can switch any time if you’re unhappy. You’re also not locked into smartphone upgrade cycles every two years. You can get a new phone whenever you want as long as you pay the full price for the one you currently own.

As you bask in the warm sunlight of contract-less freedom, you’ll suddenly be faced with new questions, like which carrier and plan best suits your needs.

So it’s a good thing we dug around for the best plans based on price, your data consumption, and where you spend most of your time, whether it be in cities, the suburbs, out in the country, or a mix of it all.

Let’s break it down with a quick overview of each carrier. Then we’ll talk about which plan you should choose.


Verizon generally has the best coverage in the US, and its newest contract-free plans, which start August 13, are best suited for individuals who like to travel in and out of cities and consume a normal amount of data — around 2GB for an individual with a 4G data plan, according to a Cisco study.

However, it’s poorly suited for data-hungry families and individuals who like to stream a lot of video or use their smartphones as mobile hotspots. The top plan only offers 12GB, after which it costs $US15 for each additional gigabyte of data, which can get extremely expensive.


AT&T’s coverage is about as good as Verizon’s, so it’s suited for families and individuals who like to travel around the country. It’s also great for data crushers who like to stream lots of video and use their smartphone as mobile hotspots, as AT&T’s Mobile Share Value plans let you carry over unused data to your next billing cycle. You can also use your plan’s data for you mobile hotspot.


T-Mobile has great coverage in urban areas, but it can become questionable in suburban and rural areas. It’s great for heavy users who spend the vast majority of their time in cities, and it will be OK for light users who live in the city and occasionally make it out to the burbs. T-Mobile will also give you free 2G data in many countries outside the US.


Sprint is the city slicker’s best choice by far. It offers incredible value for a lot of data, and you’ll find good signal in urban areas. But take one step outside of the metropolitan zone and you’ll see those signal bars disappear.

So now that you have a general idea what pricing and coverage is like for each of the four major networks, let’s find the best no-contract plan for you.

Best regular data family plans :


Urban and suburban mix:

Urban, suburban, and/or rural:

Disguised cell towerSayCheeeeeese/WikipediaSome suburbs disguise cell towers as trees. Some attempts are more successful than others.

Best “heavy users” family plans:


Urban and suburban mix:

Urban, suburban, and/or rural:

Android phonesAntonio Villas-Boas/Business InsiderFamilies can use up a lot of data in a month.

Best regular data plans for individuals:


Urban and suburban mix:

Urban, suburban, and/or rural:

Hidden cell towerPplecke/WikipediaCell towers in cities are often camouflaged. Can you spot the cell tower here?

Best “heavy users” individual plans:


Urban and suburban mix:

Urban, suburban, and/or rural:

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