The cheapest cell phone options come from mobile virtual network operators (MVNO). These carriers use the networks of major mobile phone carriers, but at a much lower cost. Here are the best MVNO plans for your money.
Most of us know about the cell phone plans offered by the major carriers: AT&T, Sprint, and Verizon. So many consumers get into a pattern of switching carriers every two or three years. It may be to take advantage of a similar plan at a lower rate. Or they may do this to get a plan that comes with more services but the same rate.
But the major carriers can only go so low on rate. After all, they have networks to maintain. That’s where mobile virtual network operators, or MVNOs, enter the picture.
What is an MVNO?
MVNOs are alternative cell phone providers that work on the networks of the major providers. But they do so with a much lower fee structure. Some major phone carriers actually own MVNOs. An example is Cricket Wireless, which AT&T owns.
More commonly however, MVNOs are independent carriers that only work off the networks of the major providers. Boost Mobile (Sprint), Credo (Verizon), and GoSmart Mobile (T-Mobile) are examples of MVNOs that work on a single major carrier network. Others work off multiple major carrier networks. Examples include Consumer Cellular (AT&T and T-Mobile) and Boom! Mobile (Verizon, T-Mobile and Sprint).
The Five Best MVNO Plans for Your Money
Nationwide, there are some 50 MVNOs in existence. And we can expect more coming on the scene in the future. One of the big advantages with a large number of MVNOs is that they compete with one another for business. This is one of the major forces driving the trend toward lower prices.
But it also creates some confusion. With literally dozens of MVNOs, it can be tough to find the one that offers the optimal combination of price and service. To help you find that elusive package, we’ve put together a list of what we think are the five best plans.
We’re not going to focus on any single advantage – such as the lowest price – but rather the plans that we believe are the best balance of service and cost. Also, most carriers offer multiple plans. We’ve zeroed in on what we believe will be the best plan from each service for the largest number of people.
Mint SIM 25 Large
Mint SIM 25 Large uses the T-Mobile network. It offers both unlimited talk and text, which is common with MVNO plans. But it offers 10GB of data, which is much more generous than most MVNO plans. This should provide sufficient data for all but the biggest data consumers. It also includes hotspot/tethering.
The plan costs $25 per month for a minimum of three months. But they also have various graduations in their plans. For example, if you want an absolute minimum price, you can sign up for a 12-month plan at $15 per month. However, that plan comes with only 2GB of data.
All MVNO plans have significant limitations. The Mint SIM 25 Large limits its plan by restricting Wi-Fi calling and texting to select Android devices. And while international calling is available to most countries, you must deposit additional cash in order to take advantage of it.
Freedompop 5GB comes at a very affordable rate of $18.99 per month (paid in advance for three months), but it gets even better than that. If you pay six months in advance, the cost is $17.99 per month. But pay a full year in advance, and the fee falls to $14.99 per month. What’s more, the service comes with a 30-day money back guarantee.
It includes unlimited talk and text and 5GB of data. Freedompop uses the AT&T network.
If you’re satisfied with minimal service, they even offer a free plan. It comes with 200 minutes of talk, 500 texts, and 200 MB of 4G LTE data. This could be an excellent starter plan for a new, young cell phone user.
The one major negative: no hotspot/tethering.
GoSmart Mobile 5GB
GoSmart Mobile offers four different plans. The cheapest is $25 per month, but it’s very light on service. Two premium plans offer more services but run $45 or $55 per month.
The best is the 5GB plan, which is on the higher end of the price scale at $30 per month, and that’s only with auto pay billing enabled. Otherwise the service is $35 per month. But it does include unlimited talk and text, as well as 5GB of data, which should be enough for most people.
And it does come with hotspot/tethering, as well unlimited international texting to over 200 countries. The service works with the T-Mobile network. And best of all, there’s no contract with the plan.
Limitations include the face that Wi-Fi calling and texting are not available on all devices.
EcoMobile Unlimited 2GB
EcoMobile Unlimited 2GB has a similar price to the GoSmart Mobile 5GB at $30 per month. But it uses the Sprint, Verizon, and T-Mobile networks. That would seem to give the service more reliability than single network competitors.
The plan comes with unlimited talk and text, as well as 2GB of data. It will only work for those who don’t make much use of data. A big advantage is that it includes talk and text to more than 80 countries. The plan comes with no contract and no credit check.
They do have cheaper plans available, but only with very minimal data. Higher price plans start at $40 per month, and include unlimited talk, text, and data.
One negative: it includes no hotspot/tethering.
Republic Wireless 20
Also called the “My Choice Plan”, Republic Wireless 20 is on the lower end of the price range at $20 per month. It also makes use of two networks, Sprint and T-Mobile, and comes with unlimited talk and text. Unfortunately, it offers only 1GB of data, which is pretty minimal. However, you can purchase extra data at $5 per GB. The plan also supports Wi-Fi calling and texting. Like the other services, it requires no contract.
Unfortunately, this plan does not support iPhones and will work only with a limited selection of Android phones. And while the service lets you roam domestically for free, they don’t offer international services (though you can place calls to or from Canada without international roaming charges, and calls over Wi-Fi from anywhere in the world to the US).
Final Thoughts on MVNO Plans
In most cases, MVNO plans are something of a stripped-down version of what you will have available with the large networks. If you need your phone for business purposes or if you’re a very heavy user of data, you might be better off with the mainline carriers.
Also, be aware that the reliability of the service is closely tied with the network its attached to. Personally, I find Verizon to be a seamless network. I can call virtually anywhere and never drop a call. That means I’d be highly likely to select an MVNO that uses the Verizon network.
But the advantage with MVNOs is that there are so many plans available, that you can choose the one that works best for your own personal needs and preferences.Topics: Reviews