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Prepaid Operator Profile: Virgin Mobile

This is one of Prepaid Phone News' 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 other being Boost Mobile and Sprint Forward (formerly Sprint Prepaid.  Sprint had a total of 8.7 million prepaid subscribers across all three brands at the end of June, 2017. Sprint doesn't break out the number of Virgin subscribers which I estimate as approximately 3 million.

Technology: CDMA on the 800 and 1900 Mhz bands with 1RTT, EVDO data. LTE using bands 25, 26 and 41.

Plans: As of June 2017, Virgin Mobile's primary plan offering is called Inner Circle and is only available to customers who purchase a new iPhone from Virgin Mobile or Apple or bring their own compatible iPhone. Virgin Mobile is in the process of phasing its older plans which were offered under the sub-brands payLo and Data Love (formerly Virgin Mobile Unlimited and before that Beyond Talk). PayLo is no longer offered to new customers, Data Love is still available through national retailers including Target, Best Buy and Walmart.

Virgin Mobile Inner Circle: Offers a single plan which costs $50/month and includes unlimited on-network voice, messaging and data. It also includes unlimited roaming on some partner networks which Virgin calls its extended network as well as 800 minutes and 100 MB of data roaming on other partner networks. But video streaming is limited to 480p quality, audio streams are throttled to 500 kbps and gaming streams to 2 mbps, and customers who use more than 23 GB of data in a month will see their data prioritized when the network is congested. Inner Circle is only available to customers who purchase a new iPhone online from Virgin or at an Apple Store. New customers who port their number from a non-Sprint based operator to Virgin and bring their own iPhone, or 
buy a full-priced Virgin Mobile iPhone from the Apple Store get their first six months of service for $1/month plus taxes.

Virgin Mobile Data Love: is targeted at users, especially smartphone users, who are interested in data and messaging.

Current Virgin Mobile Data Love 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
$60/month unlimited unlimited unlimited 2
1 After high speed (HS) data is used, speeds  are reduced to 128Kbps or below for the rest of your month. Additional high speed data is available at $5 for 1 GB or $10 for 2 GB. Add on data is good for 30 days.
2 Video streaming limited to 480p, music streaming throttled to 500 kbps, gaming throttled to 2 mbps, Data speeds subject to deprioritization when the network is congested.

Unlimited Music Streaming: Data Love 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.

Auto Pay: Auto Pay is available to all users. 

payLo was targeted at value conscious users who are mainly interested in voice and messaging rather than data.

Legacy payLo Plans (feature phones only, no longer available to new customers):
NameMonthly Price (plus sales tax)VoiceText/MMSData
Talk (monthly) 1$20/month400 min15¢/25¢ each$1.50/MB
Talk & Text (monthly) 1$30/month1500 min1500/25¢30 MB
Unlimited Talk & Text (monthly) 1$40/monthunlimitedunlimited/unlimited50 MB
1 Overage Rates- Voice: 10¢/min, SMS: 15¢/text, Data: $1.50/MB

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. 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.

Roaming: Virgin Mobile Data Love plans includ 50 minutes per month of voice roaming. Data roaming is not available. I've seen claims that Virgin allows unlimited text roaming. but the Virgin Mobile website says that SMS is roaming is not available. The Inner Circle plan includes unlimited roaming on some partner networks which Virgin calls its extended network as well as 800 minutes and 100 MB of data roaming on other partner networks.

Hotspot and Tethering: Hotspot is available at an extra cost of $10/month for 10 GB on Inner Circle. On Data Love plans hotspot is $3/day for 500 MB or $5/month for 1 GB or $10/month for 2 GB. A hotspot capable phone is required (most Virgin smartphones are hotspot capable).
    Devices: On payLo plans only basic feature phones are available including a couple with QWERTY keyboards.  Virgin Mobile Unlimited subscribers have a selection of smartphones including Android and Windows Phone models.

    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 supported on Inner Circle only. Most unlocked and Sprint, Boost Mobile or Virgin Mobile Phones can be used on Inner Circle. Click here for exclusions amd details and to check your iPhone's eligibility. On Data Love plans 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

    "Secret" Codes:
    ##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

    Customer Service:
    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 Sitevirginmobileusa.com

    Social Media Support: Facebook: facebook.com/VirginMobileUSA Twitter: twitter.com/vmucare

    Virgin Mobile Pros: Strong retail presence, online call records, Virgin Mobile Inner Circle plans include postpaid-like roaming.

    Virgin Mobile Cons: limited coverage on non Inner Circle plans, no BYOD, arbitrary restrictions on which phones can be used on which plans. No call forwarding or or 3-way calling.

    Updated: 30-Sept-2017: Inner Circle plan one year for a dollar promo ended.


    Comment Page :
    1. Very Poor Customer Service!!!

    2. You save $5/month with an iPhone by registering a credit card for automatic monthly payments.
      Vm charges sales tax for my state when I use this option, then adds 50 cents for e911 service.

      Radio Shack is giving $10 coupons for every $50 you spend now, so buying through them could save you money if you want other items. Example: HTC One V is now $49.99 vs. $150; add a small item and get $10 back.

      If you buy from Radio Shack, they activate your phone at the store. I suggest you call VM to pay for your service the first time, registering your CC if you want that option. Otherwise, even if you add money to your account online, it might not start your service. If this happens and you have to call VM, make sure they use the amount you added online, and do not charge your registered card a second time. (I wasted a couple of hours trying to figure all out, and then had to wait for a CC refund.)

    3. Yeswap, what is your opinion on liberty wireless? is it a reliable company? i heard it runs on sprint. however, the website looks kind of undeveloped. Is it an old company?

      1. Liberty's been around for at least three years. They seem like a tiny operation.

        Unlimited Talk & Text for $20 sounds good as long as you don't need MMS or data and can live with an older refurbished phone. There's no BYOD.

        There are good discussions of Liberty on Howard Forums here and here. Users seem satisfied although the unlimited plan is actually 3000 minutes, 3000 texts for 28 days.

    4. Sorry I know this is virgin mobile, but does liberty wireless have autorefill? i read on some sites that it doesn't but i'm not too sure since the reports were from users on a forum. They say that you must call cs to refill?

      1. If you read those links I posted yesterday you know as much as I do. In post 26 of this thread one person says that auto refill is available and that they are using it.

    5. Virgin Mobile has completed the upgrade to its online account system, so several changes now are in effect to their terms and conditions, particularly payment terms for PayGo, maximum balance and optional items.

      1. Yes, the biggest change seems to be that you get no longer get 90 days of payLo Basic Plan service for $15 by using auto pay. It's now $20 for 90 days whether you use auto pay or not.

    6. iPhone 5S and 5C are coming soon to Virgin Mobile per their website.

    7. Virgin Mobile ups 4G LTE data for customers.

    8. Virgin unveils plans with free streaming music.

    9. New Virgin Plans http://newsroom.virginmobileusa.com/press-release/virgin-mobile-usa-adds-unlimited-music-and-more-data

    10. Also New, with New Virgin Mobile Plans is that they have "99% NATIONWIDE COVERAGE" giving you coast-to-coast coverage with OFF-NETWORK voice roaming.

    11. Virgin Mobile Plan - Only at Walmart - $20/MO* Unlimited Talk/ 500 Text *Wi-Fi Access Only,BUT Add A Data Pack to your monthly plan : $5/1GB $10/2GB.

      1. Mobile data not included nor available for this plan. *Wi-Fi Access Only. Other Only at Walmart plans - $40/month
        4GB high-speed 3G/4G data
        unlimited data3, talk and text

        Streaming music unlimited
        without data charges

        8GB high-speed 3G/4G data
        unlimited data3, talk and text

        Streaming music unlimited
        without data charges

    12. Existing Virgin Mobile customer looking to upgrade to an Android phone? Found this link on the Virgin Mobile Inner Circle Site. https://www4.virginmobileusa.com/#!/shop/phones/@Android/ Tried to activate device through this link. It seems to hit a wall.

    13. BYOD: Inner Circle allows BYOD. iPhones must have been inactive off Sprint, Boost or previous Virgin Mobile plans for 60 days of more before they can be activated with the Inner Circle plan. You order a new Sprint SIM card as part of the sign-up process. My Boost iPhone 6S Plus is eligible per the online check; it was never used on Boost.

    14. Hotspot for Inner Circle: 10GB high speed and unlimited throttled data is a $10/month option.

    15. Correction: Mobile hotspot option is limited to 10 GB allotment, not unlimited like it is on the postpaid plan.

      1. I've updated the post with with Inner Circle BYOD and hotspot information.

    16. does wall mart still have the Virgin $15. per month plan with no data?

    17. Hi Dennis, I'm trying to switch my iPhone SE A1723 from Virgin to a T-Mobile MVNO. CS said they won't unlock my phone until after the next payment date when my $1/yr ends and $50/mo starts. I don't want to lose my number. Can I cancel the service just before the payment date, and still not lose the number when I try to port out after a few days? Or, can I use my burner phone that also takes a nano SIM to port the number before payment date, then switch the SIM after unlocking? What do you suggest?

      1. SIM swaps have to be done by CS on Sprint. Pay the $50; you saved at least $70 on the iPhone SE, and got a year of service for $1.

    18. Hi Dennis,

      I'm trying to switch out of inner circle plan in two weeks before my $1/yr ends and $50/mo starts. I have an iPhone SE from them which they are unwilling to unlock before the end of 12 months.

      Can I cancel the service in two weeks and still retain my number for a few days during which period I would unlock my phone and port my number to another service? Also, will any T-Mobile service work? I'm not a fan of sprint network.

      I'd highly appreciate your thoughts. Thanks.

      1. Pay the $50, get the unlock, wait 3 weeks and port out. Don't fight the system; you just got a year of unlimited service for $1, and saved $70 on the iPhone SE!

      2. When you call to get your iPhone SE unlocked, as for your account number. You'll need it to port out. But don't be surprised if they offer you a lower price on Inner Circle if you stay. They gave us a $10/month discount (with Autopay) - the only thing that changes is data speed is throttled after 10GB. We still keep postpaid coverage and other IC benefits. I looked but could not find a better deal for 10GB HS/month than $40, so we stayed.

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