The Best BYOP Plans
Ultimate Buyers Guide

Best BYOP Plans for 2017

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.

Bring Your Own Phone Plans

Company DataMonthly Price
Straight Talk 5-10GB$45-60
T-Mobile Unlimited$70-85
Verizon Wireless 2-18GB$55-110
AT&T Wireless 3-10GB$60-100
Sprint 1-6GB$40-65

What is Bring Your Own Phone?

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

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.

"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 BYOP?

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.

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.

3. BYOD Security in a Workforce Environment is Risky

BYOD security with a wireless carrier is fine in a personal setting, but unfortunately, BYOD security poses a threat in the workplace if the device is used for workforce functions. However, BYOD in a workforce setting is another topic. In a workplace setting, such as a school district, be sure to pay attention to the acceptable use policy. Furthermore, understand the boundaries that are featured in the acceptable use policy.

The Best BYOP Plans

1st
Monthly Price $45-60
SIM Card $Free
Activation Fee Free
Talk & Text Unlimited
Data 5-10GB

Straight Talk Bring Your Own Phone

  • 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. 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.

When you buy a SIM card or an activation kit, this wireless carrier 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.

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.

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

T-Mobile Bring Your Own Phone

  • 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 a 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.

The T-Mobile network is perfectly suitable for a BYOD program. The BYOP Sim card T-Mobile offers, while compatible with unlocked GSM phones (you don't need strictly a T-Mobile phone), 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, which is still pricier compared to other bring your own phone plans. With that being said, if you're not bothered by the pricing of the SIM card, then you should check out T-Mobile, as it offers various prepay plans and post-pay plans that suit the needs of the mobile device user. If your BYOD device isn't compatible with T-Mobile's service, then you can always purchase a T-Mobile phone for an affordable fee. Of course, you can also place the purchased phone on an installment plan. With an installment plan, you will pay a small fee each month until you pay the phone off, unless you want to trade it in early - however, you will you be able to keep the phone after you pay it in full, transforming the phone into a BYOD device.

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. With "T-Mobile One," you'll be able to create a "family plan," meaning that you can simply add lines to the account. Additionally, this T-Mobile unlimited plan will throttle your data after a hefty amount. 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.

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. The T-Mobile coverage, while constantly improving, focalizes on urban areas. In other words, network quality and the LTE speeds are nothing to scoff at in an urban setting. 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.

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

Verizon Bring Your Own Phone

  • 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 BYOP plans, which sounds pretty enticing. And it is! There used to be a vast array of Verizon plans, but these Verizon plans have since been simplified. Now, there are four post-paid plans to choose from, ranging from 2GB to the Verizon Unlimited Plan. The Verizon Unlimited Plan, which is a recent unveiling of the corporation, features unlimited data until 22GB is exceeded. After you surpass this data amount, you will see throttling of your service.

Like T-Mobile, you can add lines to the Verizon Unlimited Plan, essentially creating a family 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.

That being said, there is also another BYOP option for mobile devices, 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, 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.

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

AT&T Bring Your Own Phone

  • 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 BYOP 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 the AT&T website. 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
Monthly Price $40-65
SIM Card $30
Activation Fee Free
Talk & Text Unlimited
Data 1-6GB

Sprint Bring Your Own Phone

  • Pros
  • Cheaper than the competitors
  • You can keep your old phone
  • Great options for families
  • Always unlimited data
  • Cons
  • Coverage isn't that good
  • Not many new phones to choose from
  • Contract only

With Sprint's bring your own phone plan, you can choose from two types of plans: Sprint Unlimited and Better Choice plans.

Better Choice Plans range from 1GB of high-speed data per month to 40GB of high-speed data. These plans are labeled by size, ranging from Extra Small to Extra-Extra Large. These data amounts can be shared on one convenient family cell phone plan. You'll face no overage charges with Sprint Network, as once your monthly high-speed data allotment has been reached, your speeds will be reduced to 2G levels.

Sprint Unlimited provides you with unlimited talk, text and high-speed data, all for an affordable fee. There are two types of Unlimited Freedom plans: the basic and the premium. Both plans offer mobile-optimized streaming of video and music. The premium plan, for just $20 extra a month, bumps the streaming quality to 1080p.

Sprint Network offers affordable plans and packages for both single and family lines, but at the same time, the coverage isn't as extensive as the coverage provided by Verizon and AT&T. Not only is that, but the phones you can bring to the service rather limited.

BYOP Activation Process

1. 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.

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. 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 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, 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.

BYOP 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 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.

BYOP Plans FAQs

Q Is Cricket GSM?

A

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.

Q Can I use my Verizon phone for Cricket?

A

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.

Q Do Cricket phones work on AT&T?

A

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.

Q Who has the best cell phone service?

A

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.

Q Who is a BYOP plan designed for?

A

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.

Q What do CDMA and GSM stand for?

A

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.

Q What are the benefits of BYOP?

A

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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