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Unless you’ve been living under a rock, there’s no doubt you’ve seen the Mint Mobile commercials with Ryan Reynolds. The ads are a little quirky and fun and they promote the idea that the service is great while the prices are low.
Hopefully, those commercials will continue since they can be entertaining. Mint Mobile was acquired by T-Mobile earlier this year netting Ryan Reynolds a nice $300 million paycheck but he agreed to stay on as a spokesperson.
Mint seems to always be rated as one of the top providers available and was recently ranked as the “Best for overall value” in TechRadar’s “The best prepaid phone plans for August 2023.”
So does Mint Mobile live up to the hype?
I’ve been on the service for just over a year now and I’m ready to give you my thoughts. I’ve tried out a few different services over the years so hopefully I can help give you a worthwhile opinion.
What is Mint Mobile?
Mint Mobile is a U.S. mobile virtual network operator (MVNO). If you’re not familiar, an MVNO is a service provider who doesn’t own the wireless infrastructure. Instead, they buy access to the networks from the behemoths (like Verizon, T-Mobile, and AT&T) at wholesale prices and then resell access under their own brand. The MVNO handles their own customer service, billing, sales, etc.
In other words, as a consumer, you can use the exact same towers as someone using one of the big three but at a fraction of the cost. And most MVNOs are pre-paid services versus the post-pay realm that’s much more common with the traditional providers. This is nice because you generally aren’t locked into a long-term contract and can hop around and easily try new services if you want.
There is one important caveat though – the big providers can deprioritize MVNO traffic… and they’re not afraid to do it. That means, for example, that if the Verizon network gets congested in an area, actual Verizon customer traffic takes priority over MVNO customers that utilize Verizon’s towers. This can be more problematic in some areas of the country than in others.
Mint Mobile has been around since 2015 and utilizes the T-Mobile network. It’s become more and more popular and continues to get very good reviews and ratings. Earlier this year, T-Mobile acquired the company and plans to let Mint’s founders continue to manage it and it “will generally operate as a separate business unit.”
With its growing popularity, that’s probably a smart move to stay out of the way and let the provider keep blossoming.
Why switch to Mint Mobile?
Mint Mobile’s not the only kid on the block as an alternative to the monster cell providers that usually have the monster prices to match. I wrote about a few others we’ve tried out and used over the past few years:
- Total Wireless… Same Verizon Network, Less $$$
- Why I Now Consider Visible To Be the Best Cell Phone Provider
- Tigo Just Made International Travel Easier (in Panama)
Lisa and I both used to be Verizon customers years ago until we decided to leave and save some big money instead. In fact, I started with GTE Wireless decades ago… then it became Alltel… and then it became Verizon… good times!
Total Wireless and Visible are both MVNOs that use the Verizon network. That was the biggest reason I started with Total Wireless in 2017. Verizon was the telco with the biggest network coverage and we never had problems in our area so it was a nice easy way to dip our toes in.
Fast forward to today and things have changed. Although Verizon still has the most overall network coverage throughout the U.S., T-Mobile has been crushing it and currently has the most 5G coverage.
“T-Mobile blankets 53.79% of the country, dwarfing AT&T’s and Verizon’s combined 5G availability. Its 5G signals reach more than 9,000 zip codes in over 3,000 cities.”— WhistleOut
In other words, we’ve come a long way and I’m also not at all apprehensive about trying different services out. Since it’s easy to do and you’re not usually tied to one since you’re pre-paying, it just makes sense to test them out and find the right one.
And there are just so many options now. Here are just some MVNOs out there that you may or may not have heard of:
- US Mobile
- Airvoice Wireless
- Allvoi Wireless
- AT&T Postpaid
- Red Pocket
- Straight Talk
- Mint Mobile
- Cricket Wireless
- Boost Mobile
- Google Fi
- H2O Wireless
- Metro by T-Mobile
- Simple Mobile
- Republic Wireless
- Consumer Cellular
- Total Wireless
Competition is good for the consumer and this is no exception. You can find some really good deals out there with some great service.
As far as why we’re now on Mint Mobile and I’ve been on it for over a year now, here’s the scoop. Total Wireless was really good for (and still is) what it essentially is: cheaper Verizon service. Our service was solid and we honestly didn’t notice any difference in use between them and Verizon.
When we moved back from Panama, I re-evaluated what was out there and Visible stood out as an obvious choice. It also uses the Verizon network and the price was around the same as what we were paying at Total Wireless. The big difference was that we had unlimited data and hotspot access (though I’m sure there were some asterisks in both of those).
Again, same deal – I didn’t notice any difference in use between Visible, Total Wireless, or our time on Verizon.
We had some little hiccups along the way as you would expect, but overall it was simply amazing. The one thing that was not so good though… our cell service. I felt like every time I tried to look up anything on the internet, it would just hang and hang and then maybe – just maybe – the page might load.
It drove me bananas.
There could be several factors involved in this:
- Verizon’s just didn’t seem to have good coverage in a lot of places we went (remember, Visible uses Verizon’s network)
- Verizon had good coverage but the network was busy and our cell service as an MVNO was deprioritized
- Visible just isn’t good in certain parts of the country
- A million other possibilities I don’t know the answer to
Regardless, I got flustered and decided to try out a new service once we got back. After way too much research (as always), I decided to try out Mint Mobile. The plan was to give them a shot for 3 months (the minimum they offer) and then try out US Mobile after that.
Well, I never made it to US Mobile as I’ve been happy with Mint Mobile… happy enough that I’ve been on them for over a year now and already pre-paid to stay on until next spring!
We’ll have to see how the road trip goes this time around, bearing in mind that Mint Mobile uses the T-Mobile network… fingers crossed!
Here’s what I’ve learned though – no matter what you read out there, there’s no carrier or MVNO that’s going to be perfect for everyone. It all depends on where you live, where you commute or travel to, and how you’re utilizing your service.
I’m happy with Mint Mobile. Moving to them was easy, their customer service has been good, and most importantly, the service has worked well. The majority of the time when I’m out and about and not on WiFi somewhere, my phone is on 5G, which is a real bonus.
So I can preach that Mint Mobile is the best provider out there (still to be determined), but that might only be the case for me and not for you. The only way to know for sure what works best for you is to try different providers.
I will say though that for the far majority of people, there’s no reason to still be on the big 3. Although there are a few advantages (such as prioritization), most folks should be saving good money and utilizing an MVNO. The bulk of people wouldn’t notice the difference at all except their wallet would be left with a lot more money in it.
Mint is unique in that you pay for more than one month in advance. Most MVNOs don’t do that but Ryan Reynolds is a funny guy so we’re willing to pay more upfront just because of that. 😉
I was actually a little hesitant about paying for multiple months at once but it’s worked out well so far. You start with 3 months of service with options that currently look like this:
After that intro, there are different rates depending on how far in advance you’re willing to pay (3, 6, or 12 months).
I paid $240 per line for a year of service with unlimited talk and text and 15GB of data/month. That dollar amount might sound like a lot at first, but divide that by 12 and we’re paying $20/month for each line… not too shabby!
I’ve realized that we don’t use that much data (we could probably get away with 5GB each instead of 15) so this suits us plenty. But you can also add more data or change your plan along the way if needed. That comes with free hotspot access too – it’s pulled from your available data.
Everyone’s different but this seems to be a good way to do it for us. You might prefer a shorter duration or maybe more or less data – to each their own. I do like the flexibility they have in the different options available.
What’s involved in switching to Mint Mobile?
If you’re looking to switch to Mint Mobile, the process is essentially the same as changing from one big carrier to another:
- Sign up for service
- Port your number over
- Pop in the new SIM card or activate on eSIM
I decided to ask one of the AI (artificial intelligence) bots the steps to switch to Mint Mobile since I’ve been having so much fun toying with the different ones out there. This was the response from Claude…
Here are the main steps to switch to Mint Mobile:
- Check if your current phone is compatible with Mint Mobile. Mint primarily uses T-Mobile’s network, so you’ll need an unlocked GSM phone. You can check compatibility on Mint’s website.
- Purchase a Mint Mobile SIM card and plan. You’ll need to choose how much data you need – plans range from 4GB to unlimited. The starter kits come with the SIM card.
- Activate your Mint Mobile service. Once you receive the SIM card, download the Mint Mobile app and activate your service using the SIM card number.
- Port your phone number from your old carrier. To keep your current phone number, you’ll need your account number and account PIN from your old carrier. The porting process can take anywhere from 5 minutes to 24 hours.
- Install the Mint Mobile SIM card in your phone. Power off your phone, remove the old SIM, insert the Mint SIM and power your phone back on.
- Update APN settings on your phone. This allows your phone to connect to the Mint network. Settings vary by phone model – Mint has guides for popular phones.
- Test your Mint Mobile service. Make calls, text and use data to ensure everything works properly on the new network.
- Cancel your old wireless plan. Contact your previous carrier to terminate your service contract and avoid further billing.
That covers the major steps to switch to Mint Mobile! It may take a little setup but you could save money with their prepaid plans. Let me know if you have any other questions!
Not too bad – I think it hit on everything. But for step 2, the minimum is now a 5GB plan. Also, if your phone supports eSIM, you can skip the physical SIM and do it that way (usually a better option). Step 6 likely isn’t needed either – that should be automatically configured for you with the new SIM or eSIM most of the time.
Finally, step 8 is probably just going to be a wrap-up – if you ported your number over, the carrier will generally close your account (or at least that line) automatically. Also, be aware that once that happens, your carrier will bill you for any remaining balance you have (like calling due on any subsidized phone costs whose time terms haven’t been fulfilled yet).
Side Note: We use Google Voice (it’s free) so our phone numbers reside “in the cloud.” That’s nice because we never have to port our numbers anywhere when switching carriers. Here’s a cool article, which also happens to be the most popular on my site, that talks about how fantastic and flexible this can be even when traveling abroad… Using Google Voice to Stay in Touch While Living Abroad.
One More Note: A lot of folks seem to think that your phone is reset or you lose some of your stuff when you move to a different carrier. Nope, your phone stays the same. The only thing to make sure of is that your contacts aren’t being stored on your current carrier’s SIM card because you’ll be removing that. I think most phones now default to storing your contacts in Google or iCloud though so you’re probably good but it’s worth checking just in case. You can always move them over from the SIM card though if not.
Can you hook me up with $15 in credit for switching?
Sheesh, you’re always after saving money, aren’t you? 😉
So here’s the deal – I wrote this because I’m really happy with my Mint Mobile service and not because I’m trying to make a buck off of you. I did check to see what their referral program is up to though because why not, right?
I found out that I can hook you up with $15 in credit at Mint Mobile for signing up through my link, which is pretty cool. That credit shows up for new customers after about 15 days of activating the service.
Not that you care since you’re already getting your $15, but I can only get credit for 4 referrals per year and I’m already at 2 since I brought in my wife and daughter into the plan earlier this year. So that stinks for me.
To spread it out a little more, here are referral links from all of us. You can play favorites and use whichever one of us you like best!
IMPORTANT: Regardless of whether our referrals are maxed out, you’ll still get $15 in credit and that’s what matters!
Anyway, I thought this would be helpful for others out there who have been wondering about these “other” carriers. Mint Mobile is rock solid and it’s worth trying. If you don’t like it for some reason, there are a ton of great options out there.
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Thanks for reading!!