I don’t know about you, but I feel like half my paycheck goes toward my cell phone bill.
Mint Mobile is here to help. Thanks to majority owner Ryan Reynolds – yes, that Ryan Reynolds – most people have heard of Mint Mobile by now. But there are plenty of other reasons to consider Mint Mobile for your wireless needs.
Today I’ll cover everything you need to know about Mint Mobile.
What is Mint Mobile?
Mint Mobile was founded in 2016 in Costa Mesa, California, as an alternative to big wireless. The company offers a refreshing alternative to contract-based carriers. You can buy coverage in three-month increments if you like, but you can also prepay for a full year of coverage.
With Mint Mobile, you have two choices: buy a phone through Mint or bring a device you already own. Although there are no physical locations, you can order your device or SIM card through the Mint Mobile website or pick up a starter kit at Target. As long as your existing phone is compatible, you’ll merely need to replace the SIM card and follow the directions to activate it.
How does Mint Mobile work?
To join the Mint Mobile network, you’ll first need a compatible phone. If you go to the Mint Mobile website, you’ll see the option to either buy a new phone or bring your own device.
If you want to get a new phone to use on the Mint Mobile network, you can choose from a selection of iPhones and Android phones. You can pay full price for the phone or finance a phone at 0%-30% APR.
But you can save money by using your existing phone with a Mint Mobile plan. The phone will need to be both unlocked and compatible with Mint Mobile’s network. Not sure? You can check your phone’s suitability here. Just input your phone’s IMEI number (available under “Settings”) or the brand and model to see if your phone will work on the service.
You can even enter your zip code and get a feel for how good the coverage is in your area. You’ll be prompted to enter a street address and phone type after you input your zip code, but this is optional. It just will ensure you get the coverage data for your specific situation.
I have to admit, I half-expected the site to come back telling me that coverage is excellent for my area. I’m just used to technology service providers promising the moon and delivering…well, less than the moon. But Mint Mobile was 100% truthful with me in saying I could only expect fair coverage at my home. To be fair, I live outside the city on a peninsula near the lake, and I get only one to two bars with my current big wireless provider when I’m home.
You can also view a map that shows the coverage strength on your street and in your town, and zoom out to see how things will look as you get farther away from home.
Once you’ve determined you have a compatible phone and you’ll be covered in your area, you can request your SIM card. Mint Mobile starts you out with a three-month introductory plan to let you try things out. That means you won’t be locked into a one- or two-year contract as you will with other plans.
Once the three months are up, you can continue by choosing a 3-, 6-, or 12-month plan.
You can choose a plan and get a SIM card shipped to your house in two to three days with free shipping. If you have a Target nearby, you may instead opt to head there, where you can buy a Mint Mobile starter kit for a couple of dollars. Once you get your SIM, you’ll just pop it into your unlocked phone, download the Mint Mobile app, and follow the instructions to activate.
Pricing for Mint Mobile
Like many discount cellular providers, Mint Mobile specializes in undercutting big carrier pricing while also eliminating the burden of a contract. But while many mobile providers offer month-to-month pricing, Mint sells its services in “bundles,” which means you’ll need to purchase at least three months of service. The more months you buy, the more you save.
Mint Mobile starts subscribers off with a three-month package. Once you reach the end of that three-month trial, you can sign up for another three months, six months, or a year.
One thing to know about Mint Mobile is that you have to pay for your package in advance. That means you won’t have the option of paying monthly. Here are the current rates. Although the rates include the monthly cost, Mint Mobile requires you to pay the entire term in advance.
|Term length||Data per month||Monthly cost||Total cost|
Mint Mobile features
The discount mobile market has a few great options. Here are a few things that make Mint Mobile stand out.
A top concern when switching to discount cellular service is coverage. Mint Mobile is upfront about that, letting you check coverage in your area before you sign up. There are also no mysteries concerning pricing. Since you’re paying in advance, you don’t have to worry about fluctuating monthly bills.
No contracts required
You can commit to a full year if you want, but there’s nothing preventing you from sticking to three-month plans. You could continue to pay in three-month blocks for years, at rates that are competitive with what you’d pay every month with the two biggest mobile providers.
Largest 5G network
Mint Mobile operates on the T-Mobile network, which currently bills itself as the nation’s “fastest and largest 5G network.” T-Mobile achieved this status when it merged with Sprint. If you don’t have a 5G-compatible device yet, you’ll still get a fast connection with T-Mobile’s robust 4G LTE network.
Unlimited plans available
Although you’ll save by going with a 4GB, 10GB, or 15GB plan, the unlimited plan lets you use as much data as you want. As with other carriers, you can use your phone as a hotspot to get data access on devices like laptops and tablets when Wi-Fi isn’t available.
Bring your own device
You don’t have to purchase your phone through Mint Mobile. You can use your existing phone or buy one anywhere you want, as long as it’s compatible. With the compatibility checker, you could even input a device’s IMEI number and check before you buy the phone.
Like many wireless carriers, Mint Mobile will let you use your phone as a mobile hotspot, but Mint doesn’t charge extra for that. That means when you’re out and about, you can connect your laptop, tablet, or other WiFi-capable device and connect. If you have the unlimited plan, you’ll be capped at 5GB of hotspot data use a month.
You don’t need a phone connection to make calls and texts. Simply enable Wi-Fi calling in Settings and your phone will use Wi-Fi for those features. This comes in handy if your cell signal is weak or if cell service isn’t available for a period of time.
Free calls to Canada and Mexico
If you have loved ones in Canada or Mexico, Mint Mobile’s free calls to those two countries will come in handy. You’ll also get reduced rates to more than 160 other countries. You can buy credits for those international calls directly in the Mint Mobile app.
If you don’t routinely use more than 15GB of data a month, you may want to opt for a lower-tier plan rather than unlimited data. If there’s a month you’re going over, you can always purchase data add-ons, which allow you to easily add 1GB of extra data for $10 or 3GB for $20. You can check your current data usage at any time by texting “DATA” to 6700, then add extra data directly in the app.
Data plan recommendations
Unlimited may not be the best plan for you, but how will you know? UnliMINTed will help. This feature monitors your data usage during your introductory period, which is those first three months, and lets you know whether you really need an unlimited plan.
Chances are, you won’t be the only cell phone user in your house. Mint Family lets you manage up to five lines through one handy portal. It will show monthly data usage for each line and even let you add data to a line. The members don’t even have to be in your household. Add friends, long-distance relatives, or anyone else who wants a Mint account.
My experience researching Mint Mobile
I don’t have an unlocked phone, so I have to stick with my current carrier for now. But I have to admit, Mint Mobile’s affordable rates are enticing.
Mint Mobile’s coverage is pretty bad around my house, but AT&T’s coverage is pretty bad, too. I find when I’m at home, I’m on Wi-Fi anyway. I haven’t had issues with dropped calls or missed texts, but if you rely on talking on your phone for business, it’s probably wise to look at Mint Mobile’s coverage map.
If the coverage is good in your area, it’s tough to beat the deal. No contracts, and in my case, the price for three months is still less than what I’m paying every month with AT&T. You just have to either buy your phone through Mint Mobile or get your phone unlocked. You can also buy a phone that’s unlocked. Unlocking an existing phone is a little complicated, so make sure you can do it before you commit to three months with Mint Mobile.
For those thinking of switching cell providers, Mint Mobile provides a much more affordable alternative to contract-based phone plans. You just need to work out the phone compatibility before you get started.
Who is Mint Mobile best for?
Those in transition
Being able to purchase your cell service in three-month blocks can be a huge benefit if you’re between carriers. With an unlocked phone, you can use Mint Mobile for a while, then sign up for a contract-based carrier once you’re settled (or just stick with Mint!)
First-time cell phone owners
If someone’s never owned a cell phone, compatibility won’t be as big an issue. You can shop specifically for compatible phones. Look for a phone that works with the T-Mobile network for best results, and make sure it’s 5G compatible if you want to take advantage of the faster speeds.
Although Mint Mobile’s pricing beats what you’ll pay with many other carriers, the best rates come with the lower-tier plans. If you’re on Wi-Fi most of the time, you can save money by going with a plan that has lower data caps.
Who shouldn’t use Mint Mobile?
Those needing customer service
If you go with a major carrier, you can visit a physical location and talk to a sales consultant. You can even get onsite troubleshooting if you need it. Mint Mobile sells starter packs at some retailers, but you can’t hand your phone over to an associate to set up for you, as you can with other providers.
While Mint Mobile’s U.S. network is fairly robust, once you leave international borders, you can run into some roaming costs. You’ll need to purchase UpRoam credits if you’re traveling internationally. You can buy the credits directly to your phone, and they’re available for as little as $5.
The first thing you should do, if you’re considering Mint Mobile, is check your phone’s compatibility. Mint makes it easy to see the quality of coverage where you live. Also, check your workplace and any other area where you spend time. If you plan to bring your current smartphone, check compatibility for that, as well, and make sure you can get your phone unlocked with your current carrier.
Pros & cons
- Low cost — Even prepaying for multiple months, you’ll often pay a fraction of what one of the big providers charges.
- No contracts — You can commit to as little as three months, renewing those three months whenever they expire.
- Large network — Mint Mobile uses the T-Mobile network, which is currently the largest 5G network in the U.S.
- No monthly payment option — Although the rates are low, you’ll have to pay for at least three months at a time.
- High phone costs — You may want to bring your own phone, as the prices on Mint Mobile’s site aren’t discounted.
- International roaming charges — If you leave the U.S., you’ll have to buy credits to use data.
Mint Mobile vs. competitors
|Mint Mobile||Straight Talk||Boost Mobile|
|Monthly price range||$15-$35 plus taxes and fees||$30-$90 plus taxes and fees||$10-$60 (taxes and fees included)|
|Coverage offered||5G and 4G LTE||4G LTE||5G and 4G LTE|
|Phone models supported||Unlocked phones, phones compatible with AT&T, T-Mobile, and Sprint||Unlocked phones, phones compatible with AT&T, T-Mobile, and Sprint||Unlocked phones, phones compatible with AT&T, T-Mobile, and Sprint|
Like Mint Mobile, Straight Talk offers discounted rates on cellular plans with no contract required. You can choose from 3-, 6-, and 12-month plans, and if you set up auto-refill, you’ll save $1 a month.
Straight Talk doesn’t offer 5G, but you can get up to 4G LTE if your phone offers that capability. You can order a SIM card for your existing phone through their website or pick up one at any Walmart location. If you make international calls, Straight Talk’s international unlimited plan offers calling to Canada, Mexico, China, and India, among others.
Boost Mobile promises plans starting at $10 a month, although unlimited data plans start at $50. But it’s important to point out that Boost Mobile has been accused of throttling unlimited plan holders after a certain amount of use. You may find your performance slowing if you’re a heavy data user.
One benefit of Boost Mobile is its monthly plans. You can pay as you go, and Boost Mobile even rewards you with discounts for making consecutive on-time payments. Boost Mobile also has 5G network access for phones that have the built-in technology.
Mint Mobile can help reduce your cell phone bill significantly while also giving you access to high-speed data and coverage through the T-Mobile network. Just make sure to check your phone’s compatibility before ordering a SIM card to make sure you can easily make the switch!
- How To Save Money On International Cell Phone Use