An option that a large number of nomads have found success in utilizing is renting a data plan offering a usable amount of data for a primary internet connection.
Renting/Leasing Data Plans from 3rd Party Resellers
Third party vendors are companies or individuals that have acquired lines of service on the major carriers and are reselling services, typically as rental or leased options. You are paying a vendor for use of the line they have access to, and you do not have a direct relationship with the carrier.
This style of plan is specifically marketed as unlimited or high-cap data plans for use in data only devices like mobile hotspots and cellular embedded routers, and promise high speed hotspot usage.
Top Pick Notes: Even though reseller plans do come with risks, they are often the only way to get large amounts of data for use in hotspots and routers. And for the most part they are month-to-month, so there are no long term commitments - and the biggest risks are your plan suddenly going away or poor customer service.
For these reasons we consider 3rd party resellers a Top Pick option - as long as you go in with your eyes wide open, and plan a back-up option for when... not if.. your plan goes away.
For more on how this style of plan differs from other "unlimited" options view or read our Getting Lots of Cellular Data guide:
3rd Party Vendor Warning
Please consider that 3rd party resellers/vendors might NOT have an official relationship with the carrier. The plans used behind the scenes might not be officially authorized for use in data only devices or for resale, or may be plans you can acquire yourself. The vendor could be circumventing the terms of service of a plan to offer it to you. And even if a vendor has a legit relationship with the carrier, the carrier could pull or change the plan with little notice.
We have witnessed countless terminations of this style of plan over the years, leaving customers without service.
Always proceed with caution when dealing with a reseller or vendor. While there is little legal risk to you as you're dealing with a vendor advertising a plan, do anticipate your service could go away with little to no notice should the vendor lose their plan. You could be left with gear that isn't viable for other use later. Your device could get blacklisted by the carrier. You could lose prepaid service with no hope of a refund. You could experience poor or variable customer service.
If reliability is critical to you - ALWAYS HAVE A BACK-UP OPTION AT THE READY.
What You Need to Know
- Upfront costs: Your start-up costs are set by the vendor, and can include the purchase of a SIM card, an activation fee and possibly a mobile hotspot device or router. They may term some start up costs as a 'membership fee' to qualify for obtaining data access.
- Gear: Some vendors specify which devices their plan works on and even require purchasing from them - this may be based on the carrier blocking access to certain devices, they need to make setting changes for an unauthorized plan to work or for standardizing their support. It is possible that the carrier starts blocking a device you are using and you may need to purchase a new device to continue service. The carriers can blacklist devices from future use on their network. Make sure the device you use is optimal for your use and the carrier the plan is based on.
- Monthly Costs: Monthly costs are set by the vendor based on current market demand. This is usually a month-to-month agreement, which gives you the flexibility to discontinue service as needed. But remember, no-contract goes both ways - pricing or terms can change at anytime. Some may offer a prepaid quarterly or annual option - but there's typically no refund should the vendor lose their plan before your prepaid term is up.
- Tiered Plans / Fair Use Policy / Soft Data Caps: Some vendors may have data caps put in place to prevent excessive data use getting on the carrier's radar, or sell high-cap plans by tiered data caps. Some clearly state these, some put them into the fine print of their terms of service and some may not disclose them until you hit the cap. These caps may change without notice based on the vendor's experience with their carrier. If you hit the cap - you may get a warning, you may get terminated or you may experience extreme speed throttling. Reasonable usage could be anywhere between 50GB-2TB of usage a month - with 200-600GB more the norm. If you need more than that, consider multiple plans.
- Customer Support: You are not a direct customer of the carrier - any support issues must be handled by your vendor. Some may offer great service, and some may be quite lacking. Some issues may be way beyond their control.
- Terms of Service: Be sure to understand the terms of service of any plan you consider, as they can vary widely. Things like network management, throttling, video resolution and roaming limitations may apply. Some may completely ban gaming on their networks.
- Price Differences: The plans used behind the scenes can vary a great deal. Some may be legit bulk purchase agreements via a master agent and some may be reselling high priority corporate or non-profit plans against terms of service. Some plans may be postpaid, some may be prepaid or even prepaid brands. Some may actually be smartphone or tablet plans that have been made to work on hotspots or routers. The vendors don't tend to make this information known upfront. A vendor's stock may change over time based on what they can acquire.
- Have a Back-Up Option: We highly recommend having an alternate way online if you rely on one of these plans. Remember, these plans can get shut down or change terms of service with little to no notice. When your vendor loses their plan, they may not be able to give you any notice - and instead just ship you a new SIM card (which is essentially switching you to a different line of service they have, which could be on a different carrier than you originally signed up for.)
MIA Members - we have pricing information listed for you exclusively - please log in to see your exclusive content. We also welcome our members to leave comments on their experiences and we have notes for many resellers available if we've received feedback on them.
This vendor listing is simply a courtesy for our audience to aid in their shopping process for those who have determined the risks of a third party vendor are acceptable. While we routinely update this listing, this stuff changes rapidly - resellers may show 'out of stock' depending on current inventory and prices & terms frequently change.
This List is NOT AN ENDORSEMENT
We do NOT individually review data plan resellers or vendors, they change way too often. This listing is in no way an endorsement or vetting for any vendor you see below.
We do not remove vendors just because we receive a complaint on them. Do not assume that just because a vendor is listed here that they are offering a legit plan or are reputable.
Our featured vendors are options we feel we can understand the plans behind the scenes well enough to highlight. We do not take requests or payment to Feature vendors.
Please do your own continued research and evaluation
Signing up with any of these is at your own risk.
In our experience of tracking this style of plans since 2009 - most plans will work.. until they don't.
We have absolutely no affiliation with any reseller, none pay for their listing and we do not participate in kickbacks for sign-ups. Maintaining this list is made possible by funding from our premium members, for which they receive extra information below.
The following spreadsheet lists a number of 3rd party vendors selling plans on at least one of the major carriers. The spreadsheet indicates which network each vendor sells plans on.
Data Vendors & Brokers:
Want to be listed? Please be in touch and introduce yourself and what you offer. We take absolutely no listing fees, advertisement dollars or kickbacks for listings. Our featured vendors are options we feel we can understand the plans behind the scenes well enough to highlight. We do not take requests for being featured.
You must host your own web storefront (eBay and Facebook not eligible) where customers can transparently learn about the details of your offering and reach, order & pay online and reach you for customer service.
Have updates/corrections? No need to let us know - we routinely do a full update and will update the information based on what is on your website.
Listing subject to removal: Your free listing may be removed from this page for any reason we deem fit - our incentive is not to promote you, but to provide a service to our community. We have had too many issues with demanding vendors treating this list as their advertising venue that we are seriously considering making this a member only resource and removing the public listing.
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Shopping for Cellular Data Plans
Finding the right plans for your needs is no easy task - quite simply mobile travelers using cellular data as their primary way online is not how most carriers have designed their plans. Many of us want plans that provide copious amounts of data.
Here's our video going over ways to get LOTS of data for use in your travels:
But a data plan alone will not keep you online. You also need the right gear, signal enhancing strategy and planning your travels around the options you carry with you. Head on over to our collection of guides:
Top Data Plan Picks
Our constantly updated list of the BEST data plans.
Which Carrier is Best?
Is Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile or Sprint best for your travels?
Selecting Data Plans
Our deep dive into understanding data plans and shopping for them.
Data Plan Pricing Grid
Our always updated spreadsheet comparing all data plans suitable for mobile internet.
Getting LOTS of the Data
Learn how to get lots of cellular data in your mobile internet arsenal.