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.)
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.
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)?
Comparison of Other MVNOs
|MVNO||Network Used||Plan Price|
|Calls to Mexico & Canada Included in Plan||Customer Service||Plan Friendliness|
(Ability to uprade / downgrade at will)
|Boost||Sprint||$35 (Unlimited / 3GB data)||$5 extra||Fair||1 month notice||No|
|Consumer Cellular||AT&T, T-Mobile||$15 (250 min / no data) AARP members can get 15% discount.||International direct dial||Good||Anytime||-|
|Cricket||AT&T||$25 (Unlimited Talk / Text Plan)||Smart / Pro Plans only||Fair||2x per billing cycle||No|
|Gen Mobile||Sprint||$5 (Unlimited text)||Yes (over 101 countries)||Good||Yes||Yes|
|Republic Wireless||Sprint, T-Mobile||$15 (Unlimited talk / text), + $5/GB||No||Fair (Most CS logged to community)||2x per billing cycle||Yes|
|Straight Talk Wireless||AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint, Verizon||$35 (Unlimited text/talk + 2GB)||Add-on||Good||Anytime||No|
|Tello||Sprint||$5 (100 min / Unlimited text)||Yes (texts and MMS only)||Good||Anytime||Yes|
|Ting||Sprint, T-Mobile||$15 (100 min / MB / text. Plans based on what you use). Offers $50 credit upon signup||Yes||Good||Okay||Yes|
|TracFone||Verizon Wireless, AT&T, T-Mobile US, Sprint Corporation, and U.S. Cellular||$14.25 for auto-renew (200 min / 500 texts / 500mb)||No||Fair||Okay||No|
|Twigby||Sprint, Verizon||$9.00 (Text + 300min + WiFi only)||Yes (and China)||Good||Yes||Yes|
|UNREAL||Sprint||$10 (Unlimited text + talk + data - up to 1GB)||No||Fair||Yes||No|
|Visible||Verizon (Visible is not considered a traditional MVNO)||$40 (unlimited talk,text and data)||No||Good||Only one plan offered||Yes|
This post was brought to you by our friends at TracFone. All opinions expressed are our own.