series of comprehensive US prepaid mobile operator profiles. I will be posting new profiles frequently, starting with the best known carriers. Eventually these posts will cover all the major US mobile operators that have prepaid plans as well as the MVNOs which offer a good value.
Overview: Virgin Mobile is one of Sprint's three prepaid brands, the others being Boost Mobile and Assurance. Sprint had a total of 15.4 million prepaid subscribers across all three brands as of the third quarter of 2012. Sprint doesn't break out the number of Virgin subscribers which I estimate as approximately 8 million.
Technology: CDMA on the 800 and 1900 Mhz bands with 1RTT, EVDO and LTE data support.
Plans: Virgin's plan offerings are divided into two sub-brands; payLo and Virgin Mobile Unlimited (formerly Beyond Talk) each with their own line up of exclusive phones.
There are also Data Sharing Done Right plans, which are available exclusively from Walmart. Data Sharing Done Right, which requires special phones available only at Walmart, let users create custom single and multi-user plans by combining unlimited talk and text plans with add-ons for extra data, international calling and roaming. See this article for details of the Data Sharing Done Right plans.
payLo is targeted at value conscious users who are mainly interested in voice and messaging rather than data.
Current payLo Plans:
|Name||Monthly Price (plus sales tax)||Voice||Text/MMS||Data|
|Talk (monthly) 1||$20/month||400 min||15¢/25¢ each||$1.50/MB|
|Talk & Text (monthly) 1||$30/month||1500 min||1500/25¢||30 MB|
|Unlimited Talk & Text (monthly) 1||$40/month||unlimited||unlimited/unlimited||50 MB|
The payLo Basic Rate pay as you go plan has been discontinued and is no longer available to new customers.
Virgin Mobile Unlimited is targeted at users, especially smartphone users, who are interested in data and messaging.
Current Virgin Mobile Unlimited Plans:
|Monthly Price (plus sales tax)||Voice||Text/MMS||Data|
|$35/month||unlimited||unlimited||unlimited 5 GB HS 1|
|$45/month||unlimited||unlimited||unlimited 10 GB HS 1|
Unlimited Music Streaming: Current plans priced at $35/month and up include unlimited music streaming. Data used while streaming music from iHeart Radio, Pandora or Slacker Radio does not count against the plan's high speed data allowance.
Grandfathered Plans: When Virgin Mobile discontinues a plan or changes its pricing they generally allow existing users to stay on the old plan or rate indefinitely as long as they do not let their account expire due to non-payment
International Rates: Virgin Mobile offers two international add-on packages:
$5/month - Unlimited calls to Canada and to Mexican landlines. unlimited international text messaging
$10/month - Unlimited calls to Canada and landlines in 70+ countries. 1000 minutes to Mexican mobile numbers, unlimited international text messaging
Virgin Mobile's per use international voice rates are fairly good (full list). Sample rates for calling mobile phones: Canada .10; Mexico .20; China .02; UK .25; Philippines .20.
International texts are 15¢ each to send on all plans. There's no extra charge for receiving an international text. Virgin Mobile does not support international picture messaging.
Coverage: Virgin Mobile uses the Sprint native network which is the smallest of the four national operators. There is no roaming. Coverage is available in most cities and larger towns and along major intersates but is lacking in rural and many resort areas. Virgin's interactive coverage map is quite accurate and lets you zoom into see block by block coverage.
Hotspot and Tethering: Hotspot is available at an extra cost of $3/day for 500 MB of hotspot or $5/month for 1 GB or $10/month for 2 GB. A hotspot capable phone is required (most Virgin smartphones are hotspot capable).
It's not possible to use most payLo phones on Virgin Mobile Unlimited or vice versa. There are a few exceptions or older phones:
The Virgin Mobile Unlimited Samsung Rumor 2 and Kyocera Loft can be used on payLo.
The payLo Kyocera S2300, LG Flare, Samsung M340/Mantra, Kyocera TNT! and Kyocera JAX can be used on Virgin Mobile Unlimited.
BYOD: Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) is not supported, only Virgin Mobile phones may be used.
How to Buy: Virgin Mobile phones are available from Sprint stores, "big box" retailers like Target, Best Buy and Costco and online. Basic models can sometimes be purchased at supermarkets, convenience stores and chain drugstores.
How to Activate: Activate online at virginmobileusa.com or by calling 1-888-322-1122 from another phone. Activation is free.
Payment Options: PIN cards or codes are available at Sprint stores, most convenience stores, supermarkets, chain drugstores and big box retailers like Target. Refill cards and PINs are available in $20, $30, $35, $40, $45 and $55 denominations. Refill cards labeled "payLo" can be used on BeyondTalk plans and vice versa. Direct to phone real time refills are available in amounts from $10 to $90 at Sprint stores and some convenience stores.
You can top up a Virgin Mobile account with a PIN or a credit or debit card at virginmobileusa.com or by calling *VM from the Virgin Mobile phone or 1-888-322-1122 from another phone.
Account expiration: Monthly plans renew on the sane day every month. If you do not have sufficient funds in your account to renew you service will be suspended. After 120 days without a renewal you will lose your number
Account Management: You can check your cash balance or available minutes, view call logs, change plans, setup autopay, add PINs, restart your plan month and make a payments using a credit or debit card using the My Account option at virginmobileusa.com or by calling *VM from the phone or 1-888-322-1122 from another phone.
Call Forwarding, Call Waiting and 3-Way Calling
To forward all calls to another number: Not supported
To forward unanswered calls only (conditional call forwarding): Not supported.
Call waiting: Call waiting is enabled by default. It lets you place one call on hold while you take another call. When you are on a call and have another incoming call, you will hear a short tone. You'll have approximately 30 seconds to answer before the second caller hears a standard message or is forwarded to voicemail. You will be charged for both calls.
To answer Call Waiting: To put the first call on hold, press "SEND." You'll automatically be connected with the second call. To return to the first call, press "SEND" again. To switch between the two calls, press "SEND."
3-Way Calling: Not supported
##786# (most phones) displays phone number MSID, ESN, MEID, PRL, call and data counters and version numbers.
Free information services calls
611 - Virgin Mobile customer care
711 - Telecommunications Relay Service (TRS) for the hearing and speech impaired
911 - Emergency services
Other 3 digit codes like 211, 311 and 511 are not free on Virgin Mobile
Phone support: 4am - 7pm 7 days by calling *VM from the phone or 1-888-322-1122 from another phone.
To quickly reach a live operator, press 5 at the first prompt to choose an item and then press 0 three tines at the second prompt.
Online email support form: https://www1.virginmobileusa.com/about/prepareEmailUs.do
Phone Sales and General Information Web Site: virginmobileusa.com
Social Media Support: Facebook: facebook.com/VirginMobileUSA Twitter: twitter.com/vmucare
Virgin Mobile Pros: Strong retail presence, Virgin Mobile Unlimited $35/mo and payLo $30 monthly plans offer very good value, good unlimited monthly pricing, smartphones available, online call records.
Virgin Mobile Cons: limited coverage, no BYOD, feature phones crippled to block downloads, arbitrary restrictions on which phones can be used on which plans. No call forwarding or or 3-way calling.
Updated: 30-Sep-2016: Unlimited plans changed.