Mint Mobile: Review of the Lowest-Cost Prepaid Cellular I've Found

Updated on January 3, 2019
Glenn Stok profile image

Glenn Stok likes to research and evaluate products, and can clearly explain their features due to his background as a technical writer.

I did a lot of research because I wanted a low cost solution for my smartphone with a service that has great coverage throughout the United States. I wanted one that allowed me unlimited talk and text, and 4G LTE data that I didn’t have to carefully watch in order to avoid extra charges. I wanted a service that did not ever have any surprises with unexpected huge bills.

With much comparison shopping and after having used other cellular services, I finally found a Mobile Virtual Network Operator (MVNO) that uses the T-Mobile network and provides unlimited talk, text and data for only $15 a month plus tax. It’s a company called Mint Mobile.

MVNOs lease wireless telephone and data service from major carriers. They lease in bulk so they get a better rate than individuals. That’s how they can offer low-cost services.

I compared Mint Mobile with other MVNO’s such as Consumer Cellular, Ting, MetroPCS, NET10 Wireless, and others. None of them even came close. I’ll show you a comparison table later in this review.

You can use your own unlocked GSM phone with Mint Mobile by just swapping out the SIM card.

Mint Mobile's Fox Mascot
Mint Mobile's Fox Mascot | Source

Is Mint Mobile Really Unlimited for $15?

Mint truly does give unlimited talk and text. However, the data is 4G LTE high-speed only up to three Gigabytes per month for that $15 price tag. It slows down to 2G if you go over that, until the start of the next monthly cycle.

2G speed is only 128 kilobits per second, but at least you don't lose service and you don't get charged more either. That works fine for email and texting, but if you watch a lot of videos you may need more than three Gigabytes of 4G LTE per month for streaming. The pricing is still extremely low for 8 or 12 Gigabytes as long as you prepay for a whole year, as shown in this table:

Mint Mobile Annual Prepaid Plans

Monthly Fee
Annual Fee
4G LTE Data
Talk
Text
$15
$180
3 GB
Unlimited
Unlimited
$20
$240
8 GB
Unlimited
Unlimited
$25
$300
12 GB
Unlimited
Unlimited
Data as of February 2019

Mint also has three-month and six-month plans, They cost a little more, but still very reasonable. For example, three months with 3GB is $25 per month compared to $15 under the 12 month plan.

After testing for a week using their free trial (more on that later), I became comfortable enough to go for the entire year. What’s nice about it is that there’s no contract. You can cancel anytime by not renewing after the prepaid period.

I didn’t want to lose my number in case I ever forget to renew, so I specified auto renewal on my credit card. But that’s a decision you can make—or not. It’s your choice.

I Recommend Mint Mobile’s Starter Kit

Mint Mobile Starter Kit | Verify Compatibility with Our Talk, Text & Data Plans (3-in-1 GSM SIM Card)
Mint Mobile Starter Kit | Verify Compatibility with Our Talk, Text & Data Plans (3-in-1 GSM SIM Card)

Before I went for the full deal and ported my number, I decided to test the Mint service with my phone by taking advantage of their free trial plan. You can order it from Amazon and pay just $5 for shipping the starter kit. This fee is credited back when you purchase any plan after the trial.

The kit includes two SIM cards in standard. micro and nano sizes—one for the trial and another to use when and if you decide to port your present number.

The trial lasts for seven days and includes a temporary number with:

• 100MB 4G LTE High-Speed Data

• 100 Minutes of Talk

• 100 Texts

If you decide to keep the temp number when you activate your ongoing plan, you can do that with the trial SIM. But if you want to port your number, you need to switch to the other SIM that’s in the starter kit after the port is completed. That process went smoothly for me and the porting took just two hours.

The starter kit is definitely the way to go because you can test everything to be sure your phone works with Mint and that the service coverage is good in your area. It made it easy for me to try Mint myself.

 

How to Activate Your Mint Mobile Starter Kit

How to Port Your Number to Mint Mobile

I was pleasantly surprised how quick they ported my number from my previous carrier. It took just two hours. Of course, your results may vary. I guess it all depends on your present carrier. Some take their time releasing numbers, but Mint is good at following up in real time to get the job done. I know, because I called customer support to check on the progress as soon as I clicked the submit button to port my number.

Porting is easy. You can do it online via their web site or within Mint’s mobile app. You just need to enter your present carrier, account number, phone number to be ported, and a pin that you get from your carrier to release the number.

Important Note:

If you activate a plan with a new number without using the trial, then you will not be able to port your present number later. You need to port it when you activate the plan. Therefore I highly recommend that you start with the trial provided with the starter kit.

As I mentioned earlier, the kit includes an additional SIM that is used to port your number after the trial. A trial can be upgraded to a full plan on the same SIM if you're keeping the number from the trial.

How Mint Mobile Compares to Other Cellular Providers

Wireless Provider
Carrier Used
Cheapest Plan
Plan Summary
Mint Mobile
T-Mobile
$15
3 GB, Unlimited Talk and Text
H2O
AT&T
$20
1 GB, Unlimited Talk and Text
Republic Wireless
Sprint, but defaults to WiFi
$20
1 GB, Unlimited Talk and Text
MetroPCS
T-Mobile
$30
2 GB, Unlimited Talk and Text
Consumer Cellular
T-Mobile and AT&T
$30
2 GB, Unlimited Talk and Text
Google Fi
Sprint, T-Mobile, US Cellular
$30
1 GB, Unlimited Talk and Text
NET10 Wireless ¹
AT&T
$35
2 GB, Unlimited Talk and Text
Straight Talk
CDMA phones use Verizon or Sprint. GSM use T-Mobile or AT&T.
$35
2 GB, Unlimited Talk and Text
Ting
Sprint
$38
2 GB, 500 Minutes, 100 Text Msgs
FreedomPop2 ²
AT&T and Sprint
Free
Very limited: 200 minutes, 500 Text, only 200 MB data
All examples are when you bring your own unlocked phone. Data as of Jan 2019.

What Else Do You Want To Know About Mint Mobile?

Does Mint Support VoLTE?

You may have heard of VoIP, which is Voice over Internet. Well, VoLTE (Voice over LTE) uses similar technology to send voice calls over the high speed LTE data network rather than the cellular network. It provides a better and clearer voice connection.

T-Mobile was the first to launch VoLTE in May 2014, and since Mint uses T-Mobile, you get the full advantage of VoLTE calls with iPhones newer than the 5S and the latest Android phones.

I even confirmed with Mint that it does not count towards the data usage.

Do Minutes Deduct From Data?

I was concerned that voice calls might use up my data. This was a problem I had with FreedomPop2. A Mint Mobile Co-Founder confirmed that data allocation is not affected. He answered my question in the MintMobile Group on Reddit. He said:

“From a technical standpoint, VoLTE calls use the data circuit. From a billing standpoint, VoLTE calls use your voice minute bucket and do not decrement from your data.”

I was pleased to hear that, and even more pleased with the quick responses to my questions.

What is Wi-Fi Calling?

The idea of Wi-Fi Calling existed every since 2007. The latest iOS and Android smartphones have it built in. You just need to enable it in your phone's settings so Mint can use it.

The advantage is that if there is a weak cellular signal, or non at all, and if you happen to be in a Wi-Fi hotspot, then Mint Mobile will seamlessly hand off the call to the Wi-Fi network.

There is another wonderful advantage of this feature. If you are in a foreign country and your hotel, for example, provides Wi-Fi, then you would be able to make and receive calls on your local number as if you were back home. Texting also works over Wi-Fi when this feature is enabled.

Support of iPhone iOS Ver 12

If you use an iPhone 5s, SE or newer with iOS Version 12 or later, you'll love Mint even more. They started supporting the features built into iOS 12 as soon as Apple released it. Just look what's new:

  1. Now the data settings are automatic as soon as you install the SIM.
  2. You can access visual voicemail via the voicemail tab on your dialer.
  3. You no longer need to rely on network coverage alone for calling and texting when Wi-Fi is available.
  4. VoLTE lets you connect calls over the LTE network.

Support of Android Phones

Mint Mobile works great with Android phones too. I use an iPhone, but a friend of mine started using Mint with his Samsung phone when he saw how happy I was with the service. He told me that installation and setup was pretty simple, but I realized it's not as automatic as it is with the newest iPhones.

With an Android phone you need to manually update the Network Connections menu section. When you get your starter kit, Mint includes easy-to-follow instructions. But rest assured that the same features are available on an Android, such as Visual Voicemail. Wi-Fi Calling, and Hotspot Tethering.

Tethering: Use Your Phone as a Hotspot

If you like to use your phone as a Wi-Fi hot spot then you have to be careful. Mint Mobile’s Terms of Service allow you to do this but with limitations. If they catch you using it to provide Wi-Fi services to the public they will cut you off.

However, if you need Wi-Fi while out somewhere for your laptop, you can tether to the Internet via your iPhone or Android smartphone.

Is Voicemail and Caller-ID included with Mint?

All plans include voicemail and Caller-ID (without name). On incoming calls, the name will be shown only if matched with an entry in your contacts list.

How can I tell if my phone will work?

Install the free Mint Mobile app from the App Store for iPhones or from Google Play for Android. It will tell you if your phone is compatible. You can also use this app later to check your data usage or to change and renew your plan.

Do I lose my number if I don’t renew in time?

The account will be suspended, but can lapse up to 60 days before deactivated. Once deactivated, it can't be brought back.

Can I change plans if I need more data?

Mint will prorate your fee if you need to change to a higher data plan midterm. So there is no harm at starting with the lowest data plan you think you'll need.

Also keep in mind that Mint does not cut you off if you use up your monthly data allowance. You will simply drop from high speed 4G LTE down to a 2G speed, which is 128 kilobits per second. That's good for email and text, but HD video streaming will suffer until the start of your next cycle.

My Conclusion

Overall, I can't be more pleased with the service and support. Some people say that T-mobile has some dead spots, but I found that to be the case with AT&T and Verizon too. None of the major carriers cover the entire United States without gaps here and there.

It's all a matter of where you live and work. That's why I like the fact that Mint provides the 7-day trial with the starter kit so you can find out for yourself how well it works for you. If you'd rather stay with your present carrier, just swap their SIM back into your phone and no harm done.

But I'll say this much: I experienced communicating with Mint customer support both on the phone and via Reddit. In both cases they answered my questions thoroughly and clearly without waiting. They have proven to me that they focus on customer satisfaction.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

© 2018 Glenn Stok

Comments

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    • Glenn Stok profile imageAUTHOR

      Glenn Stok 

      6 months ago from Long Island, NY

      Mary - If it’s a smartphone (Android or iOS) and is unlocked then you can replace the sim chip with the one Mint sends you. You do need to determine if it’s unlocked.

    • profile image

      Mary 

      6 months ago

      Does anyone know if I can use my net10 phone on mint? I don’t know if it’s unlock.

    • profile image

      Debbie 

      7 months ago

      Thanks Glenn, your evaluation was informative and very helpful.

    • Pamela99 profile image

      Pamela Oglesby 

      9 months ago from Sunny Florida

      I appreciate all the details you explained about Mint. This sounds wonderful when you have great service at such a reasonable price. I know AT&T has dead spots, although I use to have Verizon and it was better. I am going to talk this over with my husband as it sounds great Thanks.

    • Eurofile profile image

      Liz Westwood 

      9 months ago from UK

      Thanks. I always thought Vodafone was one of the key players in the UK. There have been so many takeovers/mergers in the market that I have lost track of Orange. It became EE and then I heard BT had taken over EE. I am less familiar with One tel. Currently I have found buying a phone and taking a sim only deal works best for me. I am not fussy about having the latest smart phone. To be honest I probably wouldn't know how to use 90%of the features. As long as the phone does what I need and I get a good plan I am happy.

    • Glenn Stok profile imageAUTHOR

      Glenn Stok 

      9 months ago from Long Island, NY

      Liz Westwood - There are virtual operators (MVNO) in the U.K. too that buy airtime from the main providers and then resell their services at a discount. Check out Vodafone, Orange, and One.Tel — but there are others as well.

    • Glenn Stok profile imageAUTHOR

      Glenn Stok 

      9 months ago from Long Island, NY

      Natalie, You have 60 days before you lose your number. See the full answer to your question near the end of the article. Verizon is not an MVNO and therefore they do not offer discounted pricing.

    • Eurofile profile image

      Liz Westwood 

      9 months ago from UK

      This is a very thorough evaluation. I wish you could do a similarly thorough analysis of phone services in the UK.

    • Natalie Frank profile image

      Natalie Frank 

      9 months ago from Chicago, IL

      This is great info Glen. In terms of ways you might lose your number though- I understand about the SIM cards at the beginning. But you also say somethong about renuing. If you dont renew on time soes that mean you lose your number? Last question- Do you know how it compares with Verizon? Thanks for another informative article and have a Happy Holiday!

    • Glenn Stok profile imageAUTHOR

      Glenn Stok 

      9 months ago from Long Island, NY

      Rochelle Frank - If you don’t need a smartphone, you can use NET10 and reduce your bill to $15 a month. If you want to use Mint Mobile, which is also $15, you’ll need a newer phone.

    • Rochelle Frank profile image

      Rochelle Frank 

      9 months ago from California Gold Country

      Thanks for this info.

      I rarely use my old cell phone, but I keep a $20 per month account just for emergency. Our local service is spotty, being in a hilly areabut I do like to have a phone when travelling. I will come back with a couple of questions when I have a little more time.

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