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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.

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.
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.

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.
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.
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.

If you're looking to really save money on your monthly bill, nearly a dozen low-cost carriers are competing for your business by letting you mix-and-match your talk, text and data limits. Republic Wireless offers the best mix while keeping your plan under $30. Every plan features unlimited talk and text for $15 a month; just tack on $5 for each gigabyte of LTE data you use, meaning you can get 2GB along with talk and text for a grand total of $25 every month.
Both Verizon and Sprint have added new unlimited plans with benefits for international travel; we've updated this guide to reflect those changes. T-Mobile will increase the number of travel destinations covered by its Simple Global feature as of July 22. It also plans to add a new $5 daily data pass with 512MB of LTE data for travelers starting August 1.

Even better, an unlocked GSM phone allows you to switch out the Subscriber Identity Module (SIM) card. -- the internal chip that stores your phone number and account settings -- for a local phone number. Outside of the United States, most GSM phones come unlocked, but inside the country, you need ask your carrier for a special code. So if you know you're going to be spending the next four months in Botswana, you can spend $20 for a local SIM card instead of paying hundreds of dollars in international roaming fees.


New smartphone releases are generally on the pricey side. If you aren't dying to have the latest device as soon as it comes out, waiting a few months for the price to drop can really pay off. Apple products typically take around a year to decrease in price. Most new Sony, LG and Samsung products become substantially more affordable within three to six months after release. Amazon and eBay usually have good selections of these products, and both frequently offer cell phone promo codes and coupons. If you're a dedicated early adopter, look for presales, which might offer an opportunity to save some cash.
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