Best AT&T Wireless plans: Everything you need to know

Allconnect
A
Allconnect

Oct 2, 2020 — 8 min read

At Allconnect, we work to present quality information with editorial integrity. While this post may contain offers from our partners, our opinions are our own. Here’s how we make money.

  • AT&T offers three unlimited plans, ranging from $65-$85/mo. for one line
  • All three plans offer access to AT&T’s 5G network
  • Many AT&T users will be best off with the Unlimited Elite plan, which includes HD streaming and access to HBO Max
  • All AT&T unlimited plans include unlimited talk, text and data in U.S., Canada and Mexico
  • AT&T offers discounts for seniors (55+), military personnel, teachers, nurses, physicians and first responders

AT&T offers three unlimited plans, as well as two data plans and several prepaid plans. They each have their 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 streaming subscriptions and cloud storage on all their plans, AT&T only has a subscription to HBO Max on its most expensive plan.

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 after 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. 

Best AT&T unlimited plan: Unlimited Elite

For most people, AT&T’s Unlimited Elite plan provides the most value. It’s the only one of AT&T’s unlimited data plans that includes a streaming subscription, and the $15/mo. HBO Max is a better perk than any other carrier offers. If you’re already subscribing to HBO (or you’d like to be), this effectively reduces the price to just $70/mo. — a much more reasonable cellphone bill. The Unlimited Elite plan also comes with 30GB of mobile hotspot data and 100GB of premium data, which means you’ll get 100GB every month before AT&T de-prioritizes your traffic. 

More AT&T unlimited plans

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

  • Unlimited Starter doesn’t provide any “premium data.” In other words, your speeds can be throttled at any time. 
  • 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. 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 your 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.

AT&T family plans

Like every cellphone company, you’ll save a ton of money when you add more lines to your account. In AT&T’s case, the price-per-line is cut in half for accounts with five lines, from $85/mo. for a single line on the Unlimited Elite plan to just $45/mo. Each line on the family plan is also able to pick their own plan. So if Mom and Dad need plenty of hotspot data, but the two kids don’t need any, you can mix and match two Unlimited Starter and two Unlimited Elite plans for a total of $170/mo.

AT&T data 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.

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

Compared to other wireless brands, AT&T is in the middle, price-wise. At $65/mo. for the lowest-level unlimited plan, it costs more than T-Mobile, but slightly less than Verizon. That said, you don’t get any streaming perks with AT&T’s lowest plan, where Verizon provides Disney Plus and Apple Music. Here’s how each carrier’s cheapest unlimited plans compare:

The unlimited plans offered by Verizon, AT&T 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 73/100, which is slightly below Verizon and 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. T-Mobile includes Netflix or Quibi on its unlimited plans. Verizon offers subscriptions to Apple Music and Disney Plus. Only one AT&T plan offers a subscription service and it’s to HBO Max. 

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