I am probably normal compared to most people but an outlier in the Financial Independent (FI) community. I still have Verizon for my cellular phone service and while they provide excellent network coverage, they are expensive. Through the ChooseFI community, I’ve learned there a lot of other great cellular service providers who charge a fraction of the cost.
So I set out to do a little research on several different service providers.
My Research on Cellular Providers
I want to make a little disclaimer which steered my research. I own an iPhone 7 that I purchased from the Apple store. That being said, I want to keep my phone so I only focused my research on companies which will work with iPhones
If you purchased your phone from your service provider (i.e. Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile or Sprint) you may be on a contract. I recommend that you verify the terms of your contract before setting out to make a change.
Being that I bought my phone outright and paid cash up front rather than renting it, I can make a switch at any time.
I decided to compare three different providers (Consumer Cellular, Cricket, and Mint mobile) along with my current Verizon plan. Here is a link to my google sheet comparing cost and other important facts.
Okay, there a couple of asterisks on the sheet:
*With Cricket, I’ll need to either go to Walmart, Target, or a Cricket store to buy the SIM card. They charge a $25 installation fee if you have it installed at the Cricket store. However, the fee is waived if you do it over the phone with their national activation center.
**Mint allows you to buy the first three months at these prices. Thereafter, the prices go up to $23 (2GB) and $30 (5GB) a month. However, if you want to keep the initial prices you can purchase 1 year. The other option is to buy 6 months at $18 (2G) and $24 (5GB). You basically get a discount for buying in bulk.
There is one additional thing to note with Consumer Cellular. They currently have a promotion for a $20 credit on every new line from May 15 through June 30. Not huge but worth noting.
If we only compare cost, Mint is the winner, winner, chicken dinner! I have no problem buying 1 year’s worth of service to get an overall lower cost. If I choose Mint I would, however, initially buy 3 months for a trial run before purchasing an entire year.
Now let’s consider the data. I currently use around 2.5 GB of data each month, so I’m right between 2 – 5GBs. I know with some concerted effort I can drive that usage down but I also want to know what happens if I go over. So I asked each provider this question: if I purchase the smaller amount of data and go over what happens?
If I buy 1GB and go over in the month, they will move me up to the 3GB package and bill me accordingly. Fair enough. They’ll keep me on the 3GB unless I tell them to move me back down.
With Cricket, I can purchase the 2GB plan and if I go over I can still access things that require data, but it will be at a slower speed for the rest of the billing cycle. Mid-cycle I can buy an additional GB of data or I can upgrade to the 5GB package. Of course, I can just deal with the slowness until the next cycle.
Mint is exactly similar to Cricket with regards to data.
I’m going to aim to use less data and keep it under 2GB. The first thing I did was go to my phone settings>cellular and looked at the apps using data. I turned off a bunch that I do not frequently use. I can always turn them back on if need be.
The other big thing to take into consideration is the network. Verizon is the best, no doubt; however, AT&T and T-Mobile aren’t far behind.
- Consumer Cellular gives you a choice of the T-Mobile or AT&T network
- Cricket uses the AT&T network
- Mint uses the T-Mobile network
When I search my zip code they seem to be equal; however, when I look at the entire US T-Mobile has more spottiness. The word on the street is that T-Mobile is spottier in rural areas. That being said, I’m leaning towards AT&T.
With AT&T being my choice of network, it seems I have narrowed it down to either Consumer Cellular or Cricket.
Here is my dilemma, I personally know people who use Consumer Cellular and are very happy with them. That fact alone almost makes me want to choose them. They also are the only one to offer 3GB of data which is perfect for me.
Cricket is clearly a better cost option and if I want to get crazy I can buy 5GB of data and they are still lower than Consumer Cellular. I don’t personally know anyone using Cricket. Although, I have seen people post Cricket as their cellular service provider on the ChooseFI FaceBook group and report they are happy.
I have several weeks to decide. The last thing to take into consideration when looking to switch cellular service providers is to check with your current provider as to where you are at in your billing cycle. I called Verizon and my current billing cycle ends on June 16. I am already paid up through then, so I might as well wait to make the switch.
Overall, I’m looking forward to driving this monthly cost down and am pleased with my research. The proof will be in the pudding but there is no harm in giving these options a try.
So what cellular service do you use? Do you have any advice or cautions to share?