A mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) is an "alternative carrier" that leases coverage from one of the "Big Three" carriers (AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon) and sells it for less. If one of these carriers has excellent coverage in your area but you're looking for something a little cheaper, then consider going with an MVNO. Luckily, this includes many of the best cell phone plans.
To work on Verizon-based alternative carriers, your phone must be approved for use by Verizon. You should always be sure to check your phone's IMEI with any carrier before committing to a new service. To be compatible with this network, your phone must support the following frequencies:
- 3G: 800Mhz (BC0), 1900Mhz (BC1)
- LTE: 700Mhz (Band 13), 1700/2100Mhz (Band 4), 1900Mhz (Band 2)
What about 5G?
Verizon has officially launched its nationwide 5G network with millions of people getting coverage thanks to DSS or Dynamic Spectrum Sharing, which allows towers to share spectrum between LTE and 5G connections. Unlike its earlier Ultra-Wideband (UWB) 5G network, this newer nationwide 5G network is available to customers on all Verizon Wireless plans.
Verizon's nationwide 5G network is available on many of these carriers, including some of the most popular like Visible, Xfinity Mobile, and Spectrum though you'll need a Verizon-compatible 5G phone. Your phone will need to support band n5 and will need to have software that supports 5G on Verizon. Check with your carrier to be sure.
Without further ado, here are the MVNOs powered by Verizon.
Affinity Cellular is an Iowa-based carrier that operates primarily based on awarding discounts to members of various clubs. The biggest club to which it offers discounts is the American Automobile Association (AAA). If you sign up for a contract, you receive five AAA dollars.
On its "About Us" page, Affinity states that it aims to serve those people who "depend on the benefits and security a cell phone provides but certainly are not using it every minute of every day."
Plans start at $10 per month for 350 voice minutes and 350 texts, with upgrades available up to unlimited talk and text for just $24 per month. This plan can be a good choice for a backup phone. If you need more out of your plan, you can get a data plan from 1GB for $20 per month all the way up to unlimited for $60 per month.
Best Cellular provides service on three networks, including Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon, with plans available for both basic phones and smartphones. The basic phone plans start at $15 per month with 500 minutes, 100 texts, and 100MB of data. If you need more, you can upgrade to the $19 or $35 plan, with the latter offering unlimited talk and text as well as 500MB of data.
The smartphone plans all come with unlimited talk and text with data amounts from 1.5GB, 3GB, and 10GB at $40, $50, and $60 per month, respectively. The strongest feature of Best Cellular is the ability to choose whichever network works best for you so you can be sure you have coverage.
Boom Mobile operates on three different networks. For Verizon service, you'll want to stick with service on the Boom Red network. Official 5G support on Boom is only on the AT&T network, however.
Plans on the Verizon network start at $10 per month with 1200 minutes and unlimited texts plus 1GB of data. You can also bump up to 40GB of data for $57 per month. There are more plans available, including shared data plans for multiple lines as well as three-month bundles. Boom Mobile has a ton of options that will work for just about anyone, especially if you're willing to try a plan on a different network.
Credo is a major player in the MVNO market, operating as a division of Working Assets. Working Assets has been around in various iterations since 1985, with a core tenet of helping nonprofits through donations. Credo operated as Working Assets Wireless, changing to Credo in 2007 and only started using the Verizon network in 2016.
The aptly named Credo operates in the name of social change and has since its inception. It maintains a strict environmental policy, offering free phone recycling, and prints bills on 100% post-consumer recycled paper. It also uses carbonfund.org's "carbon-free" program to offset its electricity and shipping costs.
If you want to support social change and a carrier with an immense sense of social responsibility, Credo is an awesome choice. You even get to vote on which organizations get donations — organizations like Planned Parenthood, Bend the Arc, the Indigenous Environmental Network, and more.
Plans start at $35 per month for 1GB of 4G LTE, unlimited talk and text, and tethering. If you need more, you can also go with 3GB, 9GB, 15GB, or unlimited data plans. You'll also save money per line, up to five lines though you'll share your data pool with all lines on your account.
EnTouch Wireless has three main plans starting at $20/month and moving up to $30/month and $50/month. The cheapest plan gets you unlimited talk and text with 500MB of data, confusingly called "1/2 GIG" on the website. At $30/month, you move up to 1GB of data with unlimited talk and text, and the $50/month plan comes with unlimited talk and text with 4GB of data. Even if you're eligible for a Lifeline discount of $10/month, this isn't the strongest carrier for data users.
Lively has two phones available, the Lively Flip and the Lively Smart. These are both rebranded devices with simplified software. The starting plan for both phones is $15 per month with 300 minutes though unlimited talk and text is an option for $20 per month. On the Smart, data can be added starting at 100MB for $2.50. Lively recommends 500MB for $5, but you can also upgrade all the way up to unlimited data depending on your needs.
Lively also offers health and safety packages starting at $20 per month for Urgent Response. Each phone has a prominent Urgent Response that connects with a 24/7 agent to assess the situation and provide assistance. These plans can also be upgraded with higher levels of immediate care.
You also get features like urgent response services to help someone in an emergency. This can be a good option for a caregiver looking to support an older adult or a way to enable independent living for a senior.
Net10, owned by TracFone, uses all of the Big Four's towers to help with coverage, which means you get solid coverage for a little less than you'd spend going with one of the biggies. The nice thing is that because Net10 uses everyone, you get to bring pretty much any phone you have — just know that if your phone isn't CDMA-compatible, then it likely won't connect to Verizon's network when you use Net10.
All smartphone plans come with unlimited talk, text, and 2G data. For example, $20 per month gets you 2GB of 4G LTE, with more plans available at 5GB, 10GB, 40GB, or unlimited data. The smaller plans are great values, but the larger data amounts aren't as good as some other carriers. Nevertheless, the network flexibility still makes Net10 Wireless a welcome option.
Page Plus Cellular
Page Plus is a pretty run-of-the-mill MVNO operating on Verizon's network. Plans start at $12 per month for 500 minutes, 500 texts, and 100MB of LTE data. If you regularly use your phone, you'll want the $30/month plan that features unlimited domestic calling, $10 off international calling credit, unlimited global text, and 3GB of 4G LTE. You can also get an 8GB and unlimited plan at $40 and $55 per month, respectively.
Page Plus also offers pay-as-you-go plans starting at $10 for 166 minutes lasting 120 days.
Puppy Wireless' logo features a little spaniel pup with headphones in, shaking its head. It's adorable, and Puppy Wireless knows this — who doesn't love puppies?! Unfortunately, its website is rather confusing since you pick your plan based on your coverage and the color-coded network. So you enter your zip and then get your choice of networks. It would be way more convenient just to pick from a list of plans and have the carrier put you on the right network, no?
Simple, budget plans start at $10 per month and offer 250 minutes, 250 texts (no video or picture messaging), and 100MB of data. Prices rise from there with an unlimited talk and text plan with 10GB of data coming in at $54 per month.
Reach Mobile calls itself a socially conscious mobile service working with nonprofit organizations to connect women and families that can't afford phone service.
Plans start at $30 per month with 3GB of data and unlimited talk and text on all plans. From there, you can go up to 8GB or 12GB. There's also a 20GB unlimited plan with 2G speed data after the initial 20GB is used. You can also add up to six lines with discounts per line for each added up to six. Data is shared between the lines.
Red Pocket Mobile
Red Pocket uses all of the big carriers and has several plans to choose from. The first plan is $10 per month and gets you 500 minutes, 500 texts, and 500MB of high-speed data. From there, you get unlimited talk and text with 3GB, 10GB, 12GB, or 50GB of data. There's also a family plan starting at $30 per month with 10GB of data. Each additional line costs just $20 per month.
Red Pocket Mobile uses the four main networks, so you can choose the one with the best coverage for you or the one that works with the phone you already have. The AT&T version of the largest plan comes with 22GB instead of 12GB.
Selectel Wireless breaks its plans up into six categories with a mix of features. The base plan, aimed at seniors for $15 per month, comes with 500 minutes, unlimited texts, and 100MB of data. The remaining categories are for kids, you, the average user, more data, and streamers. Naturally, each plan costs more than the last, with the biggest service plan coming in at $60 per month with a massive 45GB of high-speed data.
Selectel can be a great fit for most people thanks to its range of prices, including its largest plan with more LTE data than many other carriers' unlimited plans. There's even a yearly plan available for seniors.
If you already have Spectrum for your home internet provider, you can gain access to Spectrum Mobile. Plans come in two flavors, and both include unlimited talk and text. The unlimited plan comes in at $45 per month, with 20GB of high-speed data. The other plan offers data at $14 per gigabyte. For average smartphone users, paying by the gig can add up quickly, but it will be a great fit for a lighter user or one that makes greater use of Wi-Fi.
It's also worth noting that Spectrum Mobile officially includes support for nationwide 5G.
Straight Talk has a plan for just about any need, starting with 100MB of data and unlimited talk and text for $30 per month. There are also 5GB and 25GB plans available that need some data. If you need a lot of data, the unlimited plan is uninterrupted until 60GB of usage with 10GB of hotspot data included.
You can also buy plans at three, six, or 12-month intervals. Straight Talk utilizes all of the major carriers so that you can bring just about any unlocked device.
Ting has four plans starting with the $10 per month flexible plan. This is a great choice for light users, with each 1GB of data coming in $5. If you know you'll need more than a couple of gigs, there is a 5GB, 12GB, 22GB, and 35GB plan available. Each plan comes with some hotspot data though the 12GB can't use the full amount in a hotspot.
If you are looking for a simple phone service with little waste for a light user, Ting can be a great way to save money.
Total Wireless is another TracFone-owned carrier that offers average MVNO rates for data plans. Its cheapest data plan is $24 per month for unlimited talk and text and 1GB of 4G LTE. A great add-on feature is 5GB of 4G LTE for $10, and if you don't use that extra 5GB up by the end of your month, you can carry it over to your next billing month. There are also 5GB and 25GB plans available for single lines.
Total's family plans share data, and you can get up to 100GB of data for 4 lines to share for $95 per month. Not bad at all.
TracFone has been around since 1996 and owns multiple MVNOs, which it operates on various networks.
Its cheapest data plan is $20 per month for 1GB of 4G LTE and unlimited talk and text. You can increase your data amount by $5 more each month per additional gigabyte. You can also get an 8GB plan for $40 per month. One nice feature is Unlimited Carryover, so you don't lose your unused data. This means you can build up a pool of data that you can use if you need to.
TracFone also has plenty of options for different intervals, such as 30, 60, 90, and 365-day terms. TracFone is perfect for folks who constantly travel to the U.S. and don't want to buy a local SIM or pay outrageous roaming fees.
Twigby was launched in 2016 with a focus on putting the customer first. Its plans have been created to fit the needs of most people with up to 10GB of data available. Customers can choose one of three premade plans with 3GB, 5GB, or 10GB of data with unlimited talk and text. If those plans aren't a good fit, custom plans can be configured with 300 or 500 minutes instead. Customers can also choose a smaller data pool or no data at all.
Unlimited texting is included with every plan configuration as well. If you have a backup phone that just needs enough service to get in contact with someone, Twigby's cheapest $9 configuration is a great value. Still, most people will be able to find a package to fit their needs and with reasonable home Wi-FI usage, the maximum of 10GB should be within reach of even heavy users.
US Mobile believes mobile providers should offer plans that are simple and offer great value. As such, you're able to build your own plan based on your specific usage needs. Barely use your phone to talk? Minutes start at just $2 for 75 minutes. It's an ideal choice for those who want to be in full control of their mobile plan.
US Mobile offers nearly any combination of minutes, texts, and data, including an unlimited plan at $45 per month. This unlimited plan can also be made into a family plan with discounts for more lines. Family plans also get a free streaming subscription included. You can add 20GB of hotspot data For $10 more per month.
Visible is a prepaid carrier that uses the Verizon network. With simplicity as its stated goal, Visible offers only one plan at $40/month. This plan includes unlimited talk, text, and data and no annual contracts. Data will be slowed during high congestion times, but this has become the norm for unlimited plans. Visible also has a Party Pay feature that allows you to join a Visible party on its community web page to reduce your monthly cost to $25 per month.
This plan also includes a mobile hotspot, which is limited to 5Mbps; however, it's still a nice touch and can be very helpful in a pinch. One thing to keep in mind is that this is all done with no storefronts. Therefore, if you have a question or a problem, you will have to solve it remotely.
Xfinity has millions of customers in the U.S. If you are one of those customers, you have access to Xfinity Mobile. You can either go with an unlimited plan for $45 per month, which is slowed at 20GB of data usage or sign up for one of three data packages. The unlimited plans are also available for families with discounts when you add more lines. Like many other unlimited plans, streaming is limited to 480p, and hotspot speed is reduced to 600Kbps.
Data plans come in at 1GB for $15, 3GB for $30, and 10GB for $60 per month. Xfinity Mobile recommends starting with the smallest data plan and upgrading as needed. However, if you know you'll need more than 10GB, the unlimited plan makes the most sense for you. The unlimited plan can also be had as a family plan with discounts per line for up to four lines.
Alternative carriers (MVNOS)
- What is an alternative mobile carrier?
- What are the advantages of going with an alternative carrier?
- How to make sure your phone works on a prepaid alternative carrier
- 8 Important Considerations When Switching To An MVNO
- These are the cheapest data plans you can buy in the U.S.
- Mint SIM vs. Cricket Wireless: Which is better for you?
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