The best bring your own phone plans are often a good cost-saving option. After all, part of what inflates the cost of a contract is the phone that you pay for throughout the length of your agreement.
In my research, I made sure that cost, network quality, and compatibility were at the top of my list. Many of the monthly plans I found appealed to people with different personal device habits. Check out which plan best suits your needs.
Our Top Picks
- Monthly Price: $45-60
- SIM Card: $Free
- Activation Fee: Free
- Talk & Text: Unlimited
- Data: 5-10GB
Straight Talk Bring Your Own Phone
- Keep your number and network
- 24/7 customer service
- Available at any Walmart
- Free SIM shipping
- Compatible with most modern smartphones
- Slightly more expensive than other options
Straight Talk is one of the most popular alternatives to the big companies and expensive contracts. Its slogan, "the world needs more straight talk" exemplifies its mission to provide access to the best networks without contracts or hidden fees. The Straight Talk BYOP service gives you access to the growing trend of buying service for the phone you already own instead of paying for new mobile devices over the length of a contract.
The Straight Talk service uses multiple networks to provide excellent service, and in their BYOD program, you're able to 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.
Its 24/7 customer service allows you to shop, purchase and communicate with Straight Talk via the web or its phone number. You can also purchase plans at any Walmart location. Straight Talk service's BYOP program is definitely a good alternative to high-cost contract plans and is a leader in the newly emerging BYOP industry.
- Monthly Price: $70-85
- SIM Card: $20
- Activation Fee: Free
- Talk & Text: Unlimited
- Data: Unlimited
T-Mobile Bring Your Own Phone
- Nationwide LTE coverage with no commitment
- No overage fees
- No annual service contract
- Keep your current phone number
- Unused data rolls over to the next month
- Rural coverage is less-than-desirable
- Anything other free shipping is expensive
- SIM Card is extremely expensive without a promo code
The T-Mobile network is perfectly suitable for a BYOD program.
One of the most attractive plans happens to be the T-Mobile One unlimited plan, which offers unlimited talk, text, 4G LTE data, streaming video and music, as well as travel abroad and GOGO - all for a reasonable price.
Then again, you can always go with a simple prepaid unlimited talk and text plan which is a little cheaper. This isn't including the $5 discount you'll receive if you sign up for the provider's auto-pay service.
Compared to services like Verizon, T-Mobile offers plans at very good deals (even the T-Mobile unlimited plan is enticing), but it needs to stay competitive in order to overcome its main downfall - little rural support.
In rural areas, T-Mobile network's service is downright abysmal. T-Mobile coverage, while constantly improving, focalizes on urban areas. So while the T-Mobile coverage is lacking rural areas, the service offers very good plans at very reasonable prices for those interested in bringing in their own phones.
- Monthly Price: $55-110
- SIM Card: $20
- Activation Fee: Free
- Talk & Text: Unlimited
- Data: 2-18GB
Verizon Bring Your Own Phone
- Free SIM card if you currently have service with Verizon
- Carry over data (only available on the new Verizon plan)
- Limited-time incentives
- Strong customer service
- You can keep your phone number
- You're paying for quality (though you may be able to receive an employee or organization discount)
- No unlimited data plan
To utilize Verizon's BYOD service, you'll first need a device (either unlocked or not unlocked) that is eligible with Verizon Wireless. If the device is compatible with the service, then it will be able to be equipped with a prepay plan or a post-pay plan (with the exception of Windows Mobile and most Push to Talk devices).
Like T-Mobile, you may also transfer your current mobile number to Verizon. But to fully activate an eligible Verizon Wireless phone, you need to either visit VerizonWireless.com/activate or dial *22898 from the phone you want to activate.
Unfortunately, it's highly unlikely that you'll be able to use Verizon's SIM card on another provider's device. You'll more than likely have to obtain a new SIM card with that particular carrier.
Beyond the BYOP options, Verizon's coverage is quite broad and, for the most part, particularly strong, featuring high LTE speeds. For all the bells and whistles, as well as the extensive coverage, Verizon offers, the monthly charges are pretty costly. A phone bill could run high, even with an employee or school discount, but when it comes to Verizon, you're certainly paying for quality.
What Does Bring Your Own Phone Mean?
Bring your own phone plans allow you to buy a service plan and apply it to a device you already own. The BYOD trend is captured by most providers who realize that a BYOD strategy is important in retaining and acquiring new customers. This BYOD trend is constantly growing due to the expenses of phones and because people like to keep their phone and information for just a little while longer. Wireless carriers deploy a BYOD strategy with this knowledge, offering incentives within their BYOP program.
The bring your own device system, along with no-contract 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.
What Does BYOD Mean?
BYOD stands for Bring Your Own Device. It's synonymous with BYOP, which stands for Bring Your Own Phone.
Not only is it a way for cell carriers to persuade customers into building a relationship with them, but it's also a great way for customers to save money.
Key Considerations When Choosing a BYOP Plan
Compare BYOP Plans
There are a number of factors to consider when choosing a bring your own phone plan. Be aware, because some factors may limit your choices considerably. Here are some things to keep in mind:
1. What kind of phone do you have?
Not every bring your own device program is compatible with every electronic device. Be sure to check the compatibility of your smartphone and tablet, as well as the BYOD policy, with a provider before you purchase a service plan. If you don't review the BYOD policy, you may be stuck simply buying a compatible phone. For example, some providers will accept the Samsung Galaxy Note 5, whereas others will refuse it.
2. 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 while others use the larger Micro SIM, so be sure to check your SIM card before you order.
3. How do you use your cell phone?
No-contract BYOD phone plans offer a range of services and the cheaper plans may limit the amount of data, talk, and text 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. You can compare all cheap cell phone plans with our handy tool.
"The right service can save you lots of money, but the wrong one could place you at a disadvantage that you might very well regret."
What are the Benefits of a BYOP Plan?
Like all services out there, BYOP plans typically come with a set of pros and cons. So how about we look into them?
1. You'll Save Money
This is the major motivating factor here. There are a few ways to obtain a phone from a carrier: you can buy the phone directly from the carrier at full price, pay a monthly financing fee for the phone (which is normally tacked onto your phone bill), or you can take part in a provider's promotion. While the final option is your best bet when it comes to owning a glorious smartphone, the price still may be a deterrent.
Phone bills, unfortunately, also continue to rise. According to CBS Moneywatch, in 2014, Americans spent 50% more on mobile service than they did in 2007. Taxes are up, activation fees are higher, and unlimited plans are fewer in number. What you can do to fight against these rising costs is to use your current phone when you switch plans and/or services.
If you already own a good phone and are in no mood to upgrade, then you'll be pleased to know that, with the bring your own phone program, you'll be saving on phone fees. Let's say that by bringing in your own phone, you will save up to $20 a month in fees. Those fees add up! After a full year, you'll be saving $120, which could be spent on a night or two at the movies or a nice meal.
2. You'll Establish a Bond With Your Carrier Sooner
Sometimes people simply cannot give up their phones. They love the features the phone offers and aren't too keen on adopting the next iteration of a smartphone series. As a result, customers may not approach carriers who do not offer Bring Your Own Phone plans. This is a great start for a beautiful relationship between the carrier and the customer.
3. It's Better for the Environment
The environment is already going through enough, and tossing perfectly good phones to the landfills isn't exactly environmentally friendly. It was reported in 2015 that while around 70% of cell phones could be reused, only between 14 and 17% of cell phones are recycled every year. Furthermore, the EPA estimated that more than 135 million cell phones were trashed in 2010.
The Bring Your Own Phone plan ensures that your phone continues to see usage. Then again, it is with great hope that when a phone is traded into a carrier after it is no longer wanted, the carrier will either recycle the phone, refurbish it, or even send it to a charity or cause. Some websites will even buy your old phone and recycle it for you. Not many do, but we've compiled a list of great sites you can use to sell your old phone.
4. You'll Sometimes Receive Added Bonuses
This is rare, but it does happen. Sometimes, there are additional incentives for those who bring in their own phones. For instance, with the Lifeline SafeLink program, brought to you by SafeLink Wireless, if you use your own phone, you can get bonus free service. Depending upon your ZIP code and eligibility, SafeLink Wireless can provide you with fantastic service at no cost. As an example, in one ZIP code, SafeLink's free service includes 350 free monthly minutes, a free SIM Card, and 1GB per month of free data for the first three months of service and 500MB per month after.
Of course, there are other wireless carriers with a lifeline program that may include incentives involved with bringing your own phone. To read more about the FCC's lifeline program, please refer to this article.
However, if your phone isn't compatible with the BYOP service, then can always receive a SafeLink phone free of charge. However, the SafeLink phone models will be based on availability and may vary depending on the inventory.
5. Keep Your Apps and Contacts Without Transferring
It can be a time-consuming chore to re-download all your favorite apps and import your contacts to a new phone. According to the Pew Research Internet Project, the average American has a whopping 634 ties in their overall network.
The average cell phone user has a whopping 664 ties. Imagine having to backup and import all of those contacts to a new phone. So when you bring your own device to a provider, you won't have to worry about doing any of that. You'll be able to use your phone on a new network with ease.
6. There Are No Strings Attached
Freedom is a major benefit for those in search of flexibility. Though a lot of cellular providers no longer offer contracts, you could very well be attached to the provider if you purchase a phone through them and do not have the phone paid off. If you bring your own phone, you'll be able to experience the freedom you completely deserve.
What You Won't Get with BYOP Plans
1. You Won't Have the Newest Phone
You'll miss out on the latest smartphone and tablet selection if you're still stuck with your old device. Again, if your phone is reliable, then it's certainly not a big deal to keep your trusty personal device at your side.
2. You May Not be Considered Top Priority
Normally, BYOP plans are limited to no-contract plans. With that in mind, you may not always be considered the top priority for a network or a coverage zone. Then again, the limit depends on the carrier. Furthermore, people who rely on BYOP plans are also likely to receive second-rate customer service. Again, this is dependent on the carrier.
How to Activate a Phone on a BYOP Plan
- You must first verify that your phone is unlocked. If you don't, make sure to unlock your phone with your current carrier or buy an unlocked phone. For more information, you can always read our guide on how to unlock phones. Fortunately, it's completely legal nowadays to unlock phones.
- You then bring in a phone that is compatible with the carrier you're either switching to or currently with.
- Typically, you then buy an activation kit, which would include the carrier's BYOP SIM card, and select a service for your phone.
- Finally, you activate the phone with the service you have chosen with the carrier.
Searching for the best BYOP plans offered by the mobile phone industry is no simple task. Many wireless carriers out there now offer the option of BYOP, which is highly convenient for the customer. So how did I compile this list? Well, here's what I did:
- First I looked at the major providers. Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile all offer plans or programs that support BYOD.
- I made a list of cellular providers that offered the BYOP plan. Some of the contenders included the popular MVNOs such as Straight Talk, Boost Mobile, H2O Wireless, MetroPCS, Net10, Ting, TracFone Wireless, Republic Wireless, and Virgin Mobile.
- Next, I assessed the competitors with a primary focus on the BYOP plan. How simple is the activation of an unlocked electronic device? What's the price of a BYOP SIM card kit required to activate the device? What phones are compatible with the service? These factors affect the listings greatly. That being said, there was also emphasis placed on the provider's service. What was the quality of the service? How is the customer service? What is the range of service? The pricing? These all play a hefty role in what providers were eventually eliminated. Some carriers, such as Republic Wireless, TracFone Wireless, and Virgin Mobile, are known for their incredibly affordable plans.
- Finally, the top five providers were reorganized and rated, utilizing the aforementioned factors.
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.
You should always take the time to compare and review providers with bring your own phone plans. That being said, if you are looking for more perks, added bonuses, and the latest phones, you should consider a different cell phone plan. We've done the hard work for you, so you can compare cell phone plans side-by-side with our handy tool.
A BYOP plan is a great how to save money and reduce your monthly costs. For more money-saving tips, you can read our guide on how to lower your cell phone bill.