The days of years-long cell phone contracts and subsidized devices have passed. Cell service providers face sufficient competition now to know they can’t lock us into complicated, overpriced deals.
Boost Mobile is a well-known name for anyone seeking affordable service — but is it your best option among the newer companies that have sprung up in the past two decades?
Here’s everything you need to know about using Boost Mobile, including how it stacks up with newer competitors.
What is Boost Mobile?
Boost Mobile is a long-time player in the low-cost cell service field, with service in the United States since 2001. It was one of the earliest services to offer unlimited talk, text, and data on a wireless plan starting in 2006.
The company offers low-cost, no-contract, prepaid cell phone plans and discount smartphones, including iPhones and Android phones, as well as a basic flip phone. It’s available to users all over the U.S. through retail stores and online.
Boost runs on the T-Mobile (formerly Sprint) network and DISH service as a mobile virtual network operator (MVNO), which means it connects you to service but doesn’t operate the network itself.
Boost was originally founded in Australia in 2000 and still runs there on the country’s Telstra network.
How does Boost Mobile work?
To sign up for a Boost Mobile plan, you first have to have a compatible phone. You can either buy a phone from Boost — it offers Apple and Android phones in a range of prices — or bring your own and buy a SIM kit to make it compatible.
Once you set up your old phone or receive your new phone from Boost, you can go to the website and click “Activate” to start your plan. You’ll choose whether to use a new phone number or port an existing one.
Then you’ll go through the sign-up process to set up your account, select your plan, and make your first payment to activate your device and your plan.
Boost doesn’t charge an activation fee, so you’ll just pay your first monthly price to get started. Note: if you’re using a certified pre-owned device, you’ll pay an upfront $10 fee but also get a credit to your account for $10 to offset the charge.
How much does Boost Mobile cost?
Boost Mobile offers two unlimited phone-and-data plans, plus two main limited-data plans you can mix and match to create a family plan.
It also offers plans at various price points to certain customers, and its Shrink It plan starts at $45 per month and drops the price after six months of on-time payments.
Boost Mobile plans
|Price/month||Talk & text||Mobile data||Hotspot||Add a line||Misc.|
|$50 (Unlimited)||Unlimited||Unlimited (2G speed after 35GB)||12GB||$30||$10 off for six months if you bring your own phone|
|$60 (Unlimited)||Unlimited||Unlimited (2G speed after 35GB)||30GB||$40||$10 off for six months if you bring your own phone|
|$35 (Unlimited)||Unlimited||Unlimited (2G speed after 3GB)||Included||$25 first line, $30 each additional line||$10 off for six months if you bring your own phone|
|$45 (Shrink It)||Unlimited||15GB||Included||Add any plan||Price drops to $35/mo. after six on-time payments|
|$35||Unlimited||10GB||Included||Add any plan||N/A|
|$25||Unlimited||5GB||Included||Add any plan||New customers only|
|$15||Unlimited||2GB||Included||Add any plan||Must bring your own phone; new customers only|
|$10||Unlimited||1GB||1GB||Add any plan||Must bring your own phone; new customers only|
Not sure what kind of data you need? Here are some examples of typical data usage:
- Music streaming – Listen to 24–35 hours of music at normal quality with 1GB.
- YouTube – About 24MB per minute (1.5GB per hour), but it varies significantly depending on your video quality settings.
- Netflix – About one hour of standard definition uses 1GB; one hour of HD uses 3GB.
- Social media (Facebook and Instagram) – 8+ hours per 1GB with autoplay off. Watching videos uses more data.
You can’t lease your phone with a Boost Mobile plan. You can either bring your own and buy a SIM card (to make it compatible with Boost’s network), or buy a discounted Apple or Android phone for an upfront, flat payment.
Boost offers a range of smartphones, from a $35 Wiko to the latest iPhone at $1,000+.
Add features to your Boost Mobile phone or service plan for additional monthly fees.
|Service||What it does||Price|
|Privacy Premium||Protect your data from identity theft.||$5.99/month|
|Boost Shield||Phone insurance for your device and McAfee security for your data.||$7/month|
|International calling — Mexico and Canada||Unlimited calls to and from Mexico, calls to Canada, and texting to Mexico and Canada, 8GB data in Mexico.||$5/month|
|International calling — PLUS||Above, plus unlimited calls to landlines in 70+ countries, and more.||$10/month|
|Data packs||Increase your plan’s data as needed.||$5 for 1GB or $10 for 2GB|
|Secure Wi-Fi||Encrypt your data on any network.||$2/month|
|Premium Visual Voicemail||Add text transcription, forward to email and more. (Android only)||$2.99/month|
|Call Screener||Caller I.D. for calls and texts that aren’t in your contact list, plus identify and block spam.||$3/month|
|Safe & Found||Family location, parental controls, emergency alerts and more.||$7/month|
|HD Buy Up||Get video, music and gaming in HD.||$10/month|
Boost Mobile features
Boost Mobile offers fairly standard features for a low-cost cell phone carrier: no contracts, unlimited talk and text, and access to high-speed data nationwide.
No service contract
You won’t sign a one- or two-year contract to use Boost Mobile. All plans are month-to-month, so you can cancel at any time.
Order and activate your plan online
You can set up your Boost Mobile plan entirely online — no need to go into a store. You can bring your own phone and order a SIM card, or order a new phone through Boost. Once it arrives, you can activate your service plan online and start using your phone right away.
All Boost Mobile plans include the option to use your phone as a mobile hotspot — so you can not only use your phone’s data on your phone, but also connect it to your laptop or tablet to use like Wi-Fi.
Unlimited plans include a hotspot limit — 12GB or 30GB, depending on your plan, which is pretty significant for most typical users. With limited-data plans, your hotspot usage counts against your data allowance.
Unlimited talk and text
Like almost every cell service provider, Boost includes unlimited talk minutes and texts with all plans. That excludes international calling and texting, which will cost you $5 to $10 more per month as an add-on service.
4G and 5G LTE
Boost Mobile operates on the Sprint (T-Mobile) network, as well as an Expanded Data Network it accesses through its parent company, DISH.
That means you’ll generally have the coverage you’d expect with a Sprint plan, which is nationwide, but spotty in many cities and rural areas. And customers with compatible phones (most are) get access to the Expanded Data Network, which should make up for some of the spottiness of Sprint’s network, though not for calling and texting (unless you use data for those).
T-Mobile is the most well-known cell carrier to offer customer perks, but many competitors are in the game, too.
Boost Mobile customers get access to rotating perks, special deals, and giveaways from partners including Papa John’s, AMC, Circle K, Sam’s Club, Avis, Tidal, and more.
Protect your data from identity theft with the Privacy Premium bundle for an extra $5.99 a month. The bundle includes:
- Secure Wi-Fi – Encrypt your data, regardless of the Wi-Fi network.
- Call Screener Premium – This service identifies and blocks spam calls.
- Premium Visual Voicemail – This upgrade transcribes all voicemails to text and automatically forwards them to your email.
Add phone insurance from Brightstar Device Protection and McAfee security for your data for $7 a month. Boost Shield covers cracked screens, water damage, loss, theft, and out-of-warranty problems with your phone.
The McAfee feature, Mobile Security, protects your phone against things like viruses, malware, and phishing. It’ll help you find, lock, and wipe personal data from your phone if it’s lost or stolen, and gives you 2GB of backup for contacts, photos, and videos.
You have to buy Boost Shield within 30 days of purchasing your new phone from Boost or bringing your own device to Boost.
Existing Boost Mobile customers may qualify for BoostUP!, which offers 18-month financing for smartphones included in your monthly service bill.
To qualify, you have to be a Boost Mobile customer with a monthly plan of $35 or more and have made 12 consecutive on-time monthly payments. Once you’re eligible, you’ll see the option noted in your account next time you want to purchase a new phone.
My Boost App
Customers can manage their accounts entirely through the My Boost App for iOS or Android. The mobile app lets you make payments, track your data usage, see your plan details, and connect with customer support, right from your phone.
Boost Mobile’s website has a thorough FAQ section and community forums to help you find answers to most of your account- and product-related questions. If you still need help, you can talk with a customer support rep directly via:
- Live chat – Available online Monday through Friday 4 a.m. to 8 p.m. Pacific, and Saturday and Sunday 4 a.m. to 7 p.m.
- Phone – Call 866-402-7366 during business hours, Monday through Friday 4 a.m. to 8 p.m. Pacific, and Saturday and Sunday 4 a.m. to 7 p.m.
My experience researching Boost Mobile
Getting set up with Boost is super easy for anyone with internet access — or, if you want a sales rep to help you set everything up, a store nearby. Without the draconic complications of a service contract or even a device lease, set-up is straightforward.
Pick a phone, pick your plan. That simplicity is refreshing.
The drawback is that you have no way to roll the cost of a smartphone into your mobile service plan, a nice convenience you can get from the major carriers. You either have to pay for your phone upfront (if you don’t already have one) or lease it directly from the company, like Apple or Samsung.
Boost’s other drawback is the major issue carriers compete on: coverage. It’s on Sprint’s network, which offers nationwide coverage and will very likely promise coverage in your town, but it can be spotty. And coverage is sparse in rural areas in the western U.S., including huge parts of California, Washington, and Idaho.
Who is Boost Mobile best for?
Low data users
Boost’s lowest costs come in exchange for limited data. You can get service for as little as $10 per month, but that only gets you 1GB of data — which you could use in about a week with an hour per day on social media.
But if you spend most of your time at home and work with your phone connected to Wi-Fi — or you just don’t browse the internet or apps on your phone much — low data limits won’t be a problem.
If you’re a low data user, you’re better off with a low-cost plan from a carrier like Boost than a high-cost, high-data plan from a major carrier, where you’ll pay for access to data you’ll never use.
Anyone who wants to keep their phone
If you want to change carriers but keep your phone for a few more years, Boost is a great deal for you. You could get a low-data plan for $10 or $15 per month. You can also get $10 off the price of unlimited plans for six months if you bring your own phone.
Families with children
Boost offers complete flexibility to build the “family plan” that works for your household, so you can get all the coverage you need — without paying for extra — with one monthly bill.
On Boost, you’ll just pay per line you add based on how much data each line needs. So you can get an unlimited plan for yourself and bring on others — the kids? Grandma? — on a much cheaper line. You can also boost plans with extra monthly data, so you can easily adjust and grow plans as your family’s needs change.
Who shouldn’t use Boost Mobile?
Low-cost carriers tend to be on less-ubiquitous networks — e.g. Sprint — and, on top of that, they get deprioritized service when there’s a high demand on the network in an area. That means a high potential for spotty cell and data coverage.
If you know the network is solid in your area, Boost Mobile might be fine for you. But if you frequently travel outside of your surrounding area — even within the U.S. — you might want to opt for a more reliable network, like Verizon.
Lovers of the latest iPhone
If you’re a must-have-it kind of person when it comes to the newest devices, you might not love Boost.
It offers the latest phones, which is a leg up on some low-cost competitors, but it doesn’t offer financing plans. You’ll have to pay upfront (or go to the manufacturer directly) when you want to upgrade to the newest model.
Pros & cons
- Low-cost phone service — Get talk, text, and data service for as little as $10 a month when you bring your own phone; and an unlimited plan for only $50 a month.
- Bring your own phone — Boost makes it easy to buy a SIM kit (or bring your own) and make any phone compatible with its network.
- Customizable plans — Mix and match plans for as many phone lines as you want to add, and boost plans with extra data when you need it.
- Expanded Data Network — While you might run into spotty cell service on the Sprint network, Boost’s Expanded Data Network acts as a solid backup for data access.
- No device financing for new customers — You can’t fold the price of your smartphone into your service plan, like you can with most major carriers, to avoid a hefty upfront cost. You must be an existing customer for at least a year (and never make a late payment) before you’re eligible for financing.
- Small variety of plans — Boost’s lowest-priced plans are only available to new customers. Existing customers must choose among three unlimited and two limited-data plans.
Boost Mobile vs. competitors
Boost Mobile faces competition from a slew of low-cost cell phone carriers. Here’s how it compares to three that offer distinctly different options.
|Prices||$10–60/month||$15–30/month||$25–40/month||$30-$85 per line/month|
|Plan options||Choose data||Choose minutes and data; option for free Wi-Fi calling plan||One plan: unlimited talk, text and data||Unlimited talk, text, and data options as well as lower data options|
|Phone selection||Latest iPhone, Coolpad, LG, Motorola, Samsung, and Wiko; or BYO||iPhone 8–12, or BYO Apple or Android||Latest iPhone, Blade, Pixel, Galaxy, and OnePlus; or BYO||A wide range os iPhone and Android devices|
|Best for||Low data users||Wi-Fi users||Referral discounts||Multi-line plans|
FreedomPop might be the only carrier that offers an actually free phone plan. Its free Wi-Fi calling plan lets you use your number to make calls over Wi-Fi, so you can get service without a cell or data plan.
You can also buy talk, text, and data coverage from FreedomPop, so you can use your phone when you’re not on Wi-Fi. All plans include unlimited texting, and you can choose your minutes (up to unlimited) and your data (same) to land on a monthly price that covers only what you’ll actually use.
Visible is a cell phone provider that offers access to Verizon’s network for as low as $25 a month. It’s a good fit for customers who know they want unlimited data, text, and calling but don’t want to pay the high cost of a plan from a big three provider.
- Low cost
- Party Pay option
- Bring your phone or buy from them
- Customer support
- Slower speeds and an unreliable network
- Beware of buying your phone outright
Visible is owned by Verizon and runs on the Verizon network.
Its model is unique: it offers a single plan with unlimited talk, text, and data, starting at $40. For each person you add to your “party” — family or friends, with separate billing — you save $5 per month. You can build or join a party of up to four people, to pay as low as $25 per month.
Plus, you can earn credits for referring up to 12 people to Visible. For each referral, you get one month of service for $5.
T-Mobile has long been known as an affordable major carrier. While reception may be spotty in rural areas, it may well be worth the cost (starting at $30/month for three lines) for those who can get service.
If you’re looking for a more robust option than FreedomPop or Visible that offers phone financing, 5G coverage, and discount options, T-Mobile should be your go-to choice. Customers can even get a $200 bonus when they switch to T-Mobile!
Boost Mobile is a major player in the low-cost cell service game, so it’s no surprise that its offerings are fairly standard for the industry. Getting set up is easy, so if you’re looking for a straightforward plan to save a little money on your cell phone bill, sign up online.
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