What's the Best Unlimited Data Plan?

We're in a weird place right now. No, I don't mean 2020, but with wireless carriers. For years we've gotten used to having four major players in the US, but one of them just ate another—T-Mobile bought Sprint–and as of August 3, the Sprint brand is officially dead. Everyone who was a Sprint customer is now a T-Mobile customer . A part of the merger's rules required T-Mobile to sell Sprint-owned Boost Mobile to Dish Network. Dish is also allowed to use T-Mobile's LTE coverage until it's able to grow and become a viable fourth player in the space, filling the void Sprint left. But that will take some time, and for now we're left with three major carriers.

Here we're focusing on unlimited plans, which have become common offerings across all the carriers but come with a long list of restrictions. Even the best unlimited plans have a lot of limits. For instance, an unlimited plan might throttle (slow down) your tethering speeds or downgrade your video-streaming quality after using a certain amount of data each month. As always, carriers are happy to upsell plans with slightly better features, but every plan has its own pitfalls.

We’ve included details below from the major carriers for individual plans and family plans for up to eight people (lines), for those that allow that many on one plan. And we've done the hard work of finding out which unlimited plan is the best bang for your buck.

Updated August 2020: We've addressed the end of the Sprint brand. RIP.
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Best Overall: T-Mobile Essentials, Magenta, and Magenta Plus

Starting at $60/month for one line

Subscribe to T-Mobile (or Learn More)T-Mobile ditched those dreaded two-year contracts in 2013 and has led the US market in pricing and new initiatives ever since—often by calling out other carriers by name. Dubbing itself the “uncarrier,” the company ran its mouth a lot, but over time its words proved to be more than just lip service. In the past few years, its investments in its network have finally paid off, winning speed and coverage awards from OpenSignal and other companies that monitor service quality.
The carrier has three unlimited plans: Essentials, Magenta, and Magenta Plus. Essentials is the best choice for most people with big families, but the Magenta and Magenta Plus plans are also great value if you are connecting only a few lines and you use features like tethering with a hot spot, you watch videos on the go, or if you travel abroad a lot. (Remember traveling?)Essentials cost per Line (with autopay. Taxes/fees not included): 1 Line: $60 | 2 Lines: $90 | 3 Lines: $90 | 4 Lines: $105 | 5 Lines: $120 | 6 Lines: $135 | 7 Lines: $200 (Magenta package or higher only) | 8 Lines: $220 (Magenta package or higher only)
WIRED: On the Magenta or Magenta Plus plans, T-Mobile says it will not throttle back your data speeds until you've used 50 gigabytes of LTE data, which is quite a lot. If you're an Essentials customer, you will see some throttling before that cap in high-traffic areas like big cities or during big events. On the Magenta plans, if you have two or more lines you get a free subscription to Netflix and Quibi because, hey, why not. Other perks we like include international texting and data. (The latter is available only on Magenta plans.) But you get unlimited talk, text, and data in Mexico and Canada on all plans (2G data speeds on Essentials, 5 gigabytes of 4G LTE on the Magenta plans). Those aged 55-plus can subscribe for only $40 for one line or $55 for two lines.