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The best Verizon Wireless plans for 2020: Unlimited, prepaid and more

(Image credit: Eduardo Munoz Alvarez/VIEWpress/Corbis via Getty Images)

Finding the right monthly data plan at Verizon seems like it should be a simple task, but each step of the process seems to invite more questions. Does the best Verizon plan offer tiered or unlimited data? If unlimited data, which one of Verizon's four different options is best? And what perks does each plan offer to help you figure out if you're getting the biggest benefit out of your monthly rate?

After poring over the wireless carrier's various options, we've found the best Verizon plan, though ultimately, the choice comes down to how you use your smartphone. For most customers, though, an unlimited plan is the better choice, with Verizon's equally priced Play More and Do More options offering the most attractive balance of price and perks.

Verizon's tiered plans are less attractive for families since they force you to share one pool of data for not much of a discount from unlimited pricing, but individuals can find some value if they don't need a lot of data. And Verizon's prepaid plans are among the best in the business under a current promotion where Verizon is doubling the amount of data on each plan.

To determine the best Verizon plan for your wireless needs, ask yourself what you do with your smartphone. If it involves a lot of streaming, be it movies or music, you're going to want to look at Verizon's unlimited options. Should your data needs begin and end with browsing the internet, checking email and the occasional social media post, you can probably get away with a tiered data plan. If possible, look at your monthly data usage on your current plan to see how much you're consuming on average — if it's less than 5GB, you can save money each month with one of Verizon's tiered plans.

Most people buy their smartphones directly from the carriers, and if you're among them, remember that many of Verizon's best smartphone deals require you to open a line of unlimited data with the carrier.

Here's a closer look at the plans Verizon offers and which one will be the best for your needs.

The best Verizon plans with unlimited data

Pressured by rival carriers like T-Mobile, Verizon reintroduced unlimited plans in 2017. The carrier has tweaked and expanded its data plans in the ensuing years, with four different unlimited options currently on offer. Here's how Verizon's different tiers of unlimited data compare, including a breakdown of costs and perks.

Note that even though these are branded as "unlimited" plans, they're not truly without limits. Like other carriers, Verizon has a data threshold on each of its data plans — consume more than that amount during a given billing period, and the carrier could slow down your speeds for the rest of the month. Verizon's four different tiers feature four different thresholds for when your speeds may slow.

Verizon Start Unlimited plan
What it costs:
$70 a month ($140 for 4 lines)
What you get: video streaming (480p); Apple Music for 6 months; international texting; plan works in Mexico and Canada
Data threshold: Verizon can slow speeds when network congestedView Deal

Verizon Play More Unlimited plan
What it costs:
$80 a month ($180 for 4 lines)
What you get: Video streaming (720p); Apple Music; 15GB of LTE hotspot data; international texting; plan works in Mexico and Canada
Data threshold: 25GBView Deal

Verizon Do More Unlimited plan
What it costs:
$80 a month ($180 for 4 lines)
What you get: Video streaming (480p); Apple Music for 6 months; 15GB of LTE hotspot data; 500GB cloud storage; half-off tablet or jetpack plan; international texting; plan works in Mexico and Canada
Data threshold: 50GBView Deal

Verizon Get More Unlimited plan
What it costs:
$90 a month ($220 for 4 lines)
What you get: Video streaming (720p); Apple Music; 30GB of LTE hotspot data; 500GB cloud storage; half-off tablet or jetpack plan; international texting; plan works in Mexico and Canada
Data threshold: 75GBView Deal

The best Verizon plans offering unlimited data are either the Play More or Do More options, both of which cost $80 a month for one line. (Escalating discounts as you add lines lower the cost to $45 per month for each line for a family of four.) Play More is the way to go if you do a lot of streaming — you get a free Apple Music subscription and the ability to stream videos at a higher resolution. Do More makes sense if you can take advantage of the included cloud storage and higher data threshold before Verizon starts throttling speeds; you only get six months of free Apple music, though, and your video streaming resolution is capped at 480p.

Bargain hunters may be tempted by the Start Unlimited option, but you get very few perks in exchange for the lower price tag. Verizon can also slow your data speeds at any time.

The Get More plan only makes sense if you frequently use your phone as a hotspot, need lots of cloud storage and still want to stream lots of video and music. Otherwise, it's the most expensive unlimited option out there.

Verizon does let you mix and match different unlimited plans, so you could opt for one line of Play More for the person in your family who's constantly streaming music and video while picking the cheaper Start Unlimited plan for someone with more modest data needs.

Speaking of families, there's a cheaper Just Kids option if your family includes younger kids who don't need as much data but may require some degree of parental supervision. The plan features just 5GB of LTE data, with a Safety Mode that prevents overage charges by slowing down data speeds. Just Kids allows for 20 trusted contacts for unlimited texting and there parental control features that set limits and alerts. You need to have at least one line of data before adding a $50-a-month Just Kids line; the cost drops the more lines you have on your account.

There's one additional perk available to all Verizon customers who opt for unlimited data plans. Sign up for unlimited data at any of the four tiers and you get a year's subscription to the Disney Plus streaming service included for free.

The best Verizon 5G plans

Verizon is in the early stages of rolling out its 5G network, bringing faster data speeds and lower latency to its cellular network. As of this writing, 5G service is available in parts of more than 30 cities as well as certain sections of NFL stadiums and NBA and NHL arenas. In other words, you likely don't have to worry about 5G connectivity just yet until Verizon makes more progress on expanding its new network.

(Image credit: Future)

If you do live in an area that's covered by Verizon's 5G network, though, and want to experience those faster data speeds, you'll need to opt for an unlimited data plan. Verizon is only offering 5G to unlimited customers, and you'll have to buy either a Galaxy S10 5G, Galaxy Note 10 Plus 5G or LG V50 ThinQ 5G — currently the only 5G-ready phones available through the carrier. That will change later this month when pre-orders begin Feb. 21 on the Galaxy S20, Galaxy S20 Plus and Galaxy S20 Ultra, all of which feature 5G connectivity. Apple does not offer a 5G iPhone, but the iPhone 12 next year should have 5G connectivity in 2020.

Verizon charges $10 a month on top of your unlimited plan for 5G data, though it's waiving that fee for Play More, Do More and Get More customers at present. That makes those three options the best Verizon plan for 5G since Start Unlimited subscribers will need to pay $10 per line on top of their regular monthly rate.

The best Verizon plans for tiered data

Unlimited data plans are convenient but costly, especially if you don't consume a lot of data each month. For a lower monthly bill, you can turn to a tiered data plan, which gives you a limited pool of data in exchange for a lower rate.

The best Verizon plan offering tiered data is only available for individual users. Verizon offers a 5GB data plan for $55 a month. (That's $40 for the plan itself, plus a $20 access fee, but less $5 when you enroll in autopay.) That's a generous slice of data that saves you $15 a month off Verizon's cheapest unlimited plan. You also get carryover data that adds unused data into next month's allotment, while a Safety Mode helps you avoid data overages by slowing your speeds once you use up your 5GB for the month.

Verizon 5GB plan
What it costs:
$55 a month (with autopay)
What you get: Rollover data; safety mode
Data threshold: 5GBView Deal

That option isn't available if you want multiple lines. Instead, you have to choose from Verizon's other tiered data options — Small (2GB of data for $35 a month), Medium (4GB of data for $50 a month) and Large (8GB of data for $70 a month). Add another $20 per line as an access fee. These plans also have carryover data and Safety mode features.

That access fee means tiered data plans don't make a lot of sense unless you use very little data, as the cost of your plan could wind up matching what you'd pay for unlimited data. This is especially true for families who have to pay $20 for each line of data. In this scenario, a family of four pays $150 a month to share 8GB of data ($70 for the large plan, plus $80 in access fees). You can save $5 per line in access fees, but even then, you'd only save a little off the cost of four lines under Verizon's Start Unlimited plan.

The best Verizon prepaid plans

If you want tiered data, Verizon's best plan may be one of its prepaid options. You'd give up perks in exchange for a lower monthly bill, but you'll get a lot of data in return — especially with Verizon currently doubling the size of its prepaid data allotments without a corresponding hike in monthly fees.

Verizon has four tiers of prepaid data — 500MB ($30 a month), 3GB ($35 a month), 8GB ($45 a month) and unlimited ($65 a month). Note that all those rates reflect a $5 discount for enrolling in autopay.

That's a pretty good balance of price and data, but it's even better under a current promotion in which Verizon has doubled data allotments on its tiered plans to 1GB, 6GB and 16GB. That 16GB plan is particularly appealing, given that it costs less than $50 a month.

Verizon 16GB Prepaid Plan
What it costs: $45 a month (with autopay)
What you get: Mobile hotspot; unlimited calling to Canada and Mexico
Data threshold: 16GB (normally 8GB)View Deal

Families get discounts on multiple prepaid lines — anywhere from $10 to $20 off on each line depending on the size of your plan. A family of four would pay $155 a month for four lines with 16GB of data each. You're also able to mix and match various lines of data on prepaid plans.

Prepaid subscribers can see their data slowed when Verizon's network is busy, as the carrier prioritizes other customers. You'll get mobile hotspot capabilities on the 6GB and 16GB lines, and the latter line can make unlimited calls to Mexico and Canada. But that's about it for perks on Verizon's prepaid plans.

The best Verizon plan for seniors

Verizon does offer a discounted unlimited data plan to anyone 55 years and older, but there’s a huge catch — Verizon’s 55+ plan is only available for people living in Florida. If you’ve got a Florida billing address, you can get two lines of unlimited data for $80 a month, with video streaming at 480p resolution, unlimited mobile hotspot data (though restricted to 2G speeds), and the ability to use your plan in Canada and Mexico. A single line of data costs $60.

Sprint and T-Mobile both have discounted unlimited plans for seniors 55 years and older that are $10 less expensive than what Verizon charges, and those plans are available to anyone regardless of where they live.

How Verizon's best plans compare to other carriers

Verizon's unlimited data plans are the most expensive among the Big Four carriers, with AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile all offering cheaper entry-level unlimited options. The best unlimited plans at both Sprint and T-Mobile are $10 cheaper than the best Verizon plans.

Verizon and AT&T are really the only carriers to still offer tiered data plans. AT&T's 9GB Mobile Share plan offers more data than Verizon's best plan, but it also costs $5 more per month.

You can find prepaid cell phone plans that cost less than Verizon's, but with data allotments currently doubled, that 16GB Verizon plan for $45 a month is hard to beat.

What can you expect from Verizon's cellular network

There's a reason Verizon can command such a high price on its data plans. The carrier has the most extensive coverage in the U.S., and it also fares well in performance testing. In our most recent LTE speed tests, Verizon came out on top, and it also routinely wins RootMetrics' biannual tests. OpenSignal gives AT&T and T-Mobile high marks in its latest survey, though Verizon holds its own in almost half the categories tested.