Picking an unlimited data plan for your phone isn't always as easy as it should be, so we compared the best options from AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile.
Eli BlumenthalSenior Editor
Eli Blumenthal is a senior editor at CNET with a particular focus on covering the latest in the ever-changing worlds of telecom, streaming and sports. He previously worked as a technology reporter at USA Today.
Expertise5G, mobile networks, wireless carriers, phones, tablets, streaming devices, streaming platforms, mobile and console gaming,
It doesn't matter whether your phone of choice is the latest iPhone, or you prefer the newest Galaxy, Pixel or other Android, to get the most out of your device you'll need a good unlimited data plan. But when it comes to finding the overall "best" unlimited plan, things can get 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.
With so many different options, it can be tricky to tell which ones are actually a good value, especially since carriers love to make bold claims about performance and coverage at different prices.
I've covered the wireless industry for over a decade and 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.
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're 55 or older, you may also be eligible for a discounted plan: T-Mobile offers discounted plans nationwide for as low as $55 per 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.
T-Mobile Magenta & Magenta Max for 1 or 2 lines, Go5G and Go5G Plus for 3+
Runner-up for perks
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.
How we test
Picking a wireless plan and carrier is a very individualized process. What works for you and your family's needs may be vastly different from your friends or neighbors. Even geographically, some areas have better AT&T coverage while others work best on Verizon or T-Mobile (and vice versa). The picks we make are based on over a decade of covering and evaluating the wireless carriers, their offerings and their performance.
Since choosing a provider is unique, we focus on larger plans and the value they provide; as well as calling out ways you can test the different networks in your area for yourself so you can make the best pick.