Secret Budget-Friendly Phone Carriers You Need to Know About

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Woman excited by her low cell phone bill
Dean Drobot /

There’s a secret menu of wireless carriers out there that offer data plans for a fraction of the price compared with the major carriers.

Most folks think their options are limited to only AT&T, Verizon or T-Mobile, when in reality there are dozens of smaller carriers offering some pretty amazing deals.

Here are our favorite budget-friendly carriers that can save you money on your cellphone bill.

What’s the catch?

Obviously, there has to be some kind of catch for these wireless carriers to offer cheaper rates, and in this case, it’s a little something called deprioritization.

Smaller wireless carriers, or mobile virtual network carriers (MVNO), piggyback on the networks from the big carriers.

For example, Mint Mobile is an MVNO that uses T-Mobile’s network. The downside is that MVNOs can be deprioritized on the major networks during peak-usage periods.

In other words, if you’re on an MVNO, you might notice that your data speeds throttle while driving home from work, or when you’re in a crowded arena.

The major networks will always give preference to their own customers, so you’ll need to be patient with your data speeds from time to time.

Mint Mobile

Mint Mobile has been making more of a marketing push since actor Ryan Reynolds became an owner, and he brought in buddies like Rick Moranis to get the word out.

Currently, Mint Mobile offers the cheapest unlimited plan in the wireless world at only $30/month, and uses T-Mobile’s network.

You get 5GB of hotspot data (then your hotspot data speeds will be throttled), and you get unlimited talk and text in the U.S., Mexico and Canada.

Visible Wireless

Visible Wireless is actually owned by the Verizon network and offers an unlimited data plans that’s cheaper than anything Verizon itself offers.

You can get the Visible unlimited data plan for $40/month and enjoy Verizon’s stellar network.

Granted, Visible is still an MVNO so you’ll likely deal with deprioritization from time to time, but you might experience less due to the fact that Visible is owned by Verizon.

Think of Visible as Verizon’s kid brother — the big network might have a soft spot for little Visible.

Another feature worth noting about Visible Wireless: you can expect HD-quality streaming. Many MVNOs restrict you to only standard definition-quality streaming.

US Mobile

US Mobile is another MVNO that uses both Verizon and T-Mobile’s networks. Essentially, US Mobile will hook you up with whichever network is stronger in your area — Verizon or T-Mobile.

On top of that, US Mobile undercuts Visible by a few dollars a month and only charges $37/month for unlimited data, talk and text.

Just keep in mind that your data speeds can occasionally be throttled due to deprioritization.

US Mobile can also give you free subscriptions to services like Apple+, Disney+ or even PlayStation Plus, if you have multiple lines. The more lines you add, the more free subscriptions you can access.

When you bundle the cheap service, reliable networks and potential free streaming perks, US Mobile offers a pretty awesome deal.

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