Best answer: Mint Mobile operates on T-Mobile's towers. While you can buy a phone directly from Mint, bringing your own T-Mobile-compatible phone will work just as well.

Mint Mobile: Three months of service with 2GB LTE/mo ($45)

Owned by Ultra Mobile

Mint Mobile, formerly Mint SIM, is a subsidiary of Ultra Mobile — which, in turn, is a prepaid MVNO (mobile virtual network operator) of T-Mobile. In the U.S., Mint's services are operated entirely online, rather than in physical brick-and-mortar stores, and the company's business model is structured around paying for months of service in bulk. Specifically, you can buy three, six, or 12 months of service in advance.

Because Mint has no physical locations, it ships out any SIM cards or phones you order, but that doesn't mean you have to buy a phone from them. Since the MVNO runs off of T-Mobile's cellular towers, you can use any T-Mobile phone you might already own, or pick up an unlocked phone (provided it supports T-Mobile's network).

Bringing your own phone

Along with T-Mobile phones, most GSM-unlocked phones should work just fine on Mint Mobile. You can also use phones from AT&T, Cricket, Simple Mobile, Straight Talk, or Metro by T-Mobile, so long as they've been unlocked by their respective carrier to work on other networks — in most cases, carriers are happy to help you unlock your phone once it's been fully paid off.

Mint offers some tools on its site to help ensure your phone will work on its network. It has an entire BYOP page (that's Bring Your Own Phone) where you can enter your phone's IMEI to check compatibility, and its FAQ page recommends that you visit willmyphonework.net, select your phone in the list, and enter Ultra Mobile as the carrier to check for exact band support.

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Mint Mobile is one of T-Mobile's many prepaid subsidiaries, and it's the only one that sells its plans exclusively in multiple month batches. Its plans are cheap and its data is plentiful with no commitment, so it's worth giving a shot if you have a compatible phone.

Our pick

3-month, 2GB plan

Unlimited talk, text, and data with 2GB of LTE each month.

Mint's most affordable plan is just $45 for three whole months of service. You'll get 2GB of LTE each month, along with mobile hotspot and free calls to Mexico and Canada, but of course, there are higher tiers if you need more data.

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