If you make frequent trips overseas, T-Mobile’s plan is a no-brainer, especially now that more countries are covered. The carrier includes unlimited data and texting as part of its standard T-Mobile One unlimited plan (albeit at slower speeds than you’re used to in the states). If your calls include a lot of overseas numbers, it may even be worth upgrading to T-Mobile One Plus International for an extra $25 a month, since it lets you make calls to landlines and mobile numbers in many countries at no additional charge. Sprint offers something similar with its new unlimited plans and their access to the Global Roaming feature. But T-Mobile will cover you in more countries after July 22.
To determine the best plans, we looked at the monthly plan price before taxes and fees, the price per gigabyte, and features such as unlimited video streaming or rollover data. We only considered national carriers, which ruled out regional providers like U.S. Cellular. For average users and prepaid users, we looked at plans with 2GB to 5GB. For families, we looked at plans with at least 6GB and calculated pricing for a family of four. Recommendations for heavy data users only factored in plans with at least 10GB of data.
We first used it to call the U.S from Ethiopia. And it worked beautifully! Even though Ethiopia was listed as a country with coverage, I just could not believe that it would actually work there. We called our daughter (and families) in Montana and in Wisconsin. I called United Airlines in the U.S. to work out a flight schedule problem. It all worked.
AT&T’s $80 Unlimited & More Premium plan gets you 15 GB hotspot use and HD video for $5 less than Verizon’s Beyond Unlimited rate, but its network trails T-Mobile’s in OpenSignal’s and PCMag’s studies. And we don’t think anyone should get its $70-per-month, no-hotspot-allowed Unlimited & More option. Like Verizon, it requires automatic payments for you to get its advertised prices but won’t let you make those on a credit card, and it disqualifies all of its discounts except its military/veterans deal from that plan.
Buy a disposable phone — If you’re in a country for a while and all you need are calls, texts, and maybe some light web browsing, just buy the cheapest prepaid phone you can find at the local mobile store. Sure, it’ll probably be complete rubbish, but you can often pick these phones up with a bit of credit for next to nothing and they’ll do the job for a while. The upside? You really won’t care if you drop it in the hostel toilet. If it does survive the length of your trip, just pass it onto to somebody else when you leave.
These companies usually configure their SIMs with two phone numbers: one for use in North America and one that will work everywhere else. Dual-number SIMS can be a problem if you want to receive text messages while outside North America via your U.S. number. These systems only allow subscribers to log in with their alternate phone number (usually assigned in the UK) when overseas. This means that unless text messages are directed to that number, they cannot be received.
If you use more than 5 GB of mobile data most months, if you travel outside the country regularly, or if you want the greatest variety of phone choices, you should consider T-Mobile One Plus. This plan combines T-Mobile One, the carrier’s standard $70 subscription plan with the $15 T-Mobile One Plus add-on (which adds HD streaming video and LTE mobile hotspot speeds and ups T-Mobile’s included Gogo in-flight Wi-Fi from one hour per flight to unlimited.) At $85 per month, T-Mobile One Plus beats Verizon’s $85 Beyond Unlimited plan once you account for the taxes and fees that Verizon doesn’t list but T-Mobile folds into that total—and T-Mobile offers a wider choice of phones and delivers much better international-roaming options. Like its competitors, T-Mobile does reserve the right to “deprioritize” your data above a certain threshold, but it now sets this “soft cap” at 50 GB a month—more than twice that of AT&T and Verizon.
With an eligible trade-in and activation on a Sprint Flex 18-month lease, Sprint offers the Apple iPhone XS 64GB 4G LTE Smartphone for Sprint for $0 per month for 18 months with free shipping. Excluding the trade-in value, that's $750 less than what you'd pay at Best Buy ($41.67/mo.) and tied with last month's mention as the best iPhone XS deal we've listed yet. (It costs $999.99 to buy without a contract.)