It doesn’t matter if you’re an Apple fan using the latest iPhone or a lifelong Android user looking to upgrade to the newest Pixel or Galaxy — to get the most out of your device you’ll need a good unlimited data plan. Unfortunately, when it comes to finding the overall “best” unlimited plan, things can get a little challenging. Unlike with home internet services, where your options are often limited by your location, most people living in the US have their pick of all the major competitors and carriers.
And with so many different options, it can be tricky to tell which ones are truly a good value, especially since carriers love to make bold claims about performance and coverage at different prices. Adding to the fun are recent reshuffling of plans by both T-Mobile and Verizon with different names, perks, prices and features.
To help you narrow down the best unlimited data plans out there, I’m going to focus on the three major carriers — Verizon, T-Mobile and AT&T — combing through the multiple postpaid unlimited plans available to find the ones that provide the most perks and value for single lines and for families of four, so you can find the best plan for you and your budget.
Know your area
Before we get to the plans, to get the best deal you need to make sure you have the coverage that you need. This makes it very hard for us to give a blanket recommendation of any one carrier. T-Mobile’s service in New York may be excellent, but if you’re in rural Iowa, Verizon is more reliable.
While your mileage may vary, the good news is that these networks are growing and improving all the time, particularly as the three major players race to blanket the US with 5G. It’s quite possible that you left a network complaining about its sparse service a decade ago, but now it’s beefed itself up because of that race to acquire customers.
If you know any friends or family in your area that already use the carrier you’re considering, ask about their experience. You could also go to a carrier’s store and see if they offer any free ways to try out the service before switching over, such as T-Mobile’s Network Pass. Verizon now offers a similar 30-day “Test Drive” program while the Cricket prepaid service has rolled out its own trial program that lets you sample parent AT&T’s network.
Know your deals and discounts
One other thing to keep in mind: discounts. All of the carriers offer additional discounts that you could be eligible for, depending on your employer, military status, student status or age.
First responders, military members, veterans, nurses and teachers can get discounts on every major carrier. Verizon has discounts for students, while T-Mobile’s Work perk could knock 15% off the monthly price of a Go5G Plus plan, with AT&T offering a similar program for its Unlimited Premium plans that it calls Signature. AT&T also has a promotion for teachers that offers 25% off its latest unlimited plans.
If you’re 55 or older, you may also be eligible for a discounted plan: T-Mobile offers discounted plans nationwide for as low as $55 a month for two lines, and Verizon and AT&T offer similar options — but only for Florida residents.
It’s also worth noting that some carriers, particularly Verizon right now, sometimes advertise different rates on their websites that are geared toward switchers. A current promotion at the carrier offers a discount on the monthly plan, but only if you switch to Verizon and are bringing your own phone (not trading in and financing a new one on an installment plan). Our recommendations below reflect the actual rate outside of these very specific promotions.
Now, onto the picks.
More about unlimited data plans and perks
AT&T’s unlimited plans no longer have much in the way of perks. The carrier used to offer a free subscription to HBO Max with its top Unlimited Elite offering ($85 for one line, $50 a month if you have four lines), but it got rid of the option in early June 2022.
It is also worth reiterating that carrier perks — like Verizon and the Disney bundle or T-Mobile’s offering of Netflix, Paramount Plus, ViX Plus and Apple TV Plus — are often limited to one subscription per account, not one for each line you have.
Unlimited data plans FAQs
We’ll keep updating this article as new unlimited plans and better deals emerge. In the meantime, if you know of a better wireless plan deal or have your own favorites, message me on Twitter @eliblumenthal.
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