Pre-paid US wireless service provider Straight Talk offers cheap phone plans by piggybacking on AT&T and T-Mobile’s wireless networks. Unlimited talk, text and data plans are available for as little as $45 per month.
When you buy a phone from Straight Talk, that “unlimited” plan offers 3GB of “high speed” 4G LTE data before your speeds are throttled.
But Straight Talk just announced that customers who bring their own phones to the service can get 5GB of LTE data.
In other words, if you buy a SIM card for an unlocked phone that’s compatible either AT&T or T-Mobile, you can get an extra 2GB per month of LTE data.
Straight Talk is a mobile virtual network operator (MVNO), much like AT&T-owned Cricket Wireless, Virgin Mobile, Boost Mobile, Ting, and Google’s new Project Fi service. These companies tend to offer lower prices than AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint, or Verizon and have no monthly contracts.
But MVNOs tend to be pre-pair carriers, which means you pay for service before you use it rather than after, and the carriers typically charge full price for recent phones (if they offer any) or provide older smartphones.
Still, if you plan to buy a $600 phone and keep it for a few years, you can save a lot of money in the long run by using an MVNO that charges $45 per month instead of a carrier that sells you the same phone for $99 up front, but charges you $100 per month over the course of a 2-year contract. (In fact, you’d end up saving around $800).
So while some wireless carriers try to lock you into a long-term contract with the promise of low up-front costs, MVNOs can often save you money in the long run… and now one of those MVNOs is actually rewarding customers for bringing their own devices with extra data.
Note that you don’t need to be a new Straight Talk customer. Existing BYOP customers will automatically be bumped up to 5GB on their next refill dates.