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The good news is that when you’re trying to find the best cell phone provider, you have several good options to choose from.
The bad news is that the most well-known carriers are generally stupidly over-priced and they tend to nickel and dime you for everything.
What many people don’t realize, however, is that you have other options. You can move to a provider where you can get the same exact coverage for a fraction of the cost. This is through a mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) – a company that leases the wireless infrastructure from the major cell carriers and then provides you with cell service for a lot less money.
Some of the bigger MVNO names that you might have heard of maybe don’t know much about include names like Cricket Wireless, Boost Mobile, Republic Wireless, Straight Talk, and Mint Mobile.
I learned about MVNOs and switched our phones over from Verizon to an MVNO called Total Wireless back in 2017. I was blown away that we were getting the exact same Verizon coverage for so little money. We suddenly had a much better plan with a lot more data for $60/month total for our two phones… incredible.
Now that we’ve moved back to the U.S. from our few years in Panama, it was time to dig in and re-evaluate the best cell phone provider for our needs.
So after way too much research as usual (my blessing and curse in life), I determined that Visible was exactly what we needed.
I’m going to tell you why I consider Visible to be the best cell phone provider, our transition and experience so far, and the only cons I can think of. Plus, I’ll give you a way to get in on a great deal!
Why an MVNO?
Since most folks don’t understand what a mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) is, I want to touch on this a little more before I go into declaring the best cell phone provider.
First off, understand that just because you might not be familiar with MVNOs doesn’t make them worse than the standard carriers we’ve come to know and hate over the years. In many aspects, they’re the same and in some cases much better.
It’s probably pretty evident that most MVNOs don’t generally spend a lot of money on advertising though Mint Mobile has been doing more than a lot of the others lately. Regardless, when you don’t advertise as much, your name’s not going to be as familiar as the major players who do (Verizon, T-Mobile, and AT&T).
The main difference between a regular carrier and an MVNO is that the MVNO leases the phone and data service from the regular carriers in bulk. They can then create their own cell phone provider business using the infrastructure they’re renting. In other words, you can get the exact same coverage that you get through Verizon, T-Mobile, and AT&T but just through another company renting out those lines.
The other difference is that the big cell providers are generally post-paid plans (though you can usually find pre-paid there as well). However, MVNO plans are usually strictly pre-paid plans. That means that when you have a plan with an MVNO, once you pay – say for the month – you get what you pay for and that’s it.
I actually like the pre-paid better just because you know what you’re paying – there are no overages. That can be a double-edged sword though. If you run out of data on a plan with a fixed amount of data, sorry Charlie! That said, some of the providers will let you buy small add-on data that you can add to your plan at any time.
And you usually don’t get all the bells and whistles with an MVNO or even things like roaming. But many do have added functionality like being able to use your phone as a hotspot and WiFi calling.
For most folks, you’re not going to notice any difference at all. An MVNO would provide everything you need without feeling like you’re missing anything.
Assuming you already have an unlocked paid-off phone that supports the bands needed, you’re good to go. You sign up and select to port your number if you want to keep it, get a SIM card from the MVNO, pop it in your phone, activate service with them, and you’re done.
Once you have that freedom from the big carriers, you can bounce around to find the best cell phone provider for you. Since you usually pre-pay monthly (though some carriers like Mint Mobile do longer terms), you don’t have much to lose. You can change carriers on a regular basis if you want or you can stick with what you got if you like it, turn on auto-pay, and just enjoy!
Why I think Visible is the best cell phone provider
Ok, so why Visible? What makes Visible good enough for me to consider it the best cell phone provider for us?
That’s the key phrase there in that I consider it to be the best cell provider for us. There’s so much variation in what we all need or want and in how we use our cell phones that it may or not be what you’re looking for. That’s what you’ll need to determine.
Here are the things that I like about Visible…
It’s essentially $25/month per line (taxes and fees included). They do a weird thing where they tell you it’s $40 for one line, $35 for two, $30 for three, and $25 for four. It’s silly that they even say that anymore because they have something called Party Pay which basically means you’re paying $25 per line no matter if you have one phone or a bunch of them.
Party Pay was something they created long ago where you can create or join a group and recruit family, friends, or strangers to be a part of it to bring the price per line down. You still each get separate billing so it makes it easy and you don’t need to know or care about the other people on it.
However, they changed it so now there’s no cap on the number of people allowed in a group. So when you activate your phone, you’re notified in the app that you can join or create a Party and you’re even prompted with some suggestions. You click to join the Reddit_Upvote group since it has almost 60k people in it and call it a day. That’s all there is to it and now your monthly bill will be $25… easy peasy.
Unlimited text, talk, and data
Now, this is something that’s going to vary for people.
When I’m looking for what I consider to be the best cell phone provider, I don’t want to think about limits on my phone. That doesn’t mean I plan to blow up my phone every month, but @#$% happens. When we lost the internet at our place in Panama for 53 days, I was grateful to not have any data limits on our cell phones.
If you’re someone who doesn’t use much data on your phone, that probably won’t be as important to you. When we were using Total Wireless for several years while in the U.S., the shared 30GB of data we were getting every month was nothing to scoff at and we never had a problem with it. I would imagine that would be plenty for the far majority of users, too.
Still, unlimited is more. It’s, well, unlimited. Visible gives you unlimited data, voice, and text. And they don’t throttle your data once you hit certain amounts like other plans, which is nice. However, you are always deprioritized over regular Verizon customers (though I have yet to see anything noticeable on my side for this).
And, in case you’re wondering, if you have a phone capable of 5G, you’ll be able to take advantage of that in areas where that’s available, too. That was a nice bonus for my Samsung Galaxy S21 5G phone!
Using my phone as a hotspot to get work done on my laptop when there’s no Wi-Fi available is important to me. Heck, when we lost our internet for 53 days as I mentioned above, I ended up using well over 100GB of data per month for my laptop, allowing Faith to do her homeschooling, and being able to continue to stream on the TV in the evenings… and that was just from my plan. Lisa used a lot of data on hers as well.
Obviously, that’s an unusual case, but in the odd scenarios when the @#$% hits the fan, having an unlimited hotspot in your plan can be crucial. Many of the others limit you to something like 10GB per month, which may or may not be suitable for you.
This used to be a huge deal years ago as the other carriers were not great in the Northeast Ohio area. Now, the big carriers all tend to have good coverage here.
However, I’m familiar with Verizon coverage and don’t know of too many weak spots around here anymore so I’m happy to stay with the Verizon coverage… without the Verizon price!
And if you’re unaware, Visible is actually owned by Verizon. Verizon themselves won’t tell you about it though because they like charging you more money than you need to be spending. However, owning Visible puts Verizon in the game to compete against other pre-paid brands such as T-Mobile’s Metro by T-Mobile, AT&T’s Cricket Wireless, and Dish’s Boost Mobile.
Bring your own phone or buy one from Visible
When you sign up for service, you have the option to bring your own phone or buy one from Visible.
If it’s time for a new phone, buying one from Visible is the easy route to go. They have tons of Android and iPhone models available that you can pay for outright or monthly over time at a 0% APR.
Or you can try their compatibility checker on your existing paid-off phone. If it comes up as compatible, they’ll ship you out a SIM card and you’ll be ready to go.
Either way, it should be pretty painless for you. You get your new phone or just the SIM card if you already have a supported phone, activate the service, and call it a day. Assuming you’re going to keep your phone number, they’ll walk you through porting it over from the time you sign up until it’s complete.
And finally, as I mentioned earlier, you’ll want to take the 30 seconds to join the Reddit_Upvote Party Pay group as well to ensure you’ll only pay $25/month each month that you decide to keep the service.
Welcome to Visible… my choice for the best cell phone provider out there right now!
So bringing a compatible device or buying one from them is straightforward. However, there’s a third more complicated and unique option that I went with… bringing over a phone that shows as incompatible on their checker:
Lisa’s unlocked Moto G Power phone showed as compatible (here’s an Amazon affiliate link to the current Moto G Power) but my unlocked Samsung Galaxy S21 5G did not (and here’s a link to the current Galaxy S22).
We also decided to get Faith on the plan as well. She’ll be 12 next month and she’s responsible enough for it. Besides, it’ll make me feel better that she can call in an emergency. She’s now using my old unlocked Samsung Galaxy S8 and that came back as incompatible as well.
So one compatible phone and two that weren’t… lovely.
This becomes a little more fun because I know that our unlocked phones should work fine on their service. If they work on Verizon (or Total Wireless in our case), then they should work fine on Visible as well – especially because they’re new-ish phones. They’re all CDMA-capable phones which is what Verizon (and Visible) use.
So I did what I do best because I truly felt that Visible would be the best cell phone provider for us… I spent a lot of time researching.
Our situation is a little unique because we use Google Voice so we only care about data. We don’t really have much of a need for voice minutes, texting, or even the physical phone number itself. All our calls and texting go through Google Voice and use Wi-Fi or data so we can just use the app and call it a day. In other words, we don’t care about porting phone numbers or anything like that since the phone numbers that we actually use are “in the cloud” with Google.
But I’ll give you the quick summary anyway in case you care. I decided to take a chance and did things differently with a leapfrog approach. I ordered just one SIM card that I knew could be activated on Lisa’s phone since I doubted I would be able to activate the SIM card on the two Galaxy phones (even though they should work just fine once activated).
Once I received the SIM card, I installed and activated it on Lisa’s Moto G Power phone successfully. Then I moved it to my Galaxy S21 phone, logged into my account on the Visible app, and activated the SIM card successfully. I tested everything and it worked fine.
I ordered another SIM card for Lisa’s phone, repeated the process, and installed/activated it on Faith’s Galaxy S8 phone. Success.
Then I ordered a third card for Lisa’s phone and she got to keep that one. Of course, that was a success again since her phone was supported.
I did these one at a time because I didn’t want to spend money needlessly if it wasn’t going to work. But now, we’re good to go!
On another note, during the transition to the Galaxy S8, I was having an issue and decided to contact Visible support even though that phone came up as unsupported. They still helped me out (via chat) and I was very happy with the prompt service and knowledgeable tech on the other end.
Could the best cell phone provider have any downsides??
Of course. There’s no perfect carrier out there just like there’s no perfect business.
That said, here are the nitpicky downsides that I’ve found.
1) Each phone line needs its own account – This took me a little bit to figure out since I didn’t see anywhere under the first account to add another line. But once I realized that, no big deal – you put the credit card in, select autopay, if you want, and you’re done. There’s not much else to do with it really.
I think the reason that I’d consider this a downside is that because you need to create an account for each line, each account needs to have a different email address. So I created an account using mine, another using Lisa’s, and another using Faith’s. But I still like to see the emails just to keep an eye on things so I ended up creating rules in Lisa and Faith’s email accounts to forward these to me.
Trivial but still strange that they require separate accounts regardless.
2) The hotspot is capped at 5 Mbps – Hotspot access is unlimited as far as capacity goes but it is limited in speed. 5 Mbps should be enough to get work done on a laptop and you could probably even stream a movie at that speed, but that’s going to be about it. It doesn’t leave you much breathing room.
My understanding is that this was put in place to prevent abuse that might have been a problem years ago with people just making the hotspot full internet access for their whole home.
I haven’t needed the hotspot yet but I don’t see this as a huge problem. However, something like 10 Mbps would probably have been a little nicer.
3) No roaming – This is the case for all MVNOs that I know of (except for Google FI sort of), but there’s no roaming option available. That means you’ll only be on Verizon towers wherever you go and can’t jump to T-Mobile or AT&T when Verizon doesn’t have a signal. Granted, this is something most people don’t use anyway because it’s usually expensive, but it’s still a nice option to have if you need it.
Hopefully, you can see why I consider this the best cell phone provider out there right now.
There are less expensive providers and plans you can find but this really seems to be the best bang for the buck. I don’t want to worry about limits but I also don’t want to pay a lot of money and this fits the bill perfectly!
If you’re interested in trying it out, you can check it out through my Visible link here (affiliate link). And remember, since this is a month-to-month service, you’re not committed to more than a month at a time. If you don’t like it for whatever reason, you can just bail whenever you want.
A couple of important points to note on moving to an MVNO (or any cell phone provider for that matter):
- If you have a phone that you bought through the carrier, it might be locked. To move it to a new carrier, you’ll need to check with your current carrier to see if they need to unlock it first. Be aware that they’re not going to unlock it if it’s not paid off.
- If you port your number to a new provider, your account with that provider will essentially be closed with a final bill. That means if you have a contractual obligation to pay off a phone, for instance, whatever’s left will come due at once.
Assuming you’re good on the above, get ready to taste the freedom and savings outside of the big monster carriers!
And that’s all I’ve got today. I’ll be curious if you’ll agree with Visible being the best cell phone provider or if there’s another carrier you like better. Let me know in the comments.
Plan well, take action, and live your best life!
Thanks for reading!!
33 thoughts on “Why I Now Consider Visible To Be the Best Cell Phone Provider”
I like redpocket for my mobile MVNO. For a long time I was on their 100/100/500 $5/month plan but recently decided to “treat yo self” and now have a real data allowance.
That’s an inexpensive plan! I just looked and saw that I have the Red Pocket site bookmarked but I haven’t done much digging into them. For a cheap plan, that looks to be a good option to check out. I don’t like that they throttle data speeds after just a few GB (on their $20/mo unlimited plan) though. They also limit you on the 5G connection, though that’s not too big of a deal for most folks.
A week too late we just switched my wife to Visible from Republic. She likes it so far and she went from 2gb data to unlimited for same price.
Ha! No worries – just glad to see others recognizing this as a great value as well! 🙂
Thank for the info. How is the cell service during international trip? Similar to T-Mobile?
There’s no roaming with most MVNOs, so for an international traveler, you’d need to either buy a SIM in the country you go to, just use WiFi throughout (Visible supports WiFi calling), or look for another alternative.
We were on Visible before our international travels and loved them. The Verizon service was better in our case than at&t but we know that changes depending on location. We ended up giving it up to join Google Fi since it was marketed for international service. We failed to read the fine print and Google Fi is designed to be primarily used in the US so we got our data canceled after 3 months overseas. There is a lot of info out there regarding this. We are not sure if we just used a lot of data b/c some users have said they haven’t been cutoff but they also flew under the radar with really really low data use. We are looking forward to joining Visible again when we get back to the states, great post Jim and its awesome that we can join parties we thought we would need to find new friends hahahaha
Ugh, that sucks, Nadeem. Hope Visible works well for what you need when you get back! You’ll love these friends your don’t need to know that save you good money on your bill each month! ?
Have fun retaking the Ohio drivers test (written)!! Stupid on another level.
Seriously?! Ugh, didn’t know we’ll have to do that… fun times. ?
Hi Jim I’m fairly confused.. How did you use Visible the mobile hotspot feature in Panama if the service only works in the United States?
Sorry, I guess that was a little confusing… we did not have Visible while in Panama. We used a Panamanian service while there called Tigo, which was actually very good. When we got back to the US, we switched over to Visible after a lot of research. Visible does not do roaming so you wouldn’t be able to use it in other countries. Sorry about the confusion!
We’ve used Visible for one phone for about a year, but need to switch to the party plan to save more. Other lines are still TMobile and it is a bit more. Still looking for a good TMobile mvno. When we RV we’ve found two separate carriers is useful as the 1% of America TMobile doesn’t cover actually turns out to be a very large expanse of land. Who knew?
The party plan is a cakewalk so definitely do that.
I don’t know much about the T-Mobile options but they have Metro by T-Mobile. I feel like they have the market cornered too with Boost, Mint Mobile, Tello, and a bunch of others. Smart move on going with two carriers to have a better shot at good coverage!
Were you restricted to Google Voice only and WiFi calling on the phones that were supposedly incompatible, or did it work the regular way as well? I have the same situation with some sort-of older phones not being compatible, but they’re not that old.
No, I tested regular phone calls and messaging just to ensure that everything was good. You might want to look up the APN settings for the ones that don’t work and add them manually. I had to do that with a couple for Faith’s Galaxy S8 and then everything worked fine.
I am very tempted. Been with Straight Talk for 11 years but this seems to be an even better deal
I looked at Straight Talk as well because I had heard good things, but the price difference for what you get made Visible a no-brainer for me. The nice thing is that, assuming your phone is compatible, you could port your number over to Visible and try it out for a month. If you didn’t like it, you could go right back to ST – no harm, no foul.
Nice. We’ll probably switch later this year when our son gets a phone.
Did you compare it with Google Fi? Looks like the cheapest plan is $20/line.
Google Fi has a lot of great advantages with the biggest probably being for international travelers. But to get that (outside of using it in Mexico or Canada), you need to Unlimited Plus plan, which is a lot more expensive (3 phones would be $45/each). The other advantage to Fi though is that it floats between T-mobile and U.S Cellular and WiFi, which essentially gives you some roaming, which Visible doesn’t have.
For 3 phones on their more basic unlimited plan (Simply Unlimited) it’s $25/phone. The disadvantage to that plan compared to Visible is that Fi slows you down after 35GB (though most people probably don’t hit that) and you’re limited to 5GB on the hotspot tethering.
It’s a personal preference based on your needs. I moved my mom over to Google Fi a number of years ago and she’s fine with it, but it might be time to move her over to Visible since it would be a better fit for her and save her some $$$.
Thanks for the rundown!
How would you save money for your mom, Jim? Google Fi $25/mo and Visible $25/mo. What am I missing?
I have Google Fi just for the international usage. Otherwise its SIM card is sitting on my shelf in my house when I’m in the US. But every 2 or 2.5 months I must go on my GoogleFi account (I do this from my computer) and resume/pause the service because GoogleFi service is set by Google to auto-activate after 2.5 months of paused/inactive service.
Maybe a better way to put it is that Visible would be more bang for the buck since it’s unlimited data whereas Google FI is not. Most folks I know on Google FI usually keep that as their regular plan not just for travel. That said, if that doesn’t work for you, maybe Google Voice might be an option to consider.
I have t-mobiles 5g internet and I really like it. It costs $50 per month, guaranteed not to be increased, forever. If you get 2-3 bars of t-mobile service at your location, it will work really well. Unlimited internet usage, 50+ devices can run simultaneously. You get a router/modem which will broadcast throughout an average size house. It is possible to add a mesh system, if you need extended coverage. It uses cell towers and will free you from the big cable companies. If you move, you can move the modem/router with you.
That’s great, David – I’ve read quite a bit about the 5G internet services that have been rolling out and finally becoming a disruptor to the cable company monopolies. Maybe I’ll try to do a write-up about some of this at some point down the line.
When you activated it on your wife’s phone, then switched the SIM to your phone, was your wife able to continue making calls with her old SIM card until she got her new one? Seems like the process would break down here.
Yes, after I moved the SIM over to my phone, I put Lisa’s old SIM card back in her phone and it worked just fine. In fact, that’s what we’ve been doing for years as we’d go back and forth to Panama – swapping cell phone SIMs every time we’d enter one country or the next. The good news is that’s how it’s supposed to work so you should be just fine. 🙂
I use visible. Problem I have seen on Texas is the service can sometimes be painfully slow when out and about. Did some digging and learned version is just bad here. Actually just use this to my advantage so I enjoy my day and don’t worry about the phone if it too slow.
Haha, that’s definitely looking at the glass as half full! I don’t blame you at all – these phones have become soul-suckers over the years! 🙂
I’m glad I discovered your article on Visible. I’ll have to explore it in depth and see if I should move myself and my kids from H2O Wireless or maybe my kids only. I haven’t noticed a problem with my usage of data because I barely use it, but both my teens wondered aloud why their internet slows after 2-3 weeks each month… that’s how I learned that they watch videos on the school bus while their plans have 2G data a month for $19/mo (this includes taxes). This company rents space on AT&T and Verizon, so I’m not sure whose network we’re on and they are both great in NC. Anyway, now I’m sort of conflicted whether to be a ‘bad’ parent and let my kids deal with the 2G limit (neither of them complained about the cap) and I don’t need to deal with a new SIM, porting numbers, etc. (I hate this part in case I encounter issues) or be generous and switch their phones to either Visible or Mint (the latter uses T-Mobile network so not sure about its quality in NC).
If you don’t mind I have a few questions, but bear with me please because I’m quite challenged wherever tech is involved…
1. When I visited Visible now, I saw that they have a special going. New cusomer can join its plan for $15/mo. for 12 months. The tricky question is this: Will I still get the $15/mo. deal after I sign up on your advised “Reddit_Upvote Party Pay group”? If not, then it’s not good. If I do, then how will I be able to get the $25/mo after the “12 months of $15 a month” deal ends? Any thoughts on these questions?
2. Does it have to be specifically “”Reddit_Upvote Party Pay group” or can I join some different group? Also, since you joined this group don’t you receive various messages from that group which would totally irritate me…
3. I also saw one of your comments recently that you like Mint Mobile. Do you still use it? If so, can you tell me the approximate amount of fees and taxes that are added to your monthly $15 plan? This company also gives 4G of data which also would beat H2O Wireless’s 2G of data but need to ponder whether it’s a good idea to join T-Mobile’s network. How was it for your family?
4. When you were in Panama, did you use a plan from the US during the loss of your Internet service there? If so, what did it cost you to use it internationally and would that plan have worked in Europe?
5. So, if I’m not mistaken, your family was using/paying for two plans simultaneously until you completely switched to Visible, right? At least that’s how I understood when you activated Visible’s SIM card on your wife’s phone and then you popped her *old* SIM card (of a different company?). BTW, you completely lost me on your trick about making the Visible’s SIM card work on your uncompatible phone after activating it on your wife’s phone and the fact that you don’t need a new phone number.
6. Have you written by any chance about Google Voice and all its ins and outs? Thanks to my incomprehension about this technology, I just cannot understand how it all works. When you sign up, do you get a new Google phone# via an App on your phone? Can it also be set up on the Internet via my Gmail account? I’m asking because in the future we might spend more time in Europe and it sounds like Google Voice would be the only way to get security codes for accessing Vanguard, Schwab or whatever accounts. It’s troublesome when I’m say somewhere in Poland and when I want to access my investment account, the security code is sent to my landline in NC lol. BTW, don’t investment companies have algorithms to determine that a person trying to access an account is using a Google Voice, but physically isn’t in the US in order to restrict trading from outside the USA?
OK, sorry for a bunch of questions. If you could answer any of my questions, I would appreciate it greatly.
Wow, that’s a lot of questions. Bear in mind that this post was written almost a year ago so some things have changed. Here’s the best I can offer:
1 & 2) They no longer offer the Party Pay groups anymore. If you were already in it, you’re grandfathered in (like my wife and daughter). Outside of that, $15/mo sounds like a great deal!
3) I switched over to Mint Mobile to check them out and I like it just as much as Visible. I had an offer through American Express that basically made my total half-price for 6 months so your fees would be different. However, just go to their website and add a plan to your cart. When you go to the checkout screen, you’ll see the breakdown of taxes and fees (you don’t even need to enter your info to see it).
4, 5, & 6) Here’s the best I can do with Google Voice for you. I wrote a post called “Using Google Voice to Stay in Touch While Living Abroad” a few years ago that’s still one of the most popular on this site. Hopefully, the post and comments will help you understand it a little better. The shortcodes from banks and other financial institutions usually work with GV but not all do so you’d have to try it to find out.
That’s about all I can provide but Google Voice worked well for us (we’re still using it because it makes it even easier to bounce between MVNOs like Visible and Mint). Another option to consider is Google FI, which has some international capabilities, and so do certain T-Mobile plans.
Thank you for taking your time to respond me. I found your responses very helpful and I will read your GV post too. A quick question though. What did you exactly mean with your sentence ” Google Voice worked well for us (we’re still using it because it makes it even easier to bounce between MVNOs like Visible and Mint).”? If you could elaborate on the situation of bouncing I would appreciate it.
If you haven’t had a chance to read the GV post yet, I think that’ll help to understand what I mean a little better. Essentially, I ported our phone numbers to our respective Google Voice accounts. So our phone numbers live “in the cloud” now. Because of that, we don’t need to port our numbers to any of the other providers when we switch. We don’t even care what phone numbers we get assigned. All we care about is that we have a data connection, which is why we still need a provider at all.
When someone calls or texts us, it gets routed through to our number at Google and then comes down to the app on our phone. And vice versa, when we call/text someone, we do it through the GV app on our phones and it gets routed to Google and then to the person at the other end.
Because of that, changing providers is a cinch for us to do. We just pop in the new SIM card (or activate it with eSIM if available), activate the service, and done. No worries about porting.
Hope that helps!