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AT&T buyer's guide: Plans, perks, and everything else you need to know

It may be the middle child of the Big Three carriers, but there's a lot to like about AT&T. Here are some plans and phones!
By
June 9, 2022
ATT logo stock image 2
Edgar Cervantes / Android Authority

AT&T remains the second-largest carrier in the United States, with around 200 million subscribers midway through 2022. There’s never a wrong time to switch to Big Blue, especially with its prices and perks. However, you’ll have to do your homework before setting anything in stone. Luckily for you, we’ve done the legwork and packed all of AT&T’s plans 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

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

AT&T is not Better Business Bureau accredited despite its long history, though it carries an A-plus rating. The customer reviews aren’t as friendly, with a dismal one-star rating and an incredible 55,655 complaints addressed in the past three years. 13,665 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 its 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 learn more about its coverage.

See also: Should you make Verizon or AT&T your next carrier?

Post-paid AT&T plans

Unlimited StarterUnlimited ExtraUnlimited Premium
Cost
Unlimited Starter
$65 for one line
$60 for two lines
$45 for three lines
$35 for four lines
Unlimited Extra
$75 for one line
$65 for two lines
$50 for three lines
$40 for four lines
Unlimited Premium
$85 for one line
$75 for two lines
$60 for three lines
$50 for four lines
Talk & Text
Unlimited Starter
Unlimited
Unlimited Extra
Unlimited
Unlimited Premium
Unlimited
Data
Unlimited Starter
Unlimited basic 4G LTE
5G access with compatible device
Unlimited Extra
50GB premium 4G LTE
Unlimited basic 4G LTE
5G access with compatible device
Unlimited Premium
100GB premium 4G LTE
Unlimited basic 4G LTE
5G access with compatible device
Hotspot
Unlimited Starter
Not included
Unlimited Extra
15GB per line
Unlimited Premium
30GB per line
International Service
Unlimited Starter
Unlimited texting to 120 countries
Unlimited Extra
Unlimited texting to 120 countries
Unlimited Premium
Unlimited texting to 120 countries
Extra Perks
Unlimited Starter
Device security and spam risk alerts
Standard definition streaming
Unlimited Extra
Device security and spam risk alerts
Standard definition streaming
Unlimited Premium
Device security and spam risk alerts
High definition streaming

AT&T Unlimited Starter

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 video streaming perk and there’s just 3GB of hotspot per month, but it does have 5G access now. Instead of a streaming perk, all AT&T plans now include six months of Stadia Pro to test out some Google-powered gaming. None of those things are 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 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 and 5G data, you can look forward to 50GB of premium 4G LTE or 5G speeds.

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

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 Premium

The final unlimited plan — and the one with the most bells and whistles — goes by Unlimited Premium. As you might expect from such a lofty name, the plan offers unlimited premium data that AT&T won’t slow down and 50GB 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.

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 Premium. In the old Unlimited Elite days, subscribers received a free HBO Max account, but that’s gone now. New customers will get 50GB of hotspot data instead of the 40GB with Unlimited Elite

Unlimited Premium highlights:

  • 100GB of premium 4G LTE data
  • 50GB of hotspot per line

Best for:

  • Streaming 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 Premium is just $37.50 per line for four lines. Each plan includes the same laundry list of perks, just at an even better price.

Post-paid tablet and wearable plans

Apple iPad Pro 2020 money shot
Eric Zeman / Android Authority

If you want to add a tablet to your AT&T line of service, there are two options to choose from. 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
DataConnect
$50
$75
Overages $10 per 2GB
AT&T Wireless Internet
$20 for Talk Only
$60
$100
Overages $25 per 10GB
Eligible Devices
DataConnect
Tablet
Laptop
Hotspot
Modem
AT&T Wireless Internet
Any AWI Device
Data Cap
DataConnect
25GB
40GB
AT&T Wireless Internet
Talk Only
50GB
100GB
International
DataConnect
2GB for $70 per month
6GB for $140 per month
Overages $30 per GB
AT&T Wireless Internet
Not Available

If you’re looking for data, it makes the most sense to opt for the DataConnect plan with either 25GB or 40GB 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. 5GB of data per month costs as little as $30 each with no long-term agreement. Check out all the AT&T plans below before you make a decision.

Budget ConsciousSuper ValueUnlimited PlanHotspot Plans
Cost
Budget Conscious
$30
Super Value
$40
Unlimited Plan
$65
Hotspot Plans
Best Value: $25 per month
Essential Data: $35
Great Deal: $55
Data
Budget Conscious
5GB
Super Value
15GB
Unlimited Plan
Unlimited, may be temporarily slowed
Hotspot Plans
15GB to 100GB
5G Access
Budget Conscious
No
Super Value
No
Unlimited Plan
No
Hotspot Plans
Yes
Rollover
Budget Conscious
Yes
Super Value
Yes
Unlimited Plan
No
Hotspot Plans
No
Hotspot
Budget Conscious
Yes
Super Value
Yes
Unlimited Plan
Add on available
Hotspot Plans
Yes
HD Streaming
Budget Conscious
No
Super Value
No
Unlimited Plan
No
Hotspot Plans
Yes
International
Budget Conscious
Pay per use in Canada and Mexico
Unlimited texting
Super Value
Use in Canada and Mexico
Unlimited texting
Unlimited Plan
Use in Canada and Mexico
Unlimited texting
Hotspot Plans
Not specified

Budget Conscious Plan

AT&T has refreshed its entry-level prepaid plans, starting with the 5GB option. As you might have guessed, the plan offers 5GB of high-speed 4G LTE data per month. It’s the most affordable plan on the list at $30 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 be ready for how quickly you can chew through 5GB.

A 5GB plan is a solid option if you plan to spend some time in Canada or Mexico, as you can pay per use when calling. As with all AT&T plans, you can text over 100 other countries from the US.

Highlights:

  • 5GB of 4G LTE data
  • $30 per line
  • Rollover and hotspot included

Best for:

  • Light data users who want to save some money

Big Deal Plan

If you don’t mind paying a bit more, AT&T’s 15GB Big Deal plan makes more sense for most subscribers. Not only do you get three times the data per month, but it costs just $10 more. You’ll have the same limits, including no 5G and no HD video, but it offers excellent value for your money. However, the 8GB plan drops the pay-per-use structure in Canada and Mexico, so you can call and text anywhere in North America.

Highlights:

  • Save money when you prepay
  • 15GB 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, a few exclusions seem out of place. For starters, you’ll have to chip in extra for hotspot access, and HD streaming 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 AT&T won’t slow 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

AT&T prepaid data-only plans

If you’ve just picked up an exciting new tablet or you’re looking to hook your laptop up with a hotspot, AT&T has you covered. It’s given its data-only plans a pretty serious boost, so you can enjoy 5G wherever you may roam. The previous 40GB for $75 plan now packs 100GB for $55 per month, and it’s tough to turn down more data. If you don’t need quite so much data, you can grab 15GB for $35 or grab a year of 20GB per month when you pay the full $300 ($25 per month) upfront.

Highlights:

  • Up to 100GB of 5G hotspot
  • Optional one-year plan

Best for:

  • Users who need a heap of data to pull from

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

ATT logo on phone stock photo
Edgar Cervantes / Android Authority

It’s much easier to choose among AT&T’s plans than with 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 Premium is the way to go. You get more data than you can shake a stick at, but it’s disappointing to see HBO Max go away.

However, if you don’t care much about streaming, Unlimited Extra matches most people. You still get plenty of premium data — 50GB — and all of the 5G access you could ask for. The 8GB plan makes the most sense on the prepaid side 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

AT&T Plans vs the other main carriers
Edgar Cervantes / Android Authority

If you’re serious about leaving your old carrier behind, it might help to make a bit of a 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 Max (T-Mobile)Unlimited Elite (AT&T)Get More Unlimited (Verizon)
Cost
Magenta Max (T-Mobile)
$85 for one line
$70 for two lines
$47 for three lines
$43 for four lines
Unlimited Elite (AT&T)
$85 for one line
$75 for two lines
$60 for three lines
$50 for four lines
Get More Unlimited (Verizon)
$90 for one line
$80 for two lines
$65 for three lines
$55 for four lines
Data
Magenta Max (T-Mobile)
Unlimited 4G LTE
Unlimited Elite (AT&T)
100GB of Premium 4G Data
Get More Unlimited (Verizon)
75GB of Premium 4G Data and Unlimited 4G LTE
Talk and Text
Magenta Max (T-Mobile)
Unlimited
Unlimited Elite (AT&T)
Unlimited
Get More Unlimited (Verizon)
Unlimited
Streaming
Magenta Max (T-Mobile)
HD Streaming
Unlimited Elite (AT&T)
HD Streaming with Stream Saver
Get More Unlimited (Verizon)
HD Streaming
Hotspot
Magenta Max (T-Mobile)
40GB of 4G LTE then unlimited 3G
Unlimited Elite (AT&T)
30GB of 4G LTE per line
Get More Unlimited (Verizon)
30GB of 4G LTE
International
Magenta Max (T-Mobile)
Texting, 2G data
Unlimited Elite (AT&T)
Texting to 120 countries
Get More Unlimited (Verizon)
Texting to 200 countries
Extra Perks
Magenta Max (T-Mobile)
Netflix Standard
Gogo in-flight Wi-Fi and texting
Unlimited Elite (AT&T)
HBO Max
5G Access
Get More Unlimited (Verizon)
Apple Music
Disney Plus
5G Access

Verizon

If you stop at nothing less than the biggest, fastest, most powerful plan Verizon offers, you must pick the Get More Unlimited plan. 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 the Disney Plus bundle. 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, is one year past its merger with Sprint. Magenta Max 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 Max offers unlimited in-flight Wi-Fi and texting. You’ll be able to access both the 4G LTE and 5G networks without fear of being throttled.

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

Highlights:

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

Want AT&T’s service on a budget?

Cricket Wireless stock photo 1
Edgar Cervantes / Android Authority

AT&T plans aren’t as expensive as Verizon’s options, 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
Cricket Wireless (Cricket More)
$60 for one line
$90 for two lines
$110 for three lines
$130 for four lines
Consumer Cellular
Limited plans for as low as $18.33 per month
Unlimited plans for as low as $30 per month
Straight Talk
Basic plans from $30 per month
Unlimited plans from $55 per month
Red Pocket
Limited plans as low as $10 per month
Unlimited plans for $60 per month
TracFone
Limited plans from $15
Unlimited options from $20
Talk & Text
Cricket Wireless (Cricket More)
Unlimited
Consumer Cellular
Unlimited
Straight Talk
1500 minutes for $30 per month
Unlimited from $35 per month
Red Pocket
$10 plan includes 500 texts and 500 minutes
Plans above $15 include unlimited talk and text
TracFone
500 minutes and 500 texts for $15
Unlimited for $20
Data
Cricket Wireless (Cricket More)
Unlimited 4G LTE
Consumer Cellular
500MB shared for $18.33 per month
Unlimited shared for $30 per month
Straight Talk
100MB for $30 per month
5GB for $35 per month
25GB for $45 per month
Unlimited for $55 per month
Red Pocket
Starts at 500MB for $10
Unlimited data for $60
TracFone
500MB for $15
3GB for $30
Hotspot
Cricket Wireless (Cricket More)
15GB Mobile hotspot
Consumer Cellular
Hotspot available
Straight Talk
Hotspot available
Red Pocket
Hotspot available
TracFone
Hotspot available
International
Cricket Wireless (Cricket More)
Mexico and Canada usage up to 50%
Texting to 37 countries
Consumer Cellular
Not available
Straight Talk
Global calling cards from $10 per month
International unlimited for $60 per month
Red Pocket
Free calls to 80 countries
TracFone
International calling card available
Extras
Cricket Wireless (Cricket More)
None
Consumer Cellular
AARP discounts
Straight Talk
Multi-month discounts
Red Pocket
Free SIM card
TracFone
Talk, text, and data add-ons available

Cricket Wireless

Unlike the other MVNOs on this list, Cricket is wholly owned and operated by AT&T. The top-end plan, Cricket More, offers unlimited everything and a 15GB hotspot included. You can even take your phone abroad in North America for free if 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 various plans 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 several 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?

google pixel 6 pro eyeglasses batman
Rita El Khoury / Android Authority

As you would expect from a big three carrier, you can pick up almost any device on the AT&T network. You can pick up any of the latest iPhones, whether you want the budget-friendly iPhone SE or the all-out powerhouse 13 Pro. AT&T also offers Samsung’s premium Galaxy S22 range if you want a little bit of One UI in your life.

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

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 comes down to band support. Check out the table below for the specific bands you’ll need.

FrequencyBandNetwork Supported
Frequency
1900MHz
Band
2
Network Supported
2G
3G
4G LTE
Frequency
1700/2100MHz
Band
4
66
Network Supported
3G and 4G LTE
4G LTE
Frequency
850MHz
Band
5
Network Supported
3G
4G LTE
Frequency
700MHz
Band
12
17
Network Supported
4G LTE