|Best Overall||Verizon Unlimited||SEE IT||
A basic Verizon Unlimited plan will end up costing about $40 per person, but in return, you get some of the best 5G coverage in the country.
|Best for Overseas||AT&T Unlimited Premium||SEE IT||
With the Unlimited Premium plan, AT&T gives you 5G coverage in the U.S., connection in more than 210 locations around the globe, and a 25 percent discount.
|Best for Active Duty||Cricket Unlimited + 15GB Mobile Hotspot||SEE IT||
With the Cricket Unlimited + 15GB Mobile Hotspot plan, you get premium features like unlimited talk, text, and data for a low price and without a long-term commitment.
If military phone plans existed, they would highlight things like how quickly you could access high-quality websites like Task & Purpose, stream premium adult entertainment, TikTok about military life, and buy karambit knives, energy drinks, or survival hatchets. But phone plans specifically tailored for servicemembers don’t really exist. Instead, what some carriers offer are military discounts on their basic products. Therefore, we’re highlighting the best military phone plans currently available to U.S. service members.
In this article, we’ll highlight phone plans for a range of categories like best for active duty, best for overseas, best for families, and more, and we’ll also talk about things you should know about when you’re shopping for a phone plan like data options, coverage, and your rights as a consumer in uniform. It’s really a buyer’s market out there, so we’ll help you find the service plan you want.
- Best Overall: Verizon Unlimited
- Best for Overseas: AT&T Unlimited Premium
- Best for Active Duty: Cricket Unlimited + 15GB Mobile Hotspot
- Best for Families: T-Mobile Magenta
- Best Budget: Boost Mobile
The Verizon Unlimited plan ranks as the best overall, and maybe even the best with unlimited data because a basic unlimited package costs $60 per month with the Verizon military discount and access to one of the strongest 5G networks in the country.
With Verizon’s basic plan, the Welcome Unlimited, you get unlimited access to the company’s nationwide 5G network; you can talk, text, and use data in Canada and Mexico; and you can text from the U.S. to more than 200 countries around the globe. And, to receive the military discount, all you have to do is verify your eligibility.
Additionally, Verizon has some of the best coverage in the U.S. According to a J.D. Power survey, Verizon had the fewest network quality problems in all six regions across the country. However, if you consider customer service survey ratings of big and small carriers, Verizon ranks near the bottom.
For that basic package, you’ll spend $60 before taxes, but for $10 or $20 more per line per month, you will get a variety of streaming packages like Hulu and Disney, significantly more mobile hotspot data, premium network access, an international pass, and cloud storage.
- Unlimited 5G access
- 5GB mobile hotspot
- Optional services
- A single line of the basic Verizon Unlimited package costs about $60 with a military discount, but in return, you get the best 5G coverage in the country.
Most reliable coverage in six U.S. regions
Military discount saves $10 to $25 per account
Discount extends to some Verizon accessories
Need to buy upgraded plan for “premium” data and features
The Cricket Unlimited + 15GB Mobile Hotspot plan ranks as best for active duty, but take it with a grain of salt. With this recommendation, we’re assuming that you’re a junior enlisted making less than $25,000 a year. We picked the Cricket plan because for a single line, it costs $60 per month and you join a 5G and 4G LTE network, get a bunch of features, and you can drop the service at any time.
We also want to point out that Cricket offers four plans, but we picked its premium package. The first two cap data at five and 10 gigs per month, and the third offers unlimited data but none of the frills as the Unlimited + 15GB. And for the extra $5, we think it’s worth it — primarily, the 15 gig mobile hotspot, 150 gig cloud storage, and HBO Max streaming service. And it’s still a good package even if you add lines. The plan will cover five lines for $160 per month.
While Cricket does not offer a military discount, you might qualify for a discounted rate if your annual household income is less than $12,880. That means if you are providing for one or more people with less than $25,760, then you qualify for the Affordable Connectivity Program, which can lower your phone bill by $30 each month.
Additionally, Cricket’s coverage across the U.S. is solid with only a few chunks missing in rural parts of the country (it actually uses AT&T’s network). Plus, Cricket’s customer satisfaction ratings can’t be beaten. The company took first and second in the surveys we reviewed to rank carriers.
- Unlimited talk, text, and picture messages in the U.S.
- 15 gigs mobile hotspot
- 150 gig cloud storage
- HBO Max with ads
- Standard definition streaming
- Mexico and Canada usage
- Unlimited texts from the U.S. to 37 countries
- With the Cricket Unlimited + 15GB Mobile Hotspot plan, you get premium features like unlimited talk, text, and data for a low price and without a long-term commitment.
No annual contract
No credit check
Not fully 5G
The T-Mobile Magenta plan ranks as the best for families because the T-Mobile military discount actually reduces the price per line — which isn’t always the case — and you can add as many as five lines. In the end, you’ll pay a total of $110 per month (including taxes and fees) for unlimited data and a whole lot of benefits.
T-Mobile offers two Magenta military plans. While they come with the same basic services — unlimited data, talk and text; 5G access; data and texting abroad; service in Canada and Mexico; Netflix; and more — the Magenta Max comes with 4K streaming, 40 gigs of hotspot access instead of five, and Apple TV for an extra $10 per line per month. Also, you don’t need a family for the family plan. The added lines could be used to connect a tablet and/or smartwatch.
Additionally, out of all of the carriers we looked at, T-Mobile ranks third highest for customer satisfaction. However, T-Mobile’s service does have a couple of drawbacks. First, a study by J.D. Power found that it had more network quality problems than average in four out of six regions in the U.S. That means T-Mobile customers had issues with one in every 10 connections.
And, second, if you look at T-Mobile’s coverage map, you’ll see a Nebraska-size hole in it. According to the Solid Signal blog, T-Mobile’s lack of coverage in the Cornhusker State is because of its 2020 acquisition of Sprint, which failed to expand its network into rural areas like other cellular companies did. Since then, T-Mobile has focused on updating Sprint’s network rather than expanding it.
To be eligible for T-Mobile’s military discount, the serviceman, woman, or veteran needs to be the primary account holder and verify their status at a T-Mobile store. Plans start at $55 and $70, respectively, for a single line, but the price drops $15 for the second line, and then $10 for each additional line after that.
- Unlimited talk, text, and data on 5G network
- Mobile hotspot data: 5 gigs (Magenta) | 40 gigs (Magenta Max)
- Streaming: Standard (Magenta) | 4K (Magenta Max)
- Data and texting abroad
- Five gigs of data in Canada and Mexico
- One-year AAA membership
- Netflix, Apple TV, and in-flight connections
- Unlike other family plans, the T-Mobile Magenta military plan actually gets cheaper when you add more lines. It’s an unlimited package that comes with a lot of great benefits.
Dedicated service line for military accounts
Third highest customer satisfaction rating
Good, but comparatively bad service quality
Very little service in Nebraska
When it comes to the best budget options for cell phone plans, it’s really a buyer’s market. However, we picked Boost Mobile because out of all the value options, it actually ranked on customer satisfaction surveys. It isn’t to say it’s the very best budget option, but rather it’s one we can quantify.
While Boost Mobile took the penultimate spot on the American Customer Satisfaction Index’s 2022 survey and J.D. Power ranked it fifth out of eight for that same year, there are still a dozen carriers that didn’t make the cut for one reason or another.
As for Boost Mobile’s plan, the cheapest option is $8.33 per month, or just shy of $100 annually. For that price, you get unlimited talk and text, one gig of data, and a mobile hotspot. If you opt to spend $80 more per year, you’ll get five gigs of data per month. And if you spend $360 per year, you get unlimited data and a 12-gig mobile hotspot.
Additionally, with all of Boost Mobile’s plans, you get access to T-Mobile’s 5G and 4G networks. If you read our entry on T-Mobile’s plan, you’ll learn the carrier’s national coverage is extensive, but largely skips over Nebraska.
- Unlimited talk and text on T-Mobile’s 5G network
- Monthly data plans: 1 gig, 5 gigs, and unlimited
- Mobile hotspot for all plans, but data varies
- Boost Mobile offers extremely affordable plans that cost, at most, less than $1 per day and, in exchange, you get access to T-Mobile’s 5G network.
Annual price per plan: $100, $180, and $360
Pay up front monthly, quarterly, or annually
$5 extra for unlimited talk and text to Mexico
Limited coverage in Nebraska
Things to consider about military phone plans
There are more than a dozen companies offering cell phone plans, but there are considerable differences in services depending on which carrier you choose. Major carriers like T-Mobile, Verizon, and AT&T offer plans that include new phones, streaming subscriptions, insurance, and more if you sign a contract. Whereas smaller carriers, called mobile virtual network operators, like Cricket, Mint, and Boost Mobile, offer no-frills plans at cheaper rates for a limited or no contractual obligation.
While the services differ by carrier, they all offer consistent coverage throughout the country. If you pull up the coverage map for an MVNO, it’ll most likely overlap with one belonging to a major carrier. That’s because the major carriers own and operate most of the infrastructure across the country that make cell service possible. They sell bulk data to the MVNOs, which sell chunks to you.
Almost all major carriers offer unlimited data in even their most basic plans. That means you can talk, text, stream, or browse the web for as long as you want. However, companies will cap “premium data,” meaning your service will slow down after using so much “hotspot” data. You turn your phone into a mobile hotspot by creating a localized Wi-Fi signal that connects other devices like a tablet or laptop to your network.
While most MVNOs also offer unlimited data, they generally offer plans that cap data. Other exceptions include prepaid plans, which require you to buy the data up front, and there are also pay-as-you-go plans in which you only pay for the data you use.
How much data you actually need depends on factors like how often you stream, browse the web, use GPS, listen to music, and connect to a Wi-Fi signal. If you’re unsure about how much you need, the Swedish-based company Ericsson found that the average smartphone owner in North America used 15 gigabytes of data per month in 2021. The communication tech company also projected they’d use some 52 gigabytes per month by 2027.
The coverage map for most carriers shows a network that spans the majority of the United States and even extends into Canada and Mexico. The map highlights the area in which you can reliably use that company’s network. If you’re outside of your network, you’ll have limited or no service. And, if you do use service in that area, you may be charged a roaming fee.
Additionally, most coverage maps show 5G connectivity. The fifth-generation wireless network is the latest iteration of cellular technology. While it may sound like pixie dust to most of us, it’s actually a massive infrastructure of things like towers, antennas, and fiber optic cables designed to capture a vast amount of information and allow it to flow in mere moments from point A to point B (and to big brother).
In short, before you commit to a cellular plan, you should review the coverage map to make sure it actually covers your area and the areas you plan on traveling to.
International coverage is rarely offered in a basic cell phone plan, but major carriers usually offer it as a premium option, as an add-on, or in pre-paid plans.
The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act
Congress created the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act in the 1940s to protect servicemen and women from unfair financial burdens if they’re called into action. The law has been amended, so troops can request carriers to cancel or hold their service plan if they are deployed or receive orders to relocate. According to the law, you have 90 days to notify your carrier that you want to hold or cancel your plan, and the carrier must reserve your phone number and give you 39 months to reactivate your account.
FAQ about military phone plans
Q: Does the VA pay for cell phones?
A: Not exactly. The Federal Communication Commission has a program that provides free phone service to low-income consumers, including those eligible for the Veterans Pension and Survivors Benefit Programs, through the Lifeline Program. Find out if you are eligible for the Veterans Pension here.
Q: Do I need to submit documentation to verify my military status?
A: Some providers require documentation to get military discounts. AT&T requires active-duty members to register with a .mil email address to get their discount. Active-duty and veteran servicemembers can use their ID.me account to apply for discounts with Verizon. Some of the reviewed plans did not offer veteran discounts but still beat out providers that did.
If you’re a lazy shopper, then you can’t go wrong with a Verizon Unlimited plan. It has everything you’d want in a phone plan: strong service, wide coverage, premium options, and even international passes. But if you want something more bare bones and less of a commitment, you can’t go wrong with Cricket or Boost Mobile.
For this article, we started with a list of keywords and categories that we needed to fill, so we focused on answering the most common queries. Then, we looked at more than a dozen phone carriers to find the best military phone plans. We started out by reviewing their plans and collecting data, so we could easily identify what options each plan had to offer. Using that information, we were able to rank the options and eliminate ones that didn’t fit what we needed.
What all the carriers on this list have in common is that they offer unlimited data plans, 5G coverage, hotspots, and some international options. We also included most of the carriers that offer a military discount. And all of the carriers on this list were ranked in surveys by the American Customer Satisfaction Index and J.D. Power, both of which poll 10s of thousands of people across the country for their views on products and services. We also cited J.D. Power’s network quality report, when applicable.
In all, we used more than 20 sources, most of which were linked in the article. Many of those sources were product pages, but others were news or trade publications explaining how cellular technology works. For more information on our editorial process, check out the Task & Purpose review guidelines.
Task & Purpose and its partners may earn a commission if you purchase a product through one of our links. Learn more about our product review process.