That’s the idea that Mint Mobile, formerly Mint Sim or Mint Wireless, has taken and made their own for cell phone service. A prepaid Mobile Virtual Network Operator, Mint provides 3 different data tiers, which you buy in either a 3-month, 6- or 12-month batch.
While the carrier does offer a selection of unlocked phones available for purchase, between their BYOP program and this “bulk purchase” option, Mint is able to give customers service at a decent discount.
But Mint Mobile is an MVNO – meaning it leases space on one of the Big 4 carriers’ towers -, and some of the others out there aren’t that great due to data deprioritization, slim features, and poor customer support. We’ve reviewed others – like Total Wireless, FreedomPop, and Republic Wireless – but how does Mint compare?
Let’s dig into what we found.
Mint Mobile Plans + Pricing
|Plans||Features||3-mo.price||6-mo. price||12-mo. price||View plans|
|3GB plan|| ||$15/mo.*||$20/mo.*||$15/mo.*||View plans|
|8GB|| ||$20/mo.*||$25/mo.*||$20/mo.*||View plans|
|12GB|| ||$25/mo.*||$35/mo.*||$25/mo.*||View plans|
*Prices do not reflect actual amount paid up front. Multiply price by term limit to identify amount due at beginning of service.
The requirement of a relatively long-term commitment for a prepaid wireless phone service is pretty unique – no other MVNO that we’ve reviewed thus far has required at least 3 months of service up front.
But even so, Mint offers some decent value. You get 3 options for data amounts: 3GB, 8GB, or 12GB. Further, you can sign up for 3 months, 6 months, or 12 months. And the longer plan you choose to pay for, the more you save.
The downside, of course, is that by having to sign up for longer periods of service up front, you have to also pay the entire period’s cost up front, too. So for the 3GB plan, 3 months will cost you $45 up front, 6 months will take $60 out of your pocket right away, and 12 months is going to set you back $180.
The upside – you don’t have to worry about it again until the end of the cycle. Cool.
You might have also noticed that the 3-month plans all cost the same as the 12-month option – that’s no typo: it’s a promo. They’re giving new subscribers a discounted price to get them in the door.
But after those first 3 months, the prices jump up, as the table illustrates:
|Price after 1st 3 months||$15 -> $25/mo.||$20 -> $35/mo.||$25 -> $45/mo.|
Obviously, that’s not so cool – especially when you could’ve gotten 6 months for $5-$10 bucks cheaper (depending on the plan), or a full year of service the same that you paid for 3 months initially. That hurts – but if you’re not sure you want to stick with them, then 3 months is a good deal.
And if you did choose the 6 month plan? Does the price jump up when you sign up then, too? Unfortunately, yes – by $5-$10 bucks a month. The only one that doesn’t increase for un-new subscribers is the 12-month option. On that one the advertised price recycles endlessly.
StraightTalk has better value, too: their 25GB plan starts at $45 a month, and is discounted a few bucks at a time in 3-, 6-, and 12-month prepaid increments. Total Wireless also gives you good family plan options, with 15GB for 2 lines coming out to $57 a month – we didn’t find any multi line discounts or options with Mint Mobile.
But if you like to prepay in bulk – especially 6 or 12 months out – you can’t beat Mint’s prices for the data.
Mint Mobile International
Every plan includes free text and calling to Mexico and Canada. But what if you want to take your Mint plan on the international road?
UpRoam is Mint’s international roaming feature that works by-the-minute and by-the-MB. To activate it you just text UPROAM to 6700 from your Mint phone or go to your account online. Then, you just add money in either $5, $10, or $20 increments.
For texting, calling, and using data while in Mexico and Canada (not to – that’s free, remember), you’ll pay $0.05 to send a text, $0.25/min for calling, and $0.20 per MB of data use. To find out the exact rates for other countries, check out their list here.
Another great feature of Mint Mobile’s plans is that all of them include a mobile hotspot built-in – most other MVNO’s (and major carriers) require you get an unlimited plan to grab that. The only issue with Mint’s is that your hotspot comes right out of your data allotment for the month, so if you only have 3 gigs to your name, you can easily use that up tethering to your laptop or tablet.
Mint Mobile Coverage + Speed
Mint Mobile Coverage Map
As an MVNO, Mint rents service from one of the “Big 4” phone carriers - Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile, or Sprint. In Mint’s case, they run on T-Mobile’s network, which is great. T-Mobile tied with Verizon for speed in the 2019 OpenSignal test, and coverage-wise (if you count T-Mobile’s new 600Mhz frequency), overtakes AT&T to have 2nd-place - again behind Verizon.
But when using an MVNO, you can sometimes fall prey to something called “data deprioritization.” That just means that when the overall network is a bit congested, those customers on it who aren’t directly subscribed to it (i.e. MVNO customers) will have their speeds slowed down.
And unfortunately, Mint Mobile customers have cited slower average speeds than with direct T-Mobile service. Again, that’s not unique for an MVNO – but we like to see customers get good speeds most of the time and it doesn’t sound like that happens for Mint customers.
But, other users have also cited great call quality, no issues sending texts, and great Wi-Fi calling. Plus, when they had a good signal, they reported downloading without issue.
So the moral – it’s going to depend where you are, and how congested the network is. But the potential for blazing speeds at a cheaper rate than directly subscribing to T-Mobile is definitely there.
Not sure if T-Mobile – and Mint Mobile – has coverage near you? Use Mint’s coverage checker to find out.
Mint Mobile Phones
|Apple iPhone XS Max, Apple iPhone XS, Apple iPhone XR, Apple iPhone 7 Plus||Samsung Galaxy S10, Google Pixel 3 XL, Google Pixel 3, Samsung Galaxy S10e, Samsung Galaxy Note 8, Google Pixel 2 XL, Motorola Z3 Play, LG V30 Plus, LG G6, BLU Vivo XL+, etc.|
In the past, it was reported that Mint Wireless doesn’t sell it’s own phones to customers – that’s false. If it was true at one point, it no longer is. Mint does sell their own (unlocked) phones – but they can be a bit expensive.
Luckily, you can sign up for a monthly payment plan. The only potential issue for some is that they’ll want to run a credit check to make sure you qualify for their 3rd-party lender (affirm). With that said, it might be a better idea to buy yourself a compatible device elsewhere and bring it over – which brings us to our next section.
Mint Mobile does offer a Bring Your Own Phone program. The only requirements are that your phone is a GSM, unlocked phone. Find your IMEI by dialing *#06#, then toss the I.D. number into Mint’s compatibility checker. If it’s compatible, you’ll find out fast and be off to the races.
Mint Mobile Customer Service
While customers may like the cheap rates and simplicity of Mint Mobile, they certainly do not like the customer support experience. If you have to call in for help, it may not go well – as Mint subreddit users discuss.
However, that does tend to be a fact of life for wireless service – especially when there are no IRL stores to consult with. Even Cricket Wireless has stores you can go to if you need in-person help – Mint does not.
That said, Mint’s support center online isn’t terrible – there’s lots of FAQ-style questions and answers to consult, as well as how-to videos and a variety of means of contact.
Mint Mobile Recap
As with most Mobile Virtual Network Operators, what you gain in cheaper rates you lose in customer service and potentially the best data speeds or best coverage. Mint’s bulk-buying plans make it unique among the many wireless carriers in the industry, and if you’re looking for bare-bones, paid for the long-term – Mint Mobile just might be the right carrier for you.
But if you’re not very DIY-support-inclined, you want an unlimited data option, or you just want some perks – Mint probably won’t work for you. Take a look at Simple Mobile, Republic Wireless, or MetroPCS for the same – or more – data for the same price.