Best MVNO Carriers

We’ve done the research and found the five best MVNO carriers that give you more for less.

Best overall
Mint Mobile
Mint Mobile
4.2 out of 5 stars
4.2
Starting at
$15.00/mo. for unlimited data
  • pro
    Up to 40GB of priority data
  • pro
    T-Mobile 4G/5G network
  • pro
    Free hotspot data and other perks
Best coverage
Visible
Visible Wireless
4.1 out of 5 stars
4.1
Starting at
$25.00/mo. for unlimited data
  • pro
    Up to 50GB of priority data
  • pro
    Verizon 4G/5G network
  • pro
    Free hotspot data and truly unlimited data on 5G
Best for seniors
Consumer Cellular
Consumer Cellular
4 out of 5 stars
4
Starting at
$20.00
/mo
  • pro
    Up to 50GB of priority data
  • pro
    AT&T 4G/5G network
  • pro
    Rated best MVNO for customer service
Best family plan
US Mobile
US Mobile
3.7 out of 5 stars
3.7
Starting at
$60.00/mo. for 3 unlimited lines
  • pro
    Up to 35GB of priority data
  • pro
    Choose Verizon or T-Mobile
  • pro
    30-day free trial and prepaid card perks available
Best low-data plans
Tello
Tello
3.6 out of 5 stars
3.6
Starting at
$9.00/mo. for unlimited talk, text, + 1GB
  • pro
    Flexible data options
  • pro
    T-Mobile 4G/5G network
  • pro
    Free international calling to 60+ countries
Easton Smith
Jun 10, 2024
Icon Time To Read9 min read

You know how the store brand cereal had the exact same ingredients as the fancy stuff, but it was a whole lot cheaper? Well, the same thing is happening with your cell phone service.

Mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs) are like the store brand cell phone carriers. They use the same networks as the big three—AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon—but they offer significantly cheaper, prepaid phone service.

Mint Mobile, with its $15 introductory price for unlimited data, is the best all-around MVNO for most people. But those in rural areas should consider Verizon-backed Visible Wireless for its comprehensive coverage. And seniors should check out Consumer Cellular. US Mobile and Tello are also top picks.

Read on for the juicy details on everything you need to know about how MVNOs work and what makes these five carriers our top picks.

Info Box

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Top MVNO carriers comparison chart

What are MVNOs?

MVNOs get you more for less. Just watch out for deprioritization.

Whenever someone says they can give you more for less, you have to ask: How? In the case of MVNOs, it’s pretty simple.

Budget MVNO carriers don’t build or operate their own cell phone networks. Only three companies in the U.S. do that: AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon. MVNOs lease bandwidth from one of these big three networks to distribute service to customers.

MVNOs pass on the savings from not having to maintain their own infrastructure gets reflected in the price. In fact, we found that MVNO plans are 42% cheaper than a big three plan. That’s a saving of $38.50 a month on average, or $19,848.73 over the course of a customer’s lifetime.

What’s the catch?

There are two. Let’s start with the small one: MVNOs almost exclusively offer prepaid service. Most plans from the big three are postpaid and require a credit check. Paying for your service upfront isn’t necessarily a negative thing, but it’s something to consider.

The biggest drawback to MVNOs is that data speeds tend to be slower. That’s because the network operator, like AT&T or Verizon, often prioritizes its direct customers’ data over MVNO customers.

Most MVNOs guarantee a certain amount of priority or premium data in unlimited plans. As long as you stay within that range, you should have plenty of speed for streaming, gaming, scrolling, and everything else. But if you exceed your limit, deprioritization can make life difficult when the network is busy.

How to lower your mobile phone bill by choosing an MVNO

Switching to an MVNO is an easy decision for many customers. The only folks who should stay on the big three are those who need the fastest data possible or who score a really amazing deal on a new phone. But how do you know which MVNO to switch to?

We recommend taking these factors into consideration.

  • Get the right amount of data: Do you really need an unlimited data plan? Many people are overpaying for a fancy plan when they could be just as happy with a cheaper 10 GB plan.
  • Go in together: You can often get great discounts when you add multiple lines to the same plan. Family plans make paying your bills simpler and often come with neat perks.
  • Bundle, bundle, bundle: Many internet companies have gone into the MVNO market. If you get internet through a company like Xfinity, Spectrum, or Optimum, you might be able to get a steep discount on your mobile bill when you sign up for their exclusive MVNOs.

Mint Mobile: Best overall MVNO

It’s not just good at advertising. Mint Mobile offers the best all-around mix of performance and price.
Mint Mobile
4.2 out of 5 stars
4.2
bullet Fast data speeds
bullet Incredible prices
bullet 40GB full-speed data cap
Starting at
$15.00/mo. for unlimited data

You might recognize the name Mint Mobile from those clever Ryan Reynolds commercials. Reynolds happens to be a part owner of the company, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take it seriously. In fact, Mint Mobile is the best all-around MVNO carrier for most customers.

What makes Mint so great? First of all, it runs on T-Mobile’s network. That means it’s backed by the fastest and largest 5G network in the U.S. Coverage should be great in all urban and suburban areas, with a few holes in parts of the rural West (if you’re worried about coverage, check out Visible Mobile below).

But Mint’s biggest selling point isn’t its network. It’s the price. You can get an unlimited talk, text, and data plan from Mint for just $15 a month! That promo price only lasts for a few months, but after that, it’s still just $30 a month, which is significantly lower than even the cheapest plans from the big three.

Mint Mobile phone plans

Mint’s unlimited data plan comes with a 40 GB full-speed data allotment. Because you’re on T-Mobile’s network, this data should be plenty fast, even when it’s being deprioritized by the network. With Mint, you should see enough bandwidth for streaming video, playing COD: Mobile, or even Zooming into a work call.

Mint rounds out this sweet deal by giving you 10 GB of hotspot data, free calls and texts to Mexico and Canada, and a nifty referral program that can get you $90 off for everyone you send their way.

As you can see in the chart above, Mint Mobile doesn’t just do unlimited data plans. Those who aren’t hooked on their phone all day might want to consider the 15GB Data Plan, which costs just $20 a month and still gives you plenty of data for using Google Maps, checking your email, and even scrolling through Instagram every once in a while.

Visible Wireless: Best coverage

Get full bars all over the U.S. with Visible’s Verizon-backed unlimited plans
Visible
4.1 out of 5 stars
4.1
bullet Best nationwide coverage
bullet 50GB priority data and ultra wideband 5G coverage with Visible+
bullet Not the cheapest
Starting at
$25.00
/mo

If you live in a rural area, travel frequently throughout the U.S., or just know Verizon has the best network in your area, then Visible is the MVNO for you. Visible Wireless offers incredible deals on unlimited data plans that get coverage in nearly every corner of the country.

Visible Wireless offers just two plans: The Visible Plan and the Visible+ Plan. Both come with unlimited talk, text, and data. However, the data differs depending on what plan you get.

Visible Wireless cell phone plans

With the regular Visible plan, your data is always subject to data deprioritization. That means you might see fast speeds in the middle of the day, but they could plummet in the evening when you want to be using your phone the most. On this plan, your hotspot speeds also max out at 5Mbps.

If you upgrade to the Visible+ plan, you get 50GB of full-speed data that’s not throttled. This data should be fast enough to do anything you want to do on your phone, from scrolling through TikTok to Facetiming your aunt who lives across the Atlantic. You also get 10Mbps hotspot speeds, free international calling, and 5G network coverage.

That 5G network coverage works especially well for those who live in cities where Verizon has Ultra Wideband 5G, like Los Angeles, Miami, Salt Lake City, Denver, and Boston.  Verizon’s Ultra Wideband 5G network offers exceptionally fast speeds and truly unlimited data (that doesn’t count towards your 50GB allotment)!

Speaking of 5G. . .
Info Box

5G networks were originally created for mobile customers. But now there are several companies, including Verizon, that are offering 5G home internet services. It’s an affordable, easy to install, high-speed internet solution that’s available in many rural areas.

Consumer Cellular: Best MVNO for seniors

AARP members are eligible for one of the best cell phone deals around with Consumer Cellular
Consumer Cellular
4 out of 5 stars
4
bullet AARP members can get 2 unlimited lines for $55.00/mo.
bullet High data caps
bullet Exceptional customer service
Starting at
$20.00
/mo

Of all MVNO carriers, Consumer Cellular offers the best deal for seniors, period. If you’re an AARP member, you can get two unlimited data lines from Consumer for just $55 a month. That’s not a promotional price or a one-time discount. It’s the regular price for AARP members. Check it out.

Consumer Cellular $55 for 2 plan

With Consumer Cellular’s unlimited MVNO plan, you get 50 GB of full-speed data. After you reach that cap, your speeds could get too slow for certain activities, like streaming video. But 50 GB of fast data is more than most people could use in a month, and it’s more than most other MVNOs offer.

Consumer operates on AT&T’s network for good data speeds (some people say that AT&T doesn’t deprioritize data as much as T-Mobile or Verizon). The network also grants solid 4G/LTE/5G coverage throughout the U.S.

If you don’t happen to be an AARP member, you don’t need two lines, or you just don’t want an unlimited data plan, Consumer has other options. There’s a talk and text plan with 1GB of data for $20, as well as 5GB and 10GB plans.

Consumer Cellular MVNO plans

Low prices and good data speeds are important. But what good is all that if your phone dies? Well, luckily, Consumer Cellular is number 1 on the list in JD Power’s 2024 rankings for customer care experience among all MVNOs. If you have an issue, this phone company will actually pick up the phone.

US Mobile: Best MVNO family plans

Get up to 100GB of priority data for everyone in the family with US Mobile’s affordable multi-line plans.
US Mobile
3.7 out of 5 stars
3.7
bullet Low prices on multi-line plans
bullet Great coverage options
bullet Extra cost for premium data
Starting at
$60.00/mo. for three unlimited lines

If you want to get the whole family hooked up with a solid unlimited data plan, then we’ve got the carrier for you. US Mobile offers very affordable plans with high-data caps. It operates on two different networks: a “Warp 5G” network (Verizon) or a “GSM 5G” network (T-Mobile). You can choose whichever network you want.

US Mobile has plenty of plans to choose from, but we’re going to just look at the unlimited family plans here, because those are the best deal. There are two options: “Unlimited Starter,” which comes with 35 GB of priority data, and the “Unlimited Premium Plan,” which comes with 100GB(!) of priority data.

US Mobile unlimited data plans with three lines

US Mobile also offers 10–50GB of hotspot data per line, depending on the plan. This hotspot data and the hefty full-speed data allotments, make these plans some of the best in the MVNO industry for serious data users. And, if you sign up for US Mobile now, you can get a 30-day free trial and up to $100 in prepaid cards.

Tello: Best low-data MVNO plans

There are plenty of unlimited data plans out there for the data hogs. For everyone else, there’s Tello.
Tello
3.6 out of 5 stars
3.6
bullet Unlimited talk, text, and 1 GB of data
bullet Good nationwide network
bullet Not the best unlimited plans
Starting at
$9 a month

Not everyone wants—or needs—an unlimited data plan. Having a very cheap talk and text plan from an MVNO like Tello can be the perfect solution for kids who shouldn’t be playing games on their phone all day anyways. It’s also good for older adults who don’t use a bunch of apps.

Tello is at the very top of the list of the best no data plans. It allows you to totally customize the plan you want. You can choose exactly how much data you need, and pay for nothing more. Since Tello uses T-Mobile’s network, you should get strong coverage and data speeds. Here’s a look at just a few of the options from Tello.

Tello data plan options

We really like the $9 plan with unlimited talk and text plus 1GB of data. You don’t have to worry about blowing through limited minutes or messages, and you have 1GB of data for using Google Maps and other apps when you’re in a pinch.

Tello’s plans are relatively simple. There aren’t any crazy free phone deals. But you can use your minutes to call over 60 different countries and you can use your data for hotspots. Also, if you convince a friend to join, you’ll both get a $10 account credit.

Recap: Best MVNO carriers

MVNOs are the best kept secret for lowering your cell phone bill. But some MVNO carriers offer better savings and performance than others. Here’s a quick recap of the top five.

Top MVNO carriers
  • Best Overall: Mint Mobile gives you the best mix of low prices and high performance. It’s incredibly easy to sign up for the company’s unlimited data plan for just $15 a month!
  • Best coverage: Visible Wireless runs on Verizon’s network, which means it offers the best nationwide coverage in rural areas. It also has affordable unlimited data plans with tons of unthrottled data for gaming, streaming, and scrolling
  • Best for seniors: Consumer Cellular’s deal for AARP members is truly unbeatable. You can get two unlimited data lines with 50GB of full-speed data for just $55 a month. That’s not a promo price, but the actual price you pay month after month.
  • Best family plan: With US Mobile you can get three lines with unlimited data for just $60 a month ($20 per line)! If you want to upgrade to the Premium plan, you can get up to 100GB of priority data, which is more than any other MVNO we’ve seen.
  • Best low-data plans: Tello is the perfect MVNO for young kids who just need a phone to coordinate rides and talk with their friends. For $9 a month, you can get unlimited talk, text, and 1 GB of data (for emergencies)

Methodology

There’s research, testing, and tons of data behind every word we write. For this review of the best MVNO carriers, we began by looking at dozens of different companies operating on all three of the major U.S. networks. We narrowed down our list of the best by focusing on these criteria:

  • Price: Is it actually a good deal? Do prices go up after a promo period?
  • Network coverage: What network does it use, and where are there coverage gaps?
  • Data performance: How much priority data does the MVNO give users? Do customers think it is sufficiently fast?
  • Perks: What extra features and discounts do you get?
  • Customer service: How do customers and third-party reviewers rate the company’s customer service?

We hope that we’ve helped you find the perfect MVNO plan for you and your family. If we missed anything, please reach out to us by clicking the Contact Us link below!

Easton Smith
Written by
Easton has worked as a freelance writer and researcher for several years, reviewing health, lifestyle, and technology products. He has probably read more Terms of Use contracts than any human alive. When he’s not sitting in front of a computer, Easton spends his time camping, climbing, and volunteering with humanitarian aid organizations.

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