Mint Mobile – Saving on Cell Service

Taking control of expenses and trying to minimize them can be a daunting task. Some expenses seem immovable. For example, you will always have to pay your utility bills no matter what. Sure, you can try and trim usage here and there, but the bill is coming around each month either way. Same with things like food, rent, Internet, and other similar expenses. But there are some expenses you can make changes to in order to minimize them.

When I was first looking into saving money in our budget, one of the line items that consistently bothered me was our Verizon bill. We were on a family plan, but still shelling out about $80 per month for our share of two lines. This is very much on the low side. I’ve heard of friends that pay $100+ for Verizon just for their own line. Charges can get out of hand with any of the major carriers when they go unchecked.

I started shopping around and read about MVNO’s, or Mobile Virtual Network Operators. They are cell service providers that run off of large network infrastructure. One of the services I found that intrigued me was called MintMobile (it was actually MintSIM at the time). Their approach is very “Costco” in nature. You buy cell service in bulk. Instead of paying month in and month out, you pay for your service ahead of time, and since you are buying multiple months of service, you get a discount. I had to learn more.

I ordered one of their trial SIM cards where you could try out the service. They have a page where you can punch in your IMEI number to check if your phone is compatible with their service here: https://www.mintmobile.com/byop/

I have a used iPhone 6S Plus, and it supports 4G LTE with MintMobile so I was in luck. You will be too if you have an iPhone, as our experience has been very good overall. I believe it works well with Android too, although I have no first-hand experience with it. When you download their app and then go through the instructions on porting over your existing number, the instructions are fairly easy to follow, and the port is almost instant. I was a bit worried because MintMobile runs off of T-Mobile towers. My wife actually stayed on Verizon for about three months while I was on MintMobile so we could compare service. I had service in almost every place that she did. I ran some speed tests on both phones and MintMobile was actually faster in some areas in and around Portland, OR. T-Mobile is doing a pretty good job of expanding and bolstering their service quality.

Now that we have both switched over, I hardly ever even notice that I am on a different carrier. Speed is there when I need it to watch the latest tech video or browse social media. iMessage works just as well as it did before. Service has been good all along the way from Portland back to Missoula, MT and even to Bozeman. The Idaho panhandle was the only place where service struggled, but that was the case before even when we were on Verizon. Something about mountains and lots of trees that cell towers dislike.

All in all, our experience has been a very good one now that we are almost seven months into it. Would I make the switch again? Absolutely, in a heartbeat. Do I miss anything about Verizon? Mmmm not really. Their current ad campaign has me particularly annoyed, so I smile every time I watch one knowing I’m not contributing to that hot mess anymore.

So, the big question: what does it cost? Well, right now their deal is actually pretty crazy. During this holiday season, you get three months of service with unlimited talk and text + 5GB of LTE data for only $20… total. 90 days of service for 20 bucks. Come on now, that’s good stuff.

Pricing after that intro offer is still crazy good. If you opt for the 12-month payment like I have, pricing works out to $15/month for 2GB, $20/month for 5GB, and only $25/month for 10GB of data. What about overages, you ask? Well, they rock on that too. If you go over your data allotment, your speeds just slow down. No overage charges. And they don’t auto charge you for any data over your allowance for that month, it just comes in at a slower rate. If you need more data at full LTE speeds, you can tack on 1GB at a time for $10 each. Pretty sweet deal.

I realize I am starting to sound like a bit of salesman here, so I’ll cut the crap. I think the major carriers gouge users like you and me. I don’t think cell service should cost an arm and a leg. We have saved a lot of money making this switch, and I don’t imagine we will be going back anytime soon. Feel free to reach out to me in the comments or the Contact page and I’ll do my best to answer questions you may have.

As one last plug for MintMobile, they now have a referral program. If you are interested in signing up for service, you will get a $15 account credit if you sign up using  this link:

http://fbuy.me/laxO7

If you’ve enjoyed this blog and you want to make the switch, this will help me out too! I will receive a $15 account credit for my account as well. Win-Win!

The Age of the $1,000 Smartphone

I for one am all about cool new gadgetry and technology. I keep a steady pulse on a number of tech blogs and sites to see what is coming next, what cool features we can all expect out of our next smartphone in its next iteration. There are some incredible innovations and technologies being rolled out every week it seems.

I’ve always been an early adopter, one of the first to purchase and embrace these new flashy devices. Back in high school, I think I had one of the first iPod Mini’s (you know, the one with the aluminum body and the black and white screen. Yeah, soooo retro!). Later I got one of the first Verizon smartphones that spearheaded the move to 3G data. It was a slider phone, the Motorola Droid! Remember those commercials, “Droid Does”? Quite the ad campaign.

I am all about the latest and greatest. But I think this is also a time for a reality check.

I just hopped on Apple’s website to spec out an iPhone XS Max with 512GB of storage. $1,449 for that bad boy. Oh, and you should probably get Apple Care since you wouldn’t want such a big “investment” to get busted or stolen. So that will tack on $299. Wow, we are looking at a $1,748 phone. You’ll probably want a case too, right? And maybe some Bluetooth headphones since these super advanced phones don’t have a headphone jack anymore… what are we at, $2,000 now?

Maybe you have the means to spend $1,000 to $2,000 on a phone every year or two (don’t get me started on what the plans cost these days for unlimited data that isn’t really unlimited at all). I don’t have that kind of money, and unless you make six figures a year I would argue that you might not be able to afford it either.

I think companies like Samsung and Apple are trying to find what the threshold of insanity is on the price of a flagship smartphone. If I were them as a business, I would keep pushing the price up until sales slump. Hell, even if they slump a few percentage points at these prices, they are still making an absolute killing. Don’t let them take your hard earned money!

What do you do 99% of the time with your phone? Text regularly, check social media, check your bank balance (if you don’t, it’s a good time to start 🙂 ), maybe read a few articles, maybe take a couple of pictures.

I think for me, I had to come to the realization that is unreasonable to pay the asking price for these new phones. It’s ludicrous. Probably about a year ago, I picked up a used iPhone 6S for $180. I paid cash for it and have not made a phone payment since. It has a large screen, great for reading and checking email, watching my Denver Broncos highlights (let’s be real it’s been a rough year), the camera works really well when I need it, I replaced the battery at Apple for $29, so it is just as fast and lasts just as long as the day it came off the shelf. It is a great phone, and it cost a fraction of what these new phones cost. Ah, and mine does have a headphone jack. Nice!

Phones and cell plans can be a huge drag to you meeting your financial goals. Do you really need the latest and greatest to scroll your Instagram feed? Is it just a status thing? Maybe take stock of why the newest phone feels like a need when indeed it is a want. With a little shopping around for a nice, lightly used phone, and some more shopping for a good discount service provider (I’d be happy to give you advice on finding both!), you could save hundreds of dollars every year. Maybe even $1,000. No joke! I’ll leave you with some math since I’m making that a bit of a theme here in my  writing:

Scenario A / Lowest end iPhone XS 64GB on 24 month payment plan: ~$50.00/month

Add that to the lowest end “unlimited” individual plan from Verizon: ~$75.00/month before taxes and fees

Monthly cost for Scenario A: $50 + $75 = $125/mo. times 24 months = $3,000/2 yrs.

Scenario B / Used iPhone 6S Plus paid in cash divided by 24 months: $7.50/month

Add to that a 10GB/month plan from MintMobile: ~$25.00/month

Monthly cost for Scenario A: $7.50 + $25.00 = $32.50/mo. times 24 months = $780/2 yrs.

 

Scenario B would save you $2,220 over the course of 2 years. That’s a 74% savings. Astronomical savings.

Let me know if you want to learn more about these discount MVNO’s for phone service on the cheap, or if you don’t know where to start getting a used phone. I’d be happy to help you start saving today!

MintSIM (now Mint Mobile)

For as long as I’ve had a smartphone, I’ve had Verizon service. Living in Montana, there really was no other choice or option if you wanted to be able to get any kind of cell service in the western part of our great state. While Verizon has always been on the expensive side of things, the service has always been really good, and the customer service has been pretty helpful (when you need them).

Living in the greater Portland, OR area now, for the time being, I started to contemplate what a phone service change might look like for me. Up until recently, I’ve paid $70 for our portion to be on my folks’ Verizon plan. This provides us with 2GB of data (on average) per phone to use each month. Not exactly a ton of data. Sure they have other plan rates and tiers, but for the price, we have stayed at the 8GB plan across 5 lines (due to a promotion on one of the phones, we got 2GB extra each month for “life”, which is how I come to the 10GB/5 lines = 2GB each). At $35 per line for the two of us and 2GB of data each, the deal is – eh – okay.

I did a little searching and stumbled upon a company called MintSIM. They are one of a new line of phone services that contract with and run off of existing networks. I haven’t done a ton of research on the finer points of this process, but I do know that MintSIM runs off of T-Mobile infrastructure. Their idea is relatively simple. They don’t have any physical stores, and they sell cellular service “in bulk”, so that is how you achieve your savings. You buy service in 3, 6 or 12-month chunks. They had a promotion when I decided to sign up, so I was able to get 3 months of service for $20 per month, or $60 total. BUT with this plan I have 5GB of LTE data all to myself… pretty good deal, huh?

Verizon – $35 per month, 2GB of data

MintSIM – $20 per month, 5GB of data

So what is the catch? Well, transitioning wasn’t that seamless. I did try to port my number with Verizon directly to MintSIM, but ran into some technical difficulty. I can’t blame MintSIM for that particular problem, but then again maybe I can. When I tried to call in for support, the service department was lackluster at best. I left the calls with them more frustrated than when I began. This is one of the things you pay for with Verizon. There is a store somewhere near you where you can always walk in and talk to someone face to face when over the phone or online customer service fails. You don’t have that with MintSIM.

Long story short, I ended up porting my number to Google Voice, installed Google Hangouts on my iPhone 6S Plus (so I could still get calls and texts from my old Verizon number), got a new number with MintSIM, and set up Google Voice to forward any calls placed to my old number, to my iPhone. Probably could have phrased that better, but you get it (if you are technical. Sorry I get lost in my geek gibberish sometimes).

I don’t want to throw the baby out with the bathwater here. I really like MintSIM so far. Coverage has been just as good as Verizon in our area outside of Portland, the data speeds are actually faster than Verizon. I just had a one hour call tonight with my buddy and it was crystal clear, no drops. Being a big tech guy, I usually provide my own technical/troubleshooting service myself when something goes wrong. So having a brick and mortar location for me to walk into is not very valuable. Truth is, in more than a decade as a Verizon customer, I’ve almost never walked in for “support”. I know that this isn’t for everyone, but just a reminder that you pay a big premium to have that kind of “support” that you may or may not use all that often.

Whew okay, the point of this blog is about money. So let’s crunch some side by side numbers right quick. We are going to give MintSIM the benefit of the doubt here, and for comparison say that you are a customer that pays for 12 months of service in advance for 2GB of data (just so we can compare apples to apples). Also going to use the past plan situation I had with my family for the example too.

Verizon – $35 per month for one line @ 2GB of data

One year of service = $420

MintSIM – $15 per month for one line @ 2GB of data

One year of service = $180

With MintSIM you save 57% annually, or $240.

My main purpose for “jumping ship” to this service was two-fold for me:

  1. I don’t need all the “bells and whistles” Verizon has to offer. I buy used phones anyways, so bringing my own phone is no problem. The reception and service in this area is just about equal between these two carriers in my early testing.
  2. The cost savings are very significant. If you are looking for a way to “trim” down your budget, take a look at your cell bill. There might be more savings available than you might think.

A couple more recommendations for any of you looking to save money on your cell phone bill as well.

  • Don’t buy a new phone. $1,000 for an iPhone X? I mean come on… I got a nearly mint condition iPhone 6S Plus for $180. Fully paid for, no more payments. And to tell you the truth, pretty much just as good as a brand new iPhone 8 or whatever. The camera is fine, the screen is great, it’s still very quick. Oh, and mine has a headphone jack.
  • Do you really need that unlimited plan? Probably not. I would say that most people use 2-5GB of data each month. My parents literally use 200MB or less of data each month. Point is, you’re probably paying for too much. Also, if you are a big data user, maybe it’s time to think about how much you have your face in your phone?… oh just ruffled some feathers.
  • USE WIFI! It makes me sick to think about how many people just blow through their data because they don’t take time to log in to wifi (which is free or already paid for) while they are indoors. Wifi is everywhere. This is a great way to cut data usage.

Thanks for reading!