Mint Mobile vs Tello: which is the better prepaid carrier, and for who?

Mint Mobile and Tello branded sims on a green and blue background
(Image credit: Future)

Mint Mobile and Tello are both very popular choices right now for those looking to cut their monthly cell phone plan bills right down to size. Put simply, they're both very cheap for what they do - but which is better? As you'll see in our direct comparison just below they are in fact quite different and should appeal to a certain type of user specifically.

If you're on the fence, or simply doing a bit of research before you commit, then we're covering what we think are the main selling points of each carrier just below as well as how they shape up on important criteria. Both carriers feature heavily on our cheap cell phone plans and prepaid phone plans buyers guides - so we're definitely fans of each. By the end of this article, however, you should have a definite idea of which is best for you.

At a glance: two great prepaid carriers

Mint Mobile: prepaid plans from $15 a month
5GB: $15/mo | 15GB: $20/mo | 20GB: $25/mo | Unl: $30/mo

Mint Mobile: prepaid plans from $15 a month
Mint Mobile is one of the most popular prepaid carriers on the market and it's easy to see why thanks to its superb range of cheap plans with generous data allowances. Recently, the carrier even upped the data caps across the board on its plans while keeping the monthly rates the same as before.  As always, however, to get the prices possible at Mint you need to buy multiple months of data upfront - preferably a whole year, too.
5GB: $15/mo | 15GB: $20/mo | 20GB: $25/mo | Unl: $30/mo

Tello: prepaid plans from $5 a month
1GB: $10/mo | 2GB: $10/mo | 5GB: $15/mo | Unl: $29/mo

Tello: prepaid plans from $5 a month
With Tello you've got some of the cheapest cell phone plans available anywhere at your fingertips, and, even better still - the ability to switch up your plan on a monthly basis if your needs happen to change. Pick one of the preset plans (costs below), or specifically tailor a plan to your requirements; both are possible with Tello, and without the need for a lengthy contract either. Like Mint, this carrier has also recently tweaked its plan prices to offer better value across the aboard, with prices now matching Mint Mobile for the most part.
1GB: $10/mo | 2GB: $10/mo | 5GB: $15/mo | Unl: $29/mo

Coverage and pricing

Both Mint Mobile and Tello both operate on the T-Mobile network, so it should be a fairly dead-even heat when it comes to your local coverage. Tello historically operated on the Sprint network (and some SIM cards still do), but that's being phased out now, so all new SIM cards issued should be operating on the T-Mobile network.

Key facts

Network
Mint:
T-Mobile
Tello: T-Mobile & Sprint

Prices
Mint:
$15 to $30/pm
Tello:
$5 to $29/pm

Where these two carriers diverge, however, is on their pricing models - which are very different. Mint Mobile tends to have slightly higher prices than Tello and operates a buy-upfront 'multi-month' system where you buy upwards of a year of service at a time. The catch here is the longer your plan is, the cheaper the average monthly rate, so be prepared to pay upfront for a whole year's service if you want to save as much cash as possible.

Tello, on the other hand, has a much more flexible pay-monthly system where you'll only pay for a month at a time. This has one huge advantage - you can easily switch up your data allowances on a monthly basis if your needs change, plus it's also a lot cheaper upfront - especially since there are also Tello promo codes that can help cut costs 

  • Winner: draw

Data allowances

Both carriers offer a generous line-up of different monthly data options and the prices are extremely close across the board now thanks to the most recent price changes from Tello. Mint Mobile used to have a slight edge in bang-for-the-buck when talking about data allowances but the gap has essentially closed now as of late 2023.

Key facts

Data allowances
Mint:
5GB to Unlimited
Tello: 0MB to Unlimited

Where Mint arguably edges ahead is in the fine print - especially with the unlimited data plans. Both are neck-and-neck in regard to pricing ($30 for Mint, $29 for Tello), but Mint Mobile has a larger data cap allowance at 45GB versus 35GB at Tello. If you go over this monthly limit, your 5G data speeds will revert to 2G, so it's worth keeping this in mind if you're a particularly data-hungry user. 

Outside of unlimited plans, both carrier's plans are almost neck and neck in regards to value. For example, Mint has a 5GB monthly plan for $15 while Tello has an equivalent plan for $14. Where Mint has a slight advantage is on the 15GB plan tier, offering a plan for as little as $20 per month versus Tello's $24 per month. This advantage isn't as huge as you would think, however, since you have to pay for a full year of service upfront at Mint to get the cheapest rate. 

  • Winner: draw

Perks and features

Being prepaid carriers, you're generally going to get around the same level of perks with both Mint Mobile and Tello - and be subject to deprioritization when the local T-Mobile network is busy. 

Key facts

5G speed
Mint: 
no cap
Tello: 
no cap

Mobile hotspot

Mint: free (10GB max on unl. plan)
Tello: free (5GB max on unl. plan)

Streaming
Mint: 480p video (on unlimited)
Tello: no cap

International calls
Mint:
 free to Mex and Can
Tello: free calls to 60+ countries

In short, both are pretty stripped-down affairs, and you won't be getting things like free streaming service subscriptions with either.

Both do however feature 5G data speeds standard on all plans (until you hit your cap), and free mobile tethering too. Tello seems to have a slight edge in video rendering, with no cap on the quality, whereas Mint Mobile caps its video streaming out at 480p on its unlimited plan (no cap on other plans).

Tello also features free international calling to over 60 countries, whereas you'll only get free calling to Mexico and Canada with Mint Mobile. This one's definitely a more niche feature overall, but for some, it's going to be a huge bonus and a major draw for them to go with Tello.

  • Winner: Tello

Flexibility

Tello definitely has the edge if you think you'll need a bit of flexibility with your plan. As we've already covered above, you'll only pay for a month at a time with Tello and the design-your-own-plan system means it's easy to add or subtract any allowances you'll need on a monthly basis. Not being tied down for multiple months at a time also means it's relatively easy to abandon your plan with no incurred losses if you're not satisfied with the service.

  • Winner: Tello

Verdict

Both Mint Mobile and Tello are absolutely fantastic cheaper alternatives to the likes of T-Mobile if you're looking for a stripped-down prepaid plan for the essentials. In our eyes, however, each will definitely appeal to a different type of user. 

If you're looking for overall value on a slightly more data-heavy plan then you're definitely going to want to go with Mint Mobile in our opinion. In short, while you're paying larger sums upfront and with less flexibility, you're generally getting a more generous data allowance overall.

If you're looking for just the basics, however, then you will be able to get a cheaper prepaid plan at Tello. You'll also be able to change up your plan in short order should you need more data down the line too, which makes it a great choice if you're not sure about how much you'll need.

Alex Whitelock
Deals Editor

Alex is deals editor at TechRadar. With over three years of experience on-site and eight years working in e-commerce, Alex has made it his personal mission to share all his favorite tips, bargains, and deals with our readers here at TechRadar. At work, he specializes in computing, phones, and covering huge sales events like Black Friday and Amazon Prime Day. Outside of work, you'll find him indulging his keen love of photography and PC gaming, or down at the local climbing gym hanging off boulders far too difficult for his abilities. His editorial bylines also include contributions to T3 and GamesRadar.