Your smartphone is your lifeline, but despite its utility, service can be costly. If you feel like you’re paying too much for your cellular service, consider using a Mobile Virtual Network Operator (MVNO) instead of the more expensive major mobile vendors. MVNO carriers offer the best of both worlds with the same quality of coverage but at a lower price than the major carriers. That’s because they use the same networks as the Big Three — AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile — while providing a hugely diverse product range. Best of all, these pay-as-you-go plans offer a chance to ditch the large bill while still getting the most from your mobile device.
The best MVNO carrier for unlimited data Metro by T-Mobile
Metro by T-Mobile offers three major plans to fit your budget, backed by an expansive LTE network. In addition to providing nearly blanket nationwide coverage, Metro by T-Mobile offers additional perks on certain plans. Google One is included for customers on the $50 plan, and customers on the $60 monthly plan now get Google One and an Amazon Prime membership. An even cheaper, stripped-down plan that includes 5GB of high-speed data per line is now available for $30 per month. Metro customers also can access T-Mobile’s nationwide 5G network. You can enable automatic bill pay for a $5-per-month savings and add a plan for your tablet, hotspot, or another connected device to your current service for $10 to $35 per month. Stateside international calling for $15 per month extra is available alongside a large selection of discounted phones.
|Unlimited high-speed||Unlimited high-speed||Unlimited high-speed|
|Access to T-Mobile’s 5G network||Access to T-Mobile’s 5G network||Access to T-Mobile’s 5G network|
|No mobile hotspot||5GB mobile hotspot||15GB mobile hotspot|
|One-year subscription to Vix+ included||Google One 100GB included plus one-year Vix+ subscription||Google One 100GB and Amazon Prime included plus one-year Vix+ subscription|
|Save $10 on each additional line||Save $20 on each additional line||Get four lines for $120|
Metro by T-Mobile
The best Alternative MVNOs Google Fi
Google Fi relies on a combination of Wi-Fi hotspots and three networks — Sprint, T-Mobile, and U.S. Cellular — for service. It is one of the most innovative and easy-to-use MVNOs available. Flexible plans start at $20 where you pay for what you use, while Unlimited plans start at $50 for a single line. Data is a flat $10 for 1GB of 5G LTE, but you only pay for what you use. The company’s bill protection feature means you won’t be on the hook for additional data charges once you hit 6GB. Data used over that limit gets throttled.
Other perks include fee-free tethering, which lets you use your phone as an internet hotspot, and free texting and access to high-speed data at $10 per 1GB in 200 countries around the world. Google Fi is compatible with most phone brands and platforms, though Apple’s iPhone and some Android handsets do not support Google Fi’s key feature of switching between carriers — but you can check Google Fi’s phone compatibility tool to check.
Mint Mobile has a nice way of letting you try out the service before committing. Test Mint Mobile’s service with a three-month contract before making the decision to climb on board for a year or more, which breaks down the cost to $15 per month for 4GB, $20 per month with 10GB of data, and $25 per month for 15GB.
An unlimited plan offers 35GB of high-speed and 5GB of hotspot data, with an introductory rate of $30 per month for three months and renewals priced at $40 per month. If you need more data, you can buy it at $10 per gigabyte. You can use your T-Mobile-compatible device and order a SIM card to activate it on your account. Mint Mobile also sells a wide range of phones.
Visible provides great coverage through Verizon’s network to offer two unlimited plans — the Visible plan costs $30 for unlimited talk and text and unlimited data on an LTE network with no roaming, while the Visible+ plan costs $45 a month, for which you get unlimited talk and text, unlimited data, 5G ultra wideband, unlimited data roaming in Mexico and Canada, international calling from the U.S. to over 30 countries, and international texting from the U.S. to over 200 countries.
Also, it piles on the discounts as you add more lines to your plan. Visible saves you money with Party Pay, which lowers the cost of multiple lines, as each person gets billed separately. Two lines cost $35 per line, and three and four lines cost $30 and $25 each, respectively. Mobile hotspot speeds are capped at 5Mbps and limited to a single device at a time. Wi-Fi calling is available on some phone models. Most iPhone models are supported, along with a limited selection of some popular Android choices, like the Galaxy S22 series and Pixel 7 series. Or, just buy a phone directly from Visible.
Ting Mobile is an independent MVNO that piggybacks off Verizon and T-Mobile’s networks. Ting doesn’t lock you into a specific plan but instead bills you monthly for the least expensive plan based on your usage and the number of lines you have. All plans now include unlimited talk and text, starting at $10, and the company offers a number of data plan options including a 5GB plan for $25 and unlimited data from $45. You can add fast data in 1GB increments at $5 per GB to your plan at any time, which does not change your monthly plan. Fast data added but not fully used in a billing cycle carries over once to the next billing cycle. Ting’s service is solid, but it’s best for folks who do not have heavy data or text usage.
Cricket Wireless is owned by AT&T and uses AT&T’s network. It offers single-line plans that start at $40 a month for unlimited talk, text, and picture messages in the U.S. with 10GB of data and go up to $60 a month for unlimited talk, text, and data and a 15GB mobile hotspot. The carrier’s $40-a-month plans are eligible for the Cricket Wireless Group Save option, which extends a discount for subscribers with two or more lines. You can also bring your own phone — check for compatibility on Cricket’s website.
As for plan extras, $55 per month gets you unlimited talk and texts from the U.S. to 37 countries, plus data, calls, and texts to and from Mexico and Canada. Alternatively, you can add one of Cricket’s two international packages to your monthly subscription. Cricket International costs $5 a month and adds calls to phones in 35 countries, and Cricket International Extra costs $15 and adds unlimited messaging to phones in 35 countries and 1,000 minutes of calls to 31 other countries. Cricket’s group plan offers substantial savings of up to $70 with five lines.
Republic Wireless was among the first MVNOs to offer calls over Wi-Fi. Republic Wireless uses Sprint’s and T-Mobile’s now combined cell networks. Republic Wireless plans start at $20 per month for unlimited talk and text plus 1GB of data. The priciest runs $40 per month for u