Verizon Wireless vs. AT&T Wireless Review 2018

The top two providers offer very similar packages—Verizon wins in most categories, but AT&T’s great for big families who want to save some cash.
Best overall
Best coverage/speed
Higher price
Best for families
Discounts for bundling
Spotty rural coverage

Overview

Verizon Wireless and AT&T Wireless are two of our top picks in the land of cell phone service. You may already know both companies have solid nationwide coverage, 4G LTE speeds, unlimited data plans, and access to pretty much any phone out there.

Verizon wins with price, coverage, and speed, but AT&T is a close second—and AT&T wins big for TV fans who want to save on their monthly bills by bundling services. And for some large families, AT&T may be the better deal.

Compare Verizon vs. AT&T pricing—1st tier unlimited plans*

LinesVerizon Go UnlimitedAT&T & More
1$70/mo.$70/mo.
2$130/mo.$125/mo.
3$150/mo.$145/mo.
4$160/mo.$160/mo.
5$200/mo.$195/mo.
View PlansView Plans

* Prices include autopay, paperless billing, and multi-line discounts where applicable. Taxes and fees not included.

Verizon vs. AT&T Wireless pricing

How many devices do you have? It makes a big difference.

Verizon is one of the priciest options out there, but if we’re looking at pricing without autopay and paperless discounts, AT&T costs about as much as Verizon—to a point.

AT&T vs. Verizon’s unlimited plans

If you just need one phone, AT&T and Verizon cost the same price every month, so we’d say to check the coverage map and find out which provider makes more sense for you.

Long story short, unlimited plans with Verizon are usually cheaper, but you may want to look at AT&T for six or more lines.

Verizon vs. AT&T—1st tier unlimited plans*

LinesVerizon Go UnlimitedAT&T & More
1$70/mo.$70/mo.
2$130/mo.$125/mo.
3$150/mo.$145/mo.
4$160/mo.$160/mo.
5$200/mo.$195/mo.
View PlansView Plans

* Prices include autopay, paperless billing, and multi-line discounts where applicable. Taxes and fees not included.

Verizon’s first-tier unlimited plan pricing is better than AT&T’s for most people.

Although pricing differences aren’t dramatic between Verizon and AT&T, they do add up month over month. Consider a $5 difference per month to be a $60 difference over the course of a year—enough to buy some sweet new kicks.

AT&T’s price is just a bit cheaper per month, but AT&T’s activation fees are $15 higher per device. So if you have multiple lines, just be ready for that upfront cost.

Verizon vs. AT&T—2nd tier unlimited plans

LinesVerizon Beyond UnlimitedAT&T & More Premium
1$85/mo.$80/mo.
2$160/mo.$150/mo.
3$180/mo.$170/mo.
4$200/mo.$190/mo.
5$250/mo.$225/mo.
View PlansView Plans

* Prices include autopay, paperless billing, and multi-line discounts where applicable. Taxes and fees not included.

With the second-tier plans from Verizon and AT&T, you’ll get the same 22GB of data use without speed throttling, 15 GB of hotspot use, and unlimited talk, text, and data in Canada and Mexico. AT&T offers cheaper plans, but Verizon wins best coverage, reliability, and speeds, so if you want the best out there, you’ll pay a bit more for Verizon. And once again remember to factor in activation fees ($30 for Verizon; $45 for AT&T).

Verizon’s Above Unlimited lives up to its name

It’s not all about price. If you’re a YouTube junkie, then Verizon’s newest Above Unlimited plan is where all the data’s at. The Above Unlimited plan doesn’t have competition from either AT&T Unlimited plans, and for that reason, you will be paying a premium rate.

Verizon’s Above Unlimited plan comes with 75 GB of unthrottled data, which is three times as much as the next tiered plan from both Verizon and AT&T.

Verizon’s Above Unlimited plan comes with 75 GB of unthrottled data, which is three times as much as the next tiered plan from both Verizon and AT&T. You’ll also get 20 GB for hotspot access, which will save you when you don’t want to pay your hotel’s stupid $5 WiFi fee. And then if you’re posting a billion selfies and sunsets to Instagram, you can store them with your 500 GB of Verizon Cloud storage.

Like we said, as of right now AT&T doesn’t have a plan that competes with Verizon Above Unlimited, but we’ll keep our ears to the ground for when they have an answer.

Money icon

Prefer prepaid phones?

We’re comparing AT&T and Verizon’s unlimited and family plans in this review. For more details about both carriers’ prepaid plans, check out “Best Prepaid Plans.”

Family plans: Isn’t it about… data?

Verizon charges for overages. AT&T slows you down.

AT&T and Verizon’s family plans cost about the same price for the about the same data and about the same speeds. With both AT&T and Verizon, you’ll get 4G speeds and have to pay access fees ranging from $10–$30 per device.

The difference between Verizon and AT&T’s plans lies mostly in what happens when you go over your data limits.

Verizon’s family plans: “The New Verizon Plan”

Verizon family plans won’t throttle speeds. If you go over your limit, Verizon will charge you $15 per GB you go over, which can get pretty pricey pretty fast if you don’t catch it. But if you always need fast speeds for surfin’ the web or streaming, you should still go for Verizon.

Verizon's family plans (The New Verizon Plan).

PlanDataCost (excl. discounts)*Learn more
S2 GB$35View Plans
M4 GB$50View Plans
L8 GB$70View Plans
55 GB**$45View Plans

* Does not include taxes and fees. Prices include autopay, paperless billing, and multi-line discounts where applicable.
**5 GB for $45/mo. plan limited to a single line only. All others allow up to 10 lines.  

AT&T family plans

AT&T won’t charge you for overages. If you’re sticking to a budget, you may want to look to AT&T’s family plans. While you won’t get charged for going over, be aware that your data use can be slowed to 128 Kbps—about as fast as dial-up.

AT&T's family plans (Mobile Share Flex plans)

DataCost (excl. discounts)*Learn more
1 GB$25/mo.View Plans
5 GB$50/mo.View Plans
10 GB$75/mo.View Plans
20 GB$100/mo.View Plans

*Prices include autopay, paperless billing, and multi-line discounts where applicable. Does not include access fees.

So AT&T won’t charge you extra, but it will reduce your speed until the end of the month. Again, if you always need fast speeds, go for Verizon.

Info Box icon

What are line access fees?

With family plans, you pay for the data your family will be using, and then you’ll pay for each device accessing the data.

For more info, read the FAQ below.

Coverage and speed: Verizon vs. AT&T

Both Verizon and AT&T have nationwide coverage, but Verizon’s got the edge. 

Verizon took first place ahead of AT&T in the majority of recent studies done for the top four major providers.1,2 However, both AT&T and Verizon consistently rank in the top two or three positions, so unless you live in a rural area, you can’t go wrong with either AT&T or Verizon.

And if you do live in a rural area? Check those coverage maps to make sure you aren’t about to pay for nothing.

Coverage

It’s always best to look at a map to see if the spots important to you are covered. There’s no point in choosing a carrier that has the eastern seaboard completely covered if you’re a surfer living between Hawaii and California.

Slide the cursor left and right to see the difference in coverage between Verizon and AT&T.

Speed

Verizon has faster 4G speeds than AT&T. AT&T isn’t far behind and is second overall. Verizon is the fastest cell phone provider out there. And you’re more likely to have those speeds in more areas, too.

Devices and phones

AT&T’s Pixel problem may give Verizon the advantage.

Top phones from Verizon and AT&T

MakeVerizonAT&T
iPhoneX, 8 and 8 plus, 7 and 7 plus, SEX, 8 and 8 plus, 7 and 7 plus, SE
SamsungGalaxy S9 and S9+, S8 and S8+, Note8Galaxy S9 and S9+, S8 and S8+, Note8
GooglePixel2/2XL, Pixel XLNone, but you can bring an unlocked version
Shop phonesShop phones

*Not a complete list

The vast majority of phones will work on Verizon and AT&T, but that doesn’t mean you can buy or lease every phone from them. Verizon has all of our favorites, but AT&T is missing one major player in the game: Google Pixel.

You can still use a Google Pixel phone on AT&T, but you’ll need to buy an unlocked phone and add a brand-specific SIM card—which doesn’t cost extra, but it is a factor for those hoping to lease a shiny new Pixel from AT&T.

Recap

Verizon—Best overall

Verizon

Verizon offers faster speeds, better signal reliability, and even better prices than AT&T in some cases. Not only that, but you can also buy every major cell phone from Verizon, including iPhones, Samsung phones, and Google Pixels.

Basically, if you want premium service and are willing to pay for it, go with Verizon.

We really can’t say much more other than Verizon’s been a top provider and will continue to be a top provider, if not the top provider for the foreseeable future.

AT&T—Solid service with TV perks

AT&T’s service will work for most people, even though it doesn’t get as high of marks in coverage and speed. Verizon doesn’t offer the extra TV benefits and discounts that AT&T does. If you use these perks, AT&T will make you happier in the long run by saving you a lot of cash while you watch your favorite shows.

FAQ

What are Verizon’s and AT&T’s line access fees?

On shared data plans, or family plans, you’ll see Verizon and AT&T charge line access fees. As you can see, purchasing a discounted device can cost you an extra $240 per year from either Verizon or AT&T.

Verizon line access fees

Device typeMonthly line access fee
Tablets and mobile hotspots$10
Smartphones and devices purchased at full price$20
Smartphones and devices purchased at a discounted price$40

AT&T line access fees

Device typeMonthly line access fee
Tablets, connected car, and cameras $20
Laptops, netbooks, and hotspot devices$20
Wearables$10
Owned phones$20
Leased phones$40

Tablets, wearables, and other devices

Both providers charge $10 per month per tablet or other connected devices like wearables. Verizon charges $10 for hotspot devices, whereas AT&T charges $20 per month for hotspots

Smartphones and savings

The pricing gets strange with smartphones. With both companies, if you own your phone, you’ll save money. With Verizon, you’ll pay $20 for devices you own or for full-priced devices. Verizon charges $40 per month for discounted phones until the contract is up.

AT&T will charge $20 per month for a phone you own, but $40 for smartphones that you lease.

What discounts do Verizon and AT&T offer?

You can expect discounts for signing up for autopay and paperless billing from both AT&T and Verizon (and every other major phone company). While the companies treat this as a given, we want to let you know: You have to sign up for the autopay and paperless billing to receive the discount.

Verizon bundle discount

By bundling Verizon Fios TV or internet or both, you’ll save $10 on your phone plan and $10 on your Fios bill. That adds up to $240 in a single year, so if you need two or three of these services, Verizon will help you out quite a bit.

AT&T bundle discount

You can save $15 on your DIRECTV or DIRECTV NOW bill with AT&T unlimited plans. This could make a lot of TV fans happy, especially football fans, since DIRECTV has exclusive rights to NFL SUNDAY TICKET.

A premium TV channel with AT&T

AT&T includes your choice HBO, SHOWTIME, STARZ, Cinemax, VRV, Pandora, or Amazon Music. These services usually cost up to an additional $15 per month or more on your cable bill, so over the course of a year, you can save $180.

Verizon doesn’t offer any TV perks with its unlimited plans.

Military discount

Both Verizon and AT&T offer military discounts on plans and accessories to qualified personnel. Take note: Verizon’s discount extends to the whole family, not just spouses, unlike AT&T.

Verizon’s military discount eligibility:

  • Active Duty
  • Reserves
  • National Guard
  • Retired Military
  • Veterans
  • Family

Verizon offers $15 off per month for unlimited plans, and other plans may get up to 15% off. Additionally, you can get 25% off accessories with Verizon’s military discount.

AT&T’s military discount eligibility:

  • Active Duty
  • Reserves
  • National Guard
  • Retired Military
  • Veterans
  • Spouses

AT&T offers a 15% discount on eligible plans for military personnel and their spouses, but it doesn’t apply to access fees. Verizon’s discount applies to access fees over $34.99 and data features over $24.99.

What is AT&T’s WatchTV app?

One of our favorite perks from AT&T is the included WatchTV App. This streaming service app has 30+ live channels (a decent selection with AMC, Cartoon Network, HGTV, and Discover), plus on-demand content and a 72-hour rewind so you don’t have to schedule out time to catch Fear of The Walking Dead or Gold Rush. This service is $15 per month on its own, but you’ll get included with either “& More” and “& More Premium” plans.