If you like Verizon's coverage but not its prices, check out an MVNO.
A mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) is an "alternative carrier" that leases coverage from one of the "Big Four" carriers (Verizon, Sprint, AT&T, and T-Mobile) and sells it for less. If one of the Big Four has excellent coverage in your area, but you're looking for something a little cheaper, then consider going with an MVNO.
There aren't too many MVNOs that are powered by Verizon's network, so you need to make sure your phone will work with them before switching over (if you plan on bringing your own device). There biggest thing to look out for is if your phone supports CDMA service. Many MVNOs offer network checkers to help you figure out if your phone will work or not.
To work on Verizon-based alternative carriers, your phone must support the following frequencies:
- 3G: 800Mhz (BC0), 1900Mhz (BC1) 1
- LTE: 700Mhz (Band 13), 1700/2100Mhz (Band 4), 1900Mhz (Band 2)
1 Phone must support bands on CDMA.
Without further ado, here are the MVNOs that are powered by Verizon.
- Affinity Cellular
- Armed Force Mobile
- Boom Mobile
- Eco Mobile
- Expo Mobile
- Net10 Wireless
- Page Plus Cellular
- Puppy Wireless
- Red Pocket Mobile
- ROK Mobile
- Selectel Wireless
- Straight Talk
- Total Wireless
- Zing PCS
Affinity Cellular is an Iowa-based carrier that operates primarily on the basis of awarding members of various clubs discounts on cell phone service. The biggest club to which it offers discounts is the American Automobile Association (AAA). In fact, if you sign up for a contract, you receive five AAA dollars.
On its "About Us" page, Affinity states that it aims to serve those people who "depend on the benefits and security a cell phone provides but certainly are not using it every minute of every day."
Plans start at $10/month for 10 voice minutes, $1.50/month for 100 texts, or $1/month for 50 texts and 5MB of data.
Affinity's "unlimited plan" is 5000 texts, 5000 minutes, and 5GB of data for $45/month, so if you're a regular smartphone user, you'll probably want to look at another carrier.
Armed Forces Mobile
Armed Forces Mobile is all about supporting veterans. A portion of all proceeds go to Operation Support Our Veterans, a nonprofit based in San Diego that is focused on supporting other organizations that help American vets with PTSD and injured veterans, as well as through direct donations.
If supporting the American military is a cause that's near and dear to your heart, then this is the carrier for you.
Plans start at $35/month for 1GB of 4G LTE data, unlimited talk, text, and 2G data.
Boom mobile's network is powered by every member of the Big Four, though the AT&T network is only available to business customers. That being said, on T-Mobile, Sprint, and Verizon's networks, you're getting pretty great coverage with Boom Mobile.
If you have a large family, Boom is the carrier to go with, with family plans allowing up to 10 lines.
All that being said, Boom's family plans only use the T-Mobile and Sprint networks. Verizon's network is used for prepaid, non-data plans that feature unlimited talk and text. You can only use CDMA-compatible devices with these plans and MMS (video and picture messaging) is unavailable. There is a prepaid plan that offers 2GB of 4G LTE for $35/month, which is on Verizon's network, but the Boom plans that use the T-Mobile and Sprint networks are better value.
Boom's prices are comparable to other better MVNOs, so unless you need up to 10 lines on your family plan, you might want to look elsewhere.
Credo is a major player in the MVNO market, operating as a division of Working Assets. Working Assets has been around in various iterations since 1985, with a core tenet of helping nonprofits through donations. Credo operated as Working Assets Wireless, changing to Credo in 2007 and only started using the Verizon network in 2016.
The aptly named Credo operates in the name of social change and has since its inception. It maintains a strict environmental policy, offering free phone recycling and it prints bills on 100% post-consumer recycled paper. It also uses carbonfund.org's "carbon free" program to offset its electricity and shipping costs.
Basically, if you want to support social change and a carrier with an immense sense of social responsibility, then Credo is an awesome choice. You even get to vote on which organizations get donations — organizations like Planned Parenthood, Bend the Arc, the Indigenous Environmental Network, and more.
Plans start at $30/month for 1GB of 4G LTE, unlimited talk and text, and tethering. There's also a "line fee" for each device you use (you can share your data among devices). It's $20 for smartphones, so you're actually looking at $50/month for 1GB of data.
Eco Mobile's main squeeze is the Sprint, but it uses T-Mobile to fill in the empty spots and Verizon for CDMA service. Eco's a great carrier if you're looking for great rates on international calling, with unlimited international calling available for free on plans of $30/month and up.
Plans start at $20 for unlimited talk, text, and 100MB of data. 2GB of data, unlimited talk, text, 2G data, and international calling is $30/month. All plans get voicemail, caller ID, call waiting, three-way calling, MMS (picture and video messaging), and domestic calling.
Expo really pushes the whole "bring your own device" thing, which is great, especially if you're just coming straight from Verizon, since CDMA devices are compatible.
Expo offers 30-day plans that require no contracts, as well as pay as you go plans, which range from 90 days to 365 days. You pay between $10 and $100, depending on your term, and then pay 2 cents per minute or message, and 5 cents per MB of data on the 120 day plan or longer.
30-day data plans start at $35/month for unlimited talk and text and 500MB of 4G LTE. After your allotment, you're throttled to 64kbps, which is slower than 2G.
Net10, owned by TracFone, uses all of the Big Four's towers to help with coverage, which means you get solid coverage for a little less than you'd spend going with one of the biggies. The nice thing is that, because Net10 uses everyone, you get to bring pretty much any phone you have — just know that if your phone isn't CDMA-compatible, then it likely won't connect to Verizon's network when you use Net10.
All smartphone plans come with unlimited talk, text, and 2G data. $35/month gets you 500MB of 4G LTE, but an extra $5/month gets you 3GB, and you can save $4/month if you sign up for Auto-Refill.
Page Plus Cellular
Page Plus is a pretty run-of-the-mill MVNO operating on Verizon's network. Plans start off very inexpensively, at $12/month for 250 minutes, 250 texts, and 10MB of data. If you're a realistic user, then you'll want the $40/month plan that features unlimited domestic calling, $10 of international calling credit, unlimited global text, and 3GB of 4G LTE.
Puppy Wireless' logo features a little spaniel pup with headphones in, shaking its head. It's adorable, and Puppy Wireless knows this — who doesn't love puppies?! Its website is rather confusing, since you pick your plan based on your coverage and the color-coded network. So you enter your zip and then get your choice of networks. It would definitely be way more convenient just to pick from a list of plans and have the carrier put you on the right network, no?
Simple, budget plans start at $7.95/month and offer 50 minutes, 50 texts (no video or picture messaging), and 5MB of data. 4G LTE plans starts at $35/month for 3GB of 4G LTE. It's unclear as to whether or not unlimited talk and text is included with the $35 plan.
Red Pocket Mobile
Red Pocket uses all of the big carriers, so you'd really only choose to use Verizon with them if you have a CDMA-only device, like a flip phone. If you're using a GSM-capable phone, then you'd likely choose a GSM SIM and get better speeds and coverage.
Red Pocket has two basic plans to choose from and you can add to the second. The first plan is $10/month and gets you 500 minutes, 500 texts, and 100MB of 4G LTE. You can then buy extra texts, minutes, and LTE. The second plan is $19/month and gets you unlimited talk and text, with 100MB of 4G LTE. You can upgrade to unlimited 2G data with 500MB, 1GB, 3GB, or 5GB of 4G LTE for $6 to $41/month.
ROK Mobile is for folks looking for life insurance with their cell phone plan. I know those things seem mutually exclusive, but if you're not covered through work and you're already paying a monthly charge to some insurance company, why not have it on your monthly phone bill or get a little extra?
Plans range from $5/month to $50/month, with the $50 plan being the only one that features data. You get roadside assistance, $100,000 accidental death insurance, $20,000 in burial and cremation insurance, family legal services, ID theft insurance, pharmacy savings, and telemedicine. Oh, yeah, and you get unlimited talk and text and 5GB of 4G LTE.
Selectel is another relatively run-of-the-mill MVNO. You get plans for as low as $15/month, which includes 300 minutes, 300 texts, and 15MB of data. $30/month gets you 1GB of 4G LTE, unlimited texting (not video and picture messaging), and 1500 domestic calling minutes.
Straight Talk is owned by TracFone and is that cell phone section you see at Walmart. It features the latest phones and lets you bring your own device, since it uses all four of the big networks for coverage.
Plans start at $30/month for 1500 minutes, unlimited texts, and 100MB of data. $45/month gets you 5GB of 4G LTE and unlimited talk and text, as well as unlimited 2G data.
Total Wireless is another TracFone-owned carrier that offers average MVNO rates for data plans. Its cheapest data plan is $35/month for unlimited talk and text and 5GB of 4G LTE. A great add-on feature is 3GB of 4G LTE for $10, and if you don't use that extra 3GB up by the end of your month, you can carry it over to your next billing month.
Total's family plans share data, and you can get up to 15GB of data for 4 lines to share for $100/month. Not bad at all.
TracFone has been around since 1996 and owns multiple MVNOs, which it operates on various networks.
Its cheapest data plan with a gig or more is $17.50/month for 1GB of 4G LTE, 750 minutes, and 1000 text, BUT you have to sign up for a 60-day term, so that 1GB has to last you 2 months. An extra gig of data is $10, which expires at the end of your term.
TracFone is perfect for folks who constantly travel to the U.S. and don't want to buy a local SIM or pay outrageous roaming fees.
Zing PCS or Zing wireless is an MVNO with decent prices and a website that looks like it was made in 1999. Data plans start at $28.99/month for 1GB of 4G LTE, unlimited talk and text, unlimited international text (picture and video messaging not included), and unlimited 2G data.
Zing also supports and provides service for Lifeline, the FCC program that helps make communication services more affordable to low-income individuals and families.
Alternative carriers (MVNOS)
- What is an alternative mobile carrier?
- What are the advantages of going with an alternative carrier?
- How to make sure your phone works on a prepaid alternative carrier
- 8 Important Considerations When Switching To An MVNO
- These are the cheapest data plans you can buy in the U.S.
- Mint SIM vs. Cricket Wireless: Which is better for you?