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Best AT&T plans in 2021: What's right for you?

best at&t plans

Get one of the best AT&T plans, and you'll receive great value for your money at this moment. AT&T isn't the cheapest option out there, but third-party testing firms are praising the performance of AT&T's network. You'll also find a wide collection of available plans, spanning from unlimited data with plenty of features through to a number of pretty affordable prepaid plans.

AT&T appears on our list of the best cell phone plans — and for good reason. AT&T's 5G network compares well to similar efforts from T-Mobile and Verizon, and the carrier also offers some unique features like the inclusion of HBO Max, roaming in Mexico and Canada and security add-ons such as caller ID and fraud blocking.

You'll also find the best AT&T phone plans among the best family cell phone plans, with significant savings for four-line plans. While not as cheap as T-Mobile or Visible, AT&T can challenge those rivals with coverage and performance.

AT&T plans: What kind of offers are available?

When you break it down, AT&T realistically offers two kinds of plans — unlimited or prepaid. While both are great options, they are very different in what they can offer you.

AT&T's best plans at a glance

1. Best overall value: Unlimited Extra plan
2. Most features for your money: Unlimited Elite plan
3. Best prepaid AT&T plan: 8GB 12-month plan

If you're looking for a family plan or just want the most features and add-ons for your money, going for an unlimited plan will be the way to go. AT&T offers three versions at differing costs, with the more expensive options including more features

These options can range from a basic plan offering unlimited data, calls and texts on 5G but with no hotspots, premium data or add-ons, all the way up to a plan with hotspots, premium data with no throttling, HBO Max subscriptions, security features and plenty more.

These unlimited plans see their best per-line prices when bought in a family plan with four lines. If it's just you looking for a AT&T plan or you want something more flexible, prepaid AT&T options are available too.

These are mostly low data, low cost options and while they're more limited in their features and lack 5G, many will find their pricing to be more suitable than unlimited data.

Unlimited and family AT&T plans

Unlimited data and family plans go hand in hand with AT&T. The carrier offers three different tiers, depending on how many features you're going to need and how much you're willing to pay.

Where the family factor comes in is that the best prices come as you tack on additional lines to your plane. To get the lowest monthly price per line, you need to get a four line plan with AT&T — this applies on all three unlimited data offers.

AT&T's Unlimited Starter, the cheapest of the three, is pretty limited in what it offers, with limits on streaming quality and no hotspotting. But you do get unlimited calls, texts and data.

The other two plans — Unlimited Extra and Elite — step it up, offering hotspotting, free streaming services, advanced mobile security and more. In fact, AT&T just boosted the perks included with Unlimited Elite, making it a better option than before.

AT&T | Unlimited Starter plan | $35/month with four lines - AT&Ts budget unlimited plan

AT&T | Unlimited Starter plan | $35/month with four lines - AT&Ts budget unlimited plan
The cheapest of AT&T's unlimited plans, Unlimited Starter will be a great choice for those on more of a budget. If you get a four-line family plan, you'll only have to pay $35 a month per line; a single line costs $65 a month. You get unlimited data, texts and calls and unlimited texting from the US to more than 120 countries. However, you won't get any hotspotting data, and if AT&T's network is busy, your speeds can be slowed. You'll also find your streaming limited to SD.

Affordable price tag; Unlimited 5G data
Cons: Limited to SD streaming; Not many added features

AT&T | Unlimited Extra plan | $40/month with four lines - Great value option

AT&T | Unlimited Extra plan | $40/month with four lines -
Great value option
AT&T's Unlimited Extra plan sits neatly in the middle of the carrier's unlimited offers. A family with four lines will pay $40 each a month; a single line costs $75 a month. Unlimited Extra has everything you're getting above, but with this plan you also get 50GB of priority data, 15GB of hotspot data per line per month and advanced security features, including spam and fraud call blocking and caller ID.

Unlimited 5G data; 50GB premium data; 15GB hotspot
Cons: More expensive than Starter plan; Limited to SD streaming

AT&T | Unlimited Elite plan | $50/month with four lines - AT&Ts feature-packed unlimited plan

AT&T | Unlimited Elite plan | $50/month with four lines - AT&Ts feature-packed unlimited plan
This is definitely not a cell phone plan for those on a budget, with AT&T charging $85 per month for a single line of Unlimited Elite. A family of four pays $50 for each line. However, you get a lot of benefits in return. This plan includes free access to the HBO Max streaming service. AT&T then also offers unlimited 5G data and no longer slows your speeds no matter how much data you use. It's also added another 10GB to the plan's hotspot allowance, giving customers 40GB of data each month per line. Unlike the other two plans, you can stream in HD with Unlimited Elite, and 4K streaming is now supported where available.

Unlimited 5G data; Free HBO Max; No throttling; 40GB hotspot; HD/4K streaming

AT&T prepaid plans

While AT&T's best value can be found in the unlimited plans above, it also offers a selection of prepaid plans. These prepaid options vary drastically in what they offer, with data caps ranging from 5GB through to unlimited.

While AT&T prepaid plans don't have quite as many features as the unlimited plans, they do follow a similar format in terms of hotspotting, whether you can access HD video or not and more.

However, it is well worth noting that AT&T's prepaid plans do not offer 5G coverage, with the exception of the Unlimited Plus plan.

AT&T | 8GB 12-month prepaid | $25/month - Great value prepaid on AT&T...if you can prepay for the year

AT&T | 8GB 12-month prepaid | $25/month - Great value prepaid on AT&T...if you can prepay for the year
This is an excellent price from AT&T's prepaid selection. It only costs $25 a month for 8GB of data. However, the catch here is that you have to pay the full value upfront — $300 to be precise. If you can afford to pay that in one go, this is AT&T's best value prepaid plan. While the prepaid plan doesn't offer 5G, you do get rollover data,  a mobile hotspot, HD video, use in Mexico and Canada and fraud and call blocking.

Pros: Great price for the amount of data; Mobile hotspot
Cons: Requires you to prepay for a full year; No 5G coverage

AT&T | 5GB prepaid | $30/month - The budget AT&T prepaid plan

AT&T | 5GB prepaid | $30/month - The budget AT&T prepaid plan
If you don't like the idea of paying your full value in one upfront payment, this 5GB plan will be the next best option on a budget. It gets you 5GB of data while only charging $30 a month. The plan has all of the benefits as the plan above but it can't get HD video and your use in Mexico and Canada will be pay-per-use.

Pros: Affordable price tag; Mobile hotspot; Data rollover
Cons: No HD video or 5G; Not much data

AT&T | 15GB prepaid | $40/month - A great value option for more data

AT&T | 15GB prepaid | $40/month - A great value option for more data
While the above will be perfect for anyone on a budget, this is the choice for those who need a little bit more data. It goes up to 15GB which will be a lot better for streaming and downloading on the go. Like the above two prepaid plans from AT&T, you don't get 5G access and you don't get access to HD video. You do get data rollover, mobile hotspots and fraud call blocking though. 

Pros: Good amount of data; Hotspot; Data rollover
Cons: Expensive; No HD video or 5G

AT&T | Unlimited Plus prepaid | $60/month with Auto Play- Unlimited data on a more flexible plan

AT&T | Unlimited Plus prepaid | $60/month with Auto Play- Unlimited data on a more flexible plan
If you like the flexibility of a prepaid plan but need a lot of data, this is the best of AT&T's two options. Set up AutoPay (automatic payments from your debit or credit card), and you'll only have to pay $60 a month. Otherwise, it's $75 a month without AutoPay. This is the best of AT&T's two prepaid unlimited plans (the other costs $50 with autopay), as you get 5G coverage, HD video streaming, and all other prepaid plan perks.

Pros: No caps on data; Can use in Mexico and Canada; 5G
Cons: High price tag

Is AT&T a good carrier?

best at&t plans

(Image credit: 10'000 Hours)

In our guide to the best phone carriers, AT&T takes the third spot behind T-Mobile and Verizon. This is no surprise as AT&T has a lot going for it, mostly due to its rapidly growing 5G coverage — AT&T 5G now reaches 250 million people — and extensive network.

When we did our last test of network performance, AT&T finished in second place for LTE download speeds. Ookla recently rated AT&T as the second-fastest provider behind T-Mobile (5G speeds included) and RootMetrics says AT&T had the fastest data speeds in the first half of this year, even if the testing firm ranks Verizon as the best carrier overall.

However, AT&T is in a bit of a weird spot. It's not quite as large a network as Verizon and lacks its intensive coverage and it isn't as affordable as our top ranked carrier - T-Mobile.

While some of its plans can be quite expensive, it offers ways around this, most noticeably through family plan discounts and savings for nurses, teachers, first responders, military and more; you can also save with some schools, organizations and employers.

As we said above, AT&T isn't the cheapest carrier, but it does have some of the most feature-filled plans, most noticeably its Unlimited Elite plan with HBO Max.

Philip Michaels
Philip Michaels is a senior editor at Tom's Guide. He has strong opinions about Apple, the Oakland Athletics and old movies. Follow him at @PhilipMichaels.
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