A straight-talking prepaid mobile carrier for budget-minded seniors
How can you say no to a cell phone company owned (and used) by Canadian movie star and celebrity gin maker Ryan Reynolds? Or maybe the better question would be: How can you say no to a 5G carrier with superb coverage and all the data you need for $15 per month?
I'm talking about Mint Mobile, a no-nonsense newcomer to the mobile market with bargain prepaid plans and no major commitments. A recipe that could be a pretty heady cocktail for seniors who are tired of paying too much for too little with other major carriers.
In this hands-on review, I'm going to break down Mint's pricing and plans, and get to the heart of why Mint might be a great choice for older Americans looking to stay connected on the cheap.
Like its virtual towers, Mint has no actual physical brick-and-mortar stores, so purchasing your plan is done online. But even if you like getting help from a live human, like we did when we reviewed T-Mobile, don't stress just yet. Getting set up with Mint is actually a piece of cake. Their website is a breeze to use.
That isn't to say that getting set up with Mint doesn't take a few steps. It does. So I'm going to start at the very beginning with a few quick pre-purchase checks you'll want to make before you enter your credit card information.
As you can see from the map above, Mint has pretty good coverage. Still, it's better on the East Coast, and could be spotty in the rural West. When I typed in my ZIP code — I'm on the East Coast but not in a big city — I was good to go. I recommend you do the same.
Did You Know: 5G connections can reach speeds of 10 gigabits per second (download). That's 100 times faster than 4G!
Mint Mobile is a mobile virtual network operator (MVNO), which means it piggybacks off the infrastructure of another mobile provider; in this case, T-Mobile. In other words, when you make a call with Mint, you're actually connecting to one of T-Mobile's towers.
Rather than pushing new phones with multi-year contracts on new customers, Mint Mobile lets you bring your own phone. Personally, I love this. Or, rather, I love my iPhone.
So I was relieved that I didn't have to buy a phone through Mint to use their service. (You can if you want. More on this below.) I just brought my own phone, or BYOP, as they say at Mint Mobile. But first I had to make sure it was compatible and unlocked.
Unlocked phones, by the way, are just phones not tied to any particular carrier. For instance, if I had signed a three-year contract with Verizon for my iPhone, I couldn't have taken that phone and started using Mint. That phone would have been locked. Mine was fine. One check down.
The final check — phone compatibility — was easy with Mint's phone compatibility checker (see below). I just typed in my brand and model, and voilá. Now I was ready to select a Mint plan.
Mint's plans are prepaid, so you need to pay for your minutes (and data) in advance. Purchasing my package was easy. I just clicked “shop plans,” chose my plan (the Unlimited Plan for $30 per month), and gave Mint my credit card details. I was now on Team Mint. Or almost. I still had to wait two to three days for Mint to deliver my 3-in-1 SIM kit. Then I had to activate it. Next-day air delivery was an option, too, for an extra $15.
Keep in mind that when you sign up for Mint, you're selecting a three-month plan with a new customer rate. After the first three months, you'll have the choice between committing for a three-month, six-month, or 12-month period. The longer you commit, the cheaper the monthly rate will be. Not bad. We'd recommend buying in bulk (12-month periods) for the best rates.
One thing to note is that Mint's Unlimited Plan isn't actually unlimited. However, unlike some other mobile carriers, they're not trying to hide this. If you exceed 35 GB of data — your monthly allowance — you'll be on 2G speeds with 480p video until the end of your billing period.
Just for the record, 480p video, while technically standard definition, won't kill you on your mobile. 2G speeds could be a pain, say, if you're on your way to visit the grandkids in Topeka and Google Maps is still back in Kansas City.
But there are plenty of ways to save data so this never happens. Like using Mint's Wi-Fi Calling and Text feature when you're at home or on trusted networks.
When my SIM kit arrived in the mail, making my iPhone usable involved two main steps: entering my activation code and transferring my phone number. Like the purchasing process, the SIM activation process is handled online via the Mint Mobile website. My only caveat? Pay attention when you're activating your SIM because this involves your phone number and you don't want to create any headaches for yourself there. Ready?
First, I clicked the “Activate” tab at the top-right corner of the Mint website (just to the left of “Log In”).
Pro Tip: When it's time to activate your new Mint SIM, don't forget to have your account login info (username and password) from your current carrier handy!
Next, I located the card Mint sent me in the mail (the one with my SIM stuck to it), flipped it over, and found my activation number. It's the 11-digit number on the top right. I typed that number into the website, double-checked it (always double-check!), and hit enter.
Next, I was on the “New or Existing Number” screen. I wanted to keep my existing number, as most of us do, so I clicked “Transfer an existing number.” (If I wanted a new number, that would have been easy, too. I'd just have clicked “Get a new number.”)
This is the point where I needed the login info from my current carrier. I had to enter it here — along with my phone number and a few other details — so Mint could take over my phone number.
After that, I was pretty much done. I just popped open my SIM tray and inserted my new SIM. Then I waited 24 hours for my confirmation text. (It actually arrived in about 10 hours.) Now, I was officially on Team Mint!
Toolbox: Once you insert your SIM and activate your plan, you still might need to configure your data settings so that you can use your mobile data. With Mint, this is easy. If you've got an iPhone, just text “Mint” to the number 6700, and they'll send you the settings via text. If you've got an Android phone, you'll get that message automatically.
As far as setups go, Mint's is pretty straightforward. But if you zoned out when you saw “activation code,” check out Mint Mobile’s activation tutorial. It's got a cute little fox and plenty of visuals to keep you focused.
Mint Mobile is pretty slick and definitely cheap, but you still need to find a phone that makes you happy. If you're going to bring your own phone, you're set. On the other hand, if you're thinking of trying something new, here are two of our favorites. Both are available directly via Mint Mobile.
Quick Tip: Want to compare all of our top-rated phones? Check out our list of the best cell phones for seniors in 2021.
At $89 (for a limited time), the Alcatel Go Flip 3 comes preloaded with email, calendar, and browsing apps so you can stay connected on the go. Plus, this flip phone is tough. You can drop the Go Flip 3, but it's pretty hard to break it. And it's actually pretty stylish, with big buttons and clearly displayed text you won't struggle to read. One important thing to note: The Alcatel Go Flip 3 is a 4G/LTE phone, so you won't get 5G speeds.
Our favorite features for seniors:
Did You Know: One reason we really like Samsung phones is their accessibility features for older users. To explore these features and more, see our seniors cell phone buyer's guide.
The Galaxy A12 is available directly from Mint Mobile for $199 (50 percent off) for a limited time only. Other things seniors will like about the Galaxy A12 besides the price? One, the camera quality is excellent; it comes with five (yes, five) different cameras that work together to take stellar photos of vacations and grandkids. Two, you can unlock your phone with your finger, so say goodbye to passwords (and snooping grandkids breaking into your phone). And you get a big 6.5-inch display for easy reading, with advanced accessibility features. The Samsung Galaxy A12 is a 4G/LTE phone, so you won't get 5G speeds.
Our favorite features for seniors:
Coverage is obviously a key factor to consider when you're choosing a mobile carrier. The good news here is that Mint's 5G coverage (which it borrows from T-Mobile) is knock-your-socks-off great with coverage in 42 percent of the U.S. For comparison, this clobbers AT&T (18 percent) and Verizon (11 percent), and will only be getting better.
5G coverage isn't just strong with Mint, it's available on all Mint plans. Compare that to AT&T's Cricket Wireless, which offers 5G on its top-tier plans only.
FYI: If you travel a lot, one thing you've got to check with any prepaid mobile plan is roaming, which lets you make calls and use data via participating local carriers. Mint plans, for example, allow international roaming, but you've got to pay extra for it.
For 4G/LTE, Mint isn't bad by a longshot at 62 percent coverage,1 but it lags behind AT&T (68 percent) and Verizon (70 percent). The silver lining (if you're a city slicker) is that Mint is better in urban areas, especially on the East Coast.
Mint Mobile plans are prepaid and pay-as-you-go, so you aren't locked into a contract. You just pay upfront for your package (three months, six months, or 12 months). When that period is over, you have the option of renewing. (You can also program your plan to auto-renew.)
Did You Know: You can try out Mint with a 7-Day Mint Starter Kit ($2 at Target or $5 via Amazon). Mint will give you a temporary number with 250MB of data, 250 texts, and 250 minutes. If you decide to continue with Mint at the end of the seven days, you'll get your money back as credit.
Mint plans do come with a seven-day money-back guarantee, as long as you order your plan from their website or app. If you're not satisfied, Mint will refund your entire purchase, plus fees and taxes (but not delivery).
All new phones purchased through Mint Mobile come with a one-year warranty, while refurbished devices have a 60-day warranty. This warranty covers things like product defects and software issues, but it won't cover issues caused by normal wear and tear or aging.
|Plan name||Price*||Talk and text||Data||Extra features|
|4 GB||$15 per month||Unlimited||4 GB with 5G and 4G LTE coverage||Wi-Fi calling and text|
|10 GB||$20 per month||Unlimited||10 GB with 5G and 4G LTE coverage||Wi-Fi calling and text|
|15 GB||$25 per month||Unlimited||15 GB with 5G and 4G LTE coverage||Wi-Fi calling and text|
|Unlimited||$30 per month||Unlimited||35 GB with 5G and 4G LTE coverage||Wi-Fi calling and text|
* These prices represent introductory offers for new customers.
Mint Mobile has a reputation for simple plans without smoke and mirrors. And that's true. However, it's worth noting that the prices in our table are for the first three months of service. The good news is that if you move directly into a 12-month plan with Mint, those rates will stay the same.
At just $15 per month (prepaid for 12 months after the first three months), Mint's 4 GB plan is a real disruptor in the cellular market. Even Google Fi, Mint's closest competitor, can't hold onto Mint's coattails here at $60 per month for the same data allowance.
Did You Know: All Mint Mobile plans let you turn your cell phone into a Wi-Fi hotspot in case you want to bring another device online while you're on the go. Data restrictions apply by plan.
Who's this plan for? In short, Mint's 4 GB plan is a great option for seniors on a budget who are comfortable using Wi-Fi hotspots and just want to email, browse, and use Google Maps on the go.
As with all of Mint's plans, you get unlimited talk and text, access to T-Mobile's plentiful towers (5G and 4G/LTE), and Wi-Fi calling and text. The 4GB plan comes with 4 GB of data. After that, you pay by the gig.
At $20 and $25 per month for 10 GB and 15 GB, respectively, Mint's mid-range plans are great for those who don't want to be locked into a phone contract. Even if you currently subscribe to Comcast and can take advantage of Xfinity Mobile's bargain pay-by-the-gig plans, you're still paying more for less data; i.e., $30 per month for 3 GB.
Who's this plan for? Mint's 10 GB and 15 GB plans will give you more breathing room with your data if you're the “out-and-about” type and don't want to be constantly searching for Wi-Fi to chat, surf, and stream (within limits).
With Mint's heavier plans, you get everything included with the 4 GB plan — unlimited talk and text, T-Mobile's 5G and 4G/LTE network, and Wi-Fi calling and text — but much more data.
FYI: Just how many American adults claimed to own and use a smartphone in 2021? A whopping 85 percent! That's way up from 2011, when only 35 percent of Americans said they used smartphones.2
Mint's Unlimited plan costs $30 per month (if you pay for 12 months upfront after your first three months). That gives you 35 GB of data. Mint's closest competitor in the “huge data” tier is AT&T's Cricket Wireless.
Did You Know: Mint Mobile is offering a deal for new customers that could help you save even more! If you purchase a qualifying phone and sign up for a 12-month 4 GB plan, you'll earn six months of free service in the form of a credit. If you purchase a qualifying phone and choose one of Mint Mobile's other 12-month plans, you'll receive a $90 credit.
For comparison, at $25 per month, Cricket's unlimited package is actually $5 cheaper, and there is no 12-month commitment. That said, while Cricket doesn't throttle speeds once you reach a data cap, it keeps all speeds down to 8 Mbps, which may be annoying. The one advantage Cricket offers that Mint can't match is partial coverage of Canada and Mexico.
Mint Mobile Unlimited will be a good fit for older adults who do a lot of heavy lifting on their phones: downloading and uploading family photos wherever they are, chatting on the go, driving grandkids around while they are streaming Netflix in the backseat, etc.
Mint Mobile's Unlimited plan is the top of the line. As with all of Mint's plans, there are no bells and whistles, just unlimited talk and text, solid 5G and 4G/LTE coverage via T-Mobile, and Wi-Fi calling and text. The difference here is you get up to 35 GB of data per month. Do you need it?
Well, you can find out by using Mint's data meter, which will make suggestions according to your data usage. Just remember that you can't get your money back, like you can with Google Fi, if you don't use up your monthly allowance.
Whatever you think about Mint Mobile, you've got to admit it's refreshing: a straight-talking cellular provider that doesn't fluff up their service with a ton of talking points that don't mean anything to you.
With data-packed prepaid plans ranging from $15 to $30 a month, Mint is cheap, utilitarian, and contract-free. And while it does bill itself as the no-frills mobile carrier, you actually get plenty with Mint: unlimited talk and text, Wi-Fi calling and text, and 5G and 4G coverage. None of Mint's closest prepaid competitors can compete with that.
Mint wasn't designed specifically for seniors, so you won't find any of Lively's health and safety features or Sprint’s 55+ seniors-only discounts, but Mint's sheer value will certainly make it tempting for plenty of budget-minded seniors.
Yes. Mint Mobile is the cheapest prepaid mobile carrier we’ve tested.
No. Like most prepaid cellular carriers, Mint is pay-as-you-go.
Maybe. The offers you see on the Mint website are for new customers (for the first three months of service). After that, if you pay for 12 months of service upfront on any of Mint’s plans, your price will stay the same.
Yes, you can bring your own phone to Mint Mobile. Just check for compatibility first.
Actually, Mint doesn’t have any stores. They’re completely digital. But they do have a library of helpful how-to videos, a very good FAQ section, and online (human) chat support seven days a week from 5:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. PT.