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Best AT&T Plans: What's Right for You?

AT&T's resistance to unlimited data plans wore down last year, likely spurred by its rival wireless carriers pushing unlimited options of their own. AT&T now offers you two unlimited choices, both with different prices and restrictions. As for tiered data plans, AT&T continues to offer a few options, after a recent reshuffle to its array of plans.

If you haven't looked at AT&T in a while, you may not recognize what's now available, but not to worry: we've looked over AT&T's current offerings and have recommendations for the best plans for families and individuals. AT&T's prepaid plans have also undergone some changes, providing you with even more options.

Best Family Plan

Finding the best AT&T plan comes down to a question of how much data you need each month. Assuming you plan to use a lot — and you don't want any restrictions on streaming video quality — your best choice is AT&T's Unlimited Plus plan. It costs a family of four $185 each month. (To break it down even further, that's $90 for the first line, $55 for the second, and $20 for each line after that.) You'll need to enroll in autopay for that price.

That gives AT&T the most expensive unlimited option among the four major carriers. But you do get 10GB of hotspot data and the ability to stream video at HD resolution. AT&T also throws in the ability to stream HBO with its Unlimited Plus plan (though that's now part of AT&T's cheaper unlimited offering, too). Note that AT&T reserves the right to throttle your speed should you use more than 22GB of data in a given billing period. Should you use DirecTV, the Unlimited Plus plan is more appealing, as you can save $15 per month either on the DirecTV satellite service or DirecTV Now streaming service.

AT&T — Best Family PlanView Deal

Other Options: AT&T does offer a less expensive unlimited data plan — $155 a month for a family of four — but the Unlimited Choice plan has plenty of gotchas. For one thing, there's no hotspot data, and you're restricted to standard definition video when streaming. The real limitation though is that AT&T will restrict your Internet speeds to 3Mbps — the only carrier to cap data speeds right off the bat. At least AT&T added a DirecTV Now bill credit to its Unlimited Choice Plan. (You'll need Unlimited Plus to get a credit for the DirecTV satellite service, though.) Unlimited Choice subscribers also get free access to HBO streaming, just like their Unlimited Plus counterparts.

MORE: Compare AT&T's Unlimited Plans to Other Carriers

Given the restrictions on data speed with Unlimited Choice, you may want to look at one of AT&T's tiered data plans, especially if you don't really need unlimited data. AT&T continues to offer a 10GB plan, in which families draw from the same pool of data. The plan costs $85 a month, plus $20 per line in access fees. You can knock $10 off your monthly bill with autopay enrollment, so the final monthly tally for a family of four is $155 — exactly what you'd pay for Unlimited Choice, but without the onerous restriction on data speeds and with the ability to roll over unused data to the next month. AT&T only slows down your data speed if you go over the allotted amount on your tiered data plan instead of charging you an overage fee.

Best Unlimited Plan for Families

At the risk of repeating ourselves, we'll say it again: The Unlimited Plus plan is a much better option if you want true unlimited data, even if the Unlimited Choice plan would save a family of four $30 each month. The fact that Unlimited Plus customers get uncapped data speeds and HD video streaming more than makes up for the extra cost, though budget crunched families who don't care about fast data may find the Unlimited Choice plan to their liking, especially with HBO streaming part of that mix.

AT&T — Best Unlimited Family PlanView Deal

Best Individual Unlimited Plan

AT&T's unlimited options are the same for individuals. Assuming you want a truly unlimited experience, the $90-a-month Unlimited Plus plan (with autopay) is your best option, as it features HD video streaming, free HBO and 10GB of hotspot data. You can also get a $25 monthly discount on DirecTV, whether that's via the satellite TV service or the streaming service. Bundling DirecTV satellite service with Unlimited Plus will run you $115 a month, while Unlimited Plus with DirecTV Now streaming costs $100 a month.

The Unlimited Choice Plan is significantly cheaper at $60 a month, but it restricts your speed to 3 Mbps. You can also only watch standard definition video, and you don't get any hotspot data. You get HBO streaming as part of this less expensive plan, though, and you can bundle DirecTV Now streaming with your wireless plan for an extra $10 a month, bringing your monthly bill to $70.

AT&T — Best Unlimited PlanView Deal

Best Individual Plan

AT&T reshuffled its tiered data plans — now called Mobile Share Flex plans — leaving subscribers to choose between a little bit of data or a lot. The former option gives you 1GB of LTE data for $35 a month, while the latter raises the allotment to 5GB for $60. Now comes the math portion of this exercise: knock $10 off if you sign up for autopay. But add a $20 device access fee to get your final monthly cost.

The bottom line? AT&T's 5GB plan — which gives the average user more than enough data each month, with unused data rolling over —costs $70. For context, that's $15 more each month than Verizon's superior 5GB plan.

AT&T — Best Individual PlanView Deal

Other Options: You can save money by opting for the 1GB plan, which costs $45 a month once you figure in access device fees and autopay discounts. AT&T doesn't charge overage fees, so you'd only have to contend with slowed-down data should you use more than 1GB during a billing cycle. The $95-a-month 10GB Mobile Flex Share plan is more expensive than AT&T's unlimited options and not a good choice for individuals.

MORE: How AT&T's Individual Plans Compare

Best Prepaid Plan

AT&T's prepaid plans give you an opportunity to go contract-free, and they compare very nicely to what you'll find at dedicated prepaid carriers like MetroPCS and Cricket Wireless (which is an AT&T subsidiary). AT&T's best prepaid option provides 6GB of LTE data for $45 a month. Sign up for auto-pay, and you can save yourself $5 each month, bringing your bill down to $40.

A 1GB plan lets you get service at $35 a month, with autopay enrollment knocking $5 off your monthly bill. For both the 1GB and 6GB prepaid plans, you roll over unused data to the next month as well.

MORE: Who Has the Best Prepaid Plan?

If you want a lot of data, AT&T also offers its prepaid customers a $60-a-month unlimited plan. (That assumes you're enrolling in autopay; otherwise, you'll pay $65.) There are some catches, though, similar to the Unlimited Choice plan available to postpaid customers. In addition to unlimited data speeds getting capped at 3 Mbps, if you use more than 22GB of data in a given month, AT&T could slow you down even further. You'll also be limited to 480p resolution when streaming video, so forget about watching Netflix in HD.

AT&T's prepaid plans can be appealing if you need to add extra lines, as the carrier offers multi-line discounts that escalate as you add more people. After the first line, AT&T will knock $5 off the second prepaid line, $10 off the third and $15 off the fourth. And you can deduct an additional $5 off each line for enrolling in autopay. Add all those discounts together, and a family could get four lines each with 6GB of data for $130 a month. Even better, you can mix and match lines — an unlimited line here, a 1GB line there — if different members of your family have different data needs.

What You Need to Know About AT&T

Before you pick an AT&T plan, here are a few more things to know about the wireless carrier.

* AT&T really wants you to bundle your phone and TV service: How serious is AT&T about getting you to use both it wireless service and its TV offerings? The carrier builds discounts into its satellite and streaming services into its unlimited plan offers. AT&T has also been known to offer deals on bundles for its assorted services, so check out what kind of discounts you can get by combining wireless, TV and even home phone in your area. Be warned that we haven't been too impressed with DirecTV Now when we've tested it multiple times.

MORE: DirecTV Now vs. PlayStation Vue vs. Sling TV: Face-Off

* AT&T's network is solid: When we tested 4G network speeds, AT&T had the second fastest average download time after Verizon. T-Mobile had a comparable download speed and faster upload speed in our tests, but AT&T performed well overall. Third-party testing firm RootMetrics is more enthusiastic, listing AT&T's network as a formidable rival to Verizon's in its latest semiannual report on wireless network performance. Another testing firm, OpenSignal, says that AT&T's network speed is beginning to pick up after noticeably declining during the first half of 2017 when the carrier rolled out its unlimited plans. OpenSignal also found AT&T has the most responsive data signal in its latest testing.

* You can roll over unused data. AT&T offers rollover data for all its Mobile Flex Share and prepaid plans. However, you only get to keep that data an extra month before it disappears. So if you've only used 4GB of your 5GB plan in a given month, that unused gigabyte rolls over, but it disappears at the end of the month. (Verizon, which also added data rollover in 2016, works the same way.)

* Larger data plans have international appeal. Both of AT&T's new unlimited plans cover voice, data and text when you're in Canada or Mexico. Tiered data plans included unlimited talk to Canada and Mexico, and you can use data in Mexico, too. As for trips overseas, AT&T's $10-a-day International Day Pass comes with unlimited talk and text, plus data governed by your plan. If you happen to be traveling to South Korea from Feb. 1 to March 20, AT&T is waiving the $10 daily fee in that country as part of a promotion related to the Winter Olympics.

  • PhilipMichaels
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