Verizon has changed its tune on unlimited data plans. After dropping unlimited plans in 2010 and doing everything it could to get existing users to give up their unlimited plans, Verizon changed its tune last year, possibly prompted by rivals T-Mobile and Sprint. To Verizon, unlimited data is cool again.
The carrier now offers an unlimited data plan to both individuals and families. It's also shuffled up its tiered data offerings, eliminating all but one option for individual customers, while adding a new prepaid plan. If you're considering a move to Verizon, you've got some decisions to make about which plan to pick. Here's a quick guide to what Verizon offers, including our picks for the best plans for families and individuals.
Best Family Plan
Right now, the best option for families is to take advantage of Verizon's introductory pricing on its new unlimited plan. Verizon charges $80 a month for the first line of unlimited data — that figure includes both a $20 access fee along with a $5 discount for enrolling in auto-pay. Adding additional lines introduces escalating discounts, so a family of four ultimately pays $180 a month for unlimited data, or $45 for each line. Again, that price assumes autopay enrollment.
Note that there's one limit to this unlimited data. If you use more than 22GB a month of 4G LTE data, Verizon could throttle you. The carrier promises HD video streaming and 10GB of hotspot data — features that Sprint now includes as part of its unlimited plan. (T-Mobile caps video streaming at 480p on its standard unlimited plan; you pay an extra $5 per month per line for HD video streaming. AT&T's unlimited plan has HD video streaming, too, but only if you opt for the more expensive of that carrier's unlimited deals.)
Other Options: For families of four, unlimited data is really the way to go, considering that Verizon's next largest plan — 8GB of 4G data — costs $70 a month, plus $20 per line. That's $150 for a family of four. A 2GB plans costs $35 plus $20 per line, but it's very difficult to see how a family of four would be able to share that amount of data without running out.
If there are just two of you, Verizon's unlimited plan will run you $140 a month, access fees included when you sign up for autopay. An 8GB plan would cost those same two people $110 a month, while a 4GB plan would run them $90.
Best Individual Plan
You've now got just two choices if you're signing up for a single line with Verizon. You can either opt for unlimited data at $80 per month (remembering that the price assumes you've enrolled in autopay) or you could sign up for the single tiered data plan Verizon still offers — a 5GB monthly allotment that will cost you $55 a month when you enroll in autopay.
That 5GB plan is actually a pretty good deal if you don't see yourself using a lot of data each month. Most users wind up at around 3GB of data per month, so 5GB leaves you plenty of headroom while saving you $25 off the unlimited plan. Verizon's Safety Mode merely throttles your data speed if you go over your limit, and you can always buy an extra GB of data for $15.
Other Options: It's unlimited data or 5GB of data for individuals, at least for new customers. Verizon's other tiered options look like they're only available for multi-line accounts.
Best Prepaid Plan
If you want a prepaid option that still takes advantage of Verizon's strong network, the carrier does offer prepaid plans. Verizon now features three choices, with a 2GB-for-$40 monthly plan joining Verizon's 5GB ($50 a month) and 10GB ($70) options. All those plans offer carryover data if you pay on time and let you take advantage of international messaging to more than 200 countries. In addition to increasing your data, the $70 plan also includes unlimited calling to Canada and Mexico.
What You Need to Know About Verizon
Before committing to a Verizon plan, here are a few other things to consider about Big Red.
* Verizon’s biggest selling point is its network. Catch a Verizon ad on TV, and the wireless carrier will likely be touting the performance of its 4G LTE network. Verizon once again was the fastest network in our recent round of testing, and testing firms rate the carrier highly as well. RootMetrics has named Verizon as the best-performing wireless network for seven consecutive reports (though rival T-Mobile takes issue with RootMetrics’ methodology.) Testing firm OpenSignal, however, reports that Verizon and T-Mobile are essentially tied in both LTE speed and availability, so Verizon's edge may not be as clear as it has been in the past.
* Verizon has phased out overage fees. The carrier's Safety Mode allows you to go over your data allotment; instead of racking up charges, Verizon would simply slow your data speed down to 2G for the rest of your billing cycle. (You can also buy an additional gigabyte of data for $15 if you need more high-speed data than your plan allows.) You will have to turn on the feature, though, or risk getting hit with that $15 fee. Of course, if you opt for unlimited data, this feature is moot.
* You can roll over data. Verizon has changed its tune on carryover data, allowing you to take the remaining data from one month and use it in the next — at least for the remaining tiered data plans still on offer. Verizon’s approach is identical to AT&T’s where rollover data is only good in the following month.
* You'll pay to upgrade your phone. Verizon charges you a fee whenever you upgrade to a new device on its network. That's not an uncommon practice in the wireless industry, but Verizon has raised the fee: it's now $30, up from $20. Verizon says the fee covers the cost of adding a new phone to your account. It's not a cost you'll pay every month, but it is one you should take into account, especially if you're the sort who likes to get a new phone every year or so.
* Verizon lets you take your plan with you when traveling. The carrier's TravelPass program lets you use your normal plan, including your allotted data, when you travel outside the U.S. TravelPass costs $2 a day per line when you travel in Mexico or Canada (though as noted above, XL and XXL plan subscribers get that benefit for free). the daily charge is $10 in 65 other countries. If you're planning a longer trip or travel outside of the countries covered by TravelPass, Verizon also offers monthly international travel plans and pay-as-you-go pricing.
* You can call internationally for a price. Verizon's Unlimited Together plan gives you unlimited minutes for calling landlines in more than 70 countries and mobile numbers in more than 40 countries. It will cost you a little extra, though — $15 on top of your regular monthly plan. Verizon seems to be targeting subscribers with friends and family who live abroad with Unlimited Together.
* Verizon offers a few extras. Football fans will appreciate the fact that NFL Mobile comes with Verizon's plans, allowing you to watch local and prime time games on your smartphone. (That will come out of your monthly data allotment if you stream games over Verizon's network.) Verizon Cloud provides cloud storage to subscribers for syncing data and content across devices. You get 5GB of storage for free, with the ability to add more storage starting at 25GB for $3 a month.
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