Are you finally ready to disconnect from your current wireless plan for something new?
There are many reasons why you may be rethinking your cell or smartphone plans. Maybe you want something more affordable, an increasingly important factor as inflation keeps its grip on the economy.
You may have a bad experience with your current mobile operator or the connection with your operator’s network is not compatible with your place of residence.
As competition in the wireless space increases, so do the benefits and benefits you get when you sign up for a plan. Last week, T-Mobile introduced several new perks starting Tuesday for unlimited customers, like a 25 cents per gallon discount on gas at Shell stations and free connectivity and streaming on flights.
Let’s break down the choices you have when selecting a wireless phone plan.
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What are my plan options? Plans with one line start at $50, increasing gradually if you want more data available. Plans also vary depending on how many rows you want. So AT&T’s best unlimited plan costs $85 for one line; but if you have four people on a plan, it’s $50 per line.
What benefits can I get? All of their unlimited plans support 5G and include unlimited talk and text as well as the carrier’s ActiveArmor mobile security app to protect your phone from unwanted calls or when connecting to an open Wi-Fi network. .
On their highest plan, Unlimited Premium, users get unlimited data, up to 50GB of data if you want to use a phone as a mobile hotspot to connect with a laptop or other device, and the 4K streaming. Some of these benefits diminish or disappear if you upgrade to a cheaper plan. For example, AT&T’s Unlimited Premium plan below offers less hotspot data and standard-definition streaming.
What are my plan options? The carrier’s most affordable plan is $45 a month and offers the essentials, including 20GB of data, unlimited 3G mobile hotspot data, and a free year of Paramount+. Like AT&T, plans vary depending on how much data you want and how many phones are included. T-Mobile’s premium plan for one line costs $85 per month ($90 if you don’t use autopay).
What benefits can I get? On the top-tier Magenta Max plan, customers get a basic Netflix plan for free, plus a free year of Apple TV+ and Paramount+ streaming services. There’s also unlimited data, calls and texts, plus up to 40GB of data if you use your phone as a mobile hotspot. You can also send text messages and use Wi-Fi during flights. Some perks like free Netflix are dropped if you downgrade.
What are my plan options? The most expensive of the big three, Verizon’s lowest plan starts at $70 per month for one line, going up to $100 per month for their top plan depending on data needs and number of lines. Verizon’s plans have unlimited plans with perks for entertainment-focused users or , as well as a top-tier “Get More” plan that combines the two.
What benefits can I get? With the “Get More” plan, you get unlimited data and 50 GB of mobile hotspot data. If you already subscribe to Verizon’s internet service, you may also qualify for a discount. As part of the plan, you get a free Disney+, Hulu, and ESPN+ bundle subscription, a TravelPass to use your phone internationally, and a choice of Apple Arcade or Google Play Pass. If you’re using an iPhone, you also get an Apple Music subscription. Benefits vary if you opt for a lower tier plan. For example, the “Do More” plan for travelers includes the TravelPass but none of the streaming options (you can get them for free for a period of six months).
What about budget carriers?
You don’t have to stick with the big three carriers if you are looking for a plan at a reasonable price. For instance, mint mobile offers an unlimited plan for $15 per month, which includes 35GB of 5G data before upgrading to 4G, and unlimited calls and texts. The only problem? You must sign up for a minimum of three months at a time.
Subway by T-Mobile offers its premier unlimited plan for $60 per month and includes unlimited data, access to T-Mobile’s 5G network, 15GB of hotspot data, and an Amazon Prime membership.
Viewable by Verizon has its own unlimited plan starting at $40 per month with unlimited calls, texts and data and unlimited hotspot usage.
Other carriers including Wireless Cricket and Consumer Cellular provide similar budget plans.
What Unlimited Really Means
You may notice that phone plans refer to premium data or premium networks. No, your phone will not pull data from a special luxury network. It’s basically data that carriers won’t slow down due to congestion.
On most top plans, you really do get unlimited data. But for mid-tier plans that show a set amount of premium data, once you cross that threshold, you may see slower speeds due to congestion on your next bill.
How to choose the right wireless plan?
Determine how you plan to use your phone. The most important factor you should consider is what you expect from this new plan. Are you looking to save money? Want to use your phone as a hotspot more often? Do you need this phone just for basic functions like texting and phone calls? Once you’ve figured out how you want to use your phone, you can decide which plan best suits your needs.
Premium data limits? Wi-Fi is your friend. If you’re considering a plan with premium data limits, make sure you have several good Wi-Fi safe spots to avoid hitting them each month.
Watch for additional incentives like autopay. Most carriers will offer a discount if you choose to enable autopay, which means the carrier will automatically take your payment from a checking account, debit card, or credit card. Just be sure to read the fine print before committing to autopay..
Check the fees (and benefits) for the change. Carriers will usually charge you an early termination fee if you are contracted with their plan. On top of that, if you’ve financed a phone, you’ll also need to pay off any remaining balance if you plan to keep it. Check carefully how much it might cost to leave earlier before upgrading to a new service.
However, you can find carrier discounts if you are a new customer switching services. For instance, T-Mobile offers deals to pay off balances with your previous operator to cover the costs.
Check for special discounts. You may be able to save money on your plan depending on whether you work, are a student, military, or first responder.
Follow Brett Molina on Twitter: @brettmolina23.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Change phone plan? How to choose the right wireless plan for you