Don’t feel pressured into unlimited
It’s awesome to see U.S. carriers offering unlimited plans again. Even if you don’t need one, you probably know someone who does and it’s nice to see any company listening to its customers. All four major U.S. carriers offer an unlimited plan or even several. They are all different, but they have one thing in common: they are the most expensive plan the company has to offer.In the end, money is what this is all about. You want to get the most value for your dollar, and if a $40 monthly plan offers what you need, you shouldn’t be paying for an $80 plan. Look at how much data you use on average each month before you look at any plans or pricing. Then look at any extra services you need. Find the plan that can give you those things without adding data or extras you don’t want.More: Which unlimited plan should you buy?
Plans with less than 1GB of data
You either need to have a data plan or you don’t. And a plan that offers under 1GB of data per month hardly counts as one.They are enticing, usually just a few dollars more than a voice and text only plan. That’s because they are designed to get you to go over your monthly allotment and pay a lot more for 1GB of data than you would have if you just went with a 1GB plan.If you don’t need an expensive data plan, that’s great. Just don’t think you actually have one if the carrier you use is offering 100MB per month or even 500MB per month. That’s not enough to be useful.More: Best small data plan
Plans that don’t let you “top up”
No matter how well you plan and calculate how much data you need every month, there is always a chance something will happen, which means you need a little more once in a while. Life is not scripted.Most companies will let you buy additional data by the GB, but there are still a few plans on some carriers that don’t offer the option. When something comes up, it’s easy to open a web page or send a text to pay $10 or so for 1GB of data, and if a plan doesn’t give you that option, avoid it like the plague. “Overages” are expensive by design � they are a punishment for not following your end of an agreement. Don’t give your money to a company who tries to force you into making them.
Know what International means
Working at Mobile Nations, I have heard too many stories about $500 or higher monthly bills because someone used their phone outside of the U.S. and didn’t realize how expensive that can be. It’s even happened to some of us who work here!That’s because the word international means something different to carriers. If you look at the fine print on any “international plan,” you’ll see where it applies and where it doesn’t. Some of the worst offenders even offer separate international plans for Canada and Mexico, plus one that covers both.All this information is available before you buy, so read exactly what you’re thinking of paying for before you hop on a plane. And if you live close to the border or will be visiting, make sure you know what happens if you end up connecting to a tower on the other side of it. Many a traveler to Niagra Falls has a horror story. Don’t let it happen to you.More: Best international plans
All data is no longer equal
Finally, remember that every company has different rules when it comes to using the data you pay for. This is most evident when it comes to streaming video.Just about every carrier, both big and small, will have rules about streaming video. You’ll be able to use your entire monthly data allotment � whether that means a set amount each month or the line where unlimited turns into slowed 3G speeds � watching Netflix if you want. But the quality of the video you can get can vary wildly.If you want to see HD video on your phone, make sure you buy up into the correct HD extra if that’s what you need to do. And even then, know that streaming video on your phone will eat up your data faster than you might realize!More: How much mobile data does streaming media use?
One size never fits all
We’re not calling out any plan or company by name here because no one plan is better than the rest for everybody.A plan through Project Fi (for example) might be perfect for some who know what they will use every month and doesn’t need more than a few GB at a time, but it won’t work for others. Unlimited plans are the same way � many of us need one, even though most people don’t. The devil, as they say, is in the details. Know what you need and know what to look out for when you’re buying so you can find it.
Alternative carriers (MVNOS)
- What is an alternative mobile carrier?
- What are the advantages of going with an alternative carrier?
- How to make sure your phone works on a prepaid alternative carrier
- 8 Important Considerations When Switching To An MVNO
- These are the cheapest data plans you can buy in the U.S.
- Mint SIM vs. Cricket Wireless: Which is better for you?