Best Unlimited Data Cell Phone Plans 2021
Remember back in the ’90s when phones were for calling people? How quaint.
These days phones are for Facetiming, posting selfies, and nailing the latest TikTok challenge. Phones are for gaming, navigating, and listening to true crime podcasts. And all that requires data. Lots of data.
So having a talk and text phone plan without unlimited data is like being a bodybuilder who skips leg day. It ain’t good. But don’t worry, we can help. Here’s everything you need to know about the best unlimited plans on the market (some are surprisingly cheap).
Visible Wireless: Best overall value
The all-around plan that has it all
- Truly unlimited data
- Great coverage
- Mobile hotspots and other perks
- Data deprioritization
What we like
Visible Wireless took the mobile industry by storm a few years ago by offering a simple, powerful, and affordable unlimited data plan. While plenty of other mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs) have tried to play catch up, Visible remains the standard to beat.
At $40 a month, Visible’s unlimited data plan packs as much power as plans that cost twice as much. Let’s dive into the details.
Truly unlimited data
This article is about the best unlimited data plans. Not the best lots of data plans. Not the best almost unlimited data plans. This is one of the reasons we love Visible Wireless: you get truly unlimited data.
What about those other companies? Well, for instance, T-Mobile gives you 50 GB of full-speed data on its unlimited plan. After that, your data speeds can plummet. Cheaper plans from companies like Straight Talk and Mint Mobile have even lower full-speed data caps (25 GB and 35 GB, respectively).
It is true that with Visible you won’t always experience top 4G LTE data speeds due to deprioritization (more on that below). But you’ll never have to worry about going over some arbitrary data cap while you’re in the middle of an important Zoom meeting.
It’s not just the V that Visible and Verizon Wireless share. They’re actually on the same cellular network.
Visible Wireless leases bandwidth on the Verizon network. Verizon takes the gold medal when it comes to nationwide coverage, so Visible customers should see bars of service from Los Angeles to New York and pretty much everywhere in between. Just take a look at this map.
Mobile hotspots and other perks
One of the biggest differences between traditional cell phone carriers and MVNOs, like Visible, is that the former tends to offer better perks. But, in this case, Visible will actually hook you up.
For one, you can get a $100-$200 prepaid Mastercard just for signing up (or buying a new phone when you’re already signed up). That’s money in your pocket for doing something you should probably do anyways. Nice.
But what really makes Visible special is that it lets you use your unlimited data as mobile hotspot data. Most MVNOs nix hotspots altogether and even pricier plans from bigger companies will limit your hotspot data to 10-15 GB.
If you often rely on hotspot data for work, streaming, or whatever else, then Visible is the way to go. Just beware: you will be subject to the same deprioritization and throttling that we’ll discuss below, and you can only have one device tethered at a time.
What we don’t like
In case you haven’t noticed, we think Visible is awesome. But you don’t read our reviews because we just tell you the good stuff. So, what’s the bad stuff?
In short: your data speeds will be slower with Visible than with some other carriers. Here are the details.
Throttling and deprioritization
There can be a lot of confusion around the terms throttling and deprioritization, so we’ll try to clear that up real quick and tell you what it means for Visible customers.
- Throttling is when your cell phone company slows down your data consistently because you’re either on a lower-tier plan or you’ve used up your allotted amount of high-speed data.
- Deprioritization is when your cell phone company slows down your data occasionally because the network is congested.
As we stated above, Visible offers truly unlimited data, so throttling isn’t an issue. But what can be an issue is deprioritization. Verizon owns the network, so when things get busy, the company will often slow down the speeds of Visible customers to save bandwidth.
What does this mean? Well, Visible states that users can expect data download speeds of 5-12 Mbps and data upload speeds of 2-5 Mbps. That’s definitely slower than full-speed connections on the network, but it’s still plenty for streaming video, music, and for most casual gaming.
Still not sure about ordering that Visible SIM card? Take a look at this chart of other cheap unlimited data plans. Maybe one of them will be better for you (in fact, we’re about to talk about Mint Mobile in this article).
Mint Mobile: Best price
This $30 plan is simply the best deal around
- Amazing price
- Good coverage
- Hotspot data
- Cost goes up after 90 days
- Data capped at 35 GB
What we like
This $30 plan from Mint Mobile isn’t just another cheap unlimited data plan. It’s the cheapest unlimited plan on the market. And it ain’t half bad when it comes to performance, either. Here’s what we love most about the plan.
If you’re looking to save money without losing out on data, then this is the best plan on the market. Mint Mobile’s Unlimited Data Plan’s price tag is a full $20 less than the cheapest plan from T-Mobile, which is the network that Mint uses. Check it out.
With this $30 promotional deal, Mint is simply the cheapest unlimited plan on the market. There’s not much more to say about it.
As we mentioned, Mint Mobile uses T-Mobile’s wireless network. That means you’ll get awesome coverage and the fastest data speeds in the industry. Seriously, just look at this speed data we sampled from over 100,000 wireless customers.
We praised Visible Wireless for letting customers use their data with a mobile hotspot. Well, Mint Mobile deserves recognition as well. With a Mint SIM card you can turn your device into a mini hotspot and there’s no limit to how much data you use on it (although your speeds will be slowed down after 35 GB–more on that in a second).
What we don’t like
Mint Mobile’s unlimited plan is cheap and relatively powerful. But there’s a reason we didn’t give the plan the Overall Value spot. Here’s why.
Price goes up after three months
Always read the fine print. Especially when a deal seems just a little bit too good to be true. The fine print of Mint Mobile unlimited plan reveals that the special, $30 price is only available for new customers and only lasts for 3 months. After that, your price will go up to $40 a month.
Now, that $40 price tag is still remarkably low for an unlimited data plan. It’s still a good deal. But it’s not the best deal, necessarily.
High speed data capped at 35 GB a month
The last thing you need is high latency when you’re pwning your friends in a game of PUBG Mobile. If that sentence made no sense to you, let’s put it another way: no one wants slow data speeds.
But if you use more than 35 GB of data in a given billing cycle on your Mint Mobile plan, you could see your data speeds plummet to a measly 128 KB. That’s like going to dial-up from fiber. Yikes.
Luckily, most people will not need more than 35 GB of data. But if you do, you’d be better off going with other plans on this list, like those from Visible or Verizon.
That’s all we’ve got for Mint Mobile. If you’re not impressed then check out the competition. Maybe one of these other cheap plans will float your boat.
Cricket Wireless: Best unlimited family plan
Get the whole family connected without breaking the bank
- Decent coverage
- 10 GB of hotspot and other perks
- Data throttling
What we like
Here’s a look at the best unlimited family plan. It’s from one of the oldest MVNOs in the industry: Cricket Wireless.
You can grab three unlimited data lines from Cricket for just $90 a month. Want to go up to four lines? That’s just $100. You probably spend that much on dinner and a movie with the kids.
If you compare that $90 three-line plan to AT&T (which runs Cricket’s network), you can see some significant savings. Here’s a look at a similar offering from that company.
As you can see, you’ll save at least $40 when you go with Cricket.
AT&T doesn’t have the very best coverage (that award goes to Verizon). Nor does it have the best data speeds (T-Mobile takes that one). But AT&T’s network still offers decent all-around service, meaning most Cricket customers won’t have anything to complain about.
If you live in a super rural area or you really need the very fastest data speeds, then maybe look elsewhere.
10 GB of hotspot data and other perks
We’ve gone over this: hotspots are awesome and we love when companies let you use them for free. Cricket’s unlimited data family plan comes with 10 GB of hotspot data for free. It’s not as much as Visible or Mint, but it’s plenty for those streaming a few episodes of The Good Place during your layover.
Plus, Mint will hook you up with a free, 30-day trial of HBO Max, so you can binge the new season of The Mandalorian from quarantine. Nice.
What we don’t like
So, what’s the catch? There’s always a catch. In this case it’s Cricket’s throttled data speeds.
Data speeds are throttled
We’ve talked about throttling a bunch in this article. But we need to mention it again here because Cricket will throttle your data speeds at a measly 3 Mbps. That’s a lot less than the 4G LTE standard of 5-30 Mbps.
This throttled data will still be enough for casual music and video streaming. But you may notice slowdowns when browsing, gaming, and doing other data-intensive activities on your device.
If this Cricket Wireless plan isn’t cutting it for you and your family, we suggest checking out the family plan version of Visible Wireless (see above), or one of these other affordable family plans.
Best Performance: T-Mobile
Experience the full power of the nation’s fastest mobile network
- Best data speeds
- Good coverage
- Tons of perks
What we like
So good enough isn’t going to cut it for you? You want the best of the best? Well, look no further than T-Mobile’s Magenta Plus unlimited data plan. It’s like the Rolls-Royce of mobile plans (but it costs just a wee bit less).
Best data speeds in the industry
We mentioned before that T-Mobile has the fastest data in the industry, but let’s take another look at the statistics we gathered from over 100,000 mobile users.
As you can see, T-Mobile takes the gold medal for fastest download speeds by just a slim margin. That means you’ll see slightly faster speeds when it comes to streaming, loading web pages, and scrolling through social media.
But T-Mobile wins the upload speed battle in a blowout. Anyone who uses their phone for gaming or business should take note of this. Upload speed is what allows you to send data from your device back to the network, which is essential when you’re uploading files, conducting Zoom meetings, and playing an intense game of Call of Duty: Mobile.
The best part of paying for T-Mobile’s Magenta Plus plan is that you’ll experience the full power of these data speeds. You won’t be at risk of deprioritization like you would be with any of the MVNOs that use the same network.
T-Mobile can’t quite match Verizon when it comes to coverage. But the carrier does just fine. In fact, it does better than fine in most of North America. Check out this coverage map to see how T-Mobile’s signal is in your area.
Tons of perks
When you’re paying $85 for a phone plan, you want some extra goodies. With T-Mobile, you’ll get your money’s worth in perks and extra features. Some of these include:
- 20 GB of full-speed mobile hotspot data (after you use 20 GB, you will have unlimited hotspot data at 3G speeds)
- Access to T-Mobile’s 5G network with eligible devices
- Unlimited HD video streaming
- Free in-flight texting
- Great deals on new phones and devices
What we don’t like
There’s really only one problem with T-Mobile’s Magenta Plus plan, but for many it will be a dealbreaker. The problem is that it costs $85 a month.
$85 is a lot of dough. You could take someone out to a relatively fancy dinner for that much. You could subscribe to Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, and HBO Max with all that cash. You could almost get three unlimited data lines on Cricket or Visible with 85 bucks.
But sometimes that’s just what it costs to get premium service. In fact, all three major carriers have plans in the $80-$85 range. Take a look.
So, yes, it’s pricey. But for some users the unbeatable data speeds, great coverage, and special perks will be worth the cost.
There’s really only one plan on the market that can compete with Magenta Plus, and that’s Verizon’s Get More Unlimited plan.
Recap: What’s the best unlimited plan for you?
Well, that was fun, wasn’t it? Let’s do a quick recap of the highlights before we send you off to buy your next unlimited data phone plan.
- Best overall value: Visible Wireless offers up a truly unlimited data plan on the awesome Verizon network for just $40 a month. It’s a simple but powerful plan that comes with perks, like free hotspot data.
- Best price: Mint Mobile’s $30 unlimited data plan is, to put it bluntly, the best deal in the industry right now. Just be aware that your price will go up by $10 after the first three months.
- Best unlimited family plan: Cricket Wireless will hook your whole family up with a cheap unlimited data plan that comes with good coverage and hotspot data. The catch is your data speeds, which will be throttled at 3 Mbps.
- Best performance: If you want the best, no expenses spared, then T-Mobile’s Magenta Plus plan is the way to go. You’ll get the full benefits of the country’s most powerful network, plus a host of perks. But we’re not saying it’s cheap.
We hope this review of the best unlimited cell phone plans has helped you find peace, clarity, and understanding–or at least a good deal on your mobile service!