What is the best prepaid internet plan overall?
It can be a pain to set up your home internet with the credit checks, contracts, monthly equipment fees and other hassles. If you’re looking for an easier way to get connected, a prepaid internet plan may be your most practical option.
The best prepaid internet plans come with easy enrollment conditions — no credit checks, minimal or no upfront costs, no contract requirements — and straightforward, pay-as-you-go pricing. That’s exactly what you get with Cox StraightUp Internet, our pick for best prepaid internet plan overall.
With the continued economic strain of inflation, and the proliferation of remote working and education, more prepaid internet options would be ideal, but Cox, Verizon Fios and Xfinity are currently the only major ISPs with prepaid plans. Consequently, they make up the list of the best prepaid internet providers. Each provider offers a simple, low-cost way to sign up for internet service and pay as you go.
Best prepaid internet plans overview
|Plan||Starting price||Max speeds||Equipment cost||Monthly data cap||Contract|
|Cox StraightUp Internet||$50||100Mbps download, 5Mbps upload||$0||1.25TB||None|
|Verizon Fios Prepaid||$50-$90||100-940Mbps download, 100-880Mbps upload||$100 upfront (skippable)||None||None|
|Xfinity Prepaid||$45, $15 for 7 days or $45 for 30 days thereafter||50Mbps download, 10Mbps upload||$35 upfront||None||None|
Best prepaid internet plans of 2023
What to consider when choosing a prepaid internet plan
Prepaid home internet service is ideal for getting a quick and easy connection, but it isn’t for everyone. Here are some things you’ll want to keep in mind when shopping for prepaid internet service.
Availability: Most major internet providers don’t offer a prepaid internet plan. Cox and Xfinity are the only two national internet providers to offer a separate prepaid plan to new customers. So, for example, if AT&T and Spectrum are the primary ISPs in your area, you won’t have the option of a prepaid home internet plan.
Costs: How does the initial and ongoing cost of prepaid internet compare to the provider’s standard service? It’s possible you could get a cheaper plan from Cox or Xfinity with no upfront costs. Consider the upfront and long-term cost of prepaid versus standard service to determine which is the better value.
Speeds: Will 50 or 100Mbps be enough speed for your needs? Unless you’re already a Verizon Fios prepaid customer, that’s the fastest you’ll get from a prepaid home internet service. For a few dollars more per month, it’s possible to get faster speeds than you’d get from a prepaid plan.
Payment options: With prepaid internet, your service ends abruptly when the prepaid period is over. Consider enrolling in auto-renew payments — it’s available from both Cox and Xfinity — to avoid any unexpected service disruptions.
How we chose the best prepaid internet plans
Selecting the best prepaid internet plans began the same as how we at CNET evaluate all of the best internet providers: seeing what’s available. In the case of best prepaid home internet, the choices of what’s available are much more limited than say, the best fiber internet providers, or even the best rural ISPs.
Cox and Xfinity are the only two national internet providers to offer a separate prepaid internet plan. Verizon Fios no longer offers its prepaid service to new customers and CenturyLink has a prepay option, but it’s just a different way to pay for standard service. AT&T, Kinetic, Mediacom, Spectrum and others do not offer a standalone prepaid plan.
After narrowing down the options, I considered speeds, pricing and service terms such as fees, data caps and contracts, along with customer satisfaction reports to determine the overall value of each prepaid internet plan.
That’s a similar approach to how we review and evaluate all major internet providers across the US, even though the category of prepaid internet is much more limited. See our guide to how CNET reviews internet providers to learn more.
Prepaid internet summary
Prepaid internet is separate from low-income internet plans in that there are no qualifications to sign up. The lack of high speeds and overall value are often a drawback to prepaid internet, but you may consider slower speeds a fair trade for simple, cheap internet service. Cox’s StraightUp plan is our top choice for prepaid internet, but you may find that Xfinity Prepaid fits your needs as well.
Prepaid internet FAQs