Millions and millions of Americans choose AT&T for its fast and reliable wireless network, but did you know that you can get access to the same cell phone towers at a much lower price?
Many people only stick with AT&T for its dependable service, which RootMetrics consistently ranks second behind Verizon.
Switch to an AT&T MVNO and cut your wireless bill in half!
However, more than a handful of smaller wireless providers called mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs) partner with AT&T to offer cheap cell phone service. Take a look at the list below:
|Consumer Cellular||AT&T, T-Mobile|
|Unreal Mobile||AT&T, Sprint|
|Straight Talk Wireless||AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile and Sprint|
|Red Pocket Mobile||AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile and Sprint|
Unlike the rest of the MVNOs mentioned above, Cricket Wireless is a wholly owned subsidiary of AT&T. The other MVNOs are independent of AT&T and only rent space on their network.
These low-cost providers are an obvious option to consider for people who are already happy with AT&T’s coverage.
An MVNO may not flat-out say which of the Big 4 networks that they partner with, but you can typically figure it out by comparing the MVNO’s coverage map to the major network’s coverage map.
For example, here’s a comparison of the coverage maps for AT&T and FreeUp Mobile:
You also need to consider your phone options. Some MVNOs that run on AT&T’s network sell their own phones and others will allow you to bring an unlocked GSM phone. Always check device eligibility on the provider’s website.
Many MVNOs are prepaid carriers, which means that you pay for service in advance with no credit check required.
Right now, AT&T is heavily promoting two new unlimited data plans that start at either $70 or $80 for a single line of service before taxes and fees. But how would you like to cut that bill in half?
Here are three of your best options if you want to keep AT&T’s network and save money every month…
- Cricket Wireless has 10 million subscribers
- Four lines of unlimited service for $100/month
- Taxes and fees are included
- Cheapest unlimited plan: Data speeds capped at 3 Mbps and SD quality video
- Bring your own device or buy one from Cricket; budget and high-end options
- Retail locations nationwide
For quite some time, AT&T-owned Cricket Wireless has offered four lines of unlimited talk, text and data for $100 per month. Taxes and fees are included. With its cheapest unlimited plan, data speeds are capped at 3 Mbps and you only get SD quality video streaming. Budget and high-end smartphones are available for sale, plus a few free device options if you transfer a number. Cricket Wireless has retail locations nationwide that offer in-person customer service.
TEAM CLARK REVIEW: 5 things to know before you switch to Cricket Wireless
- Top-rated “Non-Contract Value Carrier” by J.D. Power
- Two network partners: AT&T and T-Mobile (Check coverage)
- 5% discount for AARP members
- Products and plans available at Target locations nationwide
- Talk, text and data starting at $20/month
- Free activation and no contracts
Some of Consumer Cellular’s data plans cost about the same as Cricket, but there’s no unlimited option. Light data users can expect to pay around $30 per month. There are two network partners with this carrier: AT&T and T-Mobile. You’ll be assigned one or the other when you sign up. If you want to make sure that you get AT&T, you can visit a Target retail store and pick up a Consumer Cellular SIM card for AT&T’s network. Consumer Cellular targets the senior population and offers a 5% AARP discount, but it’s available to everyone.
Straight Talk Wireless
- Owned by TracFone, America’s largest no-contract cell phone provider
- Straight Talk is available at Walmart locations nationwide
- Unlimited data plans start at $50/month with auto-refill discount
- Partners with all of the major networks (Check coverage)
- Bring your own device or buy a phone from Straight Talk
Available at Walmart, Straight Talk operates on all four of the major wireless networks, which makes it simple if you want to keep your own phone and bring it to the prepaid service. Straight Talk offers several affordable plan options, including 25GB of high-speed data per month for $45. Auto-refill discounts are available. When I tested the service for 30 days, I picked up a SIM Activation Kit from Walmart that included an AT&T SIM card. Customer service is available by phone and chat.
TEAM CLARK REVIEW: Straight Talk review: Is this cheap cell phone provider worth it?
Cheapest AT&T MVNOs
Cheaper options do exist with AT&T MVNOs like Red Pocket Mobile, FreeUp Mobile and Unreal Mobile — with plans starting around $10 per month. However, customer support may be limited with those ultra-discount providers.
Ultimately, you have to look at what the AT&T MVNOs are offering and decide whether it’s worth switching from AT&T to any of these affordable alternatives. For me, I’ve been willing to give up the convenience of in-person customer service for a lower price.
And since these are all no-contract providers, you can switch back to AT&T or another MVNO if there’s an issue that can’t be resolved.
We’ve highlighted MVNOs that run on AT&T’s network, but many more carriers have arrangements with Verizon, T-Mobile and Sprint that can also save you lots of money. I’ve had great experiences with Total Wireless and Mint Mobile.
If you live in an area where all of the Big 4 networks have good coverage, read about some of your options in Clark’s guide.