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What is Mint Mobile? What do customers say about it

Mint Mobile has earned quite a reputation as far as pre-paid carriers go, thanks in part to those ubiquitous ads featuring actor (and company owner) Ryan Reynolds. But getting to know what Mint Mobile is beyond those ads could help you save money on your monthly cell phone bill.

At Mint, the savings come when you buy in bulk. You don’t pay a monthly rate to the carrier; instead, you pay in advance for anywhere from three to 12 months of service with the bigger discounts coming with the longer commitment. And you may want to pay up for those 12 months of service, as the savings at Mint are pretty tantalizing compared to the best prepaid phone plans. You can also bring any of the best unlocked phones that support GSM networks.

We’ve compiled this summary of everything potential Mint customer need to know, from Mint’s coverage and plans to devices the network supports. Here’s the lowdown.

What is Mint Mobile? What do customers say about it

What network does Mint Mobile use?

Like most prepaid carriers, Mint is what’s considered an MVNO, or mobile virtual network operator. MVNOs operate on the infrastructure of existing networks: in Mint’s case, that network is T-Mobile. (We’ve got more on the prepaid vs. postpaid phone service differences if you want to explore that topic in greater depth as well as a look at what an MVNOs is.)

In our carrier testing from a couple years back, T-Mobile’s network claimed the fastest average upload speeds and tied for second overall; since then T-Mobile’s network generally gets good marks from third-party testing groups, particularly when it comes to 5G download speeds.

Mint customers benefit from that, while other MVNO customers don’t always reap the rewards of using faster networks. For example, AT&T-owned Cricket Wireless institutes a cap of 8 Mbps at all times for its cheapest three plans; to get unfettered speeds, you have to move up to the $60-per-month Cricket More unlimited plan.

What is Mint Mobile? What do customers say about it

Still, it all comes down to coverage and Mint’s availability in your area. To that end, Mint provides a map on its website that will help you determine if the service will work for you. And a starter kit is available at Amazon for $5 that lets you test out the service with 100MB of LTE data, 100 text messages and 60 minutes of talk time to see how coverage is; you get the $5 as a bill credit if you sign up for the service.

Mint Mobile 5G: What do you get?

T-Mobile offers nationwide 5G service, and that’s been extended to MVNOs like Mint. If you’ve got a 5G phone for your Mint service, you can take advantage of T-Mobile 5G infrastructure, for no extra cost compared to regular 4G service.

That last part — the lack of an extra charge for 5G users — is a huge boon for Mint, compared to rival discount networks. Cricket only offers 5G on its priciest plan, and Verizon’s Visible is only now rolling out 5G to customers. (Visible customers need an iPhone 12, recent Samsung Galaxy device or Blade X1 5G to take advantage of 5G speeds.)

As a Mint customer, you’re free to bring one of the best 5G phones to the carrier, or select one through the service provider itself. Mint offers an extensive selection of 5G phones, including the iPhone 13 and iPhone 13 Pro, Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra, Galaxy Note 20, and, on the more affordable end, even the Motorola Edge and the Galaxy A52 5G and OnePlus Nord N200 5G.

In all cases, you’re getting sub-6GHz 5G service exclusively — Mint doesn’t utilize T-Mobile’s millimeter-wave deployment, which offers speeds in excess of 1 Gbps, but only works in metropolitan areas, typically outdoors where you have line-of-sight to a millimeter-wave node.

What phones can you use with Mint Mobile?

As Mint operates on T-Mobile’s GSM-based network, you’re going to want a GSM-based phone to use it.

Unlocked phones are typically geared for GSM networks, like AT&T and T-Mobile, rather than CDMA-based networks, like Verizon. Some phones can run on both, but you should be aware that CDMA-only devices will have difficulty connecting to all of the bands Mint and T-Mobile employ for service. LTE and 5G connectivity may be fine, for example, but the base-level infrastructure for calls, texts and 3G data won’t be accessible to a CDMA handset.

Fortunately, finding a good, inexpensive unlocked phone is easier than ever, and our best unlocked phones guide will help you settle on the handset that’s right for you. If you already have a device you suspect might be compatible, you can plug its IMEI code into Mint’s checker for confirmation.

Still, even after you’ve decided on the right phone, there are some steps you’ll have to take to get everything up and running — from calls and texts to data. Follow the directions listed on Mint’s FAQ page to ensure your Android device or iPhone is fully functional after you pop in the SIM card.

If you’re on the fence about trying Mint, you may want to check out Mint’s Starter Kit. This $5 pack comes with two SIM cards (one is a backup in case you decide to port your existing number) and a week of 100MB data service, so you can see for yourself how the network performs. The kit runs $5, but if you follow up by buying a plan, the company will refund you the purchase.

Originally, Mint Mobile didn’t offer devices of its own. That has recently changed, however, and now customers aren’t forced to bring their own unlocked device or go through the trouble of finding one that is guaranteed to run on Mint’s network. On Mint’s website, you can find popular models like the iPhone 13 and iPhone 12 series, iPhone SE (2020), Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3, Galaxy Z Flip 3, Galaxy S21 series, and Google Pixel 4a. It’s a shockingly robust selection of top models, with a few surprises in there.

What are the best Mint Mobile plans?

We’ve got a summary of the best Mint Mobile plans, but here’s a look at how long-term commitments help you save money at Mint versus the prepaid competition which tends to offer plans that let subscribers go month to month.

Mint offers data plans featuring 4GB, 10GB, 15GB and unlimited buckets of data. The company recently upgraded all three of its tiered data plans while keeping the prices the same. Talk and text are always unlimited, no matter what data plan you pick or for how long. As a general rule of thumb, the more you buy up front, the more you save.

Unfortunately, Mint’s pricing scheme gets somewhat complicated after your first billing cycle. The company’s three-month introductory offer guarantees the same monthly rate that 12-month subscribers ordinarily pay. That’s $15 per month for 3GB, $20 for 8GB, $25 for 12GB and $30 for Mint’s unlimited plan.

When it comes time to renew, however, that promotional three-month option disappears. If you want to sign up for another three months, your bill is going to jump considerably. Here’s what you can expect to pay after your first plan ends:

What is Mint Mobile? What do customers say about it

Returning customers who opt for a three-month plan will pay an additional $30, $45 or $60 up front, compared to their first bill. Even if you buy six months at a time, you’ll still see a monthly rate increase of between $5 and $10. The only way to continue paying the same rates you enjoyed as a new subscriber is to sign up for a 12-month commitment.

It’s also worth noting that once you pass your monthly data allotment for a tiered plan, you’re throttled to 2G speeds. You can purchase more data if you like, either through Mint’s website or by texting “UPDATA” to 6700.

Ultimately, the best offer for new customers is the three month package. After that, Mint’s prices are still quite inexpensive compared to competing prepaid carriers, but you’ll have to be wary of price increases and choose your commitment wisely.

How does Mint Mobile’s unlimited plan work?

Mint launched an unlimited data plan last year that’s only slightly more expensive than its tiered options, making it one of the best unlimited data plans out there. It also happens to be cheaper than the $40 unlimited plan available at Visible, at least when you figure in Mint’s discounted pricing. There are some caveats to Mint’s unlimited plan, though.

First, like unlimited plans for practically all carriers, it’s not unlimited in the most straightforward sense of the word. Mint deprioritizes your data after 35GB has been used up, meaning that you’ll still get service, but speeds will slow. Typically, carriers try to dance around this with jargon, but Mint’s site paints it clear as day, stating “customers using >35GB/mo will experience lower speeds.”

What’s more, unlimited customers have their video streams capped at standard-definition, 480p quality; this limitation doesn’t exist for 3GB, 8GB or 12GB users. Unlimited subscribers also don’t get unlimited hotspot usage, as that runs out after just 5GB. Therefore, if feeding your phone’s data connection to your laptop, tablet or another device is very important to you, you’re better off going with the 12GB-per-month tiered plan.

Mint also launched a service where you can let the carrier log your monthly data usage. The idea is that unlimited users can see how much data they consume each month and adjust to a lower cost plan if they’re not regularly using enough to justify Mint’s unlimited service.

What special features does Mint Mobile offer?

If you’re looking to try out Mint for yourself, thankfully you can do so without risk. The carrier has a seven-day money-back guarantee, where you can get a full refund (minus shipping and handling) within a week if the service doesn’t work for you.

In terms of other benefits, Mint is a mostly bare-bones service — though you’re still able to add to your LTE or 5G data allotment whenever you’re approaching the cap. An extra 1GB runs for $10 and another 3GB is $20. Additionally, if you’re traveling overseas, the carrier offers international roaming data at those same prices. Calls to Mexico and Canada are free.

While many carriers charge extra for mobile hotspot usage, Mint includes that privilege for its subscribers for free, which is very handy. After not initially supporting visual voicemail, Mint now allows it. Likewise, Wi-Fi calls and texts are permitted for devices with those features. Most newer Android devices and iPhones support service over Wi-Fi (Mint offers a full list on its website) though it may have to be activated first via your phone’s Settings menu.

Something to note for customers who choose to take their device with them to Mint. The carrier will not assist in unlocking your existing device if it is currently tied to another network — something US Mobile can do for its customers.

Mint Mobile’s competition

Mint Mobile is one of many MVNOs out there and it faces fierce competition from more traditional month-to-month pre-paid options. But the ones to look out for if you are thinking about Mint are Visible, Xfinity Mobile, and Google Fi.

Visible’s claim to fame is the $40 unlimited plan. The MVNO has that plan exclusively, so it’s extremely enticing for people who want one of the most affordable unlimited cell phone plans. It’s also got the added benefit of running on Verizon’s network.

The big caveat with Xfinity Mobile is that you need to be a Comcast subscriber to even qualify. But if you’re in that group, you can get a pretty good deal on wireless service. Xfinity Mobile operates off of Verizon towers and offers a By the Gig pricing structure. Basically, you can get unlimited talk and text with 1GB of data for $15/month with options going all the way up to 10GB for $60/month. There are multi-line discounts. There’s also an unlimited option for $45/month.

Finally, there’s Google Fi. This MVNO costs $20 for unlimited talk and text and then $10/GB after (with $60/month for unlimited and $70/month for unlimited plus). One of Fi’s best features is the refunds for data you don’t use. Say you only use 500MB in a month. You’ll only pay $5 for it since Google won’t charge you for the remainder, unlike Xfinity Mobile. Fi isn’t the best value around, though, especially when it comes to unlimited.

What do customers say about Mint Mobile?

Mint has gotten favorable feedback for its inexpensive rates and simple user experience. However, if you have to call up customer service, the experience may be less than ideal. Subscribers on the Mint Mobile subreddit have cited poor support, especially compared to the Google Fi network, which prides itself on speedy replies and availability through multiple social channels. To make matters worse, the lack of a brick-and-mortar presence means Mint customers have fewer resources at their disposal, should something go wrong.

As far as network performance is concerned, users have cited slower speeds, on average, for Mint Mobile when compared to T-Mobile. This likely has to do with Mint’s customers being deprioritized in favor of T-Mobile’s own base. That’s not a unique phenomenon for prepaid users, who almost always end up playing second fiddle to postpaid subscribers. However, some Mint customers say they’ve reached peak speeds from time to time, possibly when network conditions were less congested.

Mint Mobile: Verdict

Like most prepaid wireless networks, Mint does sacrifice some comforts — such as readily available customer support and the best possible data speeds — for a lower monthly cost.

Still, Mint’s bulk sales model helps it achieve some of the lowest prices in the industry. And if you can put up with occasionally slowed-down data and having to go to community forums to solve some problems on your own, Mint shouldn’t let you down.

Conversely, less savvy users, or those in search of more perks, would be better-advised to take a look at Metro by T-Mobile, Republic Wireless or Boost Mobile — prepaid carriers that charge more for the same data, but provide more consistent performance as well as premium features.

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