Mint Mobile vs AT&T: which carrier is best for you?

Mint Mobile vs AT&T is a really interesting match-up. On one hand, we have Mint Mobile, easily hands down one of the best cheap cell phone plans available on the market currently due to its outstanding value prepaid plans. On the other, we have AT&T, a leader in 5G network rollout and a superb option if you're looking for one of the best unlimited data plans around.

Both fine carriers are pretty great choices in their own regard, but which one is best for you? We've got a no-nonsense comparison just below laying out the pricing, features, and main selling points of each carrier with tons of unbiased info along the way. As you'll see, both these carriers operate in completely different ways and subsequently will appeal to a very different type of cell phone user.

Mint Mobile vs AT&T: at a glance

Mint Mobile: prepaid plans from $15 per month
If you're looking for one of the best cheap prepaid phone plans on the market then Mint Mobile should definitely be on your radar. With very reasonable monthly rates, generous monthly data allowances, 5G data speeds, and no contracts to sign, it's easy to see why Mint is quickly becoming one of the nation's top prepaid carriers. The drawback? To get the lowest monthly average rates at Mint Mobile you'll need to buy your data upfront in bulk - up to a year at a time in fact, so bear that in mind.

AT&T: unlimited data plans from $35 to $85 per month
One of the traditional 'big three' alongside Verizon and T-Mobile, AT&T specializes in offering premium unlimited data plans that give you a ton of prioritized 5G data. In practical terms, that means your download speeds and streaming won't ever be slowed down should your local area be busy. AT&T plans also offer access to a ton of great handset deals, 4K video streaming on some plans, and a free streaming service subscription too - all nice little bonuses that add some value. AT&T also has an array of prepaid plans too, although these don't offer quite the same kind of value at Mint or other dedicated prepaid carriers.

Features comparison
Mint Mobile AT&T
Contract length No contract (3 to 12 month plans) 30 to 36-month contracts
5G data Up until 35GB (128Kb/s after) Yes
Video streaming 480p 4K UHD (480p on Unlimited Starter)
Streaming perks No HBO Max, Stadia Pro
International calling 60 countries No ($15/mo add-on)
Mobile hotspot 5GB cap on unlimited plan None on Unlimited Starter, 15GB+ on other plans
Deprioritization Yes Yes on Unlimited Starter, 50GB+ priority on other plans
Family plans No Yes

One glance at the above features comparison should give you a basic idea of how these two carriers differ at a glance. In short, you'll definitely get a more feature-laden plan if you go with one of the AT&T unlimited plans, although at a much higher premium cost. Mint Mobile, on the other hand, is the more cheap and cheerful option.

The case for Mint Mobile

By far and away the biggest selling point of Mint Mobile is its incredibly low monthly prices. On average per month you're going to be paying at least half of what you'd normally pay at a major carrier like AT&T. The downside here is you'll get a fairly stripped-down cell phone plan should you go with Mint - even on its unlimited data plan. For most, however, that's going to be a more than acceptable trade-off to secure those low bills.

Mint Mobile facts

Plan pricing
$15 to $30 per month (average)

Plan types
Prepaid

Network
T-Mobile

Being a prepaid carrier means that Mint Mobile customers also have the distinct advantage of not being tied into a lengthy service plan. You will, however, have to commit to buying a whole year's worth of data upfront at Mint Mobile if you want to secure the lowest monthly average rate. That can mean a significant chunk of cash leaving your account at once, so definitely bear that in mind. On the bright side though, that's nothing compared to the 24 to 36-month contracts you find at the big carriers - and you can also upgrade your plan mid-term.

Being a prepaid plan does mean that Mint Mobile customers may have to contend with the industry-wide 'deprioritization' that all prepaid plans are subjected to. While your mileage is going to vary drastically depending on your local area, Mint Mobile customers may have their network speeds lowered if the nearby T-Mobile parent network is super busy. 

It's also worth noting that Mint's unlimited data plan has a soft 5G / 4G data speed cap of 35GB - with speeds being slowed to just 128Kb/s should you exceed that. That's still enough to check messages, but not much else so definitely factor that in before you go crazy with your downloads.

The case for AT&T

AT&T has the distinct advantage of running its own network. For its customers that means tons of prioritized data, uncapped speeds where applicable, and no caps on your streaming resolution (well, on some plans anyway). If speed and streaming is your priority, then it's a great choice - just be aware it comes at a price however.

AT&T facts

Plan pricing
$30 to $85 per month (average)

Plan types
Post-paid, prepaid

Network
AT&T

AT&T plans, for example, run anywhere from around $35 per month to $85 per month depending on how many lines and which tier you go for. That is pricey indeed, although AT&T does throw in streaming perks like a free subscription to HBO Max and Google Stadia Pro to tempt users over to its service.

Speaking of tempting offers, perhaps the biggest selling point of AT&T, and all major carriers for that matter, is the exclusive customer-only handset promotions that are offered alongside plans. AT&T deals for example can score you free devices, early upgrades, and big trade-in rebates on a number of leading flagship devices from Apple and Samsung, among others. While the plans themselves are indeed pricey, these deals can actually help offset your overall bills if you're looking for one of the latest devices. By comparison, you can't get these same types of deals at prepaid carriers like Mint Mobile, where customers often port over an unlocked device. 

Mint Mobile vs AT&T: prepaid plans

(Image credit: AT&T)

What about AT&T prepaid?

So, unlike many of the 'traditional' big carriers, AT&T does in fact offer some pretty good prepaid plans - at least in comparison to Verizon and T-Mobile, where prepaid plans tend to be very much in the background. 

AT&T prepaid plans range from $25 per month for an 8GB plan to $50 per month for an unlimited plan - the former of which is definitely the best value offering in our eyes. Like Mint, AT&T's 8GB prepaid plan operates on a yearly payment scheme that costs around $300 upfront. That's actually not bad, although you can get more data for less (10GB for $25/mo) at Mint Mobile, so that's definitely the better option if you get good T-Mobile network coverage in your area. 

Checking your 5G coverage is key

Unsurprisingly for two carriers with two different networks, your mileage may vary drastically when it comes to cellular service, depending on your area. In short, you could find that you're not covered under Mint Mobiles's 5G network in your area but AT&T's coverage is top-notch. Conversely, the other scenario might be true, so it's definitely worth checking your local area coverage at the carrier sites by entering your local zip codes (check AT&T here, and Mint here).

This is especially the case with 5G network coverage, which isn't as widely available as 4G or lower nationwide thanks to the technology being much newer. If you have a 5G compatible device that's all ready to go then we'd definitely rule out a carrier that doesn't give you great 5G coverage in your area - it's no good paying for those speeds if you can't use them after all!

Mint Mobile vs AT&T: coverage map

(Image credit: AT&T)

Verdict

Both AT&T and Mint Mobile are great choices. However, as you've probably already surmised from this article, they both cater to very different audiences indeed. For those strictly on a budget then the best choice has to inevitably be Mint Mobile. In short, Mint Mobile's cheap prepaid plans starting at $15 a month and its unlimited plan starting at $30 a month are incredibly good value - especially if you can forgo a few creature comforts like free streaming services. As we've stated before, this is at least half of what you'd expect to pay for a post-paid plan at AT&T and other major carriers, and it also edges out AT&T's prepaid plans in regards to value too.

On the other hand, if you're really looking for that rock-solid premium 5G experience then you're definitely going to get overall better service with AT&T's more premium plans. Not only will you get a completely unlimited plan (Mint's speeds cap put at 35GB), but you'll also get 4K UHD streaming on your device plus some free streaming service subscriptions for good measure. It's also worth mentioning that AT&T also has plenty of family-plan style options for saving on multiple lines. If you're going with AT&T, we highly recommend you consider this as it can drastically reduce your price per line.

What other plans should I check out?

If you're interested in saving some cash by going for a prepaid carrier like Mint Mobile but need to stay on the AT&T network for coverage reasons, we'd recommend Pure Talk. With plans starting at just $10 a month (currently new customers get 50% off), it's a great choice if you're simply looking for just the basics with your cell phone plan.

Cricket Wireless is another fantastic prepaid carrier that offers particularly good cheap family cell phone plan options for as little as $25 per month per line. This carrier is in fact operated as a subsidiary of AT&T and sort of straddles the middle ground between super-cheap prepaid plans and the more expensive post-paid options.

For alternatives to Mint Mobile, you could consider Boost Mobile - a service that offers a three-line unlimited plan for just $30 per month. That one's particularly good if you want to go prepaid but need a flexible family option. For more excellent alternatives, head over to our main best cell phone plans article.

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