One of the best tips that I can give to save money in your budget is to switch cell phone carriers. Likely, you could make a change to your carrier without noticing a difference at all. Well, you’ll hopefully notice the extra money in your pocket that you can save or pay off debt with. We made the switch to Mint Mobile over 3 years ago and I want to report our experience and why we are so happy we made the change.
What Is Mint Mobile
Mint Mobile is an American Mobile Virtual Network Operator (MVNO) which is basically a wireless network provider that doesn’t own their own infrastructure. To provide service they enter into a business agreement with a company that does have their own infrastructure (towers) such as Verizon or T-Mobile. Typically, this allows the MVNO to offer lower prices than the company that owns the towers.
Even though they are using the towers of that company and have an agreement, they are still a separate company and provide their own customer service and support.
Specifically, Mint Mobile uses the T-Mobile tower infrastructure. If you have an issue with your service, which we rarely have, you would contact Mint Mobile customer service and not T-Mobile.
How Much Does Mint Mobile Cost
To me, this is the best part of Mint Mobile. Even though you are using T-Mobile’s towers, you are not paying their rates, which are already better than other cell phone providers.
We went from paying about $100 a month for service with T-Mobile to paying an average of $35-$40 a month for 2 lines. We kept using our phones the same way, but under the new plans with Mint Mobile we were saving over $700 a year.
The big difference between T-Mobile and Mint Mobile is that with T-Mobile you have a monthly bill, but with Mint Mobile, you prepay for your service ahead of time in either 3-month, 6-month or 12-month increments. When your time is up you can choose what plan you will do next although the greatest savings is with the 12-month plan.
You are able to set your account to be on auto-renew (default position) or have that function turned off so you don’t get an unexpected charge. Since you need some sort of phone service, having it on auto-renew is a nice option to have to prevent any lapses in phone service.
TIP: When signing up for Mint Mobile use the Rakuten extension to earn additional cashback. If you aren’t already a Rakuten member you get a $40 cash bonus for signing up and spending over $40 in the first 90-days. Since you must pay at least $45 for the first 3 months, you would get $40 cashback through Rakuten. So basically, when it all shakes out you get 3 months of Mint Mobile for as little as $5 total. Even if you are already a Rakuten member you can still earn cashback so don’t miss that opportunity.
What appealed to us about Mint was that it seemed to have the most data in the price point offered. While we were on the plan with T-Mobile, we had unlimited data, but we never each used more than 5 GBs a month. We were simply overpaying for service we weren’t using. If you do need unlimited data though there is that option.
What appealed to us was that there was very little to lose by switching over to Mint Mobile in the first place. If we switched over and didn’t like the service for those 3 months, we were free to go elsewhere, no questions asked.
We actually just had one of us switch to see how it worked. After a couple of months of using Mint Mobile, we were kicking ourselves for not switching sooner. I then switched over and we haven’t looked back.
We would have had hundreds more in our wallet if we switched sooner.
Right now, we each use the 8GB a month service. If you are home most of the time you can likely get away with the 3GB service but if not, the 8GB service works well.
TIP: Use your wireless internet network at home, work, or a friend’s place to cover data usage. This makes it possible to stay under the allotted data each month.
What Is The Catch (Requirements)
You have to own your phone if you are going to use Mint Mobile. This means that you can’t be making payments on it to another company or be under contract elsewhere.
The thing that keeps most people stuck to their plans with their company is that phone payment. While it is great to have the latest Samsung or iPhone, constantly paying higher service rates and being stuck on a contract is a major hindrance towards finding freedom with your phone.
If you are stuck in that situation, it is worth paying off your phone, or downgrading, to pay less per month. In fact, if you are needing an extra month per month in your budget, this is a great way to find some money.
Let’s think about it another way. If you save hundreds per year, you now have extra money to do whatever you want with. That might mean saving up for a nicer phone and still having money left over to pay off debt or save.
Additionally, you need to pay upfront so it means having a bit more cash available than usual. Sometimes though paying for an entire year isn’t that much more than 2 or 3 months of your current payment. With that said, that can be a hang-up for some people but think about all that you will save in the long run.
Cell Phone Coverage
This is the part that is the mixed bag. Personally, the service has been fine, but it isn’t the best.
For daily usage, we are able to do what we need to do with little issue. When we travel, it can be a mixed bag, but still, it is usually fine. Certainly, it is never bad enough to make me look elsewhere.
The quality is fine, but the coverage could be better. Since we are using the T-Mobile towers, we are limited to what their coverage is. It isn’t Verizon’s coverage, but if you know that T-Mobile works well where you live then it is a no-brainer to switch over.
To be clear, for 99% of our calls there is no issue so don’t think we are settling for less. The service is consistent and reliable in the coverage area. I’ll easily take the extra money than the extra coverage that Verizon might have. If you absolutely had to have the coverage because you live in a remote area, then Mint Mobile (or T-Mobile) may not be the best for you though.
Keep in mind that you get a 3-month trial starting at $15 a month ($45 upfront) so you can always switch if it doesn’t work.
Also, I would highly encourage you to check out their coverage map which you can find here and input your specific location.
What Happens If You Go Over Your Data Limit
Similar to other providers, if you go over your limit, your service doesn’t stop. You still can use data, but it is at a slower rate than before.
I think my wife and I each had this happen once. It isn’t ideal, as the service is noticeably slower, but it does function OK. It would be tough to stream videos though.
You can buy extra data if you need to, but it isn’t the best deal. They currently offer two options for extra data.
- 1 GB for $10
- 3 GB for $20
The extra data does not roll over into the next month, so it disappears once you get your new monthly allowance every 30 or 31 days.
Considering that there is a $5 difference per month to go up in tier to get an extra 5 GB of data it is worth adding the higher data upfront to avoid having to buy extra. What is nice about doing a 3-month trial is that you get a sense for how much data you really need prior to committing to a 12-month plan to save money.
You can purchase a new phone from Mint Mobile or bring your own phone while keeping your number.
If you plan to bring your own phone, then you will need to make sure it is compatible first. You can check that here.
In general, their service works with the major phone manufacturers, so you are likely fine, but check it out first.
In three years, we have only had a few interactions with customer service, which I think is a good thing. All our experiences were fine as far as I recall.
Right out of the gate though you will likely need to deal with their customer service to get your phone set up. We had no issues and starting service with them was a painless process. Depending on your current carrier though, you will need to deal with both customer services from each company.
If you have any issues getting started it will likely be with your current provider who won’t be super happy you are leaving.
After using Mint for over three years, we are extremely happy we switched over. The money saved is great and the freedom to not be under contract or stuck with a phone payment is the cherry on top of the cake.
If you are in an area where the coverage is adequate, and you own your phone, then I couldn’t recommend it enough. Like, shout it from the rooftops, enough. It really is a no-brainer, especially when you consider that you can sign up for Rakuten and get cashback on your purchase lowering the cost even more. Even if you are already a Rakuten user, you should get cashback on your purchase anyway so that lessens the already low price.
When canceling our service with T-Mobile, which was honesty great, I recall we got a comment about going elsewhere but since we’ve saved over $2,000 since then with good service, I think we made the right choice.
What could you do with an extra $2,000+?