Best Unlimited Data Plans for August 2023 – CNET

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See at T-Mobile

large T-Mobile logo on a phone

T-Mobile Essentials Saver: $50 for 1 line

Best for value for a single line

See at AT&T

AT&T name and logo, and their reflection

AT&T Value Plus Plan: $50 for 1 line

Runner-up for value on a single line

See at T-Mobile

T-Mobile logo on a phone screen

T-Mobile Essentials Saver for 2 lines, T-Mobile Essentials for 3 or more lines

Best for value (with multiple lines)

See at Verizon

Verizon logo on a phone

Verizon Welcome Unlimited: $65 for 1 line, $120 for 4 lines

Runner-up for value (multiple lines)

See at Verizon

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Verizon Unlimited Welcome: $75 for 1 line, $130 for 4 lines

Best for perks

It doesn’t matter whether your phone of choice is the latest iPhone or you prefer the newest Galaxy, Pixel or other Android phone, to get the most out of your device you’ll need a good unlimited data plan. Unfortunately, when it comes to finding the overall “best” unlimited plan, things can get a little challenging. Unlike with home internet services, where your options are often limited by your location, most people living in the US have their pick of all the major competitors and carriers. 

And with so many different options, it can be tricky to tell which ones are truly a good value, especially since carriers love to make bold claims about performance and coverage at different prices. Adding to the fun are recent reshuffling of plans by both T-Mobile and Verizon with different names, perks, prices and features. 

To help you narrow down the best unlimited data plans out there, I’m going to focus on the three major carriers — Verizon, T-Mobile and AT&T — combing through the multiple postpaid unlimited plans available to find the ones that provide the most perks and value for single lines and for families of four, so you can find the best plan for you and your budget.

5G graphic

Screenshot by Sarah Tew/CNET

Know your area

Before we get to the plans, to get the best deal you need to make sure you have the coverage that you need. This makes it very hard for us to give a blanket recommendation of any one carrier. T-Mobile’s service in New York may be excellent, but if you’re in rural Iowa, Verizon is more reliable. 

While your mileage may vary, the good news is that these networks are growing and improving all the time, particularly as the three major players race to blanket the US with 5G. It’s quite possible that you left a network complaining about its sparse service a decade ago, but now it’s beefed itself up because of that race to acquire customers.

If you know any friends or family in your area that already use the carrier you’re considering, ask about their experience. You could also go to a carrier’s store and see if they offer any free ways to try out the service before switching over, such as T-Mobile’s Network Pass. Verizon now offers a similar 30-day “Test Drive” program while the Cricket prepaid service has rolled out its own trial program that lets you sample parent AT&T’s network.

Know your deals and discounts

One other thing to keep in mind: discounts. All of the carriers offer additional discounts that you could be eligible for, depending on your employer, military status, student status or age.

First responders, military members, veterans, nurses and teachers can get discounts on every major carrier. Verizon has discounts for students, while T-Mobile’s Work perk could knock 15% off the monthly price of a Go5G Plus plan, with AT&T offering a similar program for its Unlimited Premium plans that it calls Signature. AT&T also has a promotion for teachers that offers 25% off its latest unlimited plans.

If you’re 55 or older, you may also be eligible for a discounted plan: T-Mobile offers discounted plans nationwide for as low as $55 a month for two lines, and Verizon and AT&T offer similar options — but only for Florida residents. 

It’s also worth noting that some carriers, particularly Verizon right now, sometimes advertise different rates on their websites that are geared toward switchers. A current promotion at the carrier offers a discount on the monthly plan, but only if you switch to Verizon and are bringing your own phone (not trading in and financing a new one on an installment plan). Our recommendations below reflect the actual rate outside of these very specific promotions.

Now, onto the picks.

Best unlimited data plans of 2023

large T-Mobile logo on a phone

Sarah Tew/CNET

T-Mobile recently reshuffled its plans, getting rid of what was our previous pick in this spot, the Base Essentials plan that offered a single line for $45 a month. It replaced that option with an Essentials Savings plan, a “limited time” offer of $50 a month for a single line.

AT&T name and logo, and their reflection

James Martin/CNET

If you only need one line, AT&T’s new Value Plus plan could be the way to go. You get unlimited talk, text and data and 5G access. There are no perks like a free streaming service subscription or hotspot data and you will need to stick to one line.

T-Mobile logo on a phone screen

Sarah Tew/CNET

Because of T-Mobile’s restructuring of its cheapest plans, this has gotten a bit more complicated. As mentioned above, both T-Mobile Essentials and Essentials Saver include unlimited talk, text and data for all the carrier’s base unlimited plans, including 5G access.

Verizon logo on a phone

Sarah Tew/CNET

Verizon’s updated plans have replaced the carrier’s previous Welcome Unlimited offer with… one named Unlimited Welcome. While the names are flipped, the core offer is still largely the same: There are no streaming perks like the Disney Bundle with this plan, no hotspot data and you can’t hop on Verizon’s fastest 5G networks (which it calls Ultra Wideband). You do, however, get Verizon’s network for $120 a month for four lines, assuming you have automatic payments set up.

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Sarah Tew/CNET

This is a bit more complicated. Verizon used to be our pick with its Play More plan that bundled in the Disney Bundle (ad-free Disney Plus, ESPN Plus and Hulu with ads) and services like Google Play Pass or Apple Arcade into the plan’s sticker price.

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Angela Lang/CNET

T-Mobile Magenta & Magenta Max for 1 or 2 lines, Go5G and Go5G Plus for 3+

Runner-up for perks

T-Mobile’s new plans are also a bit complicated. For most people, T-Mobile’s Magenta and Magenta Max options are the better pick when it comes to looking for perks for one or two lines. They are cheaper than the new Go5G options and have most of the same features, except with a cheaper monthly rate ($70 for one line on Magenta, $120 for two lines; $85 for one line on Magenta Max, $140 for two lines).

More about unlimited data plans and perks

AT&T’s unlimited plans no longer have much in the way of perks. The carrier used to offer a free subscription to Max with its top Unlimited Elite offering ($85 for one line, $50 a month if you have four lines), but it got rid of the option in early June 2022

It is also worth reiterating that carrier perks — like Verizon and the Disney bundle or T-Mobile’s offerings of Netflix, Paramount Plus, ViX Plus and Apple TV Plus — are often limited to one subscription per account, not one for each line you have.

Unlimited data plan FAQs

Why get unlimited?

If you’re on T-Mobile, all of your plans are unlimited, and Verizon no longer lets new users sign up for a shared data plan. Only AT&T still offers some tiered data plans.

Is unlimited data really unlimited?

It is, but the speeds you get may vary depending on your plan and how much data you use in a given month. Whereas in the past carriers would slow down or “throttle” your speeds if you pass a certain limit (usually over 22GB of data within a month) for the remainder of your billing cycle, today all three major providers say they’ll only do that in special cases.

Is hotspot included?

A hotspot, or the ability to share your phone’s connection with other devices, will vary based on the plan you have. Some, like AT&T’s Value Plus and Verizon’s Unlimited Welcome, don’t include it at all while others — such as AT&T’s Unlimited Starter and T-Mobile’s Essentials and Magenta — offer limited amounts of high-speed access before capping your hotspot performance to “3G” or “2G” speeds.

We’ll keep updating this article as new unlimited plans and better deals emerge. In the meantime, if you know of a better wireless plan deal or have your own favorites, message me on Twitter @eliblumenthal.

Read more: Best Streaming Service Deals

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