All four major carriers now offer different tiers of unlimited data plans. We think T-Mobile's $70 option provides the best mix of value and performance. Sprint's basic unlimited plan is cheaper than T-Mobile One, but its network isn't as fast. The entry-level plans from Verizon And AT&T both carry too many restrictions, relative to T-Mobile's $70 plan. (And if you don't mind restrictions, T-Mobile Essentials is cheaper still at $60 a month.) T-Mobile One features a good price on a strong network, and if you want to upgrade from 480p video streaming to HD, it's now just $15 more per month (the same price as Verizon's unlimited plan with HD streaming.)


Consumer Cellular’s prices aren’t quite as low as those of other resellers, but the company offers major savings in lower data-usage situations—the service is $15 to $30 cheaper if you expect to use 3 GB or less a month. Infrequent callers can get further savings by choosing one of Consumer Cellular’s lower voice allotments. And as the website reminds visitors, the company offers a 5 percent AARP discount. It blocks tethering by default but will enable that feature if you ask. And Consumer Cellular offers installment-plan purchase options with roughly the same terms as the majors do.
Inessa Kraft is an international traveler, iPhone SE advanced user, actress, who starred in various inspirational and travel films, videos, advertisement and TV series, including an award winning travel film Snowing Summer, besides traveling often for the shootings, she lives location independently and makes short educational films with her homeschooling kid.

If saving money without compromising too much on data is the most important thing to you, Republic Wireless offers a decent amount of data for less than $30 a month, especially after tweaking what it charges for LTE data. Otherwise, Verizon offers the most compelling individual cellphone plan, costing $55 a month for 5GB; you can also roll over unused data to the next month. Metro by T-Mobile — the new name for the old MetroPCS service — still offers the best prepaid plans for both individuals and families thanks to a strong network and appealing perks.
Buying a cheap prepaid phone when you get off the plane can often be much more cost-effective than using your usual plan abroad. Or, you can call your carrier and ask whether your phone is compatible with international SIM cards. If so, you can buy a prepaid SIM in your destination country and simply pop it into your phone for access to the local network.
Gem! Phone works great. Needs nano SD card, I had to get an adapter kit but once I put in my ATT sim card, no issues at all! I don't know why anyone would spend $700 on the S7 when you can get this for $220 and its virtually the same phone. I previously had the S6, and I see virtually no performance difference between the two. Buy this if you need a good US or international phone.

Among the basic-economy, entry-level versions of unlimited data, Sprint deserves some credit for requiring the fewest compromises beyond the streaming-video 480p resolution enforced by all four: Sprint’s Unlimited Basic, $60 for one line, still includes 500 MB of LTE hotspot use (more than I use in most months) and overseas roaming (though at slower speeds). T-Mobile Essentials, at $60, offers only free texting overseas—international voice and data are extra—and limits hotspot use to 3G speeds (although OpenSignal rated its 3G downloads highest among all four). Verizon’s $75 Go Unlimited caps hotspot use at a punitive 600 Kbps, while AT&T’s $75 Unlimited & More bans hotspot use outright.
More good news, at least for heavy data users, is the rise of unlimited data plans. These plans, which carriers started to pull a few years ago when smartphones such as the iPhone started using substantial amounts of data, can be a respite for a new wave of consumers hooked on streaming services such as Netflix and Spotify. All the major carriers now offer unlimited plans, but they come with catches. More on that below.
If you'd prefer to use a different Android phone or an iPhone, T-Mobile remains a strong alternative, letting T-Mobile One subscribers use data in more than 210 countries, though at 2G speeds. You can talk and text for free in Canada and Mexico, though T-Mobile limits you to 5GB of LTE data in those countries. (Be aware that the carrier's new T-Mobile Essentials unlimited plan doesn't include these international perks.)
For each service, we computed the cost of a few typical bundles of smartphone service, setting minimal use at 1 gigabyte (GB) of data, moderate use at 3 GB, and heavy use at 5 GB. (Research firms’ estimates have shown steady increases in average use since the first version of this guide, but usage estimates per carrier have also diverged as some carriers have switched to selling only unlimited-data subscriptions: In the second quarter of 2018, Strategy Analytics found that Android users who had opted into its survey used on average 5.9 GB on T-Mobile, 5 GB on Sprint, 4.5 GB on Verizon, and 3.9 GB on AT&T. However, usage outside of the big four can be lower, to judge from the much lower monthly average reported by the wireless trade group CTIA for 2017: only 1.3 GB.

T-Mobile’s coverage has improved considerably over the past three years, and over the past two years, Sprint’s has progressed as well; we expect further improvements as the carriers upgrade their networks. Those two carriers should also be deploying more lower-frequency spectrum, either purchased or “refarmed” from older services, which ought to improve their problematic indoor reach.
Verizon has a reputation for taking a long time to push out software updates for its phones, but its performance with Google’s Android 8.0 Oreo update shows improvement. That said, you don’t have to buy your phone from Verizon as long as the model you get supports its network, so you can choose a phone that gets quick updates. Most unlocked phones, including iPhones, Google’s Pixel handsets, and some Samsung phones, are all compatible with Verizon nowadays. Though as you can see at Will My Phone Work, this group excludes GSM-only phones like the Nokia 6.1, our pick for the best budget Android phone, as well as some LTE models with limited frequency support, such as OnePlus’s Android phones.
Opting for Google’s Project Fi seems like a really great idea for a variety of reasons. First, the nuts and bolts: You can get calls and texts for $20 per month, and data for $10 per GB of use (and you can add extra people for $15 each). But what exactly makes the plan unlimited? You're only charged $10 for the GBs you use up until 6 GBs, then beyond that, it’s unlimited.

T-Mobile has carved a niche for itself in the U.S. with their all-in pricing (i.e. taxes and fees baked into plan costs). The carrier's straightforward lineup of unlimited offerings have proven eminently popular and shepherded in the "unlimited revolution," as other carriers have sought to imitate T-Mobile's success. The carrier's ONE plans are still some of our favorite unlimited plans on the market, packed with tons of features and reasonably priced. 
Buying a cheap prepaid phone when you get off the plane can often be much more cost-effective than using your usual plan abroad. Or, you can call your carrier and ask whether your phone is compatible with international SIM cards. If so, you can buy a prepaid SIM in your destination country and simply pop it into your phone for access to the local network.

The other option is an unlimited-data plan, but these aren’t truly unlimited: All four carriers have carved out restrictions on things like hotspot use and streaming video, while adding premium tiers or for-fee add-ons that lift some of those limits. As a result, shopping for wireless service can look a lot like buying a plane ticket: You can’t jump on the cheapest price you see, lest you wind up in Basic Economy.
Verizon is the nation’s largest carrier for good reason: It offers the best coverage in the most places in the US according to third-party tests and surveys (including those of PCMag and RootMetrics), so you’re more likely to have a signal no matter where you are, and its pricing is competitive with that of AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile for the amount of data that most people actually use. It isn’t the best choice for people who frequently travel outside of the US or who want unlimited data, but it is the first carrier everyone else should look at.
The biggest benefit to simply signing up for your carrier’s international data plan is the fact that it is the easiest option available and keeps you the most connected to loved ones back home. Because your phone isn’t turned off and you are able to use your existing phone number, friends and family can still reach you the same way they would if you were down the street in the US. It is less expensive than not having an international plan at all if you plan to use it for phone calls or Internet access while away.
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To use Telestial SIM cards, your device will need to be GSM-compatible (Global System for Mobile Communications). In the United States, some carriers like Verizon and Sprint use CDMA 2G/3G networks, which is a different technology to GSM networks (which is used by just about every other country in the world). CDMA networks too are moving towards GSM technology, especially utilising the high-speed LTE networks.
Sarah Schlichter is IndependentTraveler’s Senior Editor. She hails from Maryland and now resides in Pennsylvania, where she sings in a local community choir and enjoys experimenting with different international recipes (which has twice resulted in accidental kitchen fires — no humans or animals were harmed). The smell of Sarah’s delicious Moroccan couscous ignites a wave of envy in the office when she brings in leftovers for lunch. Sarah, IndependentTraveler’s resident travel expert, has visited more than 25 U.S. states plus dozens of countries including Belize, Guatemala, Morocco, Canada, Dominica, the U.K., Norway, France, the Netherlands and New Zealand … just to name a few.
Even as carriers offer multiple tiers of unlimited data plans, the T-Mobile One plan remains the best choice for families. It gives a family of four unlimited data for $160 a month. We wish T-Mobile still let you stream HD video as part of its T-Mobile One plan, but for most users, 480p video on a smartphone-sized screen will be good enough. (Families can pay an extra $10 per month per line if they really want HD streaming.) T-Mobile's network delivers comparable performance to Verizon, which charges more for its best unlimited family plan, though Verizon also lets you mix and match different unlimited options for each line of your family plan.
Verizon’s best plan for most people is also its least obvious offering: the 5 GB for $55 deal. It’s difficult to find this plan on Verizon’s homepage, but you should see this option if you select a phone, add it to your cart, and scroll past Verizon’s flagship “unlimited” offerings when selecting a plan. (Verizon’s website quotes a $60 rate for this plan, but signing up for auto-pay using a checking account or debit card gets you $5 off—though this precludes running up points on a travel-rewards credit card).
Verizon is the nation's largest carrier, boasting a staggering 149 million subscribers as of 2017. Pretty impressive for a company that's technically only been around since 2000 (after a merger between GTE Wireless and Bell Atlantic). Verizon was the first to launch a wireless high-speed broadband network, and the first to build a large-scale 4G LTE network. 
Between traditional subscription plans on the big four carriers, prepaid services, and companies reselling those four networks, you have hundreds of options for family plans, but the two-line rates of Metro by T-Mobile and the four-line deals of Verizon’s prepaid service come out on top. These plans each use one of the top two networks, let you bring your own devices (the best way to save money while still getting a quality phone), and offer conveniences like the capability to use your phone as a mobile hotspot and roam overseas without paying painful-to-extortionate extra fees.
Anyone who travels wants to be able to take decent photos on the move and the 16MP rear camera on the OnePlus 3T is a solid performer. It’s not the best out there, but if you’re taking photos mainly in daylight, you’ll have no complaints. The colors are accurate, details sharp and because of the 6GB of RAM, it’s easy to take multiple shots with no delays after the button press.
Sprint Unlimited Premium Plan: Includes unlimited domestic calling, texting, 50GB LTE MHS, VPN & P2P & data. MHS reduced to 3G speeds after 50GB/mo. Third-party content/downloads are add’l charge. Plan not avail. for tablets or MBB devices. Select Int’l svcs are included for phone lines. See sprint.com/globalroaming. Subsidized devices incur an add’l. $25/mo. charge. Must remain on Premium plan for a minimum of 30 days.
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