AT&T Prepaid Review

Cheap plans on a great network with tons of data, but you won’t find any perks here

ATT
AT&T
3.8 out of 5 stars
3.75
  • pro
    Affordable
  • pro
    Strong network
  • con
    Fewer perks
Easton Smith
Mar 06, 2024
Icon Time To Read8 min read

There are plenty of discount cell phone providers out there these days. But the new kids on the block can’t really compete with the original big dogs, like AT&T, when it comes to the quality of service.

The only issue for customers is the price tag. AT&T’s standard service plans cost a pretty penny. But there is a way to get the same basic service for less with prepaid plans, or you can choose even cheaper plans with AT&T's prepaid carrier, Boost Mobile.

In fact, AT&T is running a bonkers deal right now where you can get the carrier’s unlimited data $40 prepaid plan for just $25 a month. It includes unlimited talk, text, and data, plus 10 GB of hotspot data! Check it out.

If that plan isn’t enough to convince you, then read our whole AT&T prepaid review to see if it’s right for you.

What’s the difference between postpaid and prepaid?
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The obvious difference between prepaid plans and “normal” plans is that with prepaid you pay your bill at the beginning of the month. But that’s not all.

Prepaid plans are almost always cheaper. But the lower price tag means you’ll miss out on some perks, like free subscriptions, mobile hotspot data, and HD video streams.

AT&T prepaid plans

AT&T offers up a great spread of powerful data plans
Pros
  • Affordable
  • Lots of data
  • Strong network performance
Cons
  • Fewer perks
  • Must prepay

What we like

AT&T’s prepaid lineup is pretty robust, with six separate plans ranging in price from $30 to a whopping $300. Yes, that’s three hundred dollars (the plan lasts a whole year)! These plans offer something for almost every kind of user. Let’s dive into the details.

Affordable

AT&T’s pricing tends to be in the middle of the pack when compared to other major providers. It’s not as pricey as Verizon, but it’s not as cheap as T-Mobile (or discount/MVNO providers, like Visible). But the carrier’s prepaid plans are another story.

You can get some great deals if you’re willing to forego a few perks and pay your bill upfront.

For example, compare the AT&T Unlimited Starter plan with the AT&T Prepaid $50 Monthly plan.

The Unlimited Starter plan costs $66 a month, and your data can be slowed down (deprioritized) at any time. That’s a lot of money to pay for data that could slow to a trickle while you’re trying to stream or game.

But if you’re willing to go prepaid you can actually get the $75 Monthly Plan for just $50 right now (yes, that’s a 33% discount!). This prepaid plan comes with the same unlimited (albeit throttled) data as the Unlimited Start Plan, and it gives you 5 GB of mobile hotspot data.

That’s a wildly good deal. But there are other deals from AT&T prepaid, too. You can get an unlimited talk and text plan with 8 GB of data for just $33 a month when you pay for three months upfront. Not bad AT&T. Not bad at all.

Looking for an even cheaper way to get on AT&T’s network?
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There are a bunch of mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs) that operate using AT&T’s network but offer discounted plans. Check out our review of all of them.

Lots of data

Most of AT&T’s prepaid plans come with a decent amount of data. Of course, there are the unlimited data plans. But there’s also an 8 GB plan, which will give you plenty of data for scrolling through Instagram, checking your email, and even streaming a few shows.

Even AT&T’s lowest priced prepaid plan gives you 2 GB of data. It’s a great plan for a kid who isn’t (or isn’t supposed to be) online all day.

How much data do you really need?
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The last thing you need is to run out of data while you’re trying to Facetime your parents. Use our handy data guide to figure out just how much data you need, so you never run out again.

Strong network

Verizon takes the gold medal for the best cellular network. But AT&T is right on its heels. It has the second-best nationwide 4G LTE coverage and the fastest data speeds.

AT&T’s fast download speeds make it an ideal carrier for those who use their cellular network for gaming, working, or rigorous social-media posting. Check out our section on coverage below to learn more about AT&T’s network.

What we don’t like

AT&T prepaid offers some awesome deals. But it’s our job to point out the not-so-great features of each carrier, too. So here are the cons you should take into consideration.

Fewer perks

Everyone loves some perks, freebies, extras, bells and whistles, whatever you want to call the free stuff your mobile carrier throws in with your plan. Unfortunately, you’ll miss out on a lot of that with AT&T prepaid.

Some of the things that many normal AT&T plans come with won’t be available on any prepaid plans, like the following:

  • No AT&T Thanks program (which gives you discounts on tickets to concerts and other events)
  • No Max subscription
  • No AT&T Next Up phone upgrade program

AT&T’s $75 prepaid plan (which is just $50 right now), does offer mobile hotspot data, but other prepaid plans do not.

Must prepay

Let’s not lose sight of the central difference between “normal” plans and prepaid plans: when you actually pay your bill. With prepaid plans you have to pay at the beginning of each month. If you forget to make a payment, you lose service.

You can enroll in autopay or pay up front for several months. This is a convenient way to keep your service on, and you can score some great discounts.

How do AT&T’s prepaid phone plans compare?

You’re not here to find any deal. You’re here to find the best deal for you. We thought that this comparison chart showing how AT&T’s prepaid unlimited plan compares to similar phone plans from the competition might help with that.

Unlimited prepaid plan comparison

AT&T prepaid family plans

Love your plan? Then add your family members and save money!
Pros
  • Discounts on additional lines
  • Good network performance
Cons
  • Fewer perks
  • Must prepay

What we like

What’s better than saving money? Saving even more money, obviously. And you can do it by signing up for multiple prepaid lines with Verizon. Here’s everything you need to know about Verizon prepaid family plans.

Discounts on additional lines

You can have up to five lines on your AT&T prepaid account. If you’ve got a Brady Bunch–sized family, then you might need to get a second family account.

When you add two or three lines, you’ll get $10 off your overall bill every month. When you add four lines to max out at five lines, you’ll get $20 off your bill.

That might not seem like that much of a discount, but when you add it to the already cheap price tag on these prepaid plans, it looks pretty good. Take this three-line unlimited plan, for example.

In this case you get three lines, each with unlimited talk, text, and data (speeds can be reduced after 22 GB), plus 10 GB of hotspot data

Still not sold on AT&T’s prepaid family plan?
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Read our article on the very best family plans for some other options.

Good network performance

As we mentioned above, AT&T’s network has great coverage and the fastest data speeds in the industry. This is as true for family plans as it is for individual plans. That means you, your partner, and the kids will all enjoy an awesome connection while you stream, browse, post, and game.

What we don’t like

We’re not here to sugarcoat things. AT&T’s prepaid family plans have a few issues.

Pay early for fewer perks

As with AT&T’s individual prepaid plans, you have to pay for your family plan bill at the beginning of every month. And you won’t get the same perks that “normal” AT&T unlimited data plans offer.

How do AT&T prepaid family plans compare?

It’s hard to judge cell phone plans in isolation. So let’s take a look at how AT&T’s unlimited data prepaid family plan looks when it’s up against similar plans from other carriers.

AT&T prepaid family plans comparison

Boost Mobile: AT&T's best prepaid carrier

Get mobile service on AT&T's network for half the price with Boost Mobile
Pros
  • Very affordable
  • Hotspot data
  • No contracts
Cons
  • Data deprioritization
  • Buy in bulk for discounts

What we like

With Boost Mobile, mobile users can enjoy AT&T's network at a discounted rate. Even when compared with AT&T's own prepaid plans, Boost's plans are cheaper. Plus, Boost Mobile offers a few more perks than most MVNOs. 

Super affordable unlimited plan

Boost Mobile's Unlimited talk, text, and data plan is its best offer by far. For just $25 a month, you get 30GB of high-speed data with 12GB of hotspot data.

Keep in mind, however, that Boost's Unlimited plan price changes depending on your payment frequency. You can pay $40 monthly, $90 every three months ($30/month), or $300 yearly ($25/month). The more you buy in bulk, the more you save.

If a $300 lump sum payment feels like too much, $90 for three months might be the sweet spot for most customers, especially for those who don't want to commit to a year of service upfront. 

Hotspots and data packs

Customers get 12GB of high-speed hotspot data with Boost's Unlimited plan. This data pulls from your regular data allotment, but with 30GB, casual users should have plenty for occasional hot-spotting needs, like completing some last-minute work on a train or connecting during a power outage. 

Boost Mobile also offers a la carte data packs with 1GB–10GB of extra monthly data for $5–$20/month. Data packs can be added or removed at any time. You can choose ongoing data packs that renew every month or one-time data packs that expire after 30 days. 

Data packs are a great option for those who don't regularly use a lot of data but have occasional data-heavy months.

What we don't like

Sometimes, discounts come with a catch. For Boost Mobile, you'll have to pay months at a time to get the most discounts. And watch out for two common tenets of MVNO carriers: soft data caps and deprioritization.

Soft data caps and deprioritization

With almost all "unlimited data" phone plans, there's a cap on high-speed data. This is especially true for MVNO carriers, as they don't actually operate their own cell phone towers. With Boost's Unlimited plan, you get 30GB of priority data, after which your speeds will slow big time.

While piggybacking on AT&T's towers is to thank for Boost's discounted prices, it's also the reason customers will experience deprioritization. After 30GB, your speeds are slowed in order to prioritize AT&T customers, and you might even experience a bit of deprioritization even before you run out.

How does Boost Mobile compare to other AT&T carriers?

Of all carriers on AT&T's network, Boost Mobile offers the cheapest unlimited plan.

Unlimited plans on AT&T's network comparison

AT&T coverage

AT&T’s coverage is good, but its data speeds are even better

We already sang the praises of AT&T’s network, but let’s dive a bit deeper. First of all, take a look at this coverage map.

AT&T offers solid data speeds

AT&T’s averages a 28.9 Mbps download, which isn't quite as fast as Verizon and T-Mobile, but you can still expect speedy downloads . Here’s a look at how the competition stacks up for context.

Fastest Wireless Download Speeds

28.9 Mbps is actually faster than many people’s home internet. That means AT&T customers will get better video quality when Facetiming with friends during a pandemic. It means you won’t lag during your game of Call of Duty Mobile. It means totally seamless viewing and posting content on Instagram and TikTok.

Impressed with AT&T’s cellular network?
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Well, the company’s home internet isn’t half bad, either. Check out our AT&T internet review to learn more.

AT&T prepaid cell phones and devices

Your phone isn’t retro, it’s just busted

If you really want to take advantage of AT&T’s powerful network—including its 5G technology—then you might need to upgrade your phone.

Luckily, you can nab a great deal on a brand new iPhone 11, Galaxy S20, or other device when you’re signing up for a new AT&T plan. Here’s a look at some of the most popular devices that the carrier sells.

AT&T customer service

Let’s just say it could be better

Telecommunications companies like AT&T aren’t really known for their awesome customer service. But some are better than others. Here’s a look at how the American Customer Satisfaction Index rates AT&T compared to other carriers.1

Customer Experience Index

AT&T ranks below the two other major carriers—T-Mobile and Verizon. But it doesn’t rank that much lower.

You can find multiple ways to get in touch with AT&T about your prepaid service on the company’s website.

Recap: Is AT&T prepaid right for you?

AT&T offers some of the best cell phone plans on the market, but they tend to be quite pricey. You can shave off some of that price by going with a prepaid plan, or going with a cheap plan from Boost Mobile, AT&T's best prepaid carrier. Let’s review the pros and cons of these plans.

  • Plans: AT&T offers a good selection of plans for those who want no data, some data, or unlimited data. The company is offering an amazing deal on its $75 unlimited data plan, which is just $50 right now and comes with 5GB of mobile hotspot data. Boost Mobile is also offering its unlimited talk, text, and data plan for as low as $25/month.
  • Family Plans: You can have up to five lines on your AT&T prepaid account. As you add lines your price will go down. But if you want the cheapest family plan in the industry, then you’ll want to look elsewhere.
  • Performance: AT&T’s coverage map looks pretty great. But its data speeds are even better. You’ll get top-tier performance on the AT&T network.

Sources:

Easton Smith
Written by
Easton Smith
Easton has worked as a freelance writer and researcher for several years, reviewing health, lifestyle, and technology products. He has probably read more Terms of Use contracts than any human alive. When he’s not sitting in front of a computer, Easton spends his time camping, climbing, and volunteering with humanitarian aid organizations.

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