Verizon subscribers still clinging to their old unlimited data plans are discovering that there are limits to how long those plans remain a compelling deal.
The latest bit of soul-searching comes after Verizon announced that anyone still using an unlimited data plan will be paying $20 more each month for the privilege. With the cost of data going up, it may be time for the unlimited data hold-outs to mull other options.
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Here's what you need to know.
What's Changing: The amount of your monthly bill, if you still receive unlimited data as part of your Verizon plan. The actual monthly bill will vary from subscriber to subscriber, depending on the particulars of your Verizon plan. But if you signed up for unlimited data back in the day for $30 a month, that's now going to cost you $50 a month.
Verizon says it is giving unlimited data plan customers the option of buying a new phone using monthly payments instead of paying full price upfront, so there's that at least.
When Will This Happen: You'll see the change go into effect with your first monthly bill after November 15, provided that you're not in the middle of a two year contract.
Why Is Verizon Doing This: Verizon stopped offering unlimited data plans in 2011, though obviously, it's continued to honor existing agreements with it subscribers. Back in the early days of smartphones, unlimited plans were a great way to lure customers, but as subscriber bases have grown — and Verizon has the most subscribers of U.S. carriers — carriers are more concerned with making sure there's enough bandwidth go around. Indeed, Verizon says the changes to its unlimited plan pricing are aimed at maintaining strong network performance for its customers.
Who Does This Affect: Good news if you're still on a multi-year contract with Verizon — you'll continue to pay your current monthly rate for as long as your contract continues. As soon as you go month-to-month, though, the $20 hike goes into effect. And considering that Verizon ended its unlimited plans years ago, there's a pretty good chance you're already on a month-to-month contract with Verizon.
Ultimately, this isn't a large pool of Verizon subscribers. Verizon says that 99 percent of customers aren't on unlimited data. Still, if you happen to be among the 1 percent that are, you'll want to consider your options.
What Can I Do: Verizon revamped its plans earlier this year, doing away with the distinction between individual and family plans in favor of one pool of shared data. While you won't be able to approach unlimited data, you may be able to bring down the amount of your monthly bill with Verizon's current offerings.
Verizon's plans start at 1GB for $30 a month and go up to 18GB for $100 a month. Keep in mind you'll also need to tack on a $20 access fee for each phone on your plan so those plans will actually cost you $50 and $120.
In our recent look at the best cellphone plans, we found Verizon's 3GB, $65 plan (that's $45 a month plus the $20 access fee) to be the best choice for individuals, since most people use less than 3GB of data each month. If you need more data — and if you really took advantage of your unlimited data plan, you just might — you can also opt for 6GB and 12GB plans for $80 and $100 a month, respectively.
Do I Still Have Unlimited Data Options: Yes, though not at Verizon.
Two major carriers — T-Mobile and Sprint — still offer unlimited data plans for individuals. T-Mobile charges $80 a month for unlimited data. Thanks to its superior network performance and other extras it offers customers — namely, attractive international options like unlimited talk, text and data in Canada and Mexico — T-Mobile won the nod as our top pick for unlimited data plans.
If you'd prefer to get unlimited data from Sprint, though, the time to act is now. The carrier recently announced it would raise the price on its unlimited data plan to $70 a month. The new rate goes into effect on Oct. 16, so you have less than two days to lock in the old $60 monthly rate for unlimited data.
You can still find an unlimited data plan for $60 a month, if you go the prepaid route. That's what MetroPCS charges for unlimited data, and the rate falls to $55 a month per line if you opt for a family plan. MetroPCS uses T-Mobile's network, and while its speeds don't always match T-Mobile's, MetroPCS still fared the best of any discount carrier we looked at in our recent round of network testing.