Best Bring Your Own Phone PlansReviewAdvice

Best Bring Your Own Phone Plans

We review the best cheap sim card plans and reveal our top picks

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Best BYOP Plans

With major cell phone carriers charging more and more for length one and two-year contracts, consumers are welcoming the growing no-contract trend. The best bring your own phone plans are often a good cost saving option. Part of what inflates the cost of a contract is the phone that you pay for throughout the length of your agreement.

Bring your own device plans (often called BYOD or BYOP), which allow you to buy a service plan and apply it to a device you already own, are growing in popularity and availability. Bring your own device, along with no-contract service plans, can help you save substantial amounts of money on your monthly cell phone payments. Take a look at some of these providers to see if one looks like a good fit for you.

Bring Your Own Phone Plans: What to Consider

The right service can save you lots of money but the wrong one could put you at a disadvantage that you could regret. When choosing a BYOD plan there are a number of factors to consider, some of which may limit your choices considerably. Here are some things to keep in mind:

  • What kind of phone do you have? Not every bring your own device program is compatible with every device. Check your phones' compatibility with any provider before you purchase a plan.
  • What type of SIM card do you need? Bring your own device plans typically come with a SIM that you put in your phone for service; however, different phones require different SIMs. For instance, the iPhone uses the nanoSIM will others use the larger Micro SIM. Check your SIM before you order.
  • How do you use your cell phone? No-contract BYOD plans offer a range of services and the cheaper plans may limit the amount of data, text and talk you have each month. Cheap plans are perfect for casual users while the mid-range plans are the most cost-effective for moderate to heavy phone users.

Best Bring Your Own Phone Plans

Straight Talk BYOP Review

  • Pros
  • Keep your number and network
  • 24/7 customer service
  • Available at any Walmart
  • Free SIM shipping
  • Compatible with most modern smartphones
  • Cons
  • Slightly more expensive than other options

Straight Talk is one of the most popular alternatives to the big companies and expensive contracts. Their slogan, "the world needs more straight talk" exemplifies their mission to provide access to the best networks without contracts or hidden fees. Their bring your own phone (BYOP) service gives you access to the growing trend of buying service for the phone you already own instead of paying for a new phone over the length of a contract.

When you buy a SIM card or an activation kit, Straight Talk will ship if for free along with installation instructions. Setting up your phone usually only takes a few minutes and activation can take as little as 30 minutes.

Straight talk uses the networks to provide excellent service and in their BYOP program, you carry over your existing phone number and network. So call quality and coverage should be just as good as it is with your big network contract plan.

Their 24/7 customer service allows you to shop, purchase and communicate with Straight Talk via the web or their phone number. You can also purchase plans at any Walmart location.

Verdict - Superb

Straight Talk's BYOP program is definitely a good alternative to high cost contract plans and it is a leader in the newly emerging BYOP industry.

Red Pocket Mobile BYOP Review

  • Pros
  • Compatible with each major network
  • Exclusive plans for specific phones
  • Free shipping for certain SIMs
  • Available at Target and other stores
  • Cons
  • Flagship plans are slightly more expensive than other options

Red Pocket Mobile is contract-free wireless service that offers the option to buy only the SIM card for your unlocked phone. The company offers SIMs compatible with phones of every major network type, which means they are compatible with most popular phones and they have access to the nation's best networks.

Red Pocket offers four different general monthly "Flagship plans" that include everything from a simple unlimited talk and text plan to their Unlimited Everything plan with 3GB of high-speed data. You can also choose plans tailored to your device. For instance, if you have a GSMA plan (using AT&T's network) you can get an exclusive 4GB data plan.

Red Pocket's Flagship plans are competitive but they aren't the cheapest option on the market. However, the fact that they offer specific deals for specific phones means that you could find something ideal for your device.

Red Pocket SIMs and starter kits are available online. Some cards, like the nanoSIM (used in the iPhone 5), are available with free shipping. Some cards even come pre-loaded with one month of service for certain devices. If you'd prefer buying from an in-person retailer, Red Pocket kits are available in Target, Family Dollar and many other retailers across the country.

Verdict - Great

Red Pocket's wide reaching compatibility and access to the top networks makes them a solid choice. However, if finding the cheapest option is your only concern, there are slightly cheaper options with other companies.

GIV Mobile BYOP Review

  • Pros
  • Competitively priced unlimited plan
  • 8% of payment goes to charity
  • Network capable of impressive speeds
  • Cons
  • Not the best nationwide coverage in the industry

GIV Mobile is a no contract mobile provider that does business with a uniquely charitable twist. 8% of each of your monthly payments goes to the charity of your choice. Browse their selection of pre-screened charities to find your favorite and contribute to them every month just by paying your cell phone bill.

A careful cell service shopper will probably wonder if that 8% is simply being covered by an inflated price. However, GIV's unlimited plan is only around $35 per month, which makes it one of the more cost effective options available. The $35 dollar plan's unlimited data only allows for 1GB of high speed 4G LTE, which will run out quickly if you are streaming video or downloading apps. Their $40 and $60 plans give you 2GB and 4GB respectively. They also have a $20 a month plan with "unlimited" data, but this is not ideal for data use as it only allows for 2G speeds (a snail's pace in today's internet).

GIV has a bring your own phone option where you can shop for the SIM card only. They have both Combi Cards and Micro-SIM (used in many latest gen smartphones).

GIV Mobile uses T-Mobiles 4G LTE network, which is not the best in the industry in terms of coverage but offers impressive speeds. Check the coverage in your area before you buy.

Verdict - Very Good

GIV Mobile's unique charity conscious business model and competitive pricing make it worth considering. Bear in mind, however, the $35 dollar per month unlimited plan only allows for 1GB of high speed data.

TextNow BYOP Review

  • Pros
  • One of the cheapest plan option available
  • Uses Sprint's nationwide network
  • Mobile app allows free calls and texts
  • Cons
  • Only compatible with Sprint phones
  • Must use the App to call and text
  • "Tall" plan only ideal for casual phone use

TextNow is a mobile app that you can use to make calls and send texts for free. You can even download it to an iPad or an iPod to send texts and calls via Wi-Fi. TextNow also offers one of the cheapest no contract mobile plans on the market at just $18.99; however, there are some limitations.

TextNow allows you the option to bring your own phone but it is only compatible with Sprint phones that have been on the market for at least a year. This is a serious limitation considering you can only use phones from one carrier and you might not even be able to use the latest phones. Plus, calls and text must be made through the TextNow app instead of your phone's native messaging and phone. However, TextNow does use the Sprint network, which means service should be high quality with nationwide coverage.

The $18.99 "Tall" plan allows for 500 MB of data, 750 rollover minutes and unlimited texting and incoming calls. This is fairly limited compared to other phone plans; however, it may be viable. The phone will always use available Wi-Fi so you can make calls and send texts for free, rather than dipping into your limited data and minutes.

However, if you talk more than you text or if you use a lot of data, you may be better off considering their Grande, Venti or Trenta plans (yes, their plans are the same as Starbucks drink sizes).

Verdict - Good

If you mostly use your phone for texting and if you spend a lot of time on Wi-Fi, this may be a great option for you. However, their BYOP program has strict limitations that may not be ideal for everyone.

FreedomPop BYOP Review

  • Pros
  • Offers a free service plan
  • Uses Sprint's Network
  • Great mobile app
  • Cons
  • Free plan is very limited
  • Only compatible with Sprint phones

FreedomPop's mission is one of the most unique plans of any wireless company. They aim to offer free mobile service to everyone. This relatively new service started in 2012 and aims to offer free mobile service similar to the way Skype, Dropbox and Spotify offer free services in other industries.

FreedomPop's mission is one of the most unique plans of any wireless company. They aim to offer free mobile service to everyone. This relatively new service started in 2012 and aims to offer free mobile service similar to the way Skype, Dropbox and Spotify offer free services in other industries.

FreedomPop allows for a limited BYOD program in which you can bring Sprint phones like he iPhone 5 and the Samsung Galaxy S4 as well as over ten of the other popular smartphones.

The free plan allows for 500MB, 500 Texts, 200 minutes of voice every month. For anyone who spends more than just a little time on your phone away from Wi-Fi these allowances will be used up quickly. However, if you do spend a lot of time in Wi-Fi you can probably get by each month without overages. If you exceed the 500MB of data you will be charged $0.02 per extra MB used.

They also offer paid services including the Basic Plan which gives you 1GB for $10 per month as well as many other plans.

Verdict

FreedomPop offers limited service at a price that is impossible to beat - free. If you are a casual phone user or if you mostly spend time on Wi-Fi, this is definitely a good option to consider. However, if you want to bring your own phone, it has to be a Sprint Device.

Best Bring Your Own Device Plans Recap

Bring your own device plans are a good way to avoid expensive contract plans from big providers. However, it is important to make sure that you are getting a plan that will suit your device and level of use. Compare different providers to see which one is best for you.

Best Bring Your Own Phone Plans FAQs

Who is a BYOP plan designed for?

A bring your own phone (BYOP) plan is really tailored for those who love their phones and want to keep their phone numbers but change their plan. Straight Talk, for example, allows you to keep your phone, number, and network but cut down the cost of your current plan up to 50 percent. You first need determine if you have a GSM phone or CDMA phone.

After establishing that your phone falls in the range of accepted devices, you'll need to purchase a SIM card that is compatible with your carrier and select your service bundle. From there, you'll follow the step-by-step guide to activate your SIM then update your settings. The process is relatively simple compared to other types of plans that require you to change phone numbers and purchase new phones when switching. For each BYOP provider, the list of compatible devices may vary so it's important to check that factor before deciding.

What do CDMA and GSM stand for?

CDMA stands for "code division multiple access" and basically means that these use a network-based list to identify whose device it belongs to. Some carriers that use these systems on their 3G networks include Verizon and Sprint. GSM stands for "global system for mobiles" and uses a SIM card (unlike CDMA) to identify the owner of the device. AT&T and T-Mobile both use this system on their networks.

You can determine if your phone is a CDMA or GSM by looking underneath the phones battery, behind the rear cover. Phones that have a SIM card slot are considered GSM. Another acronym used frequently is MEID number and is the mobile equipment identifier number. This 11 or 8-digit number is used mostly by CDMA carriers. A BYOP carrier may be able to help you identify whether your particular device falls under CDMA or GSM. It's important to have this information in order to purchase the right type of SIM card for the BYOP plan.

What are the benefits of BYOP?

There are many benefits to a bring your own phone plan, compared to the traditional route. When you sign a two or three year contract with one of the major carriers, they sell you a phone that is significantly reduced, sometimes by hundreds of dollars. After that point, you're basically on the hook with that company until your contract expires, and should you choose to leave they'll typically enforce additional fees.

The beauty of a BYOP is that you don't need to purchase a new cell phone that's exclusive to the carrier so your monthly and annual rates are significantly lower. With a bring your own phone plan you can change your monthly usage, change phones without penalty fees, and leave when you choose. This type of plan works for a range of customers including those who want freedom, flexibility and savings. A range of phones are compatible with many BYOP plans and there's no need to wait for any more "contract upgrade" periods before you can change phones.

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@bill I just ordered the SIM card for a BYOD... I am skeptical. Of course, when I originally called to order the ATT sim card, the lady told me it would not work and I HAD to buy a $189 phone. After, I did some more research 1. the phone was only 129.99 and 2. I COULD buy the SIM card for my unlocked ATT phone. (or i hope its unlocked... I have not used it for 2 years) SO, after 2 hours of holding, emailing and being transferred, the $189 phone is cancelled and the SIM card is on the way. FINGERS CROSSED

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@Bill Had plan for 4months. they gave me introductory 2mo offer of 1/2 price then regular pricing after that. Roughly $10 per gb data with txt and calls . Have no complaints about service, clear signal, quick txt, English speaking Customer Service Reps very helpful. After signing up i found out that they don't offer hot spot for your cell. Left plan for that reason.

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In order for MoneySavingPro to remain a consumer free service, many of the companies covered in our industry reviews compensate MoneySavingPro for new sign ups.

However, the results of our comparison tools, the rankings of the providers and the information presented is not affected by compensation. Indeed, many of these companies approach us for an advertising partnership after we have already written a published their reviews.

While we try to research and review as many providers as possible in the 100+ industries we cover, we have not reviewed every company available.

Our rating system is independent of compensation and reflects our true understanding of the industry and the company based on a variety of factors. The companies that receive the highest rating will always be the providers that we believe offer the best value to the consumer.

Advertiser Disclosure

In order for MoneySavingPro to remain a consumer free service, many of the companies covered in our industry reviews compensate MoneySavingPro for new sign ups.

However, the results of our comparison tools, the rankings of the providers and the information presented is not affected by compensation. Indeed, many of these companies approach us for an advertising partnership after we have already written a published their reviews.

While we try to research and review as many providers as possible in the 100+ industries we cover, we have not reviewed every company available.

Our rating system is independent of compensation and reflects our true understanding of the industry and the company based on a variety of factors. The companies that receive the highest rating will always be the providers that we believe offer the best value to the consumer.