What are the advantages of going with an alternative carrier?

Mint Mobile SIM
Mint Mobile SIM (Image credit: Android Central)

Best answer: An alternative carrier can not only save you money with more plans but also give you access to more networks even if your credit isn't so great.

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There's a lot you can do with an alternate carrier

When we talk about phone companies, most of us automatically think of the big four here in the U.S.: AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon. But they're not the only choices when it comes to who you get your service from, and the popularity of alternative carriers is on the rise.

It's not difficult to understand why. Having a carrier that uses the same nationwide networks the big guys do without some of the baggage that comes along with those big guys is an attractive position for a lot of people. There is a lot to talk about, both good and bad, in any discussion about finding the right carrier and if a smaller alternative option is best for you. The advantages for you are especially important to consider.

You can save a lot of money

US-Mobile usage

Source: Android Central (Image credit: Source: Android Central)

Depending on how you use your phone (as always), you can save a nice chunk of money every month. Most of the best MVNOs offer similar plans to the big guys for less. Different companies use different ways to price out your data. Some will let you buy several months of data at significantly less compared to a monthly payment. Others allow you to purchase an amount of data and use it until it's gone, and others charge a flat fee and bill or credit you based on how much data you used in a month.

Not everyone needs an unlimited data plan.

These plans all have on thing in common: you're not paying for data you didn't use. Combined with lower prices per block of data, this can mean a smaller bill if you don't use a lot of data. Alternative carriers are not for people who need unlimited data at top speed but for people that want an upfront price for enough data for their needs.

Many carriers now, even outside of the big three, don't cut you off when you've gone over your data amount; they slow down your speeds or deprioritize your connection. If you are fine with a slower connection for the remainder of your billing period, you don't need to do anything, but many of these carriers offer you the ability to add even more high-speed data as required.

Take Mint Mobile for example. While the company does have a large unlimited plan, you can save a lot of money by starting with a smaller package and trying to make the most of Wi-Fi to keep your usage down. Not only that, but making sure apps aren't updating needlessly in the background or uploading backups to the cloud can save a lot of data.

This is the biggest reason people choose to move away from the big players in the industry and try something different. If you look at where you use your data and how much you use, you could be one of those people.

You might get a better coverage map

Google Fi SIM

Source: Android Central (Image credit: Source: Android Central)

An alternative carrier doesn't own the cell towers and infrastructure they use to provide service. They lease it at a set price from the bigger carriers and resell service to you and me. Sometimes they lease from more than one carrier and can assist in all the places from both.

No carrier is suitable everywhere, but unless you're in a very rural part of the country, you'll have at least one company with good service. A company that can offer service using two coverage maps has an advantage for anyone who spends time where they are covered by at least one. If you know you have solid Verizon coverage in your area, you can pick an MVNO that uses Verizon's network.

Not all carriers do this, so be sure to do your homework when you choose. Two notable examples are Net10 and Red Pocket that lease service from all four major carriers and allow you to select the network that works best for you. Google Fi, which leases service from T-Mobile, Sprint, and US Cellular can let the phone dynamically switch to the best provider if you use a compatible phone.

Another example is Boost Mobile even lets you add service in other countries for a great rate. While many carriers and even MVNOs will have slow service in Mexico or Canada, Boost's Todo Mexico plan add on gives you 8GB of data while roaming in Mexico.

No-frills service

You're paying for calls, texts, and data. That's usually all you're going to get.

There's no denying that some of the perks phone carriers can offer are nice. Unlimited texting to Canada and Mexico is a good example. But some folks don't need anything extra.

By not having extra services, the price can be lower. If you don't need anything more than basic service and 4G data, an alternative carrier could be great for you. Some alternative carriers do offer perks for calling and texting internationally, so when you're shopping, be sure to check on them.

No credit checks

Times can be tough, and less than excellent credit can make getting a postpaid account with the big four carriers difficult. And a credit check leaves a record on you that can adversely affect something like a car loan or mortgage.

If you don't want to go through a credit check for any reason, you might choose an alternative carrier that doesn't require one. Most don't, and you simply pay upfront for what you use.

Bring your own phone

Samsung Galaxy Note 10+

Source: Android Central (Image credit: Source: Android Central)

As long as it's compatible with the network you choose, you can bring your existing phone and use it without any problems. That way, you can keep it set up just the way you like it and won't have to worry about getting all of your data perfectly backed up.

You can also buy an unlocked phone that works with the network from anywhere you like. This gives you a lot of choices from most companies making phones today.

Best of all, you can change phones at any time. If you like the phone you have now, you can use it until you like something else better. With the cost of the service being completely separate from the cost of your phone, any decisions are yours to make.

While they aren't for everyone, you can see some compelling reasons to give another carrier a try, even if they don't have the brand-power the bigger ones may.

When Samuel is not writing about networking or 5G at Android Central, he spends most of his time researching computer components and obsessing over what CPU goes into the ultimate Windows 98 computer. It's the Pentium 3.