Discover How Prepaid Wireless Service Can Use Networks for Much Less

For example, Boost Mobile uses Sprint and Jitterbug uses Verizon Wireless

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Use your cell phone in Mexico. Reggie Casagrande / Getty Images

AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless are the big four cell phone carriers. Often called mobile network operators (MNOs), they own their networks and compete aggressively on price, plans, and phones.

Prepaid wireless carriers, on the other hand, typically price their no-contract plans much lower than the traditional carriers. More often than not, though, prepaid carriers don't have their own network infrastructure and licensed radio spectrum.

Instead, most prepaid carriers are mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs) that buy minutes wholesale from the major carriers and resell them to you at retail prices.

Some of us already have opinions about whether we like AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, or Verizon Wireless coverage in our particular area, but what if you're sold on one of the major carriers based on their coverage but don't want their brand due to price?

If you want to stick with that carrier but want a prepaid phone, use this list to see which phones are supported on that wireless service.

Tip: There are plenty of phone plans you can buy if you're looking for a new one with better speed, service, etc.

How to Read This List

If you're interested in using a prepaid phone from, say, Cricket, then you can see in this list that it operates on AT&T's network. So, if you already know that you're unhappy with AT&T's coverage in your area, then you might look into a different prepaid service.

If you are using a prepaid MetroPCS phone, then you can see that it's using MetroPCS's network.

This list is also useful for the opposite reason; to find which prepaid services use a particular network. If you know that you get great coverage with Verizon's network, then you should look into getting a prepaid phone that uses Verizon.

Note: If a prepaid service uses a different network than its own as most do, all it means is that the network uses a different wireless infrastructure. All support requests should still be sent to the prepaid service.

Networks Used for Prepaid Service

Below is a list of networks that support a lower-cost prepaid wireless carrier. See the pros and cons of a prepaid phone plan if you're not sure if this is the right choice for you.

  • AT&T: Owns and operates its own network
  • Boost Mobile: Uses the Sprint network
  • Consumer Cellular: Uses the AT&T network
  • Cricket: Uses the AT&T network
  • Jitterbug: Uses the Verizon Wireless network
  • Kajeet: Uses the Sprint network
  • MetroPCS: Owns and operates its own network
  • Page Plus Cellular: Uses the Verizon Wireless network
  • PlatinumTel: Uses the Sprint network
  • Sprint: Owns and operates its own network
  • Straight Talk: Uses the Verizon Wireless, AT&T, T-Mobile, and Sprint networks
  • T-Mobile: Owns and operates its own network
  • TracFone Wireless: Uses AT&T on most Motorola phones, T-Mobile on most LG phones, Verizon Wireless or U.S. Cellular on most phones without SIM cards, as well as Sprint
  • U.S. Cellular: Owns and operates its own network
  • Verizon Wireless: Owns and operates its own network
  • Virgin Mobile: Uses Sprint in the U.S. and T-Mobile in the United Kingdom