Most of you probably have heard about Credo Mobile – its associated Credo Action is supposedly a liberal activist organization that often takes the form of hair-on-fire propagandists for the president’s detractors on the Left. On TPV, I have pointed out Credo Action’s follies on more occasions than one. For an organization that ostensibly bashes large mobile carriers for being anti-causes and anti-consumer though, Credo Mobile is itself a pretty big ripoff.

Let’s say you’re shopping for a mobile carrier. Credo is what’s called a MVNO, or a Mobile Virtual Network Operator – a term that defines service providers that license or lease a carrier’s network and provide service on that network. Credo Mobile uses the Sprint network (perhaps that explains why they stay away from criticizing Sprint’s corporate behavior). If you are a Credo Mobile customer, your network provider is Sprint, but your service and billing are handled by Credo Mobile.

Most MVNOs give their customers a better value for their dollar, though they often include certain compromises. For example, many MVNO’s save on cost by not providing any roaming coverage. Others lack access to their network provider’s super-fast LTE data network. But Credo stands as the only MVNO of note that actually makes your service more expensive.

Let’s compare some plans between Credo and other providers, between Credo and other MVNOs, both with the least expensive and “unlimited” plans. Given that most of America is on smartphones, we will be comparing smartphone plans only, but the comparison would extend just as well to feature phones. We will also compare single-line vs. family (4-lines) plans.

Credo Mobile Sprint AT&T AT&T BYOD Verizon Wireless T-Mobile
Least expensive option $75 $70 $60 $45 $80 $50
What it includes 700 minutes, 300 texts, unlimited data Unlimited minutes, texts, 1 GB of data Unlimited minutes and texts, 300 MB of data Unlimited minutes and texts, 300 MB of data Unlimited minutes and texts, 1GB of data Unlimited minutes, texts, 500 MB of data
“Unlimited” standard option (unlimited minutes, texts, at 2GB data per line) $105 $80 $95 $80 $100 $60
“Unlimited” standard option (unlimited minutes, texts, at least 2GB data per line) $275 $240 $250 $190 $250 $140
Credo Mobile Boost Mobile (Network: Sprint) Solavei (Network: T-Mobile) Straight Talk (Network: any) AIO Wireless (Network: AT&T) Simple Mobile (Network: T-Mobile)
Least expensive option $75 $55 $39 $45 $55 $40
What it includes 700 minutes, 300 texts, unlimited data unlimited talk, text, 2.5 GB of data unlimited talk, text, 500 MB of data unlimited talk, text, 2.5 GB data unlimited talk, text, 2 GB data unlimited talk, text, 1 GB data
“Unlimited” standard option (unlimited minutes, texts, at least 2GB data per line) $105 $55 $69 $45 $55 $50
Note: T-mobile plans have separate device payment, should you choose to buy phones from them. If you bring your own device, T-mobile does not charge extra for devices. AT&T Bring Your Own Device plans give a $15 per line discount. Credo, Sprint, and Verizon do not seem to have BYOD plans. “Unlimited standard” options include unlimited talk and text. “Data” refers to the amount of high speed data available.

A few notes on the above chart. The least expensive plans are explanatory; they are the cheapest plans a customer can sign up for with a given provider (leaving aside very tailored plans). Market research shows that some 90% of smartphone customers use less than 2 GB of data, so a particularly large “unlimited” data plan is unlikely to do much good to the average customer (especially on Sprint’s network, which tends to be particularly weak).

As you can see, not only is Credo Mobile’s rates higher than nearly all of its competitors in nearly all the category, compared to other MVNOs, their rates are nearly double or more. And if you’ve got a family with a couple of kids, you are better off going to Verizon, known to be the industry’s most expensive carrier. Laughably, Credo’s plans cost more (significantly more for a family plan) than plans from its network provider, Sprint.

Wait a second, you say. Why is that so funny? Credo Mobile has to buy bandwidth from Sprint and then resell it; isn’t it normal that their plans would cost more? Not at all, as you can see from Boost Mobile’s rates, another Sprint MVNO. Obviously, these virtual network operators don’t pay their network carrier retail rates; they pay wholesale rates to buy bandwidth in bulk. The concept is no different from booksellers ordering books in bulk and still being able to sell those books to customers at or below the cover price.

But but but. They donate a percentage of your bill to progressive nonprofits – that has to count for something! It does, until you realize that their “a percentage” literally means one percentCREDO Mobile donates 1% of your bill (not the taxes, fees, etc.; just the bill) to those causes. They raise money in other ways as well, but those have nothing to do with your service. Pick nearly ANY plan above and donate the difference to your favorite progressive cause, and you will do better than CREDO – by a rather large factor if you pick the right plan.

CREDO is not a “progressive phone company.” It’s a scam that takes advantage of well meaning progressives and causes.