Finding an affordable cell phone plan may seem like an impossible feat. Not only do you have to figure out which plans are available in your area, but you have to determine which carriers offer the best coverage where you live – and any places you travel to frequently. From there, you have to figure out which perks you need and which you can go without. And obviously, you have to figure out what you can afford – both in terms of upfront costs and your new monthly payment.
Unfortunately, there are almost too many questions to answer. Do you need unlimited data? What about talk or text? Are you fine with signing a contract that might last a year or longer? Or, would you rather go month-to-month?
And, what about your phone? Do you have to buy a new one that fits with your new plan, or can you bring your own? And if you have to buy a new phone, will you have to fork over the big bucks for a fancy smartphone like the iPhone X?
Unfortunately, there’s no easy answer to any of this. That’s why, a lot of times, people ask their friends for recommendations and just go with the plans their buddies suggest, or leave it up to inertia and stick with whatever carrier they’ve been using for years.
If you want to save money and you’re willing to try something new, however, there are some new and exciting plans hitting the market.
Introducing Mint Mobile
One such plan is called Mint Mobile, and it works totally differently from other wireless plans. With Mint Mobile, you purchase prepaid SIM cards that you insert into a phone you already have.
Here’s how this works: Once you select a plan, you get a SIM kit in the mail. From there, you follow the prompts to insert the SIM card and set up your new account. While the set-up goes fairly easily for most people, Mint Mobile offers some pretty handy how-to videos on their website, as well as a customer service line that can provide additional help.
Mint Mobile piggybacks off the T-Mobile network, which may be a good thing or a bad thing depending on where you live. While coverage tends to be great in most areas of the country, some areas in the West (namely Montana and Wyoming) have spotty coverage at best. Fortunately, Mint Mobile offers a coverage map that can show you whether the plan would work well in your area – or if you should try something else. (You can also check the real-world signal strength of various carriers in your area on OpenSignal.com.)
By now, you’re probably wondering why you would bother signing up for a cell phone plan that nobody’s heard of. The main benefit, which we’ll talk about in the next section, is cost. Compared to other cell phone carriers, it’s hard to find any plans that can compete with Mint Mobile in terms of how much you’ll pay on your monthly bill.
How Much Does Mint Mobile Cost?
Mint Mobile plans can vary in terms of their monthly cost, but if you sign up for a three-month commitment, your initial cost is $15 per month. For that $15 monthly rate, you get:
- Unlimited talk & text
- 3GB of 4G LTE data per month; speeds slow down after you exceed 3GB.
- Free mobile hotspot
- Nationwide coverage
- Free calls to MEX & CAN
Keep in mind, you can also bring your own phone as long as it’s a phone that’s set up to work with the Mint Mobile system. If you’re curious whether your phone will work or not, you can enter your phone’s 15-17 digit IMEI code here.
If you want more than 3GB of super-fast data, you can also buy a plan with a bigger high-speed data allowance. For just 10 bucks more ($25 a month), for example, you can get 12 GB per month of 4G LTE.
There are other plans available, and they all require at least a three-month commitment. Mint Mobile does offer a seven-day money-back guarantee on all their three-month plans, however. This way, you can try it for a week to make sure your coverage is sufficient and that you’re happy with the service.
Where Mint Mobile Shines
There are several reasons Mint Mobile could be the ideal cell phone carrier for anyone wanting to save on their cell phone bill. For starters, it’s difficult to beat the $15 per month price point – especially when we’re talking about unlimited data, talk, and text.
Another big benefit is that, provided your phone actually works with the service, you can bring your own device. This is a huge benefit compared to other discount phone carriers who may make you purchase a new device that works with their plan.
Last but not least, Mint Mobile does let you customize your cell phone plan to meet your needs. You can choose a plan with as much high-speed data as you think you’ll need, and you can choose to commit for three months or up to a year. If you find you need more high-speed data than you purchased, you can jump up another plan the next time you reload.
Last but not least, Mint Mobile makes it easy to turn your device into a mobile hotspot you can use to connect to the internet on another device.
Where Mint Mobile Falls Short
While this cell phone plan has some serious benefits (and opportunities for savings), it’s not perfect. One of the biggest downsides of Mint Mobile is the fact that coverage is not sufficient all over the United States. Mint Mobile operates on the T-Mobile network, which is fairly broad, but there are some big gaps that you should be aware of before you sign up.
Not only that, but not everyone wants to deal with putting a new SIM card in their phone. While the process isn’t difficult, it’s a step not everyone will be willing to make.
Lastly, Mint Mobile does require at least a three-month commitment. In a world where most discount phone carriers offer month-to-month service, this is a difference that should be noted. On the flip side, it’s not a two-year contract, and Mint Mobile does offer a seven-day worry-free guarantee on three-month plans.
Who Mint Mobile is Best For:
- Someone who lives in an area with excellent coverage: Since Mint Mobile offers spotty coverage in states like Wyoming, Montana, and Iowa, this plan is best for someone who lives and spends most of their time in an area well served by T-Mobile’s network.
- People who don’t travel the country a lot: If you’re someone who’s constantly traveling the country and needs reliable coverage on-the-go, Mint Mobile may not be ideal for you. It would be a shame to travel out west and find out your phone isn’t working – or at least not working well.
- People who want to pay as little as possible: It’s difficult enough to find carriers who offer cell phone coverage for less than $15 per month, but it’s downright impossible to find a plan with unlimited data, text, and talk for the amount per month.
Who Should Skip Mint Mobile:
- Anyone who needs excellent coverage nationwide: If you need excellent coverage nationwide, this plan isn’t for you. Also keep in mind that Mint Mobile doesn’t work overseas.
- Someone who needs unlimited high-speed data: If you need large amounts of high speed data, you may be better off paying more for a plan with more generous high-speed data limits.
- People who don’t want to deal with SIM cards: If you’re stressed over the idea of inserting a new SIM card or setting up new phone service, this plan may not be ideal. Keep in mind, however, that Mint Mobile offers instructional videos that can walk you through the process.
The Bottom Line
If you’re looking for a low-cost cell phone plan and live in an area with T-Mobile coverage, Mint Mobile is a smart plan to consider. You can get unlimited data, text, and talk for as little as $15 per month with Mint Mobile, and you can even bring your own phone.
On the flip side, this carrier isn’t perfect for everyone. Coverage isn’t offered nationwide, for example, even though it’s pretty broad. And if you don’t have a cell phone that qualifies for the plan, you may have to buy a new one. That’s why, at the very least, you should make sure you have broad coverage in your area and that you can take your phone to Mint Mobile before you make the switch.
If you do, and everything goes as planned, it’s possible to get cell phone and data service for $15 per month. And that’s pretty sweet.
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Have you heard of Mint Mobile or tried it? Please share in the comments below.