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Best Bring Your Own Phone Plans for 2017

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

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Best BYOP Plans

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 plans I found appealed to people with different cell phone habits. Check out which plan best suits your needs.

Bring Your Own Phone Plans

Best Bring Your Own Phone Plans

  1. Straight Talk
  2. T-Mobile
  3. Verizon Wireless
  4. AT&T
  5. Cricket

Bring your own phone plans allow you to buy a service plan and apply it to a device you already own. They are rapidly 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.

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.

Best BYOP Plans: What to Consider

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 device. Check your phone's compatibility with a provider before you purchase a plan.

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. Check your SIM 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.

"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."

Bring Your Own Phone Plans

Carrier Data Monthly Price
5GB $45-60
Unlimited $70-85
2-18GB $55-110
3-10GB $60-100
8GB-Unlimited $45-65

BYOP Plans - The Benefits

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 data 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 one carrier in particular, claims 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 allows a phone to continue to be used, instead of be thrown away. Then again, it is with great hope that when a phone is traded in to 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.

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.

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 with 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.

BYOP Plans - What You Won't Get

1. You Won't Have the Newest Phone

You'll miss out on the newest phones if you're still stuck with your old phone. Again, if your phone is reliable, then it's certainly not a big deal to keep your trusty mobile phone 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 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.

The Best Bring Your Own Phone Plans

1st
Talk & Text Unlimited
Data 5GB
Activation Fee Free
SIM Card Free
Monthly Price $45-60

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. Fortunately, the price of a SIM card kit runs as low as $0.99, which is much cheaper compared to several other providers. Setting up your phone usually only takes a few minutes, whereas activation can take as little as 30 minutes.

Straight Talk uses multiple networks to provide excellent service, and in their BYOP 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.

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

2nd
Talk & Text Unlimited
Data Unlimited
Activation Fee Free
SIM Card $20
Monthly Price $70-85

T-Mobile BYOP Review

  • Pros
  • 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
  • Cons
  • Rural coverage is less-than-desirable
  • Anything other free shipping is expensive
  • SIM Card is extremely expensive without a promo code

T-Mobile is quite the friendly service when it comes to BYOP, offering the ability to transfer your phone to its service without contract. In fact, the task is easy to do. All you need to do is perform the following:

  1. Acquire a T-Mobile 3-in-1 SIM Starter Kit, which is compatible with all GSM phones, or the T-Mobile 3-in-1 Data SIM Starter Kit, which fits all compatible GSM and LTE tablets, hotspots and mobile internet devices.
  2. Equip the SIM card to your phone and either contact customer care or bring your mobile device to a T-Mobile store.

T-Mobile certainly offers a strong network with a BYOP program. The BYOP Sim card it offers, while compatible with unlocked GSM phones, is a little bit on the expensive side. The card retails for $20, though the service might offer a promo code that might slash the price (for example, to $3.99), which is still pricier compared to other bring your own phone plans. That being said, if you're not bothered by the pricing of the SIM card and if you're not already with carrier, T-Mobile offers various plans that suits the needs of the mobile device user.

One of the most attractive plans happens to be the "T-Mobile One" 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 of $70 as the base. Then again, you can always go with a simple prepaid unlimited talk and text plan, starting at $40. 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, but it needs to stay competitive in order to overcome its main downfall - little rural support. In rural areas, the network's service is downright abysmal. So T-Mobile, while lacking in the coverage of rural areas, offers very good plans at very reasonable prices for those interested in bringing in their own phones. That being said, there are cheaper options out there.

3rd
Talk & Text Unlimited
Data 2-18GB
Activation Fee Free
SIM Card $20
Monthly Price $55-110

Verizon Wireless BYOP Review

  • Pros
  • 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
  • Cons
  • You're paying for quality (though you may be able to receive an employee or organization discount)
  • No unlimited data plan

Verizon is another carrier that offers Bring Your Own Device plans, which sounds pretty enticing. And it is! Sometimes these plans come with a limited bonus such as gaining an extra 2GB per line with the new Verizon Plan, as long as the plan sizes are L or higher.

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 prepaid 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. All you need to do is call the Prepaid Customer Service. 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.

That being said, there is also another BYOP option for phones, though it seems to be limited to 4G Verizon phones. You can always purchase a 4G SIM Activation Kit, which can be activated without an annual contract. Attached to the kit is a $45 monthly plan featuring unlimited talk and text, as well as 2GB of data, which carries over for 90 days. However, not all phones seem to be compatible with the kit and plan combo. Not listed on the compatibility list are devices like the Samsung Galaxy Note 5, the iPhone 7, and the Google Pixel.

Beyond the BYO phone options, Verizon's coverage is quite broad and, for the most part, particularly strong. 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.

4th
Talk & Text Unlimited
Data 3-10GB
Activation Fee Free
SIM Card $20
Monthly Price $60-100

AT&T BYOP Review

  • Pros
  • Incentives such as bill credits
  • No overage charges
  • You'll receive rollover data
  • No deposit
  • Sim card is free
  • Cons
  • Poor customer reviews
  • The network isn't as strong as Verizon's network

AT&T's Bring Your Own Phone plan isn't as extravagant as the previous three entries on the list, but it is a route a user can take. There are incentives, such as a $50 bill credit when you use your own phone and purchase a plan from AT&T.

All you need to do to activate your phone with AT&T's service is first check the device compatiblity with the BYOP page on AT&T. If the device is compatible, you can then order a free SIM card before finally transferring your device to AT&T or adding said device to your existing account. Et voila! It's connected.

AT&T prices are, for all intents and purposes, "okay." They're not the greatest, but you get more value per dollar than - say - Verizon (then again, you are paying for Verizon's quality service). The cheapest plan you can access through AT&T is a grand total of $50, which includes 1GB of data, as well as unlimited talk and text.

Unfortunately and according to user reviews of the carrier, the customer service is downright atrocious, with citations of the users' bills being driven up for either unknown or invalid reasons. It's quite odd to see the customer reviews contrast sharply with the BBB rating of "A+." In other words, if you're wary of potentially waiting long hours on hold with customer service or possibly dealing with financial incidents, then you may just want to skip this carrier, even if there are BYOP incentives.

5th
Talk & Text Unlimited
Data 8GB-Unlimited
Activation Fee Free
SIM Card $9.99
Monthly Price $45-65

Cricket BYOP Review

  • Pros
  • The BYOP plan is compatible with all unlocked T-Mobile and AT&T phones
  • Flexibility with payments
  • Rewards for performing activities such as using apps
  • Cheap Plans
  • You can keep your current phone number
  • Cons
  • The BYOP plan is not compatible with many Android phones from Sprint and Verizon
  • Will throttle data speeds when you reach the cap
  • Universal SIM Card Kit is a little pricey ($9.99)

Cricket is an excellent contender against the four major wireless carriers, featuring top-notch plans, all for the right price. When it comes to the BYOP plan, if you are adopting Cricket or activating an unlocked phone you've obtained, then all you need to do is check your phone's ID number and GSM compatibility, purchase a universal SIM Card Kit (which retails for $9.99), and activate your phone online. Do not, under any circumstances, activate your phone in-store. You will be charged an astronomically-high $25 fee. After all is settled, you may finally enjoy Cricket's service.

The base plan from Cricket offers unlimited talk, text, and 1GB of high-speed data for only - wait for it - $30 a month. Its Basic plan, which is $40 a month, nets you 2.5GB of data. The Smart plan, which is $50 a month, grants you 8GB, whereas the Pro plan offers 10GB of data for $60 a month. Then there is the unlimited plan, which is only $70 and contains:

  • Unlimited High-Speed Data Access
  • Unlimited Nationwide Talk and Text
  • Group Save Discount Eligible
  • Unlimited International Texting (SMS) to 38 countries
  • Data Access Plus Unlimited Talk and Text (SMS & MMS) to and from Mexico, Canada, and the U.S.

Unfortunately, the download speeds cap out at 8Mbps on LTE networks and 4Mbps on 4G networks, but the speeds are a perfectly good trade-off for truly unlimited internet. The pricing is quite good for the product you receive, though you can always save an extra $5 a month off of everything but the most recent base plan by signing up for auto-pay.

BYOP Activation Process

1. You must first verify that your phone is unlocked.

2. You then bring in a phone that is compatible with the carrier you're either switching to or currently with.

3. Typically, you then buy an activation kit, which would include the carrier's BYOP SIM card, and select a service for your phone.

4. Finally, you activate the phone with the service you have chosen with the carrier.

How I Found the Best BYOP Plans

Searching for the best BYOP plans offered by the mobile phone industry is no simple task. Plenty of wireless providers out there now offer the option of BYOP, which is highly convenient for the customer. So how did I compile this list of the best BYOP plans? Well, here's what I did:

  • I made a list of cellular providers that offered the BYOP plan. Some of the contenders included Boost Mobile, H2O Wireless, MetroPCS, Net10, Ting, and Virgin Mobile.
  • Next, I assessed the competitors with a primary focus on the BYOP plan. How simple is the activation of an unlocked 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.
  • Finally, the top five providers were reorganized and rated, utilizing the aforementioned factors.

Bring Your Own Phone 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.

You should always take the time to compare and review providers with bring your own phone plans. That being said, if you don't have an internet service provider or are considering switching providers, then you should check out our review of the best internet providers.

Did you know you can save money on your monthly phone bill by bundling it with cable TV? To find out more, check out our review of the best TV providers.

Best Bring Your Own Phone Plans FAQs

Is Cricket GSM?

AT&T acquired Cricket Wireless in 2014 and moved the prepaid carrier to its GSM network. Before the buy-out, Cricket operated on a CDMA network. GSM is the most widely used wireless telephony technologies, meaning it works in more parts of the world than CDMA. GSM also allows you to use your phone for data and for talk at the same time.

Can I use my Verizon phone for Cricket?

Only a few unlocked Verizon phones can be converted to Cricket. They include Apple iPhone 5/5s/5c, iPhone 6/6s/6Plus/6s Plus, and iPhone 7 and 7Plus. If you have an unlocked Nexus 5x/6/6P or Moto X Pure Edition from Verizon, you can bring either one over to Cricket.

Do Cricket phones work on AT&T?

All unlocked AT&T phones can be converted to Cricket Wireless. As of 2014, AT&T bought Cricket Wireless, so the phones on the network are actually running on a version of AT&T's network. If you aren't sure if your AT&T phone is unlocked, check with your current carrier.

Who has the best cell phone service?

According to a 2016 Consumer Reports survey, T-Mobile ranked the highest out of the big four cell phone carriers when it came to customer service and satisfaction. Smaller cell phone service providers, such as Ting and Consumer Cellular were ranked more highly in terms of service and customer satisfaction than the big four cell phone carriers.

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.