Unlimited plans are back, but which one is the best?

All four major U.S. carriers offer an unlimited data plan again. After years of hearing how they were unable to provide unlimited data to every customer and maintain the quality of service they wanted, new technology and a more competitive market means an 180-degree turnaround was in order and here we are.

We’ve previously written about how most people just don’t need unlimited data, and you should have a look if you have any questions about how much you should spend or how much data you need. But if you’re sure you need all the data you can get each and every month, let’s look at which company you should give your business to. We’ll start with a quick look at what each company has to offer and what it will cost you.

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AT&T

Feature Cost
Price for single line $90 for Unlimited Plus
$60 for Unlimited Choice (data speeds are capped at 3M/s)
Price for two lines $145 for Unlimited Plus
$115 for Unlimited Choice
Additional lines $20 each (wearables are $10)

AT&T’s more expensive Unlimited Plus plan comes with some extra features that are definitely worth mentioning:

  • Unlimited talk and text to Canada and Mexico
  • Advanced messaging between compatible phones on the AT&T network
  • Unlimited talk, text, and data in Canada and Mexico with the free “Roam North America” feature
  • $25 monthly credit for DirecTV services
  • 10 GB mobile hotspot (tethering)

Like most carriers, the monthly fees don’t include tax or regulatory fees and you may have other costs if you get your phone from AT&T.

Sprint

Feature Cost
Price for single line $50
Price for two lines $90
Additional lines Free (with the current promotion) for phones
Tablets are $25 per month

Sprint’s Unlimited Freedom plan also comes with these extras included in the monthly bill:

  • Unlimited data for streaming video up to 1080p
  • Unlimited data for gaming up to 8Mbps
  • Unlimited data for streaming music up to 1.5Mbps
  • 10 GB mobile hotspot (tethering)

Again, you’ll need to pay taxes and fees on top of these prices and equipment fees aren’t included.

T-Mobile

Feature Cost
Price for single line $70
Price for two lines $100
Additional lines $40 for the third line
$20 each for more

T-Mobile has a lot of feature fine print that goes with their T-Mobile ONE plan, and it might make a difference:

  • 200MB of roaming data per month
  • Unlimited talk, text, and data in Canada and Mexico
  • One hour of free Gogo in-flight Wi-Fi and unlimited texting on enabled flights
  • Unlimited data and texting in over 140 locations at 2x speed (264kbps) (limited time offer)
  • Unlimited music and HD video streaming (limited time offer, applies only in the U.S.)
  • 10 GB mobile hotspot (limited time offer)

As of May 2017, T-Mobile has a deal where you can add a third line for free if you have two or more lines on an account. There is no word when this promo or any other features listed as limited time offers will end. One big thing with T-Mobile is that you pay the price listed above each month — the taxes and fees are built into the plan price.

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Verizon

Feature Cost
Price for single line $80
Price for two lines $140
Additional lines $162 for three phones
$180 for four phones
Tablets are $20 per month
Other connected devices are $5 per month

Here’s what else you get for your money each month on Verizon plans:

  • 10 GB mobile hotspot (tethering)
  • Unlimited “HD” (optimized for lower data usage) streaming video (see Verizon’s Video Optimization Deployment page)
  • Unlimited calling and texting to and from Canada and Mexico

As with most other carriers, you’re paying taxes and fees each month on top of the list price and equipment fees aren’t built into these prices.

The best unlimited wireless plan

There are a few things in common with all four carriers: The listed prices in all advertisements are for customers who use autopay for their monthly bill. Each carrier slows down your data to 3G speeds once you hit a cap on data, which is right around 20GB per line. And no carrier guarantees great coverage, no matter what their coverage maps might say.

T-Mobile offers the best unlimited plan in the U.S.

Overall, T-Mobile has the best unlimited plan you can buy. We considered price, coverage, and features equally and while we can’t say T-Mobile will work for everyone, it’s where you should look first. Here’s how we reached the decision.

  • Which companies offer the coverage you need? Having a cheap cell phone bill isn’t so great if your phone doesn’t work where you need it to work. There are large areas of the U.S. where T-Mobile has no coverage at all but for the most part these are rural areas. While we think rural areas are awesome, we can’t ignore that T-Mobile does offer coverage where most people live. If total coverage is your main criteria when buying an unlimited plan, you should have a look at Verizon.

  • How much are your monthly taxes and fees going to be? In some places, these extra fees will add up. When you add upwards of $30 (or more) to each month’s bill, T-Mobile bundling them into the plan price might make a difference. Once you add in all the fees that find their way into your monthly bill, there probably won’t be much difference between Sprint and T-Mobile unless you have three or more lines. Sprint is cheaper, but T-Mobile picking up the tab for those fees makes a big difference.

  • Do you need any of the other services that come with a particular plan? If you have to pay extra for things like texting or calling people in other countries be sure to add those costs into the price unless it’s included in the plan. T-Mobile offers roaming data, calls, texts and data in all of North America as well as texting and data in 140 other places around the world. They even offer free in-flight Wi-Fi with Gogo. This is a great set of useful extras.

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The best news is that everything here is subject to change at any time! Because the market has become so competitive for unlimited data, companies will constantly be adjusting prices and features. When one company makes a move the rest will soon follow with their own new pricing or other offers.

We’ll keep things updated here as changes happen and maybe next month we’ll be recommending a different company.

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