Mint Mobile is a mobile virtual network operator that offers low-cost, flexible plans that make use of T-Mobile’s network. Mint Mobile operates online and does not have any retail locations. Provided your device is compatible, Mint Mobile’s plans include both Wi-Fi calling and mobile hotspot use.
I strongly recommend Mint Mobile if you’re looking for good prices and live in an area where T-Mobile’s network performs well. If you’re unsure about the quality of T-Mobile’s network in your area, see The Ultimate Guide to U.S. Wireless Service Quality.
Purchasing a plan
On February 21, 2019, I went on Mint Mobile’s website to purchase a plan. First, I entered my ZIP code to confirm that Mint Mobile offered coverage where I live (Boulder, CO).
Next, I was brought to a page to confirm that my device would be compatible with the network Mint Mobile uses. When selecting a plan, I had the following options:
I went for the plan with 8 gigabytes of 4g LTE data. Note that all plans would have allowed me to use additional data at lower speeds. Here’s an excerpt from Mint Mobile’s FAQ:
When getting towards the end of the checkout process, I saw there would be two additional costs:
- Regulatory Recovery Fee — $3.25
- Federal & State Taxes — $0.24
By default, Mint Mobile had checked an option for my plan to auto-recharge after going through the months I had already paid for. This was transparent and easy to uncheck.
Shipping was free, and I received an estimated delivery date of 2/23/2019 (two days later).
The entire checkout process was quick and easy. That said, there were a few things in Mint Mobile’s copy that I found obnoxious:
- “We offer awesome wireless service at the lowest monthly price. Period.”
- “We’re coast to coast on the nation’s fastest, most-advanced network.”
As I discuss in The Mobile Phone Service Confusopoly, all of the major networks have come up with ways to slice the data to portray their networks in favorable light. In my opinion, AT&T and Verizon pretty obviously have better nationwide networks than T-Mobile (the network Mint Mobile relies on).
While I brought my own device, customers also have the option to purchase a device from Mint Mobile. I quickly browsed some of the offerings, and I got the sense that most of there weren’t a lot of especially good deals. If I needed a new device, I probably would have bought an unlocked phone from another retailer. That said, I wasn’t systematic and didn’t spend long browsing the options. I might have missed something.
Starting the service
A few days after ordering, I received some mail with:
- A 3-in-1 SIM card
- A SIM card tool
- Some instructions
- A trial SIM card I could give to someone else for a brief free-trial of Mint’s service
The activation process was easy. I popped the SIM card in my phone and went to mintmobile.com/activate. Next, I entered an 11 digit code from the materials Mint mailed me. From there, I was directed to a page where I needed to check a box acknowledging that I understood I could try things out and get a full refund without needing to return my SIM card if I decided within 7 days that I didn’t want Mint service. I thought it was awesome that Mint reminded me of this post-purchase. Next, I was presented with the option to auto-top my plan or store the credit card information I initially used for future use.
An automated text came through to my phone immediately, and the service was fully functional after restarting my phone.
Using the service
Overall, I found Mint’s service quality to be similar to the quality I’d expect from a plan purchased directly from T-Mobile. I didn’t notice any unanticipated limitations or speed caps. A few screenshots from unsystematic speed tests I ran can be seen below.
Initially, I experienced a high volume of spam calls and texts. I suspect this is related to the phone number I received on signup. Since I don’t know much about how phone numbers are allocated, I’m unsure if Mint deserves any blame. Fortunately, the spam was easily dealt with by calling support and switching numbers.
Mint Mobile customers have access to an online virtual agent for chat support and a community support forum where users can browse or ask questions. In my very limited interactions with the virtual agent, I found it unhelpful. To deal with my spam issue, I contacted Mint via phone. I was initially put on hold, but I was talking to a support agent in less than a minute. I found the agent a bit hard to understand (I expect she was not a native English speaker), but I found her incredibly helpful. The whole exchange was unusually efficient. In just a few minutes, my Mint account was associated with a new phone number and the spam problem was solved.
I think my experience with support may have been more positive than many other customers. My impression from digging around the internet, especially reading Reddit’s NoContract community, is that Mint doesn’t have a great reputation for support quality. That is inline with my expectations—given Mint’s low cost relative to the competition, I’d be surprised if Mint offered excellent support.
Mint’s service is really well-priced, and costs are lower if you pay for multiple months simultaneously. Here are the pricing options Mint presented me with on April 3, 2019:
There will likely be fees on top of those rates. In my case, those fees came out at something like an additional 15%-20% of the base price.
Mint makes it easy to adjust your data allowance mid-month. After logging into Mint’s website, users can select to add 1GB of 4G LTE data for $10 or 3GB for $20.
Given that Mint both (a) offers additional data beyond your allowance at 2G speeds and (b) lets you easily add data, it may be pretty easy to get by with small-allowance plans from Mint. With other providers, it often makes sense to buy more data than you expect to use in a typical month so you’ll be prepared if your data use is unusually high. Mint even emailed me after my first month with information on my usage. I applaud Mint for not trying to conceal the fact that I was a light user (i.e., a user that could have gotten by with a smaller plan).
One thing I wonder about Mint’s pricing is how sustainable it is. Mint seems to be something like a cost-leader. I’m not sure Mint’s costs will always be as competitive as they are now. That said, customers can lock in the great prices for 12 months if they’re willing to pay upfront.
- “We are digital only—no expensive real estate to maintain or rent to pay. That’s one big reason we can keep our costs down and pass the savings on to you!”
From Mint Mobile’s FAQ entry for “Do you have stores?”. Accessed 2/22/2019. Archived here.
- Mint Mobile’s “WiFi Calling & Text” web page includes a list of compatible devices. The following text is an excerpt from the same page:
“You use WiFi for nearly everything on your phone…except for calling and texting. That’s why Mint Mobile has rolled out WiFi Calling & Text! Mint Mobile users with select phones now have the ability to use a WiFi network to make or receive calls and text messages. If you’re ever in an area with unpredictable coverage, like a foxhole, just connect to your nearest WiFi hotspot and use your Mint Mobile phone to call or text over WiFi!” (Accessed 2/22/2019, archived here)
- “Is it hot in here, or is it just us? Oh, it’s both because we let you turn your device into a WiFi hotspot.” From Mint Mobile’s homepage on 2/22/2019 (archived here).
- Mint Mobile had an awfully large list of cell phone brands and devices that I could go through to see if my device was compatible. I planned to test Mint Mobile with both my obscure Unihertz Atom and the more popular Moto G6 Play. I wasn’t surprised that I couldn’t find the Atom in their list, but I found it odd that I couldn’t find the G6 either. Mint Mobile offered an alternative compatibility check via an IMEI lookup. Since I knew both my devices would be compatible, I ended up skipping the check to keep things simple.
- From Mint Mobile’s “How much data do I get in my plan?” on 2/22/2019 (archived here).
- Depending on how you interpret this statement, it’s not clear the lowest monthly price claim is legitimate. For example, I believe that at the time of writing FreedomPop offers cheaper plans (though they may include a smaller quantity of text, data, etc.)
- From Mint Mobile’s homepage on 2/22/2019 (archived here).