How to Save Money on Your Cell Phone Bill with an MVNO: I Pay $12 a Month
One of the easiest and best ways to save money is to switch your cell phone provider to an MVNO. Cell phone service is one of those things most of us skip over when we’re trying to reduce our spending. We figure it’s a fixed amount, the same no matter what provider we use.
Today we dispel that myth with the wonderful world of MVNOs (Mobile Virtual Network Operators). MVNOs are re-sellers of name brand cell service. They’re basically the TJ Maxx of the cell phone world–the same product being resold for WAY cheaper.
Important to know: MNVOs use the same towers as name brand cell providers, so you get the same coverage!
MVNOs resell different networks and offer different month-to-month plans, so I made the below handy and dandy chart breaking down ten different MVNOs, the network(s) they resell and their base monthly costs.
Here are some MVNOs to consider:
|Name of MVNO||The Networks They Resell||Base Price||Can you bring your own phone?||Contract free?||Nationwide 5G Coverage?||International plans available?||Sign-up Here:|
|Ting (this is the service I use and I like it a lot).||Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon||$10 per month for unlimited talk and text without data +$5 per shared GB
of fast data
|Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Go here to browse Ting’s service plans|
|Twigby||Sprint and Verizon||$10 per month (for first 6 months, then $20 per month) for 3GB, unlimited talk and text||Yes||Yes||No; 4G LTE||Yes||Go here to browse Twigby’s service plans|
|Mint||T-Mobile||$15 per month (for first 3 months, then $25/month)||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Go here to browse Mint’s service plans|
|GoSmart||T-Mobile||$15 per month for unlimited talk and text||Yes||Yes||No; 4G LTE||Yes||Go here to browse GoSmart’s service plans|
|Republic Wireless||Sprint and T-Mobile||$15 per month for unlimited talk and text||Yes||Yes||No; 4G LTE||Limited options||Go here to browse Republic Wireless’ service plans|
|Net 10 Wireless||AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, Verizon and US Cellular||$15 per month for unlimited talk, text and data||Yes||Yes||No; 4G LTE||Yes||Go here to browse Net 10’s service plans|
|Tracfone Wireless||AT&T, T-Mobile, U.S. Cellular (feature phones only), and Verizon||$20 per month for unlimited minutes and text and 1GB of data||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Go here to browse Tracfone’s service plans|
|Total Wireless||Verizon||$23.70 per month for unlimited||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Go here to browse Total Wireless’ service plans|
|Simple Mobile||T-Mobile||$25 per month for unlimited talk and text||Yes||Yes||Yes in some areas, otherwise 4G LTE||Yes||Go here to browse Simple Mobile’s service plans|
|Straight Talk||AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon||$30 per month with 100MB of data||Yes||Yes||I couldn’t find any info on it, so probably not||Yes||Go here to browse Straight Talk’s service plans|
Note to you: these are affiliate links for MVNOs. Wondering what that means? Here ya go.
While these are all different companies, there are commonalities among most MVNOs, so let’s embark on an FAQ section.
Q: Can I use the phone I already have?
Yes! As we saw in the above chart, all of these MVNOs allow you to BYOP (bring your own phone). You’ll buy a SIM card from the MVNO, then port your number over to the MVNO.
Q: What if I don’t own my phone?
If you’re financing your phone through your current cell phone provider, you will need to pay it off or buy another phone in order to use it with an MVNO.
Q: Can I keep my phone number?
Yep! To switch to an MVNO, you port your number away from your current cell phone provider and onto the MVNO.
Q: What if I’m under contract with my current old school cell phone provider?
You will need to terminate this contract in order to sign-up with an MVNO. However, don’t despair because in a lot of instances, it’ll behoove you to pay the penalty to prematurely sever your contract because MVNOs are so darn cheap. You should do the math on this, but if it pencils out, go for it!
Q: Do I have to sign a contract with an MVNO?
Nope! As noted in the above chart, none of these MVNOs are contract-based. That means you pay-as-you-go for each month of service. I like this because it means if you start with one MVNO, then find you want to switch to another, it’s no problem!
Q: What if I want to switch between MVNOs?
Go right ahead and switch! Since MVNOs don’t have contracts and since you own your own phone, you can switch between MVNOs as needed.
Q: What if I switch to an MVNO and hate it?
You can always switch to a different MVNO or back to a name-brand cellular provider. Again, since you’re not under contract with an MVNO–and since you own your phone–you’re a free agent!
Q: Do MVNOs really offer the same service?
Yes! The best way to get an MVNO that’ll work well for you is to choose one that re-sells the same network you’re already using. So if you’re currently a Sprint customer, you’d probably want to switch to Ting, which re-sells Sprint service.
This probably matters a lot less if you’re in a large urban area with lots of cell towers. But for me out here in the rural sticks, finding an MVNO that re-sells our specific service was key. I included ten different MVNOs above in order to cover all the name brand providers.
Q: Do MVNOs ever slow down or throttle service?
Yes. Data show that in some instances, some MVNOs have slower download speeds than traditional carriers. However, it appears this is more of an issue with certain MVNOs. According to Tutela:
Our data shows that across the board, MVNO customers see slower download speeds than subscribers on the host networks. That’s not the whole story, however: some MVNOs see speeds barely below those of the host network, while others are significantly slower.
So which MVNOs are they talking about?
…for T-Mobile and Sprint, the MVNOs’ average download speeds are within 1 Mbps of the host network, and the discrepancy is likely attributable to geographic differences, since the distribution of customers on MVNOs is more regional than on the national carriers.
On AT&T and Verizon, however, there is a noticeable gulf between the MVNO and host operator speeds.
Based on the research conducted by Tutela, if speed is a crucial factor to you, you’ll want to consider an MVNOs that re-sells T-Mobile or Sprint.
Q: How much money can I save by switching to an MVNO?
A lot. Like a real big lot. I save $1,645.56 PER YEAR on my cell phone service.
Mr. FW and I used to have AT&T at $81 per person per month (a total of $162 a month/$1,944 per year). We now pay circa $24.87 for both of our phones every month (that’s $12.44 per person, per month for those of you into division). Thus, we’re saving $137.13 every single month. Also known as $1,645.56 per year, every year!
We switched to an MVNO in September 2016, which means that by September 2021, we’ll have saved $8,227.80 on our cell phone service over the past five years. Eight thousand dollars.
Folks, that is REAL MONEY. And we didn’t give up cell phones or sacrifice enjoyment or even do anything particularly difficult–we just switched to the MVNO Ting!
Q: What if I don’t like to save money?
Then this is probably not the website for you.
Q: Which MVNO do the Frugalwoods use?
Ting! We started our MVNO journey with BOOM mobile, but soon switched to Ting for better service coverage. I love Ting, I recommend Ting, it works great, it’s dirt cheap and it has a fun name. Ting, ting ting!
OK I think I’ve run out of things to say about MVNOs.
What questions do you have about the process? Do you use an MVNO?
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Once important thing to keep in mind is MVNOs only include “native” coverage from the underlying cellular provider, not any of their roaming partners.
Most national providers have dozens of roaming partners to fill out the map. Best example is compare AT&T’s map vs. Cricket — both use the “AT&T” network but Cricket does not offer the roaming coverage.
This is most notable with T-Mobile, but applies to all the national players.
Yup. This is an important distinction. I travel around a lot to go camping and hiking. When I had Sprint, I always had cell coverage in small towns far from the freeway because Sprint had roaming. When I switched to Tello (which used to use the Sprint network), I didn’t have coverage in remote areas. The costs saving were still worth it for me, but might not be for someone else.
Some MVNOs allow limited roaming. Republic Wireless, for example, will roam voice and texting — but not data — to AT&T towers. It’s reassuring to know that I can still contact someone when I’m in a roaming area, even if I don’t have the full functionality of my phone.
I’m looking forward to reading the comments on this article because this is a switch I probably need to make. I have five kids and all of them are now teenagers and beyond…That equates to a lot of cell phone needs since we, too, live in the proverbial rural sticks and the kids are increasingly on the roads by themselves. I’ve held off getting extra phones simply because of the price we’re already paying, so this will hopefully give me some options I didn’t know I had. The article was excellent and contained a ton of useful information, so I just need to take my semi-overwhelmed self and make some decisions soon. We’ve always purchased our phones through our provider, so any information about how to purchase phones independently from a provider would be appreciated. Thanks!
I buy mine on ebay, swappa or gazelle! I also pay for a year of service with mint at a time – 15 $ a month. There is a promo right now, I can forward you an invite and we both save $15. And then you can “invite” your kids and save like $15 with each “invite”. Heck, you can do that even if i don’t send you a link. My email for this purpose is firstname.lastname@example.org. I’ve also used ting, Tello and consumer cellular, but mint has the best service and nearly unlimited data, so I am sticking with them!
We switched from our $150+ Verizon bill, to an MVNO company in 2013 and have had absolutely no problems at all (even with international travel). First was Republic Wireless for about 6 years, and now we’ve used Tello for the last two years. Same coverage as we had with the big four, but much better customer service, and I love the flexibility with NO contracts, and bring your own phone. The crazy low monthly cost does not hurt. Its $10/month with Tello which includes unlimited texts, phone calls, and 1 GB of data (plenty when you are mostly on Wifi anyway).
I’ve been using Republic Wireless for a couple years. Overall, really like it. I pay the $20 to have 1GB of data and rest is wireless. About once a year if I’m out of town traveling, I need to bump it to 2GB. When you run out of the 1 GB (it gives you a few warnings when data’s getting low), it’s easy. I can just quickly add more data on the fly at the cost of $5/1GB. That’s convenient for when you need it, and not all the services offer that.
The only downside I’ve had is it’s a VoIP number, so some websites and services don’t recognize it as a mobile number. They think it’s a landline number. When you run into that, you’re not able to use their service. Venmo is the biggest one where I’ve encountered that, but I’ve also seen it on the Plenty of Fish dating app. Not being able to use Venmo is frustrating when it’s common among your friend group.
The other limitation is it doesn’t work internationally. You get around that by using Skype or something when you’re traveling. However, I’m considering switching to Mint, which doesn’t have either of those limitations. However, it doesn’t let you add 1GB at a time on the fly, but it gives you 3GB by default and I haven’t gone over 2 GB in years. I also haven’t tried the service to see how it works for me in my area.
I’ve been on mint a few years now, and you get the $15/mo price if you pay a year at a time, so it’s worked out to cheaper than other options. Regarding the minimum, funnily enough I’ve been on it long enough that I remember when the original plan was only 2GB/mo and recently they had upped it to 3GB/mo without changing the price, now that’s the kind of inflation I like. Mint does let you add on data but it’s $10/GB so I’ve not used that feature and just swapped to low data settings if I ended up getting close at the end of the month.
This has since changed. They went to 5G at RW and got rid of VOIP. Ride sharing and Venmo are both options now. They also expanded to offer Apple but the same core cheap Androids are still available. It is $22.19 with tax for the talk and text with 1GB. You can’t pay for the full year at a discount any more. They also no longer have an app so adding data on the fly can be a pain. I’ve had them since 2015 and the only thing I have to say is that their customer service is abysmal now that they’ve been bought out.
I didn’t realize I had alternatives and I will be researching a switch!
Yes! My partner and I are in Canada and we switched to Public Mobile which uses Telus service.
We’re saving over $2000 per year which is amazing and helped us a ton over the past 14 months that we’ve been with them! Make sure to search for a public mobile referral code if you’re planning to sign up because you’ll get an extra $10 bonus
I too am in Canada and would like to know if you are in/near metropolitan areas of rural? My brother in rural ON, could possibly use this in ahead of being gouged!
Does Ting use whichever of those three big companies’ towers are available, or do you have to pick one network? We’ve heard T-Mobile has the best service near our home, but we like having the Verizon coverage for when we’re out hiking/traveling.
The SIM you get determines which provider you will access. With that SIM, you can only access one. Google Fi is the only one I’m aware of that actually works with more than one, and it is supposed to switch automatically. They are not, however, the least expensive.
I recently switched to Xfinity Mobile from AT&T and my bill has dropped from $100+ / month to ~$15. A good option for anyone who also has Xfinity for internet service.
When I had Xfinity as a cable provider (several times in fact), they jacked up their rates EVERY TIME after the initial year. I wouldn’t use them for that reason.
We did that too! So far so good. Also if you have kids and they qualify for national school lunch program you can get internet from them for $9.95 a month: https://www.internetessentials.com/
Does anyone know much about how well international service is supported by MVNOs? I’m accustomed to (pre-pandemic of course) seamlessly using my cell phone in England (voice, text, and data). I have Verizon, and the last time I was over there (January 2020), it was $10 per day per phone for seamless international service. I’ve been able to avoid having international calling on my cell phone since I can either FaceTime or use WhatsApp for video chats, but every once in a while, it would be nice to have that available as well.
I have mint and get service in Canada and Mexico, haven’t been anywhere else since I got it! Some companies don’t have any international service, but it is usually one of the FAQs on a website.
I used to have Google FI when I thought I would be traveling more. The service is very good, and probably the easiest for transitions for different countries. I switched when we were stuck at home to something a little cheaper, but my husband kept google fi because he liked the service so much.
We switched to Mint 3 years ago and LOVE it. We pay annually so we get the $15/month price for the full year. It includes 4 GB of high speed internet a month. If we go over it slows significantly, but you can add more (which we have done when we travel).
I’d like to add one more on the AT&T network – PureTalk. They have a variety of plans that all have unlimited talk and text and varying data limits. I get 4 MB of data for $25 per month. Easy to switch plans to add more data for one month, then switch back the next. For each additional line you add, you get more savings. Check out their website at http://www.puretalkusa.com. If you’d like to join and get a $20 credit from them, let me know and I’ll send you a referral link.
Thanks for laying these out. I actually just made the switch this month and researched a lot of these as well. Ultimately decided to switch to a cheaper plan through Verizon on their own prepaid plan (sorta like an MVNO of their own network I think, LOL).
We were paying $60/mth for 2 GB on one phone before. We’re at the base of the mountains and this was one of the cheapest options in our area to stay on the Verizon network. I’ll get 5 GB data for about $25/month after a few months (it starts at $40, then drops in price after a few months, plus 3rd month free). Not as cheap as what you have, but will work for us and still save a ton over time nonetheless!
I did this too and I found it to be better coverage and cheaper than Mint (which I tried for a few months in November 2018-February 2019) and way better customer service. I get 5 gb/month high speed data that can be a hotspot for $23/month after auto pay and loyalty discounts
Is this their new company “Visible”? I just switched and have unlimited everything and no throttling the speed (no slower service), and since it’s Verizon, it’s 5G. And with 4 “kids” (3 are adults), they all joined my “party group” and with at least 4 of us in the group it is only $25/month for each of us. And I get only $5/mo. for each referral, so that 5 months of $5 service. We’ve been really happy with it and my kids are happy to finally have unlimited data (we were previously on Page Plus service which gave us each 3Gig of data and unlimited talk/text for $30).
We switched from Verizon about 4 years ago, to Google Fi – reduced our $70+/mo bill for 2 people sharing 2 gigs to about $35/mo. Then my husband decided to ditch his smartphone, an option you can’t do with Fi (limited phone choices and need to have wifi calling capabilities). So for about a year or so we were paying $35 to ATT for him, and $25 to Fi for me. Last month, I too ditched my smartphone (shout out to a small company in MO, Sunbeam, that makes a really awesome basic phone!) and switched to US Mobile. Happily my husband’s Lightphone also works on their network, so we’re now paying a grand total of $20.96, taxes included, for the two of us. 100% happy with their customer service and reception (they use the Verizon network). I wanted to share since you didn’t mention them! Totally agree that most people are paying way more than they need to, although one wonders whether if everyone goes this direction, it’ll eventually resulted in increased cost…
MVNO customers can experience even slower service because direct customers are given priority. In the event of a user surge in an urban market, this could be a safety problem with respect to accessing emergency services. Given the world that we live in and the fact that cell phones are the primary way most people can communicate quickly, I wonder whether I want to take the risk.. Maybe it would not be as much of a consideration in a rural market where there were fewer users. Your thoughts?
911 calls always get priority regardless of what service you use. Theoretically it could slow down calling other people if there was some emergency and loads of people were trying to contact family or friends, but it won’t slow down your access to emergency services.
I switched to Ting after reading a prior review you did. I gave them your email address and sang your praises. As a result my first month bill for two phones was 4.97 after the 25.00 credit I received for giving them your information. I was paying 133.00 with Sprint. The best deal offered from Sprint was 100.00 a month. I had been Sprint’s customer since 1998.
I had a problem getting my visual voice mail to show up at first. I spent considerable time on the phone with Ting, although I suspected it was an iphone problem, as my son’s phone transitioned with no problem. After spending time with Apple and deciding to to just live with it, the latest release of ios fixed me right up.
I love, love, love Ting! Their patience and customer service, combined with the cheap price is first rate!!!! Run to your phones!!!!!
Thanks for all of the great information you give us Mrs. Frugalwoods!!!! I am recently (and unexpectedly) widowed. That extra 100.00 a month is a HUGE help. God bless you and your prodegeny.
One little correction to your chart: I use Mint and paid $200 for one year of service which includes unlimited talk and text plus 4GB data per month (including taxes, so that’s just over $16/month). So while the chart may apply to paying month-by-month, there are a lot more options at Mint than just an increase to $25 a month after the initial three months. (And I personally like the set-it-and-forget-it option of paying a full year in advance, while I recognize that not everyone would).
Yes, and I am positive that MINT is not just T-Mobile, but also AT&T tower service.
That’s what I thought too, Sarah W! Thanks for confirming–I can see mine switch as I drive around my state. So all the folks above saying you pick one and that’s it–well, that doesn’t seem to be true for Mint.
AT&T and T-mobile are similar. So, yes Mint would get both. The difference is in the phone type (forgetting the two types). But now most phones, mine included, can switch between the two types. So one can choose AT&T & T-Mobile or Verizon.
Hmm. I use Red Pocket Mobile for three phones, a MOTO E4, MOTO G6Play and an iPhone8. You pay yearly, but, the month-by-month pay is really cheap. I don’t care about cellular data, although you can tack it on for a month if you need. For 200 minutes voice and 1000 texts, I pay $2.50/month or $30 bucks yearly. That’s it, taxes/fees included. That’s for two of the phones. On my primary phone I have a $8.25/month pay for 1000 voice minutes/unlimited text. You can get a SIM for either any of the three majors. The service in my area is great, Northwest Ohio. Note that I also use Alexa or Whatsapp for calls if necessary that take none of my cellular minutes. With Alexa, I can also make calls with my Amazon Echo Show5 and Fire tablet. JMHO.
We use Google Fi.
It’s not the cheapest MVNO out there but the thing I like about it is the seamless transition to international service. It also uses towers from both T-Mobile and US Cellular so it has a bit more coverage in rural areas that maybe have only one of the sets of towers.
Using Google Fi overseas was very easy, and we did it on a multi-country trip. If you’re going to be in multiple countries, it’s great. The one caveat is that you don’t have a local number, so when a restaurant wants to send you a text to tell you your table is ready, they may not want to send it to a US number. That’s a minor quibble, but if you’re going to be spending a lot of time in one country, it is something to think about.
I used Ting for my kids when they were young and it was great. But as time went on they needed more data- I added them to my Verizon wireless pre-paid plan – we get unlimited talk and text and 6GB each. One phone is $35, three phones is $85 (this is with discount for auto pay). To me, it was worth it to pay this, which is actually quite reasonable, so we could all have enough data to live easily in the outside world – for my teens/college kids who are often outside of wifi, as well as for me!
If Verizon is your choice, try Total Wireless. They have a range of plans you can choose from for multiple lines.
Also, add-on data doesn’t expire, so depending on your usage, sometimes it is better to add-on some data to cover when you might go over, and they’ve got the cheapest per gig add-on rate that I’m aware of on Verizon.
Try Verizon’s new service “Visible” – you get unlimited data, talk, and text for $40, but with each phone you add to your party, you get $5 off your service, so my service is $25/mo. and as my kids become responsible for paying their own cell phone bill, members of your party all set up their own account and payment, so I can put my payment method and switch it to theirs when they have their first job.
For any Canadians reading this, you know our telecom industry is dominated by a cartel (Bell, Telus, Rogers) that has a stranglehold on the market and it’s really tough to find anything that fits a frugal budget. I live in British Columbia (on the west coast) and got a deal with Shaw Mobile. Because we’re already internet customers of theirs (and paying too much for high speed access IMO) we got a $0 talk&text, pay-for-data-as-you go deal (data is $10 for 1 GB of data to use within 3 months). I don’t use a lot of data so I end up paying maybe on average $7 per month for my entire cell phone bill. My son in law uses more data (as he is a tradesperson so works on different sites frequently) so he got a $25 all-in plan that includes more than enough data for his needs. It’s still much cheaper than any other plan out there. There is a deal in the works for Rogers to buy out Shaw (thus further strangling competition – sigh) so you might want to check it out sooner rather than later if you’re a Canuck.
Victoria- I’m in Kamloops, BC and Shaw Mobile isn’t working for us. Not enough towers. Data wasn’t working at all so cancelled that portion. My texts and phone calls aren’t going thru sadly so I’m going to switch to Public Mobile
Also note that Sprint and T-Mobile have merged / are merging. Keep an eye on what changes they implement.
Totally unrelated to MVNO: Mrs. Frugalwoods, what kind of sunflower did you plant last year?
We use Google Voice for our primary phone numbers, which is free once it is set up. This lets us switch carriers very easily, and also lets us set it up so our phones ring to our VOIP line at home, or it could be a landline. (This may be an option with others as well.) I find talking on our VOIP/landline much more pleasant than on a cell phone, and you can make or receive calls using data (wifi or cell) from anywhere. You do still need cell carrier coverage for when you’re not on wifi.
Free landline is awesome!!
We also use Google Voice for home phone landline, Google voice also rings our cellphones, and we also can text with google voice, all free. Google voice even sends me answering machine messages that are left if I missed the call,.via an email to my accounts (cell phone included)
I switched to Consumer Cellular about 6 months ago. It has an AARP discount, I got a screaming deal on an iPhone, and you can switch plans on a click. Had to go with a provider that has AT&T service because of our rural location.
Has anyone had luck using one of these MNVO’s in Canada?
Goodness me I had no idea mobile phone service cost so much in the US, we pay £12 each a month for unlimited calls, text and 5GB data directly to one of the UK big providers. We buy our phones direct and just pay for service on our contracts. I can’t imagine paying $1000 + a year just for mobile service! I guess it’s cheaper here because the population is so dense so the infrastructure costs are lower/user.
Yep to MDs comments… we use Mint (T-Mobile) and have made the drive from CO to other states a few times where we’re without coverage for a couple hours in Nebraska. We don’t make that drive eastward often, nor do we really care if we lose coverage for a bit, but if I were driving solo and/or at night and had car issues w/no phone… that could have me changing my tune! 😉 Also, my husband could, technically, have kept his original phone when he switched a few years ago, but it didn’t work well at all. He almost switched back to a big provider, but investigated and learned that in some cases it really is best to ensure your phone is truly compatible. He got a new phone and hasn’t looked back. I have a company phone so no choice of carrier, but when I left that company I handed in my phone and bought one that works well w/Mint – no issues!
This should be obvious to me but…..are the rates you quoted above per phone?
Yes! Per phone. I should’ve specified that. And a lot of these companies offer discounts for multiples phones on the same account.
Does anyone know of any Verizon MVNOs that support esim? I would like to use dual sim on my iPhone so I can use the same phone for my separate personal and business numbers. However, it seems Ting at least may not yet support esim. Thanks!
Another option is cheap cell service through xfinity/Comcast. We have Comcast/xfinity internet for about $70/month (used to be $50, but we upped it for online school). They have started offering cell service in our area (Seattle), too. It’s another $15/month for up to a gig of data for both my husband and me together with unlimited talk/text. If we go over, it’s just another $15 or so per gig. It may be up to $18 for new customers, and you have to have their internet service, but we have had no cell service issues. We did need to have certain cell phones for it. Ours are iPhone 6. I believe there were a few other phone choices.
Side note: we get local TV channels through a company called Locast for $5/month. We were paying “$5/month” to Comcast, but it came with another $17 in fees. Locast has no extra fees.
For UK readers check out Smarty mobile. I’ve never paid more than £6 per month for unlimited texts and call and 3 giggs of data. My son is a heavy data user and is very happy paying £10 for 30 Giggs, works all over the place as an electrician and never noticed any problems with poor coverage etc
Lol @ “what if I don’t like to save money?” 😂
I use my company phone for personal use so that costs us $0. Wife has used Mint for ~3 years and it has been great. We pay $15 per month but there have been lots of promos, cash back offers, and AMEX credits that have brought the effective price down to about $7-8 over that time period.
There’s really no excuse to be paying so much for cell phone service these days. Like you pointed out, it’s thousands of dollars per year and many more thousands over multiple years, especially if those $’s are invested and can compound.
I like my H2O Wireless plan that is $19/mo. Not sure I’ll look for another cheaper plan, but it’s a good list.
However, my biggest concern is that I cannot use my MVNO plan when I go overseas to East Europe. So, I have a few questions if anyone knows.
If you wanted to take your cell phone, but have MVNO in the US, would you just switch to say T-Mobile for a few months to get on its international plan with its extensive list of foreign countries?
I’m thinking this would be the best way to keep your current number while overseas, right? This is especially important in the case you have to login into a financial account (or even an email) while travelling and a passcode is sent to the phone # on the account. No phone #, good luck accessing any account.
I also considered of getting a local SMS card, but in that case I’d have a new phone # and it would just create more hassles with multi-authentication.
Anyone have experience or knowledge to share with rookie international travelers on how to handle multi-authentication stuff in attempts of accessing financial accounts at Vanguard/Fidelity, etc. while traveling? I know that even Yahoo or Google wants to send a text in case I try to login from a new laptop or when it recognizes a foreign IP address perhaps.
I have T-Mobile and have just returned from Europe.. data, text and WhatsApp were all free.- but calls cost 10-15 cents.. this is on the magenta plus plan. It was awesome
I bought my iphone SE with Chase points, and it was basically a 25% discount on the cash price. Before that I used a hand-me-down old iphone from my daughter. I’ve always owned phones outright and have been frugal with cell phone use. Still, I was paying $64/month to ATT. I switched to Ting in March and my total nonthly bill with all tax and fees is now$16.79/month. I also live in rural Vermont and I get better cell coverage with Ting!
Do you have Ting unlimited talk and text? I pay a bit more for that, but still less than $20. Like you, I was paying $64 with AT&T.
We need to make this switch as we’re paying about ~$40/month/line for unlimited talk/text/data w Verizon. With 4 lines, that’s coming to $170/month. Can anyone recommend the best plan sticking with Verizon coverage, but with the ability to select a different plan by user? For example, I don’t use hardly any data, but I’d like to keep the kids on unlimited.
Visible is owned by Verizon (and hence uses their towers), and you get unlimited talk/text/data. They have only one plan, and it starts at $40/month, but when you add people to your “party pay,” it decreases your bill, as to as low as $25/month. We made the switch last year, and the phones also double as hotspots, so we don’t have to have separate internet either (which when you live in the country, like we do, can get pricey). So it’s saved us a ton of money, and we can stream to our hearts content. 🙂
We did too! And the sign-up bonus was $100 gift card to your choice of places (I chose Amazon) after 2 months of service. Multiply that by 6 phones! We’ve been happy with the service.
Red Pocket is Verizon and you can pick different plans for each user. We currently use the unlimited talk/text + 8 GB data plan and it works out to be about $16/mo per phone.
Thank you for this post!! I just switched after you posted this and will save so much money. I also really dislike Verizon’s customer service so I got to kill two birds with one stone!
I tried Google Fi when it first came out, and the call quality was really horrible. I think it’s improved a lot- but it turned me off MVNO type services for a few years. Glad to be reinspired, thank you!
Ugh, I’m on the fence. I own my phone and pay $35/month for Verizon’s cheapest deal. I need my phone to work reliably 100% of the time and had a bad experience with Mint a few years back.
What is the cost of maintenance for such contracts? Thanks!
We have been using Red Pocket Mobile for about 2 years now and have absolutely no complaints. It’s the best Verizon MVNO that we’ve found. Unlimited talk, text, and 8 GB of LTE data per month. We buy the yearly plan, but it works out to be about $16/month for each phone. In the past we have also tried Ting and Mint Mobile but found Red Pocket to be the best for us. WIFI calling doesn’t work (or doesn’t work well) on most MVNOs, so we also needed a way to make calls from home since we don’t have cell service here. We discovered Google Voice and have absolutely no complaints with it. It’s free and functions flawlessly as our “landline” option.
I put my young son on Ting last year to try it out before switching my husband (work pays for mine). I was definitely swayed but the multiple FI Ting users.
My husband was using Metro PCS for $30/month flat, no taxes etc. Unlimited calling/texting/can’t remember the data but it just slowed down if you went over. So that was the price to beat.
My son barely calls or texts or anything (this was more of a safety phone for little chunks of time when he was home alone) and Ting was always over $25/month. My husband does text/call a lot so his would have been way more than $30.
Now I have them both on a T mobile Connect prepaid plan that is unlimited calls/texts for $15/line + a little tax. It only gets 2.5 gigs data but it’s definitely cheaper for us than Ting was.
Nice round-up of MVNOs. We have both been using this type of service for a while now. You encouraged me to look back at my cell phone expenses over the last few years. I haven’t paid a ‘regular’ monthly cell phone bill since 10/2016. For almost 2 years we had a sweet deal with FreedomPop on a $0/month plan. In those 2 years, I paid a total of $33!! You had to listen to an ad to make a call but the service was decent. That’s no longer an option but we’ve tried many of the ones listed above. I am on Cricket now and snagged a brand new iPhone SE 2020 and 6 months of service for $180. So far so good. Tello sucked and probably because of the point you mentioned about the roaming partners.
Unfortunately none of these will save us anymore. I spend most of my time at home and don’t need unlimited data, but my husband drives around most of the day for work, plus we have 2 teens. Since I don’t want to worry about phoning over data, unlimited is the best for us. We’ve been with Cricket a few years at $100 monthly for 4 unlimited and Metro a couple of years before that (same price). I can’t believe anyone would still pay $150+ for 2 phones. I think my MIL spends $70 and uses hardly any data.
I switched to Mint over a year ago after reading your previous MVNO post. Best decision ever, absolutely love it, and my annual bill is only a little higher than what I was previously paying monthly. Insanity. One million thanks!!
I also use Ting. We are a family of 5 and use much less than 1GB between us so it’s $11/person/month. Pretty hard to beat.
Great article! I had never heard of a MVNO before. Just switched my whole family to a MVNO and dramatically cut our cell phone bill. Thanks!
What service do you have for a backup landline phone service and what equipment do you use for it? I remember, you posted a blog some time ago about it.
Republic Wireless has one other feature that isn’t on your list: it supports WiFi calling (and texting) on Android phones. Most other MVNOs (except for GoogleFi) do not. This is really useful if your house (like mine) is located in a place with no cell coverage.
Awesome suggestion. We made the switch from Verizon. Their customer service is awful and we are saving big bucks.
I love my mvno. My phone even says “verizon” under the signal notofication, but its Boom mobile, lol. Years ago I studied Howardforumsdotcom, & learned to buy my own unlocked phone, then get an mvno sim card. Motorola phones seem to be the diamonds for me. I do not recommend Redpocket (terrible service), do recommend Boom, & am considering using US Mobile (more bang 4 the buck?). Never, ever will I be tied to a contract again.
We DID IT! After 17 years with Verizon, last week we made the switch to Mint Mobile. The representative was so kind, patient and informative. Three days later we received the new SIM cards via Fed Ex and it took mere minutes to switch over 3 phones. Saving $70 (SEVENTY!!) dollars monthly. Why did we wait so long?? Thank you for this article which gave us the confidence to try the “TJ MAXX/ off brand version” Worst case scenario: Verizon will surely welcome us back with open arms at their high prices, ha!
I have a question about these and an Applewatch- I currently have tea mobile if I switch to an MVNO -will it work with my Apple Watch
I am genuinely curious your and others experiences about using MVNOs in a rural area. I tried Straight Talk, which is advertised as being on Verizon Towers for a few months. It was AWFUL. My service was bad, the customer service when I tried to get help was worse. I basically felt like I didn’t have a phone — I live in a small-ish town and also drive regularly (solo) through fairly rural areas of Western MA and Southern VT where there are no gas stations etc…. the service was so poor it felt like a major safety issue. What services do people have that get reliable service in rural areas like this? (Or at least the 91 corridor anywhere/everywhere from say Hartford CT to Hartford VT.
Just noticed the last part about Verizon (my carrier both before and after trying an MVNO) throttling things but not Sprint or T-Mobile. Sprint has merged w/ T-Mobile which has notoriously poor service in my area, my aunt literally had to go outside and stand at the end of her driveway (on a certain side of the driveway) in order to make calls….
I’m curious how Maps works with MVNO phones while traveling? I can read a map, but when I am traveling Alone to visit grandkids (8hrs away) or go home to visit family (14hrs away) I must have a phone that will act as my GPS, turn by turn directions, etc. Does this feature work well on I-phone while using MVNO???
Yes, worked totally fine for our trip!
Has anyone had experience traveling internationally with a phone with MVNO service?
The links in the table seem to be broken
My family was on Verizon paying $200 a month. We switched to Visible for $100. Visible uses the Verizon network. After we changed we noticed call quality/reception was noticeably worse and internet speeds were slower. I researched and found out MVNOs get deprioritized on the networks. We switched back to Verizon and call quality/reception and internet speeds are much better and more reliable. MVNOs are not worth the savings if you rely on your cell phone.
Yes! I had verizon, went to visible then back to verizon due to the poor quality of visible and non-existent customer support. However, I then switched to Mint and it’s great, plus they have actual people you can speak with when setting it up or for support.