Mint Mobile is a mobile virtual network operator, or MVNO for short, meaning it uses the hardware infrastructure setup and run by another network. In this case that's T-Mobile (opens in new tab), but by going through Mint Mobile you can save lots of money.
Since you're paying upfront with Mint Mobile, there aren't any nasty surprises like you can have with a bill. There are plenty of plan options with lots of savings to be made. That's why it ranks among the best cell phone providers (opens in new tab) right now.
Since Mint runs on T-Mobile you can expect the widest 5G coverage in the US and high-speeds in lots of areas, all as standard. So what's the catch? Well, you don't get a cell phone as part of the deal, hence the lower price. Instead, Mint Mobile encourages you to bring your own, since this was originally a SIM only network, which still sticks to its origins.
Mint Mobile: Plans and phones
Mint Mobile, at its most basic, is all about offering you a SIM alone, which you can pop into your current cell phone. That means you can keep using your phone or buy one offline to use with this SIM, keeping you free from contract commitment.
That said, there are phones you can buy from Mint Mobile. The catch is that you have to buy it outright, offline, so expect to pay a large chunk. If you do want to use your current phone, make sure it's either unlocked to work on any network or is a T-Mobile compatible handset.
While Mint Mobile supports all the latest devices, there are plenty you can buy direct including the iPhone 12 (opens in new tab) and Samsung Galaxy S21 (opens in new tab). Just make sure the phone is a GSM model, rather than a CDMA handset which will have difficulty connecting to all the bands that Mint uses.
Plans work in three options: three month, six month, and 12 month plans, all of which you pay upfront. The first three months are priced the same as a 12 month price, but then it jumps. So it pays to go for longer commitments to save more.
All plans come with unlimited talk and text with variations found in data amount. For example a three month plan with 4GB of data per month will cost you $15 per month (as a new customer) at a total of $45 up front. Six months is charged at $20 per month and 12 months costs you $15 per month.
Options for data are 4GB, 10GB, 15GB and unlimited with the latter option topping out at $30 per month on the 12 month plan.
All plans come with 4G LTE and 5G, whichever is strongest where you are, offer nationwide coverage, cover free calls to Mexico and Canada, and allow for mobile hotspot tethering.
Mint Mobile: Network and reliability
Mint Mobile runs on the T-Mobile physical network. That means nationwide spread with the best overall 5G coverage. Verizon Wireless (opens in new tab) has quicker speeds in some areas, but T-Mobile is more consistent. The Mint Mobile website features a useful coverage tracker where you can enter your zip code to find out how well covered you are in your area.
Levels of cover are measured in categories including: outdoors, in-vehicle, indoor residential and indoor commercial. Each has a check box allowing you to include just the data you want to find.
T-Mobile covers about 92 percent of the US land. Spotty connection areas include the Pacific Northwest and the Mountain West region.
The issue with being on Mint Mobile is that you wont get network priority over a T-Mobile customer, who pays more. The result is you may find your speeds are limited when it comes to data, or you're thrown off the network entirely, during busy periods in congested areas.
For speed, the T-Mobile network is one of the fastest with 82.35 Mbps download speeds registered in the first quarter of 2021.
Should you choose Mint Mobile?
If you don't want the commitment of a contract wireless provider then the prepaid options from Mint Mobile are ideal. You save money by opting for longer periods of use but since you pay upfront you don't need to worry about contracts or monthly payments.
The wide US coverage and 5G speeds make this a very appealing network and the option to go for an unlimited data plan really helps. Although with T-Mobile customers taking priority those speeds might not always be reached. This is a great option for parents that want to pay for their child's plan upfront, for students on a budget, or anyone wishing to avoid monthly contract payments. Check out our guide to the best smartphones (opens in new tab) if you want tips on the phone to get your contract with.