If you've been spending some time comparing the best phone carriers, you may find yourself looking into the merits of Mint Mobile or AT&T. Both are strong carriers with compelling plans — but who has the best wireless plan for your needs?
AT&T is certainly the better known of the two options, as one of the biggest carriers in the U.S. Mint Mobile, on the other hand, is a much smaller carrier. It's a MVNO — or Mobile Virtual Network Operator — which simply means it borrows the network another larger provider. Specifically, Mint is a T-Mobile MVNO.
- Head straight to Mint Mobile or AT&T to see their deals
- Best cell phone plans: Where Mint and AT&T rank
While this would seem to put Mint Mobile at a disadvantage, MVNOs don't really lose out on much. They get to use the same network with the same coverage as their parent carrier, though data speeds can be slowed if there's a lot of traffic.
So other than how their network works, what are the differences between Mint Mobile and AT&T? In the most basic comparison, Mint Mobile is the cheaper and more flexible option, offering some of the best cheap cell phone plans around. AT&T on the other hand is feature-packed, great for families and offers a wider wealth of plans to choose from.
Here's a closer look at what Mint Mobile and AT&T offer to help you decide which service to choose.
Mint Mobile vs AT&T: How they compare overall
- Better pricing
- More flexibility
- Uses T-Mobile's network
- Available discounts
- Uses its own far-reaching network
- More flexibility
- More choice in deals
- Better options for seniors and families
While Mint Mobile and AT&T are both very different options, it isn't as simple as saying one is better than the other. Each carrier goes about serving its customers in different ways, so it's more a question of whether Mint Mobile or AT&T better fit your needs.
Mint Mobile gets the nod for affordability and flexibility. It has one of the cheapest unlimited data plans, and it offers several tiered data plans, compared to AT&T, which focuses primarily on unlimited data. (Our look at the best unlimited data plans goes into more detail on what Mint, AT&T and others have to offer.)
Mint is also a much more flexible choice compared to AT&T offering a number of different contract lengths with discounts for staying longer. That said, to get the best price from Mint, you will need to pay for commit to service for a year.
AT&T may have more costly plans than Mint Mobile, but its plans include a lot more features and incentives. An AT&T unlimited plan, for example, includes hotspot data, unlimited international texting, and a 6-month subscription to Google's Stadia streaming service. Sign up for the carrier's Unlimited Elite plan, and AT&T includes HBO Max streaming.
With discounts for both families and seniors (something Mint Mobile doesn't offer) AT&T is the better choice for added features, seniors and families.
Mint Mobile vs AT&T: Pricing and available deals
When comparing the two carriers, Mint Mobile is the better option for pricing. At all data points, Mint is the cheaper option and as we mentioned above, and it has one of the cheapest unlimited data plans on the market.
However, there is a catch of sorts here. To get Mint's cheapest prices, you do have to sign up for a full year. You can sign up for as little as three months, but the longer you choose, the better the monthly price.
As for AT&T, it offers a lot more choice for deals, including a host of both prepaid plans and unlimited data cell phone plans. Where AT&T gains an advantage is in its family plans. Mint Mobile doesn't offer any but like a lot of other carriers, AT&T will offer you a discount for adding extra lines.
Mint Mobile and AT&T's best plans
Unlimited data - $30 a month
While unlimited data is Mint's most expensive plan, it's still the cheapest unlimited data plan out there, so it's well worth considering. Mint's unlimited option only costs $30 a month for the first 3 months; sign up for a full year afterwards you can keep that same price.
8GB data - $25 a month (12 month)
Like Mint, AT&T's best price can be found if you sign up for longer. If you go for this prepaid $25 a month plan (actually $300 upfront), you will get the brand's best overall value. With 8GB of data, a mobile hotspot and data rollover, this is a great plan if you don't mind spending the cost upfront.
Mint Mobile vs AT&T: Network and coverage
- AT&T is the better option for coverage because it runs its own network
- Mint Mobile uses T-Mobile, which compares favorably to AT&T
While both carriers offer extensive coverage, AT&T does get the slight lead. That's because it runs its own network and doesn't have to rely on another carrier.
Mint Mobile, like all other MVNOs, has to use another carrier's network — in Mint's case, it's T-Mobile. That's usually not a problem, as Mint Mobile subscribers enjoy the same coverage and speeds that other customers get on T-Mobile's network. There's even 5G coverage, provided you have a 5G-ready phone.
There is one exception: When there is a period of peak traffic and the T-Mobile network becomes congested, MVNOs on the network could see their speeds slowed. T-Mobile customers will be prioritized in this situation.
It works in reverse for AT&T customers. As a main carrier, it will prioritize its customers and slow any MVNOs it supports instead. This makes anyone on an AT&T plan a priority customer.
Across all of the main carriers (including Verizon, T-Mobile and AT&T), coverage and speed are at such a high level that there isn't a hugely noticeable difference. However, T-Mobile's merger with Sprint has made it arguably the best overall network and beats out AT&T on many fronts — a factor to consider in favor of Mint.
Mint Mobile vs AT&T: Features and incentives
|5G?||Mobile hotspot||Security features||Free subscriptions||Priority data||Unlimited calls/texts|
|Mint Mobile||Available on all plans||Yes (with a speed cap)||No||No||No||Yes|
|AT&T||Available on select plans||Yes||Yes||On select plans||Yes||Yes|
In terms of features, both Mint and AT&T cover the basics, such as unlimited calls and texts and mobile hotspots. However, there are a few features where the carriers differ.
For example, while Mint Mobile offers 5G across all of its plans, AT&T doesn't include it in most of its prepaid plans; you'll find 5G coverage across all of AT&T's unlimited data plans.
On the whole, though, AT&T is the much more feature heavy option. All of its deals include security features with more options depending on which plan you choose, plus unlimited texts and talk in Mexico and Canada. AT&T's support for international phone plans is also more extensive that what you get with Mint Mobile.
On its unlimited data plans, AT&T also include a host of subscriptions for free, ranging from a Google Stadia Pro trial to HBO Max on its most expensive unlimited data plan. Go for that AT&T Unlimited Elite option, and you can enjoy 4K UHD video streaming plus 40GB of hotspot data.
If you're looking for something basic, Mint Mobile has all of the core features but for something more feature heavy, AT&T is one of the best options out there.