Hands-On with Mint SIM

Hands-On with Mint SIM

I signed up for the low-cost wireless carrier Mint SIM this week. This is an option you should be aware of.

I recently discussed my need for inexpensive secondary cellular lines for the smartphones that I test in Exploring Alternate Wireless Plans (Premium).

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But if you’re not a Premium member, no worries: The short version is that I am trying to find cheap, pay-as-you go SIMs. But in researching this, I found that there were some very inexpensive options. Some of which looked like they might even make sense as a replacement for a primary wireless account at one of the big carriers like Verizon or AT&T Wireless.

Which is why I’m writing about this now. (As an aside, I am working on a theory that the bigger make the most sense for families, because you can save a lot with multiple users. But most of the big carriers are expensive for individuals, with starter plans in the ~$65 range, including fees/taxes.)

Mint SIM is one such option. And while there are absolutely some questions and doubts, just take a gander at this pricing chart first.

The cheapest plan provides unlimited talk and text, plus 2 GB of LTE data, for just $15 per month. That’s about $50 less than the big carriers. (Give or take.)

But if you buy three months of coverage up-front, right now, you get three more months for free. That means that you will pay about $7.50 (before taxes) per month for the next six months of service. Or a total of $45 (before taxes).

Yikes. That is incredible. That is, in fact, less than you’d pay for one month at a big carrier.

Mint SIM’s other pricing tiers are likewise incredible, and if 2 GB of data isn’t enough, you could choose between 5 GB and 10 GB monthly data options and still get the buy 3/get 3 months free deal.

OK. So I assume that I have your attention now.

If not, consider this: At Google Project Fi, which I love, I would pay $40 (plus taxes) for the same plan (though I would save some money if I didn’t actually use the 2 GB of data); the very cheapest that Google Fi could be in a given month is $20 (plus taxes), but that assumes no data usage at all. Mint SIM is normally $15, but it’s $7.50 for the first six months now.


OK, now really will assume that I have your attention. And that if you’re still here—e.g. you are not just paying Mint SIM that incredibly low sum right now—that you are wondering what the catch is.

Surely, there is a catch.

And there may be. Depending on your situation. Here are a few things to know, and it’s possible that one or more of these details might make Mint SIM a non-starter for you.

Mint SIM uses T-Mobile. If T-Mobile works well where you live, and where you travel, Mint SIM will as well: They’re using T-Mobile’s network. And only T-Mobile.

You need to bring your own unlocked phone. These prices assume that you are coming to Mint SIM from another carrier with your own phone. That phone will need to be unlocked, and it will need to work with GSM networking technology generally. For the best results, it needs to support T-Mobile’s network bands explicitly. You can check compatibility here.

There is no support for visual voicemail. iPhone users (and others, I think) should know that Mint SIM does not support visual voicemail: You’ll be going back to the old-fashioned way of calling voice mail and navigating through menus. (I don’t think this is horrible, frankly, but you may receive more voicemail than I do.)

You will need to do a few minutes of manual configuration, once. As explained in Mint SIM’s FAQ page, you will need to make some manual configuration additions in Settings so that group messages and media messaging work over Mint SIM. This is not difficult to do, it only takes a few minutes, and you’ll only do it once.

If you exceed your data cap, your data speeds will fall through the floor. Mint SIM drops you to 2G speeds at that point. But you can also buy data add-ons at reasonable prices: 1 GB of additional data is $10, the same price I pay at Project Fi.

International usage is tricky. Mint SIM lets you buy blocks of credit for international talk and text ($5 to $20) and charges OK rates. But there is no international data at all. This makes it less compelling to me. But I could also just use Mint SIM in the U.S. and then enable Project Fi when I’m abroad. I’m thinking about it.

Tethering works fine, but it’s not officially supported. What this means is that you can’t call or chat with Mint SIM to troubleshoot problems if they happen. It’s working fine on my iPhone.

My Mint SIM, um, SIM arrived on Saturday, and I quickly got up and running on my iPhone X: Like other SIMs, it’s a nano SIM inside of punchouts for larger SIM sizes, so it should work fine with any modern smartphone. As noted, you will need to configure a few things in Settings. Everything worked fine, immediately.

To test Mint SIM, I made phone calls and sent texts to my primary phone, a Google Pixel 2 XL that is running on Project Fi. And did so from a few locations around town, though that is admittedly not a great test of T-Mobile or connectivity in general. According to Mint SIM’s coverage map, this service should work fine everywhere around me where I live, and everywhere I’ve traveled domestically over the past few years. I’m curious what happens when there’s no coverage, however: I suspect you just can’t make phone calls or send text messages.

I also accessed the cellular data around town and consistently got LTE with three or four bars of signal. (Four being the highest.) Actually, it says I have two bars at home as I write this, but Mint SIM does support Wi-Fi calling if your phone does (as the iPhone and Pixel 2 XL both do).

Finally, as noted, I also enabled tethering and browsed the web briefly from a PC. This worked fine, as expected.

Anyway, I’m sure someone can poke further holes in this deal, but I wanted to get it in front of everyone because it does seem like an exceptional service. And a potential answer to those high prices that many of us pay for wireless coverage. It’s worth researching.

Thanks to everyone who mentioned Mint SIM in the comments to that Exploring Alternate Wireless Plans (Premium) article. I had never even heard of this service until last week.


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Conversation 25 comments

  • Yaggs

    18 December, 2017 - 9:51 am

    <p>We have been on Mint since they announced that deal on Black Friday and the service has been great. We were on a T-Mobile plan previously so the coverage is basically the same for us. </p><p><br></p><p>We moved our phone numbers to Google Voice and have Google Voice ringing our new Mint sim #s… this gets around the visual voicemail issue because Google Voice transcribes and emails your voice mail (which I prefer over visual voicemail anyway).</p><p><br></p><p>But having paid off phones (no contract) and Google Voice in charge of our phone #s has really put us in the drivers seat… we have 5 lines on Mint and they are paid for 6 months… if a better deal comes around when those 6 months are over we have the freedom and flexibility to move to a different carrier without worrying about transferring #s, etc… </p>

    • Paul Thurrott

      Premium Member
      18 December, 2017 - 10:58 am

      <blockquote><a href="#228638"><em>In reply to Yaggs:</em></a></blockquote><p>Nice. Will look into that.</p>

      • Yaggs

        18 December, 2017 - 2:31 pm

        <blockquote><a href="#228664"><em>In reply to paul-thurrott:</em></a> And my wife also has some kind of forward setup that a normal Mint # forwards to a different GV # to answer for voicemail. We had to do that with a kid who had a previous good GV # and didn't want to replace it with the ported #… so you don't have to give up an existing GV# if you just port your # to Mint.</blockquote><p><br></p>

    • toshdellapenna

      18 December, 2017 - 1:48 pm

      <blockquote><a href="#228638"><em>In reply to Yaggs:</em></a></blockquote><p>I ported my long time mobile number to GV nearly 2 years ago after having used the service as a handout number from day 1. I have sung it's praises since and even ported over one of my kids lines. However I've been looking for a replacement for GV, (Skype for consumers still doesn't offer inbound porting) as I'm winding down my usage of Google services. But I still recommend GV to anyone as it basically gives you the key to the configuration kingdom. I have mine configured to forward all calls to my Skype line and all sms are forwarded to outlook and dropped in a folder labled "sms". On my phone I apply the native sms ringtone to the custom folder to give it that native feel. While not idea for everyone, this flexibility doesn't tie me to any one device. It's pretty cool.</p>

  • Scott Ross

    Premium Member
    18 December, 2017 - 10:21 am

    <p>Just wondering how is the actual T-Mobile/MINT Service in the Lehigh Valley, I have had ATT, Sprint and Verzion in the area, I never tried T-Mobile. Mint sounds interesting, I'm not just sold on T-Mobile coverage</p>

    • Paul Thurrott

      Premium Member
      18 December, 2017 - 10:58 am

      <blockquote><a href="#228643"><em>In reply to SRRLX1986:</em></a></blockquote><p>I haven't gone too far with yet—Emmaus area, basically—but so far so good.</p>

    • Yaggs

      18 December, 2017 - 11:24 am

      <blockquote><a href="#228643"><em>In reply to SRRLX1986:</em></a> I live down near Quakertown but go up to the Lehigh Valley for work all the time and pretty much all around the tri-state area… had T-Mo for about 4 years… can't remember a time when I had no service. There were areas where the data speed would drop to H+ but generally it has been fine. Now I know there are plenty of rural areas in the Lehigh Valley so if you get too far off the beaten path your experience will likely vary.</blockquote><p><br></p>

    • dancfuller

      Premium Member
      18 December, 2017 - 1:01 pm

      <blockquote><a href="#228643"><em>In reply to SRRLX1986:</em></a></blockquote><p>I live in Washington state, but I spend a fair amount of time at my parents' in Allentown and making trips to Easton, Emmaus, Bethlehem, Whitehall, throughout the Macungies, you name it, and T-mobile's network was great. It was super fast everywhere I was. I've also made trips where I wasn't sure I'd have the best results (Downingtown, West Chester, Lansdale, etc.), and the service was still solid. I did find that it would be spotty on the way to those areas. (think of the stretch of 476 between Lansdale and Mid-County). AT&amp;T's network is strong the entire time. T-mobile's was spotty (quick to switch to 3G) in transit, but fine once I got there.</p><p><br></p><p>(past tense because I'm currently on Cricket/AT&amp;T due to T-mobile coverage issues in Washington, so this is a couple years old info, and perhaps T-mobile has done additional work in eastern PA…)</p>

  • captobie

    18 December, 2017 - 10:27 am

    <p>I've used MintSIM for my second phone for about a year now. There really aren't many downsides to it, the main one is that customer service isn't very good. If you have a problem, it may take awhile to get it straightened out. Fortunately, I only had a problem once, trying to port in a number when I signed up. It took about a week to get things straightened out. Since then the service has worked very well. It's a great value.</p>

    • JCerna

      Premium Member
      18 December, 2017 - 11:37 am

      <blockquote><a href="#228645"><em>In reply to captobie:</em></a></blockquote><p>I would not call that a problem, I port numbers all the time and some ate instant others can take weeks. There is no reason other than your old carrier verification process. Mint is good but for me the beat deal in town is 4 lines $25 each in metro, same service. If you don't use much data than for sure mint is the way to go.</p>

  • dcdevito

    18 December, 2017 - 11:19 am

    <p>I have two lines on Straight Talk. My wife's line is $45/mo for 10GB of data, mine is $55 for unlimited. She's on Verizon and I'm on AT&amp;T. Been using ST for 5 years now never going back. Best value around IMO, for folks like us in mid-state NY that need solid coverage so Mint unfortunately is out for us. </p>

  • ldsands

    18 December, 2017 - 12:27 pm

    <p>Hey Paul:</p><p><br></p><p>This does not use T-Mobile's network completely there is a gap inbetween T-Mobile's normal service and what they resell to MVNOs I discovered this when I moved to Iowa (except around Des Moines). They do have T-Mobile coverage here and it works really well but NONE of the the MVNOs that run on T-Mobiles network run out here. I have no idea why this is but I think you should let people know that not everywhere that T-Mobile works will Mint sim work.</p><p><br></p><p>To make it easy to compare: https://www.mintsim.com/coverage/</p><p>https://www.t-mobile.com/coverage/coverage-map?icid=WMM_TMNG_Q317NETWOR_U93HOR6MPAX9955</p&gt;

    • Sprtfan

      18 December, 2017 - 2:05 pm

      <blockquote><a href="#228692"><em>In reply to ldsands:</em></a></blockquote><p>I'm in Iowa and I'm guessing that T-Mobile can use iWireless for coverage but MVNOs that run off T-Mobile can't. </p><p>Lack of T-Mobile in Iowa also is what is keeping me from using Project Fi. I have great coverage between US Cellular and Sprint, but can't activate or move a number to Fi because I don't have T-Mobile coverage in my area. </p>

      • ldsands

        18 December, 2017 - 3:11 pm

        <blockquote><a href="#228732"><em>In reply to Sprtfan:</em></a></blockquote><p>I found out the hard way (had issues getting voicemails) about I Wireless as I was on T-Mobile proper when I moved here but there are many other areas as well that show coverage in T-Mobiles map that are not covered by the MVNOs that are on T-Mobiles Network it's not just Iowa, Nebraska Wyoming are two obvious places to look to see the difference.</p>

        • Daniel

          18 December, 2017 - 6:41 pm

          <blockquote><a href="#228785"><em>In reply to ldsands:</em></a></blockquote><p>You can add parts of AZ to that as well.</p>

  • fraXis

    Premium Member
    18 December, 2017 - 12:55 pm

    <p>Thanks for the review Paul. I have been thinking about getting a Mint sim for my Note 8.</p><p><br></p><p><br></p>

  • unitedtaps

    18 December, 2017 - 1:30 pm

    <p>I've been using Mint Sim for over 2 months and it works very well. Occasionally a text doesn't go through but my messaging app notifies me right away it didn't go through and I just tap the message to try sending it again and it then goes through. This only happens for about 2% of texts for me. Overall it's good. Not great, but a definite good. However at $15 a month (I just bought a full years worth) good is more than good enough.</p>

  • Sprtfan

    18 December, 2017 - 2:09 pm

    <p>Sprint has a free year of service promotion going right now if you bring your own phone. Unlimited data, text and talk. Hard to beat if you have Sprint coverage where you need it. I signed my daughter up for it and was painless and has worked great so far.</p><p>https://www.cnet.com/news/sprints-free-year-of-unlimited-data-whats-the-catch/</p&gt;

  • Glenn

    18 December, 2017 - 2:43 pm

    <p>Any info on Windows phone working on Mint? I have 2 HP Elite x3 on Cricket and am always looking for other options. I also have not been able to tether on Cricket.</p>

  • Upperkace

    18 December, 2017 - 9:37 pm

    <p>I have just renewed my service after 6 months. I've been extremely happy. My set up is a little more involved but I have a Google voice number that I just use for calls and texts. I changed my number to get the current promo 10GB/6Mos $75, I get that doesn't work for everyone.</p><p><br></p><p>The quality of service depends on the phone as well. I used a N6p and now Essential PH-1. If you have a phone with all the "bands" it's great. </p><p><br></p><p>Once it's configured and activated you can log in on the web my.mintsim.com and enable wifi text/calling. I use Wifi hotspot with my car all the time, no problem.</p><p><br></p><p>If you just need solid data, no frills, don't mind having a phantom number (that does tend to get a lot of Vacation rental calls, just send all calls to voicemail and don't give out that number) MintSim it the best going. I use my Google voice number and Hangouts for most evening else.</p><p><br></p><p>I asked before purchasing the latest card about required activation window, I wanted to bank on the sale. I was told 45 days, so that spoiled that idea, but when I got the sim it said activate by 08/08/2020! I'm buying more before the end of the promo. 10GB Mo @ $150 a Year, like $13 a Month! Shoot, I may bank the next few years out. #gdgtbehr</p>

  • KitsunePaws

    18 December, 2017 - 10:13 pm

    <p>I just got back from the Philippines, with a layover in Hong Kong. It's true it doesn't have data but I was still able to make and receive texts and calls if I had enough international credit. It's true that data didn't work but it was easy enough to put a second prepaid sim in my device and have my mobile use that for data while retaining my ability to text from my stateside number. I couldn't figure out what number to call for voicemail though.</p>

  • seapea

    19 December, 2017 - 8:51 pm

    <p>Wondering if TING is in the list of carriers to try.</p><p><br></p>

  • rmlounsbury

    Premium Member
    21 December, 2017 - 2:53 pm

    <p>I might seriously consider this next year while I'll double check all my accounts and services to determine if I need cut or change anything. I got onto T-Mobile's 2 lines for $100 unlimited all the things. Of course that pencils out to $1200 a year for unlimited service. While I am a massive data hog that can routinely hit 12-15GB a month (mostly because I'm fairly cavalier about my usage) I can get that under control and make the 10GB plan work. My wife rarely exceeds 5GB. Jumping to Mint SIM would save us $660 a year and that isn't insignificant!</p><p><br></p><p>The only real drawback is losing T-Mobile's excellent Jump on Demand allowing me to swap phones whenever I want at little or no cost aside from the monthly payment. That and my aforementioned excessive data usage. But I can easily get off the upgrade treadmill and save even more money there as well. </p><p><br></p><p>This seems like a really good idea to me. I may need to pickup a SIM for a trial and see how well it works. </p>

  • fmaresca

    22 December, 2017 - 11:25 am

    <p>There is a way, using Google Voice, where you can add the functionality of visual voice mail. Just ensure you have a Google Voice account and an assigned phone number. Since Mint Sim is on T-Mobile you can use the conditional call forwarding (when busy) code of **67*xxxxxxxxxx# (where the 'xxxxxxxxxx' represents the google voice number). Install the Google Voice app to your smartphone and you will get a notification (the actual message, a transcription of the message can also be delivered via SMS and/or email). You can read more about the T-Mobile call forwarding codes and how to activate and deactivate here: at support.t-mobile.com/docs/DOC-4041</p>

  • Hooks1224

    01 January, 2018 - 10:19 am

    <p>I know the article says “<span style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0);">Mint SIM does support Wi-Fi calling if your phone does” but can anyone please confirm this? On mints website it says the iPhone does not support wifi calling but other phones do. The author (Paul) has an iPhone X but i dont think he actually tested out wifi calling on his iphone. </span></p><p><br></p><p><span style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0);">So if anyone currently has Mint and any iphone, could you please test out wifi calling to see if it works? Thanks!</span></p>

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