Share this story
Close X
Switch to Desktop Site

Looking for more data? Here are the best unlimited data plans

(Read article summary)
View video

Tsering Topgyal/AP/File

(Read caption) An Indian man talks on his iPhone in New Delhi, India (May 18, 2016). If you use your phone frequently for watching videos or listening to music, an unlimited data plan could be an attractive option.

View photo

How do you use your cell phone? If your answer includes streaming music, watching videos or using your device as a Wi-Fi hot spot, it might be time to consider an unlimited data plan.

Stream just 30 minutes of video per day and you’ll use more than 5GB of data per month. Jam out to Spotify for an hour or two each day and you’re looking at another 2GB to 4GB of monthly data usage. Use your phone as a mobile hot spot — which lets you use other devices, such as a laptop or tablet, on your phone’s high-speed data connection — and you can quickly burn through a dozen or more gigabytes in a billing cycle.

About these ads

When you hit the double digits, a cell phone plan with unlimited data is often your best bet. But keep in mind that even unlimited plans have some restrictions — all of them cap high-speed data usage at around 23GB per month. If you hit that threshold, your connection might be “deprioritized,” that is, slowed considerably. Even if you buy an unlimited plan, you should still connect to Wi-Fi when you can to conserve your data.

Best unlimited data plan

Sprint’s unlimited data plan is a great value for heavy data users. It costs less than buying a few gigabytes from other carriers and even Sprint’s own 12GB plan. AT&T and T-Mobile also offer unlimited data plans, but they both cost at least $20 more each month. Verizon does not offer an unlimited plan.

Sprint’s plan isn’t the best deal out there, though. That distinction goes to Boost Mobile, a prepaid carrier that uses Sprint’s network. But Sprint has an edge over Boost: It lets you pay for your device in installments. Boost and other prepaid providers typically require you to shell out full price for your device upfront — that’s as much as $600 for the latest iPhone or Samsung model.

  • Plan name: Sprint Unlimited Talk, Texts and Data.
  • Monthly price: $75.
  • Plan at a glance: Unlimited minutes, texts and high-speed data, plus 3GB mobile hot spot allowance.
  • Why we like it: It’s cheaper than AT&T and T-Mobile’s unlimited plans, and unlike AT&T’s plan, doesn’t require you to bundle your cable and wireless services.
Things to know:
  • You can add additional lines to your plan for $60 per month per line.
  • Sprint charges a $30 activation fee for each new line.
  • Mobile hot spot usage is capped at 3GB per month, and you’ll pay $15 per gigabyte for additional hot spot data. Avoid using your phone for Wi-Fi on other devices, or consider a plan with a larger hot spot allowance.
Other Plans at this price point:

Best prepaid unlimited data plans

Boost Mobile gives customers unlimited data for $15 less per month than Sprint does, while still using Sprint’s nationwide network. It also offers a $5 monthly discount to those who opt for autopay.

MetroPCS offers an equally great deal — minus the autopay discount — on T-Mobile’s network. Plus, customers with a prepaid cell phone plan avoid a credit check and any long-term ties to the carrier.

Cricket Wireless, which is owned by AT&T, also offers an unlimited plan — but at $70 per month and with no mobile hot spot option, it didn’t make the cut.

  • Plan name: Boost Mobile Unlimited.
  • Monthly price: $60 ($55 with autopay).
  • Plan at a glance: Unlimited minutes, texts and high-speed data, plus 8GB mobile hot spot allowance.
  • Why we like it: An unlimited plan with none of the commitments and a $5 monthly discount for automatic payments.
  • Plan name: MetroPCS Unlimited.
  • Monthly price: $60.
  • Plan at a glance: Unlimited minutes, texts and high-speed data, plus 8GB mobile hot spot allowance.
  • Why we like it: One of the cheapest unlimited plans available, and it has a generous amount of hot spot data.
Things to know:
  • Boost: The company assesses payments made in store or by phone with a customer service agent $3 “convenience fee.” And you’ll pay full price to purchase a new phone, but if you have a phone through Sprint, you might be able to activate it with Boost.
  • MetroPCS: You can save $5 per line each month — up to a maximum of five lines — if you make your plan a family plan. But you’ll pay a service fee of $2 to $3.50 for each payment made over the phone, in a store or at a Western Union location. You’ll also pay retail price for a new phone. Smartphone prices range from $29 to nearly $650. But if you have a compatible phone, you might be able to activate it with the carrier. Keep in mind that T-Mobile owns MetroPCS and, when there are demands on the network, it gives priority to T-Mobile branded customers. That means MetroPCS customers in busy areas might have slower data speeds.
How others compare:
  • Cricket Wireless: Unlimited for $70.
  • Sprint: Unlimited for $75.
  • Verizon: 3GB for $65.

Best unlimited data plan for mobile hot spot users

Sometimes you just need Wi-Fi. T-Mobile’s unlimited plan includes 14GB of mobile hot spot data each month, which far exceeds the 3GB allowed on Sprint’s unlimited plan and is nearly double that offered by Boost and MetroPCS. You’ll pay a premium for that access, though. T-Mobile’s unlimited plan costs $20 more per month than Sprint’s and $35 more than most of the prepaid options out there.

About these ads
  • Plan name: T-Mobile Unlimited Simple Choice.
  • Monthly price: $95.
  • Plan at a glance: Unlimited minutes, texts and high-speed data, plus 14GB mobile hot spot allowance.
  • Why we like it: It’s pricier than other plans, but you get nearly double the data for mobile Wi-Fi usage.
Things to know:
  • T-Mobile charges a $20 “SIM Starter Kit” fee for new activations.
  • You can have up to six lines on one account. T-Mobile family plans don’t share data, so you’ll choose between 2GB, 6GB, 10GB and unlimited data packages for each additional line.
  • T-Mobile’s unlimited plan is available as a prepaid plan for the same price.
How others compare:
  • AT&T: Unlimited for $100. A DirecTV or U-Verse subscription is required.
  • Sprint: Unlimited for $75.
  • Verizon: 12GB for $100.

Kelsey Sheehy is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Twitter: @KelseyLSheehy. This article first appeared at NerdWallet.