Straight Talk Trial – A Firsthand Look at This MVNO Provider

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After our initial review earlier this year, TracFone generously provided us with the chance to get a closer look at their services. In particular, Straight Talk – another MVNO network owned by TracFone.

You may have seen some of their commercials or seen them offered at Walmart:

What is an MVNO?

Since switching to Tello a couple years ago, I have telling more and more people about how much I’ve been saving and that I’ve (overall) been happy with the service. An MVNO is a good option for those looking to save more money on their cell phone bills and don’t like all the “games” the big networks play (hidden fees / overage charges).

To review, an MVNO is:

a wireless communications services provider that does not own the wireless network infrastructure over which it provides services to its customers. An MVNO enters into a business agreement with a mobile network operator to obtain bulk access to network services at wholesale rates, then sets retail prices independently.

Straight Talk utilizes the big four networks (AT&T, Verizon, Sprint and T-Mobile) and has an exclusive joint-partnership with Walmart to sell their phones / service.

Is it reliable?

This is one of the most asked questions that I get from people that hear what I pay and are unfamiliar with MVNO’s (among others).

“Do you get good service?”

“Do you experience any interruptions?”

“Do you trust it?”

And, from my experience with them, I’ve have been pleasantly surprised at the performance I get.

With Straight Talk, we tried out their $45 Unlimited Nationwide plan.

Included in this plan:

  • 30 days service
  • No Contract
  • Unlimited Nationwide Talk and Text
  • Unlimited Data with the first 10GB at high speeds (LTE), then at 2G* (*At 2G speeds, the functionality of some data applications such as streaming video or audio may be affected.)

They also offer the following plans (including optional add-on plans, like international calling, etc):

I mentioned in my previous TracFone review that I’ve been trying to get my wife to join me in saving on her cell phone plan – but have been unsuccessful in my attempts.

Our friends at TracFone read this and provided the same phone she uses (an iPhone 5S) – but asked her to give it a try with the Straight Talk, $45 Unlimited Nationwide plan.

She did give it a whirl (sending some texts with / without pictures) and had no problems.

One of the concerns raised with MVNOs is that users can sometimes get delays when placing a phone call while the service finds network space – but with Straight Talk, we never experienced any of these issues.

Another question can be coverage. Since Straight Talk uses many of the big 4 networks, they boast of 99.6% coverage in the US. Not too shabby.

straight talk coverage map
Straight Talk coverage map – 99.6% coveage

Other benefits / features

A few of the other noteworthy features we found while researching and testing Straight Talk were:

  • Keep your own phone (Buy their SIM Activation Kit that contains SIMS from the four carriers, and keep the phone you love, keep your number, and stay on the carrier you currently have if you want)
  • Offers the latest iPhone’s and Galaxies (including refurbished options) at the same time the big carriers do
  • Lease to Own program (phone financing) where you can pay a small monthly fee to own the latest devices instead of paying full price upfront. The one thing about this program compared to others is there are no-contracts, so even though you are paying monthly for this phone – if at any point you want to leave Straight Talk – you simply return the phone and are not tied to a contract.
  • Discounts for auto-refills ($5 / 3 months, $15 / 6 months and $45 for 1 year auto-refill)

For me, some of the most attractive benefits of an MVNO is the ability to make changes to my plan whenever I wish (without having to spend an hour or two with a representative), use my own phone (or ability to choose from a variety of options) and avoid contracts / other hassles.

It’s just easy – and there are no gimmicks.

If you are looking to save money on your cell phone, I recommend Straight Talk or other MVNO providers.

Have you had experience with Straight Talk (or another MVNO provider)?

Learn more about Straight Talk

UPDATE 10/2/18 – Get $100 Off on any Galaxy, S7/S8/S8+/S9/S9+ when you purchase with a service plan at StraightTalk.com Ends 10/10

Comparison of Other MVNOs

MVNONetwork UsedPlan Price
(Min. available)
Calls to Mexico & Canada Included in PlanCustomer ServicePlan Friendliness
(Ability to uprade / downgrade at will)
Free Tethering
BoostSprint$35 (Unlimited / 3GB data)$5 extraFair1 month noticeNo
Consumer CellularAT&T, T-Mobile$15 (250 min / no data) AARP members can get 15% discount.International direct dialGoodAnytime-
CricketAT&T$25 (Unlimited Talk / Text Plan)Smart / Pro Plans onlyFair2x per billing cycleNo
Republic WirelessSprint, T-Mobile$15 (Unlimited talk / text), + $5/GBNoFair (Most CS logged to community)2x per billing cycleYes
Straight Talk WirelessAT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint, Verizon$35 (Unlimited text/talk + 2GB)Add-onGoodAnytimeNo
TelloSprint$5 (100 min / Unlimited text)Yes (texts and MMS only)GoodAnytimeYes
TingSprint, T-Mobile$15 (100 min / MB / text. Plans based on what you use). Offers $50 credit upon signupYesGoodOkayYes
TracFoneVerizon Wireless, AT&T, T-Mobile US, Sprint Corporation, and U.S. Cellular$14.25 for auto-renew (200 min / 500 texts / 500mb)NoFairOkayNo
TwigbySprint, Verizon$9.00 (Text + 300min + WiFi only)Yes (and China)GoodYesYes
UNREALSprint$10 (Unlimited text + talk + data - up to 1GB)NoFairYesNo
VisibleVerizon (Visible is not considered a traditional MVNO)$40 (unlimited talk,text and data)NoGoodOnly one plan offeredYes

This post was brought to you by our friends at TracFone. All opinions expressed are our own.

Straight Talk Wireless

Varies
8.1

Dependability

8.5/10

Affordability

8.8/10

Customer Service

6.0/10

Money Saver

9.0/10

Pros

  • No contract
  • Keep your own phone
  • Latest phones
  • Reliable

Cons

  • Higher price than some other MVNOs since data is included

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8 comments

  1. PATTI says:

    Will someone please clearly explain what the Straight Talk phone system consists of? I am researching phones for a elderly lady in a nursing home. She is handicapped and the best type of phone for her is not a CELL PHONE but a regular home phone. The number keys on cell phones (even the largest number keys) are too difficult for her to punch as she has Cerebral Palsy and her hands shake too much. I realize that I probably can program often-used phone numbers in but she would rather have her own regular home phone as that is what she is used to.

    Does Straight Talk come with some kind of “box” that must be set up? Also, does Straight Talk require a telephone jack be in her nursing home room or does it operate like a cell phone?

    I really hope that a knowledgeable person will explain this to me.

    • Aaron says:

      Hi Patti. Straight Talk is a wireless provider – so it may not be a good fit for her. It’s possible that Ooma may be a good fit as it works with a home phone / the internet. You could purchase a large button landline phone and then use it with Ooma. Hope this helps some. Let us know if you need anything else.

  2. Sonixgirl77 says:

    I am 5 year Straight Talk user and I think your review is accurate. While the customer service is sub par, the phones and service plans are very competitive. I am a happy customer.

    Some helpful codes to know which towers a straight talk phone will use can be found on the front of the straight talk boxes (lower left corner): LTE-A uses at&t towers, LTE-V, verizon, CDMA-V, verizon cdma. Just getting started reading 3ThriftyGuys posts and love the reviews and discussions!

  3. Dale Barke says:

    The worst policies and customer service of any wireless service! Tried to change service plans and they said I couldn’t get any credit for the already paid $500 if I changed to one of their other plans, said
    I would forfeit the entire amount if I switched to a monthly plan! Crooks! Thieves!

  4. MK says:

    I have used Straight Talk for the past 4-5 years & I love them. I live in a rural area & tried Verizon and Sprint. I had various issues with both services that I don’t have with ST. I recently shattered the screen of my phone, ordered a new one from ST & activated it thru their website – all without dealing with a rep. It took about 5 minutes to activate. I also went on vacation to northern Minnesota & had great service. My daughter who was with Sprint had spotty service. All for under $40/month.

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