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Everything you need to know about AT&T Wireless plans

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Allconnect

Aug 12, 2020 — 8 min read

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  • Many AT&T users will be best off with the Unlimited Elite plan, which includes HD streaming and access to HBO Max
  • Single users can get the Unlimited Starter plan with unlimited data for only $5/mo. more than the Share Plus plan
  • AT&T’s prepaid plans offer many of the same perks as postpaid plans at a slightly lower price point
  • AT&T offers discounts for seniors (55+), military personnel and government workers

AT&T offers three unlimited plans, as well as two data plans and several prepaid plans. Each of these has its own pros and cons, which we will take a look at more closely ahead. Generally speaking, AT&T’s plans are moderately priced but don’t offer a lot of extras. While some carriers offer perks like a variety of subscription-based apps, AT&T only offers a subscription to HBO Max with one of its plans.

AT&T’s Share Plus plans, which have a data limit, are fine for single users who don’t stream a lot of videos or use their phones much beyond calling and texting. These plans provide standard-definition video, access to a mobile hotspot and a small amount of data. However, if you do like to stream video, go with one of AT&T’s unlimited plans. Plans start at $65/mo. after discounts (and before taxes and fees) and provide you with limitless data. The quality is still standard definition, but you don’t have to worry about going over a set amount (just a slowdown if the network is busy). 

AT&T’s top-tier plan, Unlimited Elite, is the best deal, with unlimited everything (data is slowed at 100GB), HD streaming, 30GB mobile hotspot data, 5G access and a subscription to HBO Max. While it’s not as extensive as some of the other carriers out there, you can count on AT&T’s coverage, which is important. AT&T has one of the wider-reaching networks, which will allow you to stream your unlimited data from any number of places. 

AT&T unlimited data plans

The biggest difference between AT&T’s unlimited plans, aside from the price, is the quality of service you’re getting. 

  • Unlimited Starter is a very basic plan that’s not very fast and does not offer a mobile hotspot. Streaming quality is also standard and not HD.  
  • The Unlimited Extra plan offers 15GB of mobile hotspot data, but it’ll go down to 2G when you’ve reached the threshold. It also includes 50GB of premium data. Video streams at standard quality.
  • The Unlimited Elite plan has 30GB of hotspot data but also drops to 2G when you’ve reached the threshold. It includes 100GB of premium data. Video can stream in HD on this plan, and HBO Max is included.

Both the Unlimited Extra and Unlimited Elite plans allow for a range of premium data. Premium data is the guaranteed high-speed data you’re allowed before AT&T slows it down, so once you hit 50GB (on Unlimited Extra) and 100GB (on Unlimited Elite), your internet will slow down.

The same will happen with the data available on the mobile hotspot. Though the plans are unlimited, the speed will slow when you reach the limit your plan includes. AT&T also sometimes slows service down when the network is congested, so that could happen even if you have Premium Data available on the unlimited plan.

Extra perks

AT&T’s perks are fairly minimal. Only the highest level unlimited plan will grant you any streaming access, and it’s HBO Max. The streamer normally costs $14.99/mo., which is more than the price difference between the Extra and Elite plans. However, the Elite plan provides HD video streaming quality and more data, which makes this price worth it. 

All of AT&T’s unlimited plans, except Unlimited Starter, have a mobile hotspot, though the higher-tier plan you have, the more data you have available. That means you have more access to the hotspot for longer so you can do more with it.

Other AT&T mobile plans

AT&T also offers lower-tier plans if you don’t require a large amount of data. The Share Plus plans are more cost-efficient and will provide much of the same access, just less data. These plans are great if your phone is merely a phone and casual tool to check email and the internet occasionally. 

AT&T Mobile Share Plus 9GB

The Share Plus 9GB plan starts at $60/mo. (after discount and before taxes and fees) per line and includes unlimited talk and text and 9GB of data. Video streaming is standard definition at 480p, and any unused data rolls over to the next month. This plan is also eligible for a mobile hotspot.

AT&T Mobile Share Plus 3GB

The Share Plus 3GB plan starts at $50/mo. (after discount and before taxes and fees) per line and is identical to the Share Plus 9GB plan except for the amount of data allowed. The plan is eligible for a mobile hotspot, video streaming is standard definition at 480p and unused data rolls over.

AT&T prepaid plans

AT&T offers a number of prepaid plans starting at $35/mo. The smallest plan has 2GB of data and the options go up from there, all the way to unlimited. These plans have many of the same features as AT&T’s postpaid plans, including mobile hotspot, HD video and 5G access.  

AT&T Wireless discounts

AT&T rotates deals and will sometimes offer promotions for new customers, like discounted or even free devices. Those deals change often, though, so check either AT&T’s website or in-store for current promotions when shopping for your phone plan. The following deals are pretty standard at all times.

  • AT&T Signature Program – This is a discount program through your school or employer. Plug in your affiliated email to see if you qualify for a discount on a phone or phone plan.  
  • Military discount – Members of the military and their families are eligible for discounts. You’ll need your military ID or military email address to access these military discounts, but it will knock a little bit off the monthly bill. 
  • Paperless billing discount – By committing to paperless billing, you can save about $10/mo. on your bill. Sign up through your account online to get these savings.
  • Government employee discount – Government employees are eligible for discounts on their bills. To get the discount, use your government-affiliated email for access.
  • Senior discount – Those 55 and older are eligible for a discounted plan. The AT&T Unlimited Plus plan includes one line for $60/mo. or two lines for $80/mo.

How do AT&T’s wireless plans compare to other carriers?

Compared to other wireless brands, AT&T is on the higher end, price-wise. At $65 for the lowest-level unlimited plan, it costs more than both T-Mobile and Sprint. Here’s how each carrier’s cheapest unlimited plans compare:

The unlimited plans offered by Verizon, AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile are all very similar and have comparable additions to the data portion of the plan. AT&T is a better option when it comes to throttling, though, as users on the Unlimited Elite plan won’t see a slowdown until after 100GB of usage, more than any of the other providers.

When it comes to customer satisfaction, AT&T is middle of the road. Its American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) score is 74/100, which is tied with Verizon and just below T-Mobile, but it’s dead last in Consumer Reports’ ranking of 22 carriers.

For coverage, AT&T is second only to Verizon, as it’s a pretty widespread service provider across the U.S. It doesn’t rate as well with Consumer Reports’ Data or Reception scores. T-Mobile, on the other hand, ranks high with customer satisfaction and only falters when it comes to service. So this is something to consider — do you value customer satisfaction more or less than coverage and reception? Though it may sound like they’re the same thing, customer satisfaction takes into account factors like customer service, the brand’s website and brick-and-mortar stores.

Where AT&T shines is the cost of its devices. We looked at the cost of major smartphones across all the brands to find the average, and AT&T has the best deals overall. Almost all smartphones cost less at AT&T than they do at Verizon, Sprint or T-Mobile. The average price at AT&T is actually significantly lower than the others — by about $200.    

Where the other brands succeed is in the perks offered with the plans. Sprint offers subscriptions to Hulu, TIDAL and Apple Music. Verizon offers subscriptions to Apple Music and Disney Plus. Only one AT&T plan offers a subscription service and it’s to HBO Max. T-Mobile has no subscription plans. 

AT&T Wireless FAQs

Can I upgrade my plan if I want more data?

You can change your plan at any time. You have the option to have it go into effect on the next billing cycle, the current billing cycle at a prorated amount or on the previous billing cycle to save yourself from any data overages. Compare plans and select a different one if you so choose.

Is there a fee to switch phone plans?

No. You can switch wireless plans within AT&T at any time without any extra charges.

Is there a fee to cancel a plan?

There might be. If you’re in a contract, you’re subject to a cancellation fee if you want to get out early. This can be anywhere from $58 to $325 depending on how early you cancel the contract.

If I don’t think I’ll use all the data, should I bother with an unlimited plan?

One line on the Share Plus 9GB plan is $60/mo. and one line on the Unlimited Starter plan is only $65/mo. The Unlimited Starter plan will provide you with nearly identical service except the data is unlimited. For just $5 more you’re getting the unlimited data should you need it, which is a pretty good deal.

By Hedy Phillips