3 unlimited data plan ‘gotchas’ hidden in the fine print

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3 unlimited data plan ‘gotchas’ hidden in the fine print
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Advertisements for unlimited cell phone data plans are everywhere, but are any of these plans right for you? The answer to that question may not be a simple yes or no.

Read more: This new cell phone plan can replace your home Internet service

Unlimited data plans: Verizon vs. AT&T vs. T-Mobile vs. Sprint

We’ve gone through the fine print and identified three big catches to the deals major wireless providers are offering.

So before you sign up for a new plan with your current provider — or consider switching to a new one – read this list that may include potential deal-breakers.

Pricing by carrier

Verizon: A single line unlimited plan costs $80 a month before taxes and fees with Verizon, but you have to set up automatic payments and paper-free billing. Otherwise, it’s $85 a month. This discount is also factored in to other advertised unlimited plan prices.

AT&T: With AT&T‘s Unlimited Plus plan, a single line starts at $90 a month. Two lines will cost you $145 a month and additional lines are $20 each. The plan includes a $25 monthly discount on DirecTV or DirecTV Now service. AT&T also introduced a $60/month option called Unlimited Choice, but speeds are limited to 3Mbps and the plan doesn’t include HBO (the Unlimited Plus plan does).

T-Mobile: T-Mobile is offering one line for $70 a month and four lines for $140 with auto-pay. Unlike Sprint, Verizon and AT&T, monthly taxes and fees are included in T-Mobile’s advertised rate.

Sprint: Priced at just $50 a month for a single line, Sprint’s unlimited plan is the cheapest of the bunch. The carrier’s latest promotion for new customers offers two lines for $90 and free service for lines three through five.

Data usage

If you use a lot of data during any given month, your cell phone company may slow down your speeds during times of “network congestion.” Here’s when that may kick in:

Verizon: 22 GB of data usage

AT&T: 22 GB of data usage

T-Mobile: 28 GB of data usage

Sprint: 23 GB of data usage

Mobile hotspot

The four wireless providers are including 10 GB of high-speed mobile hotspot data per month with their unlimited plans, allowing you to “tether” a laptop or other device to access the Internet. But go past that 10 GB and your mobile hotspot data speeds will be reduced for the rest of your billing cycle, which means it may no longer support video streaming until the next cycle begins.

Verizon: Slowed to 3G data speeds

AT&T: Hotspot speed limited to max of 128Kbps

T-Mobile: Slowed to 3G data speeds

Sprint: Slowed to 2G data speeds

You can read the fine print for yourself to learn more about these new unlimited data plans. Visit the FAQ pages for Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile and Sprint.

To compare your options, see Clark’s best cell phone plans and deals for 2017.

How to determine if your phone will work with a new carrier

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Mike Timmermann About the author:
Michael Timmermann paid off his mortgage in two years. Now, he shares his money-saving tips on his blog, Save on Almost Everything.
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