We’re not fond of Verizon’s unlimited plans, none of which (as I’ve observed elsewhere) are truly limitless. For example, in addition to banning HD-video streaming and knee-capping mobile-hotspot speeds, the $75 Go Unlimited plan may throttle your speeds “in times of congestion,” even at the start of a billing cycle before you’ve burned up any data yourself—the others spot you 22 or 75 GB of usage before subjecting you to that risk. And as with the 5 GB plan, the $75 price requires enabling automatic payments from a checking account or debit card; otherwise it’s $5 more. Unlike Verizon’s capped plans, which give you full-speed data when roaming, the unlimited plan offers only 2G domestic data roaming, which one reader complained about while noting his experience roaming in Alaska and Puerto Rico. And the unlimited plans exclude all of Verizon’s discounts except for those for active military and veterans.

If you’d like to save some money with a prepaid or resold plan (we talk about the differences below), we like Verizon Prepaid, which costs about a third less than Verizon’s postpaid service for a 7 GB plan ($50) on the same excellent network. As with Verizon’s postpaid plans, you’ll still get unlimited 2G data after you hit your plan’s data cap, but Verizon Prepaid bests the company’s postpaid plans in one way: It doesn’t limit streaming video speed. However, the prepaid plans don’t include calling and texting to Canada and Mexico unless you upgrade to the 10 GB plan or buy the international-roaming TravelPass at the postpaid rate.
Look for more tie-in deals from the carriers that throw in one video service or another, along the lines of T-Mobile’s free Netflix subscription with two-line plans, Sprint’s Hulu deal, AT&T’s WatchTV bundle, and Verizon’s $20 discount on a bundle of unlimited wireless and a triple-play of Fios Internet, phone, and TV service. (These media tie-ins are essentially another way carriers try to keep you around without the handcuffs of two-year contracts. Watch for new-lease or early-upgrade deals, but treat them with a fair amount of skepticism; buying your phone independent of service gives you far more leverage.)
Why we love it: T-Mobile's ONE family plan gives you 4 lines of unlimited data, Netflix subscriptions and unlimited hotspot usage (at 3G speeds)—all for $140 a month. Plus, it comes backed by T-Mobile's solid network. If you have a family full of data streamers and browsers, this plan is the way to go. Did I mention that all taxes and fees are included in this price? 
Several prepaid carriers offer monthly plans with unlimited 4G LTE data, but Metro by T-Mobile remains the best, thanks to its superior network performance and perks. Metro gives you unlimited data for $50 a month, with 5GB of LTE hotspot data and access to Google One cloud storage. Upgrade to the $60 plan, and you get 15GB of hotspot data plus an Amazon Prime membership on top of Google One. That tops Boost's similarly priced unlimited plans, though Boost does offer more hotspot data, and you can get HD video streaming with its $60 plan.

Hulu: Req. registration from Sprint phone at hulu.com/sprint. Incl. access to one Hulu Limited Commercials plan per each eligible Sprint acct. (excl. other Hulu plans & add-ons) while eligible Sprint plan is active in good standing. Valid for new or returning Hulu subscribers or certain existing Limited Commercials subscribers. Select Hulu content streams in HD on supported devices subj. to connectivity. Tablets may stream Hulu content via incl. Sprint Hot Spot or may subscribe to separate unlimited data plan for tablets. Not redeemable or refundable for cash or gift subscriptions. Hulu may place acct. on inactivity hold based on Hulu usage. Cancel Hulu anytime. See full offer terms at sprint.com/hulu.
RootMetrics gives out regional awards to carriers that are top performers in categories like network speed and reliability, call quality, and data performance. Verizon swept the table in 2018, earning 112 of 125 possible awards. Sprint, by comparison, earned three awards. What does this mean? Verizon has the best track record for offering its customers a reliable network and satisfying performance.
Verizon’s 5GB plan includes carryover data, which is good for 30 days. And you can nix overage charges by turning on Safety Mode, which drops you to 2G speeds when you hit your monthly high-speed limit. You can save $5 per month if you opt for paperless billing and automatic payments, but you can only use a checking account or debit card. This is a single-line plan, so you can’t add additional lines to make it a family plan.
The carrier's new Above Unlimited offers that Canada/Mexico benefit, too, and augments it with another goodie aimed at travelers: you get five daily TravelPasses each month to use in more than 130 countries. That lets you use up to 512MB of LTE data per day. Just be aware that you'll have to do a lot of traveling to justify the higher rate for Above Unlimited, as it costs $95 a month for a single line versus $75 and $85 for Go Unlimited and Beyond Unlimited, respectively.
Disclaimer: The information featured in this article is based on our best estimates of pricing, package details, contract stipulations, and service available at the time of writing. All information is subject to change. Pricing will vary based on various factors, including, but not limited to, the customer’s location, package chosen, added features and equipment, the purchaser’s credit score, etc. For the most accurate information, please ask your customer service representative. Clarify all fees and contract details before signing a contract or finalizing your purchase.
T-Mobile has changed the name of its MetroPCS to Metro by T-Mobile, to eliminate the idea that you're making a trade-off when you opt for a prepaid cellphone plan. One of the ways it's fighting that preconception is by doubling the amount of data you get with its $40 a month plan to 10GB. That edges out AT&T's 8GB plan, which costs the same amount after you deduct $10 by enrolling in autopay. Metro's plan also includes taxes and fees in that $40 rate.

If your usage doesn’t fall into our specific categories, you can do your own calculations using WhistleOut’s carrier-comparison tool. It even lets you filter by network, so you can ask it for only, say, prepaid options that resell AT&T service. But this comparison tool requires careful reading: Like Google searches, it shows featured (aka, sponsored) results before organic ones. It also includes far more services than we cover here and shows not just plans with the required amount of data/minutes/texts but also those that exceed your needs, producing a cluttered presentation overall.

Why we love it: T-Mobile's ONE plan has proven popular, so much so that it compelled the entire wireless industry in the direction of unlimited. ONE is still arguably the best of the bunch, though, packing in more features than the competition. If you're over 55-years-old and use your phone's data heavily, getting this plan at $50 is a steal and a half.
If you don’t want to go through the hassle of unlocking your phone and installing a local SIM, you can simply buy or rent a cell phone that will work abroad. Cellular Abroad sells and rents unlocked GSM phones and SIM cards that will work in dozens of countries around the world. The company also rents the National Geographic Talk Abroad Travel Phone, whichworks in more than 200 different countries. It’s the ideal solution for travelers visiting more than one country during the same trip. Most U.S.–based mobile carriers like AT&T and Verizon also have rental programs. Give them a call to find out what options are available to you.
If your usage doesn’t fall into our specific categories, you can do your own calculations using WhistleOut’s carrier-comparison tool. It even lets you filter by network, so you can ask it for only, say, prepaid options that resell AT&T service. But this comparison tool requires careful reading: Like Google searches, it shows featured (aka, sponsored) results before organic ones. It also includes far more services than we cover here and shows not just plans with the required amount of data/minutes/texts but also those that exceed your needs, producing a cluttered presentation overall.
Due to constantly shifting promotions and terms, family-plan pricing is difficult to sort through. Our Verizon single-line pick isn’t competitive here because all of the lines on a Verizon subscription share the same data bucket. Verizon’s largest capped-data option is 8 GB, so if that won’t cover your family’s usage, you have to upgrade to more expensive unlimited data plans: $130 for two lines of not-so-versatile Go Unlimited and its limits on mobile-hotspot and streaming-video use ($160 for Beyond Unlimited), or $160 for four lines of Go Unlimited ($200 for four lines of Beyond Unlimited).
It’s important to know that unlimited never means truly unlimited. But it does mean that the amount of data you receive is so high, it’s unlikely you’ll run out. Most providers cap their “unlimited” data between 22 GB and 80 GB. The allotment is a far cry above standard 3 GB to 10 GB plans. We compared the price for these plans, too, which can run as low as $30 and as high as $75. Cell phone plans also become significantly cheaper per line as you add to the plan. So no shame the to new grad for staying on their parents' family plan — everyone is getting a better deal. Our favorite providers offered a reasonable price for generous data allotments.

Activ. Fee: Up to $30/line. Reqs. credit approval and eBill. Included features/content may change or be discontinued at any time. AutoPay: $5/mo. discount may not reflect on 1st bill. Quality of Svc. (QoS): Customers who use more than 50GB of data during a billing cycle will be deprioritized during times & places where the Sprint network is constrained. See sprint.com/networkmanagement for details. Usage Limitations: To improve data experience for the majority of users, throughput may be limited, varied or reduced on the network. Sprint may terminate svc. if off-network roaming usage in a mo. exceeds: (1) 800 min. or a majority of min.; or (2) 100MB or a majority of KB. Prohibited network use rules apply—see sprint.com/termsandconditions.

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