I apply my background as a technical writer with a Master of Science degree to evaluate products and clearly explain their features.
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 had unlimited talk and text, and 4G LTE data that didn't have unexpected extra charges.
With much comparison shopping, I finally found one 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.
You can use your own unlocked GSM phone with Mint Mobile by just swapping the SIM card.
Is Mint Mobile Really Unlimited for $15?
Mint honestly does give unlimited talk and text. However, the data is high-speed (4G LTE or 5G LTE) up to four 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 four gigabytes of 4G LTE per month for streaming.
By the way, if you have a 5G enabled phone and you're in an area that has 5G, Mint supports that at no additional cost.
Mint has plans with additional high-speed data as shown in the table below. The pricing is still extremely low for the additional gigabyte plans as long as you prepay for a whole year.
Mint Mobile Annual Prepaid Plans
|Monthly Fee||Paid Annually||4G/5G LTE Data||Talk and Text|
Three-Month and Six-Month Plans Are Also Available
Mint also has shorter period plans. They cost a little more. For example, their three-month plan with 4GB 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 if 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.
How Does Mint Use the T-Mobile Network?
They are a Mobile Virtual Network Operator (MVNO) that leases wireless telephone and data service from T-Mobile in bulk, so they get a better rate than individuals.
I compared Mint Mobile with other MVNO’s such as Consumer Cellular, Ting, MetroPCS, NET10 Wireless, and others. None of them even came close in terms of pricing. See the comparison table below.
How Mint Mobile Compares to Other Cellular Providers
|Wireless Provider||Carrier Used||Lowest Cost Plan||Plan Summary|
4 GB, Unlimited Talk and Text
1 GB, Unlimited Talk and Text
Sprint, but defaults to Wi-Fi
1 GB, Unlimited Talk and Text
$100 for 4 lines
Unlimited Data, Talk and Text
T-Mobile and AT&T
500 MB, Unlimited Talk and Text
Sprint, T-Mobile, US Cellular
1 GB, Unlimited Talk and Text
2 GB, Unlimited Talk and Text
CDMA phones use Verizon or Sprint. GSM use T-Mobile or AT&T.
2 GB, Unlimited Talk and Text
$10 + $5/GB
Unlimited Talk and Text
Freedom Pop Mobile
AT&T and Sprint
25 MB, Unlimited Talk and Text only on Wi-Fi
How to Use Mint Mobile's Starter Kit for a Trial Period
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.
However, it's best to start with Mint Mobile's 3-month plan for $45 (that's $15 per month). It's a kit with two SIM cards. Shipping is free from Amazon, and it's fully refundable within seven days if you're not happy.
The two SIM cards are punch-out to fit standard, micro, and nano sizes. One SIM is for a trial with a temporary number, and the other is to use when and if you decide to port your present number.
If you decide to keep the temp number when you activate your ongoing plan, you can do that with the trial SIM. If you want to port your existing phone number, you switch to the other SIM that's in the starter kit after completing the port. That process went smoothly for me, and the porting took just two hours.
The starter kit is definitely the way to go because you have seven days to 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 for myself.
How to Activate Your Mint Mobile Starter Kit
How to Port Your Number to Mint Mobile
I was pleasantly surprised by how quickly 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 carriers 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 Mint's web site or within their mobile app. You just need to enter your present carrier, account number, the phone number to be ported, and a pin that you get from your carrier to release the phone number.
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.
I use it for my iPad when I'm away from home. My iPad does not have cellular service. So I let it detect the Wi-Fi from my Mint iPhone, and I can safely browse the Internet without the worry of using public Wi-Fi.
Questions People Ask
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.
Are minutes deducted from data?
I was concerned that voice calls might use up my data. That was a problem I had with another cell phone service. A Mint Mobile Co-Founder confirmed that data allocation is not affected. He answered my question in the Mint Mobile 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 delighted with the quick responses to my questions.
What is Wi-Fi Calling?
The idea of Wi-Fi Calling existed ever 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 none 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 advantage of Wi-Fi Calling. If you are traveling in a foreign country and your hotel provides Wi-Fi, then you can call the U.S. and receive calls from the U.S. at no cost. Your local phone number works as if you were back home. Texting also works over Wi-Fi when this feature is enabled.
Does Mint support international calling?
I use my mobile phone with Mint to call friends in Europe. The cost is as low as 1¢ per minute to call most foreign countries over the cellular network, although some are higher. You can find the price for any country on Mint's website.
When you call internationally using Wi-Fi Calling, there is no charge. The log of the calls, showing how long you spoke, still shows up in your calling log, but the cost is zero. I confirmed that with a Mint support rep to be sure it wasn't a mistake.
So if you have Wi-Fi in your home (most people do these days), then make your international calls while at home for free. Using the cellular network, Mint still has the best international rates that I found.
What's the Advantage with iOS Ver 12 on an iPhone?
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:
- Now the data settings are automatic as soon as you install the SIM.
- You can access visual voicemail via the voicemail tab on your dialer.
- You no longer need to rely on network coverage alone for calling and texting when Wi-Fi is available.
- Mint includes VoLTE, that connects calls over the LTE network when cellular service is limited.
Are Android phones supported same as iPhones
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 were simple, but I realized it's not as automatic as it is with the newest iPhones. With an Android phone, you need to update the Network Connections menu section manually.
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.
Are Voicemail and Caller-ID included?
All plans include voicemail and Caller-ID (without name). On incoming calls, the name will only be shown 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 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 on time?
Your account will be suspended but can lapse up to 60 days before deactivated. Once deactivated, your phone number goes into an available pool. As long as you renew within that 60-day period, your number will be reactivated.
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 month's cycle.
Can I use a local SIM when I travel abroad?
The purpose of a local SIM card in another country is to give you local coverage for talk and texting.
When you remove your Mint SIM card to use your phone with another SIM, the phone number associated with that other SIM will be the mobile number for talk and text. You will only be able to use your Mint number when you put Mint's SIM back into your phone.
Keep in mind that you might also have to make adjustments to other settings when changing SIMs. Mint makes that automatic with most phones when you put their SIM back in.
What has been your experience with Mint's customer service?
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.
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 its SIM back into your phone and no harm done.
© 2018 Glenn Stok