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.

If you're not on an unlimited plan, Verizon offers a daily travel pricing option called TravelPass. It’ll cost you $5 per day per device for each day you’re out of the country if you travel to Mexico or Canada. In more than 100 other countries — including China, France and Germany — Verizon charges $10 per device per day. Talk, text and data on TravelPass are subject to the same allowances you have on your Verizon plan stateside; in other words, the data you use in Europe draws from the tiered data plan you have at home. Note that data speeds are only 4G for the first 512MB each day when you have a TravelPass; after that, you're throttled to 2G speeds.
Straight Talk’s 10GB plan typically expires after 30 days, unless you opt to automatically refill your account. But you can also purchase in three-month, six-month and yearlong increments at a discounted rate. Straight Talk contracts with each of the big four nationwide carriers: AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon. The network you use will depend on where you live and the phone you activate.
Sprint has tried to position itself as the budget brand, with reliability that beats T-Mobile and performs within 1% of Verizon and AT&T. That’s a bit misleading, because reliability only measures “accessibility and retainability of voice calls and data sessions” and doesn’t account for network speed or overall coverage. RootMetrics’ scores and map confirm that Sprint’s network is notably less extensive than Verizon’s, and it ranks dead last in terms of overall data speeds.
Verizon offers the best coverage in the most places in the US, so you’re more likely than with other carriers to have a signal wherever you are—the most important thing for a smartphone to do. And though Verizon isn’t the least expensive carrier for unlimited-data plans, the company’s under-promoted single-line 5 GB plan (just $55 after an auto-pay discount) includes more data than most people need while saving you money compared with an unlimited plan. But if you truly need unlimited data, or frequently travel internationally, you should consider T-Mobile’s One Plus.
Why we love it: If you rely frequently on your phone to provide a WiFi signal to your other devices, Boost Mobile's Unlimited HD plan is worth a close look. In addition to allowing you to skip a credit check and worries about extra taxes and fees (they're baked into Boost's prices), the plan gives you a whopping 20GB of full-strength hotspot data a month. This is a dream if you do frequent tethering.  
At UNREAL Mobile, get a 14-day trial of Unlimited Talk, Text, and Data + 5GB LTE (a $30 per month value) for free along with a 4G GSM 3-in-1 SIM Kit (a $15 value) for free. Pay only a one-time account setup fee of $0.01. Plus, free shipping applies (a $6.99 value). It works with most unlocked AT&T and T-Mobile GSM Android or iOS smartphones. Why get UNREAL Mobile?
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.)

Prepay accounts in the United States offer anonymity to criminals wishing to obtain telecommunications services. The phones cannot be easily traced to a specific individual. Without call patterns that can be correlated to placed or received calls, there are very few effective ways for law enforcement to monitor or intercept communications between unregistered phones. This becomes even more difficult if encrypted services are also utilized.

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Sprint: Unlimited Basic includes talk, text and high-speed data in Canada and Mexico. You can add Sprint’s Global Roaming service to any Sprint plan at no additional charge. With Global Roaming, you get free texting and 2G data. Calls made abroad start at 20-cents-per-minute. You can purchase high-speed data passes to get LTE data download speeds abroad
Verizon’s network is still better than T-Mobile’s, but that advantage is less pronounced for data. Automated drive testing by the research firm RootMetrics that rate T-Mobile poorly include lagging grades for voice and text use, while they show T-Mobile as a respectable third place for speed and data. PCMag currently ranks T-Mobile as a very close second to Verizon, while OpenSignal’s test results say that T-Mobile is now actually ahead of Verizon in speed and data. And though T-Mobile’s GSM-based network—which lets you talk and use data simultaneously, unlike Verizon’s—has historically leaned on higher-frequency bands that don’t reach as far inside buildings, that’s getting better. That GSM foundation also means that T-Mobile is compatible with more phones than Verizon is, including virtually every unlocked phone you can buy.
Verizon: Verizon Wireless is offering BOGO and rebate deals on a ton of Apple and Android phones right now. With a qualifying trade-in, you can take $300 off a Pixel 2XL, Samsung Galaxy S9, Galaxy S9 Plus, Galaxy Note 9, LG G7 ThinQ, LG V40 ThinQ, iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus, iPhone X, iPhone XS, or iPhone XS Max when you purchase one of these devices and add a new line. The Samsung Galaxy Note 8 and Galaxy S8 are also on sale for $100 off with no trade-in necessary.
Among services that let you bring your own phone, Verizon Prepaid provides the best deals for four lines, thanks to generous multiple-line discounts on its 3 and 7 GB (per line) plans that drop those four-line costs to $100 and $125, respectively. The only exception is the least appealing data amount: four lines with 1 GB each, where AT&T Prepaid is cheapest at $90 a month. Cricket offers more data in our medium-usage scenario—$110 buys you 5 GB per line—but that comes with an 8 Mbps speed limit and no hotspot support.
If you can't wait until your deal is up with your current carrier, the major carriers are all willing to pick up some of the cost to get you to switch. Verizon, Sprint, and T-Mobile all offer up to $650 for each phone you switch over to pay off your phone purchases and early termination fees; AT&T offers a $100 bill credit for switching over plus $200 for trading in an eligible smartphone. Note that this money will come in the form of prepaid gift cards and that every carrier requires you to trade in your existing phone.

Sprint is offering free iPhone Xs with eligible trade-in and Sprint Flex lease. The promotion is available for the iPhone Xs 64GB variant. You get $0/month after $41.67/month credit applied within 2 bills. It requires an 18-month lease with new line or eligible upgrade and approved credit. If wireless service is canceled, the remaining balance on the device becomes due. 
It’s common for carriers to offer subscriptions to entertainment services as promotions. Sprint goes above and beyond the competition by partnering with four services: You can get free subscriptions to Hulu, TIDAL music, Amazon Prime, and Lookout mobile security. This adds to the value of Sprint’s plans, especially for customers already paying for some of these services.
I shopped on line for a phone for my daughter to use while she was in Europe. After reading several endorsements from different sources, I decided to give the 'too good to be true' Mobal phone a try. I am a cynical shopper, especially with phones, but must report that the connection quality was the best I have ever experienced - not a single dropped call, no cutting in and out, I spoke to my daughter in Italy like it was around the corner! I was very pleased.
Another option besides making a traditional cell phone call is using a Voice Over IP (VoIP) service such as Skype, which connects calls via an Internet connection. Skype can be used on a laptop, tablet or smartphone. Skype users can talk to each other for free, and can make calls to landlines and cell phones at affordable rates. However, remember that even if you’re not making international calls over your phone’s cellular network, you’ll still need to have an international plan in place to avoid exorbitant data charges (or find a free Wi-Fi connection so you don’t have to use your data).
Project Fi, Google’s wireless service, resells the networks of Sprint, T-Mobile, and the regional carrier U.S. Cellular. It’s not bad for frequent international travelers—we liked its rates and LTE roaming better than T-Mobile’s—but it supports only Google’s Pixel series of phones as well as some LG and Motorola models. If your passport has dozens of stamps and your current or desired phone is on its list, though, Fi is worth a look.
We have reviewed a selection of carriers including AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, Verizon Wireless, Boost Mobile, Virgin Mobile, Straight Talk, U.S. Cellular, TracFone, Tello, and more. Some phones are only available with certain carriers because the carriers produce some phone models themselves. But most carriers will serve a variety of manufacturers so in most cases you’ll have a wealth of choices with any given model.
AT&T: AT&T has a bundle of nice BOGO and rebate deals on name-brand Android and Apple flagships for DirecTV customers: Buy two iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus, iPhone X, iPhone XS, XS Max, Samsung Galaxy S9, Galaxy S9 Plus, Galaxy Note 9, or LG V35 ThinQ smartphones on AT&T Next and enjoy between $700 and $900 back in bill credits toward the value of the second phone (the rebate amount varies by model). If you don’t want to buy two and/or you’re not a DirecTV customer, then you can still get up to $600 back on a Galaxy S9, S9 Plus, or Note 9 with an eligible trade-in.
AT&T: AT&T has a bundle of nice BOGO and rebate deals on name-brand Android and Apple flagships for DirecTV customers: Buy two iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus, iPhone X, iPhone XS, XS Max, Samsung Galaxy S9, Galaxy S9 Plus, Galaxy Note 9, or LG V35 ThinQ smartphones on AT&T Next and enjoy between $700 and $900 back in bill credits toward the value of the second phone (the rebate amount varies by model). If you don’t want to buy two and/or you’re not a DirecTV customer, then you can still get up to $600 back on a Galaxy S9, S9 Plus, or Note 9 with an eligible trade-in.
After the distraction of two self-inflicted wounds (a doomed purchase of its smaller competitor Nextel, followed by the wrong choice of 4G technology before a belated pivot to LTE), Sprint is finally making substantial progress with its network. If its coverage works for you, its pricing is almost as cheap as that of many prepaid and MVNO services but provides higher data allotments—and Sprint’s incentives to customers who bring numbers from other carriers allow even greater savings. However, as with Verizon, its CDMA technology permits simultaneous voice and data only if you’re on LTE.
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).
We focus on the Big Four because they dominate the market. But consumers looking for a good deal or great customer service should also check out smaller companies. Our ratings of 20 providers are based on the experiences of about 100,000 Consumer Reports members. The Big Four are all near the bottom of the chart, though T-Mobile rates somewhat higher than its competitors. (Ratings are available to members.)
Some devices may automatically transmit and receive data without any user action or knowledge. This may result in significant unexpected cellular data charges. Applications such as push email, news and weather updates, location services and many downloadable apps (even free ones) may do this. This list is not at all exhaustive; therefore, to avoid unexpected bills, we recommend that you take great care to disable automatic applications on your device.

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Why we love it: In addition to HD streaming, a 20GB mobile hotspot allowance, 500GB of Verizon Cloud, and a massive 75GB data de-prioritization threshold, Verizon's Above Unlimited includes unlimited talk/text/data in Mexico and Canada and 5 TravelPasses/month for use in more than 130 countries (each TravelPass entitles you to 24 hours of your regular unlimited benefits while abroad). All backed, of course, by Verizon's awesome network. It may be expensive, Above Unlimited delivers the goods. 
If you can live with limited service during your trip, bring along your phone but be sure to turn off data usage and the “fetch new data” option. Those are two important ways to reduce your cell phone bill during an international trip. Also look for complimentary Wi-Fi “hot spots” in places like coffee shops and malls, and use voice and text messaging apps like Viber and LINE, which are free if both parties have accounts with the service. Skype is also an option (be sure your phone is subscribed to a free Wi-Fi hotspot first) as are Google Hangouts, WhatsApp, and WeChat. You can also buy a pre-paid phone card, which usually costs less per minute than your mobile carrier’s international roaming rates.
Yes. If you place an international call from the areas located in your home 'footprint', then the call will be billed at the U.S Cellular per minute rate for international toll, plus airtime and applicable charges and taxes. If you are roaming and place an international call with another carrier, you will have access to the countries available through that carrier. The call will be rated according to the International toll rates charged by that carrier, plus airtime and applicable roaming charges and taxes.
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