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Credit: Edgar Cervantes / Android Authority

AT&T holds down its place as the second-largest US carrier with 143 million subscribers as of early 2020. It’s important to do your homework if you’re considering a move between the Big Three carriers. Luckily for you, we’ve done the legwork and packed it all into this handy buyer’s guide.

See also: The best AT&T deals

In this helpful guide, you’ll find everything there is to know about both pre- and post-paid AT&T plans, and what phones work well on the network. If you’re looking to save a bit of money, we have a few MVNOs you might consider. Ready to try a new carrier? Let’s get to it.

AT&T at a glance

In its long history, AT&T has gone by many names — with Southwestern Bell and Cingular Wireless among two of the best known. Its time as Southwestern Bell began in 1877 as a subsidiary of Alexander Graham Bell’s own Bell Telephone Company.

Despite the long history, AT&T is not Better Business Bureau accredited, though it carries an A-plus rating. The customer reviews aren’t as friendly with a dismal one-star rating and an incredible 53,801 complaints addressed in the past three years. 16,924 of those complaints have come in the last 12 months alone.

As you would expect from a leading carrier with more than 100 million subscribers, the AT&T 4G network extends through all 50 states. Although it’s 4G coverage does not reach as far as Verizon’s, Big Blue has the largest 3G network of the big three, edging out the newly merged T-Mobile and Sprint.

You can check out AT&T’s product map here to find out more about its coverage.

Post-paid AT&T plans

 Unlimited StarterUnlimited ExtraUnlimited Elite
Cost$65 for one line
$60 for two lines
$45 for three lines
$35 for four lines
$75 for one line
$65 for two lines
$50 for three lines
$40 for four lines
$85 for one line
$75 for two lines
$60 for three lines
$50 for four lines
Talk & TextUnlimitedUnlimitedUnlimited
DataUnlimited basic 4G LTE
5G access with compatible device
50GB premium 4G LTE
Unlimited basic 4G LTE
5G access with compatible device
100GB premium 4G LTE
Unlimited basic 4G LTE
5G access with compatible device
HotspotNot included15GB per line30GB per line
International ServiceUnlimited texting to 120 countriesUnlimited texting to 120 countriesUnlimited texting to 120 countries
Extra PerksDevice security and spam risk alerts
Standard definition streaming
Device security and spam risk alerts
Standard definition streaming
Device security and spam risk alerts
High definition streaming
HBO Max subscription

AT&T Unlimited Starter

Just like Verizon and T-Mobile, AT&T kicks off its unlimited lineup with a solid introductory plan. Unlimited Starter is a great way to dip your toe into the network with unlimited talk, text, and basic 4G LTE data starting at $65 for one line. A second line will save you $5 and a third line drops the cost down to $45 per month or $35 for four lines.

There’s not much else to say for Unlimited Starter — it doesn’t include a fun streaming perk, there’s no specific hotspot option, but it does include 5G access now. None of those things are absolutely necessary for good phone service though, and Unlimited Starter’s best selling point is saving some money.

Unlimited Starter highlights:

  • Unlimited talk, text, and basic 4G LTE data
  • Starts at $65 per month for one line

Best for:

  • Users who want talk, text, and data but don’t need the bells or whistles

AT&T Unlimited Extra

If you’re looking for the best AT&T plans, Unlimited Extra is the most sensible option for many people if you need a hotspot and you want that sweet, sweet 5G access. One line of Unlimited Extra service costs $75, while a second line is $65. Lines three and four cost $50 and $40 each. Instead of unlimited basic 4G LTE data, you can look forward to 50GB of premium 4G LTE.

Besides your premium data boost, each line on your Unlimited Extra plan comes with 15GB of hotspot data. You’ll only be able to stream your shows in standard definition, but the perks outweigh the extra $10 per month cost of the plan.

Unlimited Extra highlights:

  • 50GB of premium 4G LTE data
  • 5G access with a compatible device
  • 15GB of hotspot per line

Best for:

  • Users who want unlimited service with premium data and 5G access

AT&T Unlimited Elite

The final unlimited plan — and the one with the most bells and whistles — goes by the name Unlimited Elite. As you might expect from such a lofty name, the plan offers 100GB of premium data and 30GB of mobile hotspot per line. It comes at a cost though, as one line is $85 and two lines are $75 each. A third and fourth line will make the plan $60 per line and $50 per line respectively.

Once again, 5G access is included as long as you have a capable device, and Signature Program members can save $10 per month on Unlimited Elite. It’s also the only plan AT&T offers that includes an extra streaming perk — a subscription to the newly launched HBO Max at no extra charge.

Unlimited Elite highlights:

  • 100GB of premium 4G LTE data
  • 30GB of hotspot per line
  • HBO Max subscription

Best for:

  • HBO junkies who want the most premium data around and 5G access

Special unlimited discounts

If one of the unlimited plans above sounds right for you, we might have a way for you to save even more. AT&T offers special discounts for some of our most important groups — teachers, nurses, military and veterans, and first responders. All four groups have access to the same prices, which can fall as low as $26.25 per line on the Unlimited Starter plan.

You can give Unlimited Extra a try with four lines for just $30 each or Unlimited Elite is just $37.5 per line for four lines. Each plan includes the same laundry list of perks, just with an even better price.

Mobile Share plans

Although AT&T places a clear emphasis on its unlimited plans, you can still sign up for Mobile Share if you prefer to work from a pool of data. Available in two tiers — 3GB and 9GB — the Mobile Share plans are structured for four line accounts. If you opt for the smaller 3GB plan you can expect to pay $30 per line ($120 total) and the larger 9GB plan will run you $35 per line.

The data cap is the only difference between the two AT&T plans, as both include unlimited talk AT&T And text as well as standard definition streaming. Talk, text, and data to Mexico are included too but your usage will count towards your monthly cap. You can use your data for a full-speed mobile hotspot and any unused data will roll over to the next cycle.

Mobile Share highlights:

  • Four lines for $30 or $35 each
  • Either 3GB or 9GB 4G LTE data
  • Unused data rolls over

Best for:

  • Multi-line users who don’t need too much data per month

Post-paid tablet and wearable plans

apple watch series 5 delete apps

There are two options to choose from if you want to add a tablet to your AT&T line of service. However, it can be tricky to find the tablet information page. We’ll break your options down to make it a little easier to device what you need.

 DataConnectAT&T Wireless Internet
Cost$50
$70
Overages $10 per GB
$20 for Talk Only
$60
$100
Overages $25 per 10GB
Eligible DevicesTablet
Laptop
Hotspot
Modem
Any AWI Device
Data Cap10GB
15GB
Talk Only
50GB
100GB
International2GB for $70 per month
6GB for $140 per month
Overages $30 per GB
Not Available

If you’re just looking for data, it makes the most sense to opt for the DataConnect plan with either 10GB or 15GB of data. It’s a straightforward data cap and you can add international service if you need to be connected on the go.

On the other hand, you may find that you need the option to call from your tablet, in which case AT&T Wireless Internet is the way to go. Calling alone costs $20, which is cheaper than setting up an entire phone plan.

Pre-paid AT&T plans

You can also look to save a bit of money on AT&T’s service by taking the prepaid route. The carrier offers four different plans and a few special offers for the middle-tier plan. 8GB of data per month costs as little as $25 each as long as you pay upfront. Check out all the AT&T plans below before you make a decision.

 2GB Plan8GB PlanUnlimited PlanUnlimited Plus Plan
Cost$35$50
$33 for 3 months
$25 for 12 months
$65$75
Data2GB8GBUnlimited, may be temporarily slowedUnlimited, may be temporarily slowed after 22GB
5G AccessNoNoNoYes
RolloverYesYesNoNo
HotspotYesYesAdd on availaleYes, 10GB
HD StreamingYesYesNoYes
InternationalPay per use in Canada and Mexico
Unlimited texting
Use in Canada and Mexico
Unlimited texting
Use in Canada and Mexico
Unlimited texting
Use in Canada and Mexico
Unlimited texting

2GB Plan

AT&T keeps the names simple for its prepaid plans, starting with the 2GB option. As you might have guessed, the plan offers 2GB of high-speed 4G LTE data per month. It’s the most affordable plan on the list at $35 per month per line, so there aren’t too many extra goodies included. You can use your data for hotspot and HD streaming up to the cap, but just be ready for how quickly you can chew through 2GB.

A 2GB plan is a solid option if you plan to spend some time in Canada or Mexico, as you can pay per use when it comes to calling. As with all AT&T plans, you can text from the US to over 100 other countries.

Highlights:

  • 2GB of 4G LTE data
  • $35 per line
  • Rollover and hotspot included

Best for:

  • Light data users who want to save some money

8GB Plan

If you don’t mind paying a bit more, AT&T’s 8GB prepaid plan makes more sense for most subscribers. Not only do you get four times the data per billing cycle, but you can also pay in advance to save even more money. Three months of service costs $99 ($33 per month) or you can prepay $300 for an entire year of service ($25 per month). Considering that one month costs $50, you can rack up the savings pretty quickly.

Many of the 8GB perks match those of the 2GB plan — no 5G access, rollover is included, and you can use the entire cap for a hotspot. However, the 8GB plan drops the pay per use structure in Canada and Mexico so you can call and text from anywhere in North America.

Highlights:

  • Save money when you prepay
  • 8GB of 4G LTE data with rollover and hotspot
  • International use in Canada and Mexico

Best for:

  • Users who are considering sticking with AT&T prepaid for the long run

Unlimited Plan

Although this prepaid option comes with unlimited data, there are a few exclusions that seem out of place. For starters, you’ll have to chip in extra for hotspot access, and HD streaming simply isn’t an option. Keep in mind, you’re paying $65 per month for this tier of service. There’s still no 5G access, and rollover data is gone too — though that’s because you don’t have a data limit.

Highlights:

  • Unlimited data
  • Use in Canada and Mexico

Best for:

  • Users who want unlimited data and select international usage without many extras

Unlimited Plus Plan

AT&T’s final prepaid option is the Unlimited Plus plan, which is about as close as you can get to post-paid service. You can tap into the 5G network, and you get unlimited 4G LTE service that won’t be slowed down until you cross the 22GB threshold. The Unlimited Plus plan adds in 10GB of hotspot data, and although it’s limited, it’s more than the 2GB or 8GB plans offer.

HD video streaming makes a triumphant return, as does international usage, but you still won’t need rollover data because there’s no limit.

Highlights:

  • 5G access included
  • Unlimited data without limits up to 22GB
  • HD streaming and 10GB of hotspot data

Best for:

  • Users who want post-paid perks with pre-paid commitment

Which of AT&T’s plans is right for you?

ATT logo stock image 2

Deciding which AT&T plan is best for you is easier than some other carriers. There aren’t specialized plans for work or play, it all comes down to the bells and whistles. If you have to have it all, then Unlimited Elite is the way to go. You get more data than you can shake a stick at, and HBO Max puts Friends and Game of Thrones right in your pocket.

However, if you don’t much care about streaming then Unlimited Extra is a match for most people. You still get plenty of premium data — 50GB — and all of the 5G access you could ask for. On the prepaid side, the 8GB plan makes the most sense as you can prepay and save a good chunk of change. The 2GB plan is pretty small and the basic unlimited option axes some streaming options, so split the difference and opt for 8GB.

AT&T vs the competition

Sprint Verizon T Mobile and Verizon carriers stock photo 4

If you’re serious about leaving your old carrier behind, it might help to do a bit of head-to-head comparison. We’ve done our best to simplify things with a simple table that compares the best unlimited plans from the big three. All of our plans come right from our list of the best unlimited data plans in the US if you want to research further.

 Magenta Plus (T-Mobile)Unlimited Elite (AT&T)Get More Unlimited (Verizon)
Cost$85 for one line
$70 for two lines
$47 for three lines
$43 for four lines
$85 for one line
$75 for two lines
$60 for three lines
$50 for four lines
$90 for one line
$80 for two lines
$65 for three lines
$55 for four lines
DataUnlimited 4G LTE100GB of Premium 4G Data75GB of Premium 4G Data and Unlimited 4G LTE
Talk and TextUnlimitedUnlimitedUnlimited
StreamingHD StreamingHD Streaming with Stream SaverHD Streaming
Hotspot20GB of 4G LTE then unlimited 3G30GB of 4G LTE per line30GB of 4G LTE
InternationalTexting, 2G dataTexting to 120 countriesTexting to 200 countries
Extra PerksNetflix Standard or Quibi
Gogo in-flight Wi-Fi and texting
HBO Max
5G Access
Apple Music
Disney Plus
5G Access

Verizon

If you’ll stop at nothing less than the biggest, fastest, most powerful plan Verizon has to offer, you have to choose Get More Unlimited. From 720p streaming to 75GB of premium 4G data and 30GB of 4G hotspot, Get More Unlimited is the powerhouse of the plans.

Get More Unlimited isn’t just a data beast either, it also adds Apple Music permanently to the mix along with a year of Disney Plus. 500GB of cloud storage is back, as is the half-off tablet offer. As with all plans, you can feel free to text to more than 200 countries too.

Highlights:

  • 75GB of premium 4G data and 30GB of 4G hotspot
  • Apple Music and Disney Plus
  • 5G access with capable devices

T-Mobile

The smallest of the Big Three, T-Mobile has recently completed its merger with Sprint. Magenta Plus is the best post-paid plan you can get, with unlimited talk, text, and data for your money. Plans are all about perks though, and Magenta Plus offers unlimited in-flight Wi-Fi and texting. You’ll be able to access both the 4G LTE and 5G networks without an extra fee.

As far as streaming options go, Magenta Plus comes with HD options and you can choose either Netflix Standard or Quibi. Each line has up to 20GB of 4G LTE hotspot access, although it’ll drop to 3G speeds afterward.

Highlights:

  • Netflix Standard or Quibi included
  • Unlimited in-flight Wi-Fi
  • 5G access and HD streaming

Want AT&T’s service on a budget?

AT&T isn’t as expensive as Verizon, but there are certainly cheaper ways to take advantage of its network. An MVNO is a great way to start, and luckily there are plenty of choices when it comes to Big Blue. There’s the wholly-owned Cricket Wireless, or you can go truly independent with options like Straight Talk and Consumer Cellular. Check out the table for our top picks:

 Cricket Wireless (Cricket More)Consumer CellularStraight TalkRed PocketTracFone
Cost$60 for one line
$90 for two lines
$110 for three lines
$130 for four lines
Limited plans for as low as $18.33 per month
Unlimited plans for as low as $30 per month
Basic plans from $30 per month
Unlimited plans from $55 per month
Limited plans as low as $10 per month
Unlimited plans for $60 per month
Limited plans from $15
Unlimited options from $20
Talk & TextUnlimitedUnlimited1500 minutes for $30 per month
Unlimited from $35 per month
$10 plan includes 500 texts and 500 minutes
Plans above $15 include unlimited talk and text
500 minutes and 500 texts for $15
Unlimited for $20
DataUnlimited 4G LTE500MB shared for $18.33 per month
Unlimited shared for $30 per month
100MB for $30 per month
5GB for $35 per month
25GB for $45 per month
Unlimited for $55 per month
Starts at 500MB for $10
Unlimited data for $60
500MB for $15
3GB for $30
Hotspot15GB Mobile hotspotHotspot availableHotspot availableHotspot availableHotspot available
InternationalMexico and Canada usage up to 50%
Texting to 37 countries
Not availableGlobal calling cards from $10 per month
International unlimited for $60 per month
Free calls to 80 countriesInternational calling card available
ExtrasNoneAARP discountsMulti-month discountsFree SIM cardTalk, text, and data add-ons available

Cricket Wireless

Unlike the other MVNOs on this list, Cricket is fully owned and operated by AT&T. The top-end plan, Cricket More, offers unlimited everything as well as a 15GB hotspot included. You can even take your phone abroad in North America for free as long as it’s less than 50% of your service.

Consumer Cellular

Consumer Cellular is a network designed for users over 55. You can have up to three lines on an account, and an AARP membership can help you nab a discount. Plans offer unlimited talk and text, though it’s up to you to decide on data. There’s no international access or roaming though to help protect against extra fees.

Straight Talk

Straight Talk is a popular MVNO and signing up is as easy as going to Walmart. You can also sign up online and choose from a variety of plans, both with limited and unlimited data. Like many MVNOs, you can pay monthly and reload your account as you need more data. Best of all, basic plans start at just $30 per month.

Red Pocket

Red Pocket is unique among MVNOs in that it works on all of the major carriers. However, you’ll choose your carrier at signup and then you’re locked in for the duration of your service. Once again, there are limited and unlimited options, and it’s easy to bring a phone along thanks to the network choices.

Tracfone

Tracfone is one of the oldest and best-known MVNOs on the market, and its staying power speaks volumes. You can choose from a number of plans with limited or unlimited talk, text, and data. Add-ons are another great way to flesh out your service for an added cost.

What phones can you use?

LG Velvet camera macro 4

As you would expect from a big three carrier, you can pick up almost any device on the AT&T network. Big Blue is one of the first to advertise the new 5G-ready LG Velvet, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. You can pick up any one of the latest iPhones, whether you want the budget-friendly iPhone SE or the all-out powerhouse 11 Pro Max. AT&T also offers both the Galaxy Z Flip and the Galaxy Fold in case you want to turn heads while you go about your day.

For a full list of the latest and greatest devices, head on over to our list of the Best AT&T phones. Looking for good unlocked options? Check out our guide to the best Android phones period. 

AT&T is a GSM carrier just like T-Mobile, so you’ll have to be careful if you plan to bring a device. You may have a bit of trouble grabbing a Verizon or Sprint device, but it really comes down to band support. Check out the table below for the specific bands you’ll need.

FrequencyBandNetwork Supported
1900MHz22G
3G
4G LTE
1700/2100MHz4
66
3G and 4G LTE
4G LTE
850MHz53G
4G LTE
700MHz12
17
4G LTE
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