If you're using one of the Big Three carriers, AT&T, T-Mobile (including Sprint), or Verizon, chances are you're paying for features you don't need, or worse, don't have a plan that offers all you need. While traditionally, using one of the big carriers gave you better access to service and devices, unlocked devices today are easier to get and most MVNOs have great coverage. Depending on your needs, there's an MVNO that fits your needs better than a postpaid carrier and is probably cheaper.
Most of us don't need unlimited everything
Getting an unlimited plan was a big deal back when many people still paid by the minute or per text. Today, however, quite a bit of our messaging and calling has moved to apps like Facebook Messenger, Telegram, or Whatsapp. These use data rather than minutes or texts, so you might not actually be using that many. You can usually see how much you used on your previous bill to get an idea.
A lot of carriers, even MVNOs, have gone for unlimited talk and text on all of their plans, but there are some like US Mobile and Google Fi that can start small and save you some money. The problem with a plan like Ting is that the prices can bloom out of control if you use more than a few gigs of data.
Focus on the features you need
You're paying extra for something that you don't use or could very easily live without
If you're using Sprint, T-Mobile, or Verizon, you may have services included like Hulu, Netflix, Tidal, or Apple Music that you don't use. While these can be nice if you use them all, chances are, you're paying extra for something that you don't use or could very easily live without.
If you focus on only the features you want out of a carrier, you can save money. While it may seem like a good deal to get Hulu, Tidal, and Amazon Prime with your Unlimited Premium Sprint plan, it's probably not worth the extra cost. If you were to share a family plan for music and video streaming with someone else, you could save money. These plans force you to buy things you don't need. like streaming subscriptions, so you can get things you do need, like hotspot data.
With an MVNO, you could find a plan with exactly the features you need without a bunch of extras piled on top.
Can you bring more lines?
Family plans have always been a great way to save on wireless service. MVNOs like Boost Mobile or Metro by T-Mobile can offer great savings if you can bring more lines to your account and split the cost between users. This works best for families or trusted individuals where you can be sure everyone will pay on time. If you have a group of lines that fits, you can save a lot. Look out for promotions as well. Both Metro by T-Mobile and Boost Mobile both have plans for four lines at $25 per line.
Don't fret if you're not part of a family plan, Visible is an unlimited carrier based on the Verizon network that has a feature called Party Pay. Normally service comes in at a reasonable $40 per month but if you get four people to sign up in the same party, the cost per line can come down to just $25 per month. The best part is that everyone pays their own bill with their own account so you don't have to worry about rounding up everyone's contributions. You also don't have to actually know each other and can easily find a party to join on forums or sites like Reddit.
Forget about monthly, buy the whole year
Wouldn't it be great to pay for phone service once and forget about it for a year? It's possible with carriers like Mint Mobile and Straight Talk. Both carriers offer plans in three, six, or twelve-month increments. They'll even discount the services depending on how much you buy.
Mint Mobile takes this concept to the next level with its minimum plan term being three months. If you're willing to pay $300 upfront, you can get 12GB per month on the T-Mobile network. That breaks down to $25 per month with no family or party plans required. You still get some savings with the six-month but the best prices are reserved for those willing to buy it all right off the bat. Thankfully, you can try your first three months at the yearly rate to make sure you like the service.
Do you need international service?
MVNOs have some great options for people that need international service. Boost Mobile has been known for its great service to Mexico with its Todo Mexico add-on plan. If you've been paying extra to call relatives or friends in Mexico or Canada, you can save some money with Boost Mobile's calling options. You also get some roaming data in Mexico making it great if you travel to Mexico frequently.
Another MVNO specialized for international calling is Lycamobile. You can check and see which countries are supported on which plans on the website to make the right choice. Lycamobile also has competitive domestic rates including family plan discounts. If you need to call a specific country that doesn't get a lot of attention from other carriers, there's a good chance Lycamobile has you and your family covered without having to pay by the minute.
If you need to travel internationally often, a carrier like Google Fi can help you save money with its included data and texting roaming in more than 200 countries. No more wasting money on an expensive day pass or travel passes on a postpaid carrier.
If you don't need any international service, a carrier like Visible has no support for international service which helps it keep prices down.
Bundle with existing memberships
Sometimes you can bundle an MVNO with other services such as your home internet. If you're a Suddenlink or Optimum internet customer, you can join Altice Mobile for $20 per month per line with up to five lines. While there is some fine print to read such as autopay requirements and activation fees, you can still save quite a bit of money over one of the Big Three if it works for you.
Consumer Cellular offers a 5% discount to AARP members as well as being one of the few carriers to still offer a basic talk plan.
Find the plan that makes the most sense for you
If you are able to narrow down exactly what you need from your phone service, you should be able to find an MVNO that's a great fit for you. When you're looking at buying your next phone, consider getting it unlocked so you can try out a few different carriers to find the one that works best for you. One of the best things about an MVNO is that it's prepaid and contract-free so as long as you own the phone, you're free to take it with you to try another service.
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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