Best MVNO carrier 2024

The best MVNO carriers work fast and frequently to give you great value with solid coverage in a very competitive market, all by leveraging the existing networks of one (or more) of the mainstream operators. This structure often leads to a huge range of plans and keeps you out of contract and payment plans, so you're not stuck with a pricey carrier for years. With some carriers offering eSIM activation, you can even get signed up with just an app in a few minutes.

Now wholly owned by T-Mobile, Mint Mobile continues to be the best overall MVNO (Mobile Virtual Network Operator) offering great data options and convenient family plans. That said, Visible also shines with its two simple yet feature-packed plans that have just about everything you could ask for.

At a glance


Best overall

Mint Mobile review

(Image credit: Samuel Contreras / Android Central)
Best overall

Reasons to buy

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Save in bulk
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Fast T-Mobile network with 5G access
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Great phone compatibility
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Easy activation
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Family plan savings available

Reasons to avoid

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Unlimited plan has only 10GB hotspot data
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Minimum commitment of three months

Although it was officially purchased by T-Mobile in March 2023, Mint Mobile still reigns supreme as the overall best prepaid carrier around. In addition to offering outstanding coverage with flexible plans at low prices, Mint Mobile's a unique MVNO because the minimum duration of service you can buy is three months. The carrier also manages to keep things fresh by consistently updating its offerings to meet the shifting needs of users. It has many of the same network strengths and weaknesses as other T-Mobile-based MVNOs, but coverage should be solid for most customers. Fortunately, T-Mobile's network is arguably among the fastest you can get, and with 5G, one of the most advanced too.

You can purchase service for up to a year, which is how you can save the most, at an effective price $25 per month for 20GB of data. If you only need 5GB of data, go for the base plan that costs $15 per month. On the other hand, if you're among the few users who require more data each month, you can get the unlimited plan that comes with 40GB of high-speed data and 10GB of hotspot data. This unlimited plan has an introductory rate of $30 per month for three months, with renewals costing $40 per month. But if you sign up for a year, you can lock in this introductory rate for the full year.

You can bring your own T-Mobile device to Mint Mobile as long as it supports 4G LTE and VoLTE. If you're not sure, you can check with the carrier's online compatibility checker tool, but most unlocked GSM-network phones should work fine. Once you have your SIM card, you can activate it using the Mint Mobile app on your phone. If you want to buy a new phone you can do that too, since the carrier sells a variety of phones ranging from budget options to flagships.

Note: As part of a limited-time promotion, you can buy any Mint Mobile plan for just $15 per month, provided you pay in advance for three months.

Best cheap pick

Tello website on a phone

(Image credit: Samuel Contreras / Android Central)
Best cheap pick

Reasons to buy

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Works with most phones
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Fast T-Mobile network with 5G access
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Custom plans make it easy to save
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Some of the cheapest data you can get
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Can buy plans with only minutes or data

Reasons to avoid

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Unlimited plan slowed at 35GB
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Taxes and fees not included

Tello is a simple prepaid carrier that lets you customize the amount of data and talk time minutes for your plan. Texts are unlimited on all plan combinations and as we saw in our Tello review, phone compatibility is also strong, thanks to the T-Mobile network. If you only use Wi-Fi at home and just need a little data for some situations, the 1GB plan can be a solid option. Even when paired with unlimited calling, it'll cost you less than $10 per month.

For heavy users, the 10GB plan is a great place to start, with sufficient data for light streaming, browsing social media, and messaging. If you need more, the unlimited plan takes that number to 35GB, which should be more than enough for most use cases. Even so, if you use it all, you're not cut off, just the speed is reduced. While it's not fast enough for YouTube, you can still message and email easily.

Tello's plans can be fully customized but if you're looking for a starting point, there are four pre-configured plans as well. 'Economy' is $10 per month with 2GB of data and unlimited talk and text. Moving up, 'Value' with 5GB and 'Smart' with 10GB cost $14 and $19 per month, respectively. Finally, 'Unlimited Data' costs $25 per month.

Best for unlimited

Visible app on a Galaxy S20+

(Image credit: Samuel Contreras / Android Central)
Best for unlimited

Reasons to buy

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Unlimited data
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Unlimited hotspot (5/10Mbps)
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Verizon LTE and 5G network
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Taxes and fees included
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Visible+ comes with premium data

Reasons to avoid

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Limited phone selection
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No family plan savings

Visible by Verizon is a simple prepaid carrier that has two unlimited plans to choose from, and very little to complicate the choice. The base plan (simply called Visible) is comparable to Visible's old plan that we tested in our Visible review. It comes with completely unlimited data on Verizon's LTE and 5G networks, though the data gets a lower priority than other traffic on the carrier. Even so, speeds should be sufficiently high for most people to use their phones without any noticeable restrictions. There's a good reason Visible has one of the best cell phone plans, thanks to its unlimited talk, text, and data. This also includes unlimited hotspot data at 5Mbps.

Visible's second plan (called Visible Plus) adds 50GB of premium data to keep speeds as fast as possible in congested areas. Visible Plus also has access to Verizon's 'Ultra-Wideband' 5G for super-fast speeds with both C-band or mmWave coverage. It also adds some international roaming options and international calling options, boosts the unlimited hotspot data speed to 10Mbps, and bundles smartwatch service too.

Phone compatibility on Visible is a bit more limited than some other carriers, since your phone will need to be compatible with VoLTE on Verizon as well as support all of the necessary bands on the carrier. Most of the top-selling Android phones work on Visible without issues, but some older or more obscure phones may not be fully compatible.

Best for customization

US Mobile SIM cards

(Image credit: Android Central)
Best for customization

Reasons to buy

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Data add-ons shareable across lines
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All taxes and fees are included
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Verizon or T-Mobile networks
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Great phone compatibility
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Multi-line subscription perks

Reasons to avoid

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Very limited phone selection on site
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Subscription bundle needs three lines

US Mobile lets you start with a 'Light' plan that has just 1GB of data with unlimited talk and text, at a mere $10 per month. You can also add international calling add-on to this option at $3 per month. Moving up, there's a 10GB 'Unlimited Flex' plan that's only available if you sign up for an entire year, and it includes premium data, hotspot usage, as well as international calling and texting benefits.

The two highest plans — 'Unlimited Starter' and 'Unlimited Premium' — are priced at $29 and $50 per month, respectively, and offer everything from unlimited talk and text to loads of premium and hotspot data. If you get three lines with the latter, you can also go for a subscription bundle (priced at $15 per month) offering services like Audible, Hulu, and PlayStation Plus. It's worth mentioning that both unlimited plans offer discounts if you sign up for multiple lines.

Another interesting aspect of US Mobile is that you can buy chunks of data to add to your existing plan. What's even better is that this data can be shared across lines on multiple devices, including tablets. US Mobile uses the networks of both T-Mobile and Verizon to offer service, and all its prices are inclusive of taxes and fees.

Best for families

Cricket Coverage Map S20+

(Image credit: Samuel Contreras / Android Central)

5. Cricket Wireless

Best for families

Reasons to buy

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Works on AT&T's LTE and 5G network
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Multi-line discounts on most plans
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Cricket Wireless has removed speed caps
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Strong phone compatibility
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Free cloud storage with all plans

Reasons to avoid

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All plans limited to SD video streaming
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No hotspot usage with basic plans

There are three major carriers in the U.S., and each one offers a very similar level of coverage by the numbers. However, if you live in the country, there might be certain areas where AT&T's network reaches, and Verizon and T-Mobile's networks don't. If that's the case, you (and your family) can still take advantage of prepaid savings with Cricket Wireless. This AT&T-owned carrier has four main phone plans starting with a 5GB plan, then 10GB, and two unlimited options. The two unlimited plans also get multi-line discounts, as well as autopay savings. Lastly, there's a basic 1GB plan with a price of $15 per month.

The smaller $55 unlimited plan keeps things straightforward with unlimited talk, text, and data. It has hotspot data as an optional add-on but also offers nationwide 5G access and unlimited data. If you want more, the $60 plan upgrades your unlimited data to premium so your speeds can stay higher on a crowded tower. It also comes with 15GB of hotspot data, 150GB of cloud storage, and ad-supported (HBO Max). All plans come with access to AT&T's nationwide 5G network.

AT&T's network is compatible with most unlocked phones so if you already own a device, there's a good chance you can bring it with you. Cricket Wireless sells a solid range of mid-range devices as well, including both Android phones and iPhones, so if you want something high-end, you'll need to buy or finance it unlocked.

Best international perks

Google Fi Sim on map

(Image credit: Samuel Contreras / Android Central)

6. Google Fi Wireless

Best international perks

Reasons to buy

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Uses three networks
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International data on most plans
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Multi-line discounts
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Unlimited available
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5G on compatible phones

Reasons to avoid

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Expensive for heavy data users
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Only some phones have network switching

The majority of the best MVNO carriers are lower-cost alternatives that don't offer much over the base carrier. Google Fi Wireless uses the best connection available from T-Mobile in the United States. While fewer phones support the 'Designed for Fi' network (aka the ability to automatically switch to open Wi-Fi networks when they're available), if you have a compatible device like the Google Pixel 8 or the Galaxy S24 Ultra, you should have great service with 5G access.

Google Fi Wireless has three plans called 'Flexible,' 'Simply Unlimited,' and 'Unlimited Plus'. Even if don't have an unlimited plan, you'll still only pay for the data used and never pay for more than 6GB of data, thanks to the 'Bill Protection' feature. After the 15GB on the Flexible plan, your data speeds will be reduced, but you can always add more high-speed data at that time for $10 per GB. On the unlimited plans, your data speeds will be reduced after 22GB of use.

The biggest feature that sets Google Fi Wireless apart, is international service on the Flexible and Unlimited Plus plans. If you're traveling in any of the over 200 supported countries, your data will cost the same as it does at home. You will also get unlimited texts but will need to pay $0.20 per minute for calls. Do keep in mind that the Simply Unlimited plan doesn't include most of these international perks, nor does it include shareable data.

How to choose

Mint Mobile home screen on Pixel 6

(Image credit: Android Central)

Trying the best MVNO carriers is easier than ever

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Getting away from the big three carriers can be a great way to save money on phone service by stripping away services you don't need. You can find an MVNO that uses a network you already know offers great coverage in your area, such as Verizon or T-Mobile. It can also be a good way to try a new network with one of the best Android phones, without spending too much money or time moving numbers over.

A carrier like Google Fi Wireless manages to pack in extra features for someone who wants great coverage and data abroad. At the same time, Visible focuses on offering data without limits. You also get to try out different networks as there's no contract associated with these plans.

Overall, Mint Mobile continues to be one of the best choices out there, so long you don't mind paying in advance for at least three months. Mint Mobile's plans come in four sizes so just about anyone should be able to find something that fits their needs well. On top of that, Mint Mobile's family plans make your renewal costs a bit more manageable by giving you 12-month rates with three-month renewals. Now that it's owned by T-Mobile, we might see changes in the future but for now, we can easily recommend Mint Mobile to most users.

Patrick Farmer
eCommerce Editor

After almost a decade of working in the e-commerce space, Patrick Farmer (he/him) began his career at Android Central as a Deals and Commerce Writer before moving into a new role as AC's eCommerce Editor in 2023. When he's not hunting down the best deals and offering shopping advice for our readers, you'll often find him listening to music, camping out at a brewery, or treating his cat like a human child. 

With contributions from