Verizon followed the lead of rival wireless carriers earlier this year when it added an unlimited data plan to its offerings. But Big Red kept tinkering, and now it offers two different unlimited options with very significant conditions you need to know about as you consider which Verizon plan is right for your needs.
We can help. Here's a closer look at Verizon's new unlimited data offerings, along with the carrier's other monthly data plans.
Best Family Plan
For families, the best option at Verizon is the more expensive of the carrier's two new unlimited plans, since it has fewer gotchas and even throws in a couple of welcome bonuses. Verizon's Beyond Unlimited plan starts at $85 for a single line, with discounts as you additional lines. For a family of four that brings the monthly cost to $200, or $50 per line. That's $40 more per month than what you'd pay for Verizon's Go Unlimited Plan (and $40 more than T-Mobile's less restrictive unlimited plan, too.)
So what makes the more expensive plan better? For starters, you're able to stream HD video (though only at 780p resolution). Go Unlimited subscribers are restricted to 480p resolution. Beyond Unlimited also features 15GB of mobile hotspot data per line, and you're able to take talk, text and data when you travel to Canada and Mexico (though your data speeds are throttled after you use 512MB per day).
But the biggest reason to consider Beyond Unlimited over the cheaper Go Unlimited plan is that under the latter plan, Verizon resolves the right to slow down your speeds if its network is congested. Considering that one of the primary reasons to get Verizon is for its superior network performance, allowing yourself to not reap the full benefits of that network seems like a big ask, even if a family of four saves $480 a year over the more expensive Beyond Unlimited plan.
There are other limitations to the Go Unlimited plan, which starts at $75 for one line, with escalating discounts bringing the cost down to $160 per month for a family of four. Your hotspot data is capped at 600 kbps — a very slow speed — and you don't get to use your plan when traveling in other North America countries. Only AT&T's Unlimited Choice plan, which caps data speeds at 3 Mbps, is a less attractive unlimited option.
Like other carriers, Verizon retains the option to throttle your speeds if you go over a set amount of unlimited data. Verizon sets that cap at 22GB, even for its Beyond Unlimited Plan. For context, T-Mobile's throttling won't start until you use around 50GB of data in a month, while AT&T's cap matches Verizon's.
Other Options: Verizon still offers tiered data plans for families, but they're not very appealing to families of four. For starters, you draw from the same pool of data, so the $70 8GB plan would share that data among four lines. Then you have to factor in $20 access fees for each line, bringing the cost of that package to $150 per month for a family of four — $10 less than what they'd pay for Verizon's unlimited-but-with-limitations data plan.
That said, a two-person family that doesn't plan on using much more than 4GB of LTE data each month could opt for the $50 4GB plan. Access fees would bring that to $90 a month, which is less than the $130 those two people would have to pay for unlimited data.
Best Individual Plan
You now have three choices if you're signing up for a single line of data — the $85 Beyond Unlimited plan, the $75 Go Unlimited or a tiered data plan option. Fortunately, the tiered data offering is the best of the bunch.
You can get 5GB of LTE data each month for $55. (Like all of the prices here, that assumes you've enrolled in autopay with Verizon.) That's actually a fairly big chunk of data unless you do a lot of music and video streaming. The plan includes carryover data for months where you don't use up all your data, and a safety mode in which you can slow down your data speed for the rest of the month if you are in danger of going over your allotted 5GB.
Other Options: It's unlimited data or 5GB of data for individuals, at least for new customers. Verizon's other tiered options are only available for multi-line accounts.
Best Prepaid Plan
Verizon has reshuffled its prepaid options, expanding the number of available plans to four, while also adding new options for families. Prepaid pricing starts at $40 a month for 3GB of data, with 7GB and 10GB plans available for $50 and $60, respectively. All three plans offer carryover data where unused data is moved to the next month when you pay on time. The $60 plan throws in unlimited talk to Canada and Mexico on top of the unlimited texting to 200 countries that all prepaid options include.
If you need even more data, Verizon has an unlimited prepaid option for $80 a month, the same price as its postpaid plan. The catch here is that tethering and hotspot data aren't included as they are on the postpaid version. All Verizon prepaid plans limit video streaming to 480p resolution, and Verizon reserves the right to slow the speeds of its prepaid subscribers if its network is congested.
You can now get multiple prepaid lines through Verizon, with the carrier offering discounts for each line you add. The amount of the discount varies based on the data allotment: you can take $10 off additional lines on the 3GB plan, while the 7GB plan gets a $15 discount on lines two through five. Both the 10GB an unlimited prepaid plans get $20 discounts on additional lines. Data isn't shared on Verizon's prepaid plans — each line gets its own bucket of data.
It's a welcome change in policy from Verizon, but the family plans are still more expensive than other prepaid options. Take MetroPCS's unlimited data plan, which costs a family of four $140 a month under current pricing. Four lines of unlimited prepaid data at Verizon costs $260 a month.
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 eight consecutive reports (though rival T-Mobile takes issue with RootMetrics’ methodology.) Testing firm OpenSignal, however, reports that Verizon's speeds have slowed since it started adding unlimited plans. Verizon dismisses that finding, though its recent unlimited plan reshuffling seems to suggest OpenSignal may not be off base.* Verizon offers some good exclusives. In recent years, Verizon has done a good job securing the exclusive rights to some attractive devices. It's the only carrier offering the Asus ZenFone AR and Moto Z2 Play (though you can buy those phones unlocked if you prefer). Verizon remains the exclusive carrier for the new Pixel 2 phones as well, though you can always buy that phone through Google if you want to use it with a different carrier.
* 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. If you opt for either Verizon's 5GB plan or any of its tiered prepaid plans, unused data rolls over to the next month. That matches AT&T’s approach.
* 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.
* Verizon has a new rewards program. With Verizon Up, every $300 you spend on Verizon products and services — including on your monthly bill — earns you a credit that you can redeem for a reward. Those rewards include everything from discounts on Apple Music, ticket giveaways and savings on future device purchases. Signing up requires you to also participate in Verizon Selects, which tracks personal data such as web and app usage.
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