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The best cell phone plans for November 2021

Cell phone plan quick links

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Jump straight to phone plans by type:
1. Cheap cell phone plans
2. Prepaid
3. Unlimited
4. Family plans
5. Plans for seniors
6. Plans for kids
Quick tips:
1.
How to find the right plan for you
2. How to save money

Navigating the world of data, minutes, perks and prices can sometimes be a real hassle for those looking to make the switch. That's why we've put together this guide to this month's best cell phone plans to arm our readers with the know-how to make the right decision for them. We've tirelessly researched all the top companies, carriers, and services to come up with a list of recommendations based on what we think most people are looking for in regards to the best cell phone plans.

At the very top of the page, you'll see a very quick summary of our choices alongside a few quick-fire top tips to help you decide which plan is for you. If you're looking for a really detailed breakdown of each selection, however, we've gone in-depth with specific user sections just below. We're covering topics like the best cheap unlimited plan, best value plans overall, best plans for seniors, and even the best family plans in their own sections. So, if you have a solid idea of what you need, feel free to skip to the section that's relevant for you.

First, here's a quick summary of the best cell phone providers in the US based on what we think their main strengths are. 

Generally speaking, cell phone plans are split into cheaper 'prepaid' options and more expensive 'postpaid options'. In a nutshell, prepaid plans don't have contracts, feature smaller data allowances, but also have way cheaper monthly costs. Conversely, postpaid plans are probably going to be for you if you're data-hungry and don't mind spending a little more. You'll find options for both in our roundup of the best cell phone plans, plus a whole frequently asked questions section at the bottom of the page. If you're struggling to figure out the best cell phone plan for you or want some money-saving tips, we highly recommend reading the FAQ section.

Best cell phone plans: quick tips

1. Decide budget
First thing's first, determine the upper limit of how much you're willing to spend per month.

2. Determine data usage
As a rule of thumb, more data equals higher bills, so work out how much you use per month.

3. Check coverage
Nearly all carriers use Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile networks - check which you're best covered with right here.

4. Compare the market
Check out both postpaid and prepaid options on the network you get the best coverage with.

Cheap cell phone plans

Cheap cell phone plans are going to be great for you if you're a single-line user who just needs the basics and wants a dirt-cheap monthly bill. All our choices here are pretty stripped down, but they do still include a bit of data allowance each month just in case.

Best value: Mint Mobile | $15pm | 4GB | T-Mobile network

Best value: Mint Mobile | $15pm | 4GB | T-Mobile network
Mint mobile offers fantastic entry-level pre-paid plans for light users or those strictly on a budget. It piggybacks off the T-Mobile network, which currently covers 62% of the country and enables access to 5G where applicable. The mix of value, data, access to free mobile hot-spotting, and bring your own phone options makes Mint an easy recommendation for most users. Note - this cheap data plan offer is only valid for your first three months, after which you'll have to pay for a year's worth of service to retain the same price.

The cheapest: Tello Economy | $10pm | 1GB | T-Mobile network

The cheapest: Tello Economy | $10pm | 1GB | T-Mobile network
If you're looking for the cheapest, and we mean the cheapest plan (which still has some data), then Tello is a great option. The Tello Economy plan gives you unlimited texts, calls, and 1GB data for just $10 a month, which is exceptional value. They're working off Sprint's existing network, so coverage may be an issue for some, however, if you need some flexibility in your plan then Tello also allows you to forgo minutes and texts for more data, or visa versa.

Best Verizon: Twigby | $10pm | 3GB | Verizon network

Best Verizon: Twigby | $10pm | 3GB | Verizon network
Need the coverage from Verizon but don't want to pay a fortune? Twigby is currently promoting their cheap cell phone plans with a 50% discount for 6 months. While this deal is only valid for new lines, if you are eligible you can bag yourself one of the most competitively priced pre-paid plan deals right now. Like Mint Mobile, you're not getting charged for mobile hot-spotting either and you can bring your own phone if it's compatible.

Best AT&T: Pure Talk | $20pm | 2GB | AT&T network

Best AT&T: Pure Talk | $20pm | 2GB | AT&T network
Another great option for those specifically looking for a carrier that operates on the AT&T network is Pure Talk - which offers plans as low as $20 a month. This carrier also offers a huge range of discounts for phones on its service - up to $250 off in the case of new iPhones and new Android devices for as low as $50 upfront as well.

Who these cell phone plans are great for

  • Light phone users
  • People with easy access to Wi-Fi

Downsides of these cell phone plans

  • Often have slower data speeds when networks are busy (deprioritization)
  • Smaller data allowances
  • Zero perks (like free streaming services)

See our main cheap cell phone plans article for even more great options.

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Prepaid cell phone plans

The best prepaid cell phone plans on our list overlap pretty heavily with our prior choices for cheap cell phone plans, but generally speaking, we've included options here with more data allowance. As prepaid plans, all the following choices don't include contracts or credit checks.

Best value: Mint Mobile | $20pm |10GB | T-Mobile network

Best value: Mint Mobile | $20pm |10GB | T-Mobile network
Mint Mobile has a ton of great prepaid options right now including a brand new unlimited data plan for $30 months. However, for best bang for the buck, we'd probably recommend something like the 10GB data plan for most people, which offers a decent chunk of data without getting too pricey for those bills. Aside from the price, Mint also has plenty of generous perks, free mobile hotspotting, and 5G/4G speeds where applicable. Mint Mobile uses the T-Mobile network, which covers 62% of the country for 4G LTE, slightly behind Verizon and AT&T but still within the reach of most users.

Best for unlimited data: Visible | $25 - $40pm | Verizon network

Best for unlimited data: Visible | $25 - $40pm | Verizon network
When it comes to outright value for unlimited data prepaid cell phone plans, Visible Wireless is fantastic. This Verizon subsidiary only offers one plan, but it's unlimited everything, and, there's even a 'family plan' style option in the service's Party Pay feature that can bring your plan all the way down to just $25 a month if you group your line together with other Visible members (paying separately). Subsequently, it's pretty amazing value all around, plus being on the Verizon network gives you some pretty fantastic 5G coverage too.

Best AT&T: AT&T | $25pm | 8GB | 12-month prepaid

Best AT&T: AT&T | $25pm | 8GB | 12-month prepaid
While the big carriers are normally pretty stingy when it comes to their prepaid options, AT&T leads the way with a ton of very flexible (and competitively priced options). Like Mint Mobile, the best prices here are reserved for those who buy their data in chunks, although you can also pay for singular months for about $5-$10 more a month, depending on how much data you want. For a compelling lower data option, we'd recommend checking out H20 Wireless, which offers an excellent 15GB premium plan for $36 a month.

Honorable mention: Twigby | $17.50pm | 10GB | Verizon network

Honorable mention: Twigby | $17.50pm | 10GB | Verizon network
Twigby runs off both Verizon and Sprint networks, which makes it a flexible choice if you're worried about coverage and compatibility. We like their value plan because, like the previous Mint Mobile offers, you're getting a decent amount of data for a consumer-friendly price. Currently, there's an introductory offer that will give you 50% off for the first 6 months, although note the plan price will then revert back to $35 a month after the initial period. If you're looking for an unlimited plan option under the Sprint network umbrella, however, then our current pick is Tello - which offers an unlimited plan for $39 a month.

Who these cell phone plans are great for

  • Those who don't want a long-term contract
  • Those who don't want a credit check for your plan
  • Those who want a bit of data, but on a budget

Downsides of these cell phone plans

  • Slower data speeds when the networks are busy (deprioritization)
  • Fewer perks like HD video streaming, international calling, and free streaming services

See our main page on the best prepaid plans for more excellent options.

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Unlimited cell phone plans

Unlimited data cell phone plans, as the name suggests, give you oodles of high-speed data for all your streaming and browsing needs. Note, these plans will generally cost a lot more, came from the 'big names', but also give you the best service and speeds plus a ton of included goodies like third-party streaming subscriptions.

Best coverage: Verizon Do More Unlimited | $80pm

Best coverage: Verizon Do More Unlimited | $80pm
With 70% 4G LTE coverage across the US, Verizon is simply going to be the best option for most users who want to make the most of that unlimited data. While you're paying a premium here, the Do More Unlimited plan is a good middle-tier option for many. You're getting full 5G access where applicable, a whopping 50GB of priority data, a 15GB hotspot, plus some nice perks - a Disney+ subscription for one year and free Apple Music. The only two limiting factors here are price and 480p video streaming, which you're locked into at this subscription tier.

Best cheap unlimited plan: Visible | $25-$40pm | Verizon network

Best cheap unlimited plan: Visible | $25-$40pm | Verizon network
Visible is a subsidiary of Verizon and uses its parent companies' excellent network, tieing it to the best and most consistent coverage nationwide. We're including it here alongside Verizon because it's quite simply a great option if all you want is data but don't want any of the above bundled Verizon perks - especially since the new Party Pay feature can mean you pay as little as $25 a month. The catch here is that you're subject to de-prioritization versus the direct Verizon users, meaning you may experience a slowdown when the network is getting heavy traffic.

Also great cheap unlimited plan: Mint Mobile | $30pm | T-Mobile network

Also great cheap unlimited plan: Mint Mobile | $30pm | T-Mobile network
Mint Mobile has also recently launched a compelling unlimited data plan that's rubbing right up against Visible to offer the best value. It's a compelling option, not least because it comes in at $10 a month cheaper than Visible. However, unlike Visible, Mint's 5G/4G speeds are actually capped after your first 35GB of data usage (after which it's 129Kb/s), which might not be a big issue to some, but a deal-breaker to others. Because of Mint's multi-month subscriptions, you'll also be looking at a pretty hefty upfront charge ($360) for your best rate overall after your introductory three months is up.

Best carrier value: T-Mobile Magenta | $70pm

Best carrier value: T-Mobile Magenta | $70pm
We whole-heartedly recommend T-Mobile if coverage is good for you, as they're a little better value than Verizon overall. Our pick is the middle tier Magenta plan, which sacrifices HD streaming and a couple of advanced voice mail options for a $15 monthly saving. You'll also get unlimited priority data while the more basic Essentials plan is subject to slow-downs when there's heavy usage in your area. Perks include a free year of Netflix and Quibi, one of which you can choose to keep after 12 months. T-Mobile offers a well-balanced package overall - decent coverage, good speeds, perks, and even international roaming which makes it a good choice if you travel often.

Best AT&T: AT&T Unlimited Extra | $75pm

Best AT&T: AT&T Unlimited Extra | $75pm
With AT&T you're getting the second-best coverage in the country and their pricing overall tends to be a little bit easier on the wallet than Verizon. Our pick is the mid-tier Unlimited Extra plan, which has unlimited 5G access, 50GB of data prioritization, and 15GB of mobile hotspot data. This is a pretty no-thrills package, focusing on getting you the most amount of prioritized data for your cash. If you're after more perks, you may prefer the top-tier Unlimited Elite plan which will set you back another $10 a month but gets you HD video streaming and a free subscription to HBO Max.

Who these cell phone plans are great for

  • Heavy phone users who never use Wi-Fi
  • Those who love to stream high-definition content
  • Those with a bit more cash to spend
  • Those who want to get discounts on handsets

Downsides of these cell phone plans

  • Often twice the cost of prepaid cell phone plans
  • Lengthy (two year) contract terms with costly buy-outs
  • Credit checks to be eligible for some plans

For more unlimited data plan options, check out our guide to the best unlimited data plans in the US. 

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Family cell phone plans

In recent years we've seen most carriers move away from plans that are specifically branded for families - instead opting for a more flexible approach. That said, discounts for multiple lines on a plan (or account) are still commonplace and remain the best way to save on your cell phone bills. We've included pricing for four-line plans just below but note - most of these options will have discounts from 2-lines. As a rule of thumb, however, more lines equals cheaper rates per line on average.

Best value overall: Visible Party Pay | $100pm (4 lines) | Verizon network

Best value overall: Visible Party Pay | $100pm (4 lines) | Verizon network
Visible has recently launched a new Party Pay feature which we think absolutely smashes the value game when it comes to 'family plans'. Simply put, this new feature allows you to bundle together multiple Visible users under a party for a discount on each individual line. Each person has their own data, plus bills, making it a very, very flexible option for all types of groups - not just families. The potential savings are significant here too, with prices plummeting to just $25 a month for an unlimited data plan shared among four party members.

Best high-end family plan: T-Mobile Magenta | $140pm (4 lines)

Best high-end family plan: T-Mobile Magenta | $140pm (4 lines)
T-Mobile has a unique pricing feature that allows it to throw in the third line for free on all its multi-line unlimited data plans. That makes its service particularly good for families, offering on average one tier of plan higher than its competitors for the price. Case in point is the 4-line T-Mobile Magenta plan, which offers 100GB of 5G data (unlimited 3G) plus a free subscription to Netflix Basic - a nice little freebie you'd normally pay more for. 

Best coverage: Verizon Start Unlimited | $140pm (4 lines)

Best coverage: Verizon Start Unlimited | $140pm (4 lines)
Verizon's equivalent Start Unlimited plan can't quite match T-Mobile's Magenta when it comes to value, but it's a great option if you want the best 4G LTE coverage possible - particularly if you live outside a big city. Forgoing the usual streaming service perks, this stripped-down plan still offers unlimited 5G access, unlimited calling and texting, as well as unlimited mobile hotspot data - albeit it only 3G speeds.

Best for two lines: Simple Mobile Unlimited | $75pm (2 lines) | T-Mobile network

Best for two lines: Simple Mobile Unlimited | $75pm (2 lines) | T-Mobile network
On a single line account, Simple's unlimited data plan isn't too impressive. However, this cheap prepaid carrier has the option to add an additional line for a flat rate of just $25 per line, meaning the price really averages out well if you're looking for a two-line account. Better still, your data, calls, and texts are completely unlimited here, although you'll want to upgrade to the next tier if you're after HD streaming and mobile hotspot data. Simple Unlimited is a great option, and uses the T-Mobile network, so coverage is excellent.

Best AT&T: Cricket Core Unlimited | $100pm (4 lines) | AT&T network

Best AT&T: Cricket Core Unlimited | $100pm (4 lines) | AT&T network
For those who get the best coverage on the AT&T network but want a cheaper option, we recommend Cricket Core Unlimited.  At just $100 a month for four lines, this Cricket plan is coming in at much, much cheaper than the equivalent big carrier offerings. That said, your unlimited data is capped out at 8Mbps - much slower than 5G speeds, and you're also not getting any mobile hotspot allowance here, so bear in mind this is a very stripped-down plan indeed.

Who these cell phone plans are great for

  • Families... (duh)
  • Couples who want to save a bit of cash 

Downsides of these cell phone plans

  • Very pricey on the four-line options per month
  • Lengthy contracts on the postpaid cell phone plans
  • Credit checks to be eligible for some options

For a more detailed look at cell phone plans for your family, see our guide to this month's best family cell phone plans

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Phone plans for seniors

Like other user demographics, the needs of seniors will differ greatly from user to user. Our choice of the best cell phone plans for seniors focuses on offering a wide range of options, so whether you're just looking for the cheapest plan available or want some flexibility, you're covered.

Best pay as you go: Ultra Mobile | $3pm | T-Mobile network

Best pay as you go: Ultra Mobile | $3pm | T-Mobile network
If you're a senior who doesn't use their phone much and really wants to keep it simple, you can opt to go for Ultra Mobile's pay as you go plan. With 100 minutes, 100 texts, and 100Mb of data, you're only getting the bare essentials here - but enough if you're using your phone sparingly, or making use of WiFi connections primarily. At just $3 a month, this is a very, very cheap plan indeed, although we'd also recommend the Tello economy plan as well if you'd like something a bit less restrictive. That will bump up your cost to $10 a month, but secure you unlimited calls, texts, and 1GB of data a month.

Best for flexibility: Ting | $20 - $30pm (average) | T-Mobile & Verizon network

Best for flexibility: Ting | $20 - $30pm (average) | T-Mobile & Verizon network
Ting is a good option for seniors who want to design a plan around their usage or have the freedom to switch it up down the line. Each month you can alter your allowance of texts, minutes, or data based on what you think you'll need. This requires a bit of review but it'll definitely mean you won't overpay for tons of data or features you won't use. Coverage for Ting is also very good as this smaller prepaid carrier makes use of the bigger T-Mobile and Verizon networks as well.

Best for unlimited: T-Mobile Essentials Unlimited 55 | $55pm (2 lines)

Best for unlimited: T-Mobile Essentials Unlimited 55 | $55pm (2 lines)
If you're a senior who thinks you'll be best suited by spending more to get an unlimited data plan, we'd recommend T-Mobile as the best value option amongst the big carriers - specifically its Essentials 55 plan. As the name suggests, this one's a plan specifically meant for seniors, offering unlimited data, texts, and minutes, but none of the usual streaming service perks. We'd recommend this one for heavy users only. 

Who these cell phone plans are great for

  • Older individuals (or couples) who want to keep the monthly costs down
  • Those who want flexibility
  • Those who are eligible for seniors discounts

Downsides of these cell phone plans

  • Generally very basic, with fewer options and data allowances
  • Not great value if you're a heavy data user (aside from the T-Mobile option)

For a full deep-dive on the top options right now for older citizens, see our roundup on this month's best cell phone plans for seniors.

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Phone plans for kids

The best cell phone plans for kids will generally sit within the prepaid market where monthly data allowances are capped, and those monthly bills can be kept at a minimum. We've rounded up what we think are the best plans for each network just below, so if you're limited by coverage requirements you'll still have options.

Best for parental control: Verizon Just Kids | 5GB | $35pm

Best for parental control: Verizon Just Kids | 5GB | $35pm
When it comes to restricting your child's usage via your cell phone plan, the options are painfully limited. However, if you're an existing Verizon customer you can opt to include the Verizon Just Kids plan as an additional line to get a rather unique child-friendly plan tacked onto your account. With unlimited data at 5Mbps speeds, texts, and calls, it's relatively good value, but the real selling point comes from the included parental controls. Accessible via a separate app, these controls will allow parents to restrict content, track location, as well as manage screen time, making it a good option.

Value pick: Mint Mobile | 4GB | $15 pm | T-Mobile network

Value pick: Mint Mobile | 4GB | $15 pm | T-Mobile network
Mint Mobile is yet again a good pick for kids thanks to its all-around dirt cheap, great value plans. We'd recommend the introduction 4GB / $15/mo plan as a good option for most kids. You'll get a small amount of 5G data but fairly limited speeds afterward, as well as unlimited calling and texting. If the parent is a Mint customer, they can also make use of the new 'Mint Family' feature, which allows them to monitor usage on up to four accounts at a time. 

Also great value: Twigby | $10pm | 3GB | Verizon network

Also great value: Twigby | $10pm | 3GB | Verizon network
Twigby is currently offering 50% off the first six months of its basic value plan, which makes it an excellent option for parents who want a plan for their kids but want to limit their usage and keep those monthly costs down. Twigby operates a system that will bump you up to the next tier if you overrun your data allowance, but luckily for parents, this can be disabled in the account menu -  allowing for strict usage control. Running off the Verizon network, Twigby also offers excellent coverage overall.

Best for flexibility: Tello Smart plan | 4GB | $19pm | T-Mobile network

Best for flexibility: Tello Smart plan | 4GB | $19pm | T-Mobile network
Tello offers completely customizable plans as well as set options which are perfect if you want to keep your kid's data usage low. The pricing is fairly competitive and keeps up with the latest offers from Mint and Twigby while retaining all that bonus flexibility you get through going with a prepaid option. Note - Tello runs off of the Sprint / T-Mobile network and is compatible with GSM devices.

Who these cell phone plans are great for

  • Parents who want to limited their child's data usage
  • Parents on a budget
  • Kids who will be using Wi-Fi primarily

Downsides of these cell phone plans

  • Fairly small data-allowances
  • Not many options for parental control (aside from Verizon)

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Best cell phone plan: FAQ

best phone plans cheap unlimited prepaid family kids seniors

(Image credit: Future)

How to choose the best cell phone plan for you

Check coverage

Before you start choosing a provider, we always recommend checking you can get a specific plan or network in your area. Most of the big carriers have coverage checkers on their websites, where you can enter your zip code or pinpoint your location to see what kind of coverage and speeds are available. Here are some quick links to the coverage maps.

All the providers mentioned in this article will either be directly using, or sharing coverage with, the above networks so definitely check your area before you set your heart on one particular plan. You might like the pricing of a pre-paid plan such as Mint Mobile for example, but then find that T-Mobile coverage in your local area is poor, in which case you may be better served with Twigby or Tello.

Check your bill usage

You'll want to have a general idea of how much data and how many texts and minutes you use per month before you start deep diving into plan comparisons. You might actually be surprised at your levels of usage - especially so if you find yourself predominantly using your phone over WiFi instead of cellular. Subsequently, reducing your data allowance can actually be a great way to shave off those monthly costs.

When it comes to data allowance, everyone's different, but generally there are some rules of thumb that can be applied to the common usages over cellular:

  • Emailing and messaging - under 5GB of data a month
  • Social media and web browsing - 5GB a month
  • Streaming music - 10GB a month
  • Streaming HD video - 10GB+ a month

If you're unsure about how much data you use, iOS and Android devices have features that can track your cellular usage in their settings. Most big carriers will also have usage reports that you should be able to access via your account.

What perks do you want?

Lastly, we'd recommend deciding what kind of perks and bonuses are important to you when picking a cell phone plan. Most of the big carriers offer things like free subscriptions to streaming services, international roaming, or varying amounts of mobile hotspot data.

For some, missing out on these won't be a big deal and therefore they'll most likely want to opt for a prepaid plan. For others, these will be a deal-breaker, and they'll actually get the most value out of a plan with one of the big carriers, even though there's a higher associated monthly cost.

How to save money on your cell phone plan

Review your plan and usage often

The easiest way to save cash on your cell phone plan bill is to not pay more than you need to - duh! To really nail down your monthly usage requirements we heartily recommend checking in every now and again to see what you're really using. You may be surprised to find how much WiFi data you're using as opposed to cellular, especially if you're working from home. Subsequently, it might be time to ditch that pricey unlimited cell phone plan for a cheaper prepaid option. 

Conversely, if you're always hitting that data cap on your cheap cell phone plan (and perhaps even incurring charges), then you might benefit from spending a little bit extra each month to get better service and perks like streaming service subscriptions.

Make use of switching offers

A lot of carriers, especially the bigger ones, will offer juicy discounts for new customers who are willing to switch cell phone plans and port their number over to its network. Things like introductory discounts on plans, discounts on handsets, and even free phones are sometimes up for grabs with these switching promotions, so they're definitely worth keeping an eye out for when shopping around for new cell phone plans.

You will, however, want to be aware of early termination fees (ETF) - which some carriers (AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile), like to keep hidden in the fine print of service contracts. Normally there's no fee for switching your cell phone plan per se, but it's common for customers to pay off their handset upfront if they happen to have it financed via the carrier. Devices are commonly locked to services until they're paid off, so you'll definitely want to consult your contract before you make the jump, just to make sure you don't get stung.

The good news is some carriers (but not all) may actually be willing to pay some cash towards your ETF bill if you're switching over to them. AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon all offer switching promotions of up to $650, although details on eligibility and the exact nature of your discount/payment can differ by carrier. 

Make use of discounts

If you're a serving member of the military, a college student, senior, or even a key worker you may be able to get yourself a discount on your monthly cell phone plans. Verizon currently offers discounts for military staff, teachers, and medical works, among others. If you're a  student, Verizon also offers a special $10 monthly discount on unlimited data plans that can really add up. AT&T, another huge provider, currently offers discounts for military staff and first responders. While some of these discounts can be fairly minor in terms of overall savings, when it comes to expensive cell phone plans any little discount helps in our eyes. 

Other useful pages

We're ever-expanding our cell phone plans content here at TechRadar, so you'll find plenty more articles covering more topics in-depth if you're looking for something specific. We'd particularly recommend our pages covering the best Verizon plans, AT&T plans, and Mint Mobile plans if you're looking to do more research on some of our favorite carriers.

Alex Whitelock

Alex is deals editor at Future PLC and an all-around expert at one thing - saving readers as much cash as possible while scoring them the best products for their needs. With content that's always packed full of helpful information, no-nonsense expertise, and of course deals, Alex has also written for other leading sites such as T3 and GamesRadar. At work, you'll find him mostly covering computing, gaming, and advising people on how to save on their cell phone plans. Outside of work, you'll find him playing guitar, indulging his love for music, or down at the local climbing gym mostly hanging off boulders far too difficult for his abilities.