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Best MVNO Carriers
If you were told you could pay $70 a month for an unlimited data plan or $40 for virtually the same plan, which would you choose? Obviously, you’d choose the cheaper one. So why not sign up for a mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) plan?
We’ll walk through the very best MVNO plans for every kind of cell phone user. But first, what the heck is an MVNO anyways?
What is an MVNO?
Rather than spending a ton of money building a mobile network infrastructure (with a ton of towers, satellites, and technicians), MVNOs instead piggyback off of an existing network. The Three Big networks (AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon) basically lease their bandwidth away, with a caveat.
Oftentimes MVNO customers can have their data speeds “deprioritized” by the larger network during times of congestion. That means that customers that are actually on the parent network’s plans will get service priority, and others will see slowdowns.
MVNOs are able to offer much cheaper pricing because they don’t have to shoulder the cost of building and maintaining a cellular network.
- : Visible Wireless
- : Mint Mobile
- : US Mobile
- : Boost Mobile
Visible Wireless: Best unlimited data plan
- Unlimited data with no caps
- Great coverage
- Deprioritization possible
What we like
Visible Wireless has rightfully earned its spot among the very best cell phone plans. It only has one plan, but that plan gives you unlimited talk, text, and data on the nation’s best network. And it all costs less than an oil change.
Unlimited data with no caps
You want that data. You need that data. That awesome 4G LTE data. And Visible’s got as much of it as you can handle.
With the $40 Unlimited Plan you’ll get truly unlimited data. Unlike many other MVNOs, which will cut you off after 25–50 GB of data usage, Visible doesn’t have any caps. So go ahead, play PUBG Mobile all weekend. Stream your favorite shows. Post those photos on Instagram. You’ve got nothing to lose.
Visible operates on Verizon’s network, which just happens to provide the best nationwide coverage. Even though you’ll be on an MVNO plan, you’ll enjoy full bars in pretty much every metropolitan area and decent coverage even out in the boonies.
Browse this interactive map to see how the coverage is in your location.
Verizon’s network is also pretty darn fast when it comes to data speeds, although it can’t quite beat AT&T.
Take a look at Visible’s unlimited data plan next to Verizon’s cheapest unlimited data plan here.
Visible vs. Verizon plan comparison
Visible costs $30 less a month, undercutting Verizon’s price by almost half. Sure, you’ll miss out on a few perks, but these two plans operate on the same network and offer basically the same service.
What’s more, Visible’s prices go way down when you add additional lines. You can get four unlimited talk, text, and data lines from this MVNO for just $100 a month! Nice.
What we don’t like
You might be wondering, what’s the catch with Visible? Well, there’s really only one major problem, and it’s called deprioritization.
Deprioritization is different from data throttling, where you’ve got a hard cap on how much data you can use before it’s slowed down. Instead, with deprioritization your service is always at risk of being slowed down during times of network congestion.
That means you could have issues doing a livestream when you’re in a crowded stadium, or you might see a bit of lag in your online gaming during rush hour. It’s not ideal, of course, but for many it’s worth the cost savings of using an MVNO.
If you’re looking for a cheap unlimited data plan but Visible doesn’t seem right for you, then here are a few other options to check out.
Cheap unlimited plan comparison
Mint Mobile: Best Value
- Simple midtier plans
- Great pricing
- Good coverage
What we like
You may have seen a familiar face in Mint Mobile’s advertisements. His name is Ryan Reynolds and he is, for some reason, a part owner of the company. No matter how you feel about Reynolds’s roles in Deadpool and Van Wilder: Party Liaison, you should feel good about Mint Mobile.
Let’s dive into the details of this MVNO carrier’s great plans.
Simple midtier plans
Sure, unlimited data plans are great. But there’s something to be said for a solid, simple, and affordable midtier plan like the ones that Mint offers.
For example, Mint’s 3 Month Plan with 10 GB of data will be plenty for many casual users. You’ll be able to browse, post, message, and even stream for a while with that much data. And it costs less than half the price of most unlimited data plans.
These plans are ideal for parents who want to get their kids’ a decently priced cell phone plan that still gives them enough data to keep up with the latest trends (and their homework assignments).
If you want a plan with unlimited talk and text plus a few gigabits of data, Mint’s pricing is pretty great. Here’s a look at how other MVNO carriers stack up.
Unlimited talk and text plus 6+ GB of data plan comparison
Mint Mobile’s network isn’t quite as robust as Visible’s, but it’s still pretty darn good. Mint runs on T-Mobile’s network, which means you’ll get great service pretty much everywhere but really rural and wilderness areas.
Here’s a peak at the coverage map.
What we don’t like
Mint Mobile does its job well, but there are few things that are missing. Let’s talk about Mint’s shortcomings.
Like Visible Wireless (and pretty much every other MVNO), Mint Mobile is subject to deprioritization. That means T-Mobile will give extra bandwidth to its own customers at the expense of Mint customers. This will only happen at times when the network is busy.
If Mint Mobile doesn’t seem like the right midtier MVNO carrier for you, then check out these other plans.
Midtier MVNO plan comparison
US Mobile: Best budget MVNO
- Super-cheap talk and text plan
- Tons of plans to choose from
- Great coverage
- Pricier data
What we like
There are plenty of reasons that US Mobile made the list of the best cell phone plans under $20. For one, it’s got basically the cheapest unlimited talk and text plan around. But that’s not the only good thing about this company’s prepaid plans.
Here’s what we love about US Mobile.
Super-cheap talk and text plan
With US Mobile you can get a talk and text plan for about the same price at that large vanilla latte you ordered this morning. Just take a look at this $7 plan.
This is a fantastic plan for little kids or older adults who just need a phone for basic communication. It gets you unlimited calls and unlimited text messages.
Tons of plans to choose from
If you’re not satisfied with a simple talk and text plan, US Mobile has plenty of other options. It’s got plans with a little bit of data, a lot of data, or something in between for all you Goldilockses out there. You can even get an unlimited data plan for $37 a month.
US Mobile’s extremely cheap plans run an extremely great network. Verizon’s network will keep you covered in most corners of the country. Check it out on this interactive map.
What we don’t like
US Mobile offers some of the cheapest plans on the market. But once you add some data to these plans, the price goes up fast.
If you want to buy a plan with unlimited talk and text, plus a few gigabits of data, US Mobile is not going to give you the best price. Just check out this comparison between US Mobile and Mint Mobile’s 12GB and 10GB plans.
US Mobile vs. Mint Mobile midtier plan comparison
US Mobile isn’t the only MVNO offering dirt-cheap prepaid cell phone plans. Here’s a look at some other unlimited talk and text plans for less than $10 a month.
Cheap talk and text plan comparison
Boost Mobile: Best perks
- Free unlimited music streaming
- Mobile hotspot data
- Not the cheapest
What we like
MVNOs aren’t really known for their outstanding benefits. Most prepaid plans are stripped down to the basics: talk, text, and data. But Boost thinks you deserve more from your phone plan, which is why they stack up the perks like pancakes at your favorite diner.
So what are the great perks, anyways?
No matter what plan you sign up for on Boost, you’ll get unlimited high-quality music streaming when you use Boost Mobile partner apps like Pandora, Spotify, and more.
That’s right, you can sign up for Boost’s 1 GB data plan and still listen to 10 GB of Beyoncé a week without any problem or penalty. So if you like throwing spontaneous dance parties or listening to podcasts all day, this is probably the MVNO carrier for you.
Many Boost plans will also give you unlimited HD video streaming. In an era where discount providers often throttle video streaming at lower quality, this is good news.
Mobile hotspot data
One thing that you’ll often lose out on when you sign up for a discount MVNO plan is mobile hotspot data. But Boost is different.
When you sign up for the 5 GB plan from Boost you can use any or all of that data as mobile hotspot data if you want. The same rule applies for all limited-data plans. Meanwhile, the Unlimited GIGS plan comes with 12 GB of hotspot data and the Unlimited Plus plan gives you 30 GB.
What we don’t like
Boost Mobile offers some awesome perks for media lovers, hotspot users, and others who want a cheap plan that doesn’t skim on the perks. But it’s plans aren’t that cheap when compared to some of the competition.
Not the cheapest MVNO
Boost Mobile’s plans are cheaper than similar offerings from the Three Big carriers, but they’re far from the cheapest in the industry. Take a look at this chart of unlimited data plans for a comparison to other leading MVNOs.
Boost vs. other MVNO unlimited data plans
If Boost’s perks aren’t perky enough for you, check out these other popular MVNO plans.
Unlimited data MVNO plans by popularity
Recap: What’s the best MVNO carrier for you?
Now that we’ve reviewed the best MVNO carriers, you have to decide which one is best for you. Here’s an overview of the highlights.
- Best unlimited data plan: Visible Wireless gets you unlimited talk, text, and data on the nation’s best network, all for just $40 a month. You can save even more when you add extra lines.
- Best value: Mint Mobile offers three simple and affordable midtier data plans that are perfect for those who want maximum bang for their buck.
- Best budget MVNO: US Mobile will give you an unlimited talk and text plan for $7 a month. It’s perfect for kids, older adults, or anyone else who just needs the basics.
- Best perks: Boost Mobile will hook you up with free unlimited music streaming, high-definition video streams, mobile hotspot data, and a whole host of other awesome perks for media lovers.
We’ve highlighted our favorite MVNO carriers here, but we want to know what you think. Did we cover your favorite provider? Let us know in the comments section below.
You can save money on your home internet too
Switching to an MVNO mobile plan can save you a ton of money every month. How would you like to do the same thing for your home internet bill? Here’s a peek at some of the best and most affordable internet service providers.
|Xfinity Internet||$24.99–$80*||75–1200 Mbps||View Plans|
|AT&T Fiber||$55–$180†||300–5000 Mbps||View Plans|
|Verizon Fios Home Internet||$49.99–$119.99‡||300–2048 Mbps||View Plans|
|CenturyLink Internet||$30–$70^||100–940 Mbps||View Plans|
|Viasat Internet||$30–$169.99°||12–100 Mbps||View Plans|