In 2021, the best unlimited phone data package will be

In 2021, the best unlimited phone data package will be

For this roundup, I’m going to focus on the three major carriers — Verizon, T-Mobile and AT&T — combing through the multiple postpaid unlimited plans available to find the ones that provide the most perks and value for single lines and for families of four.

When it comes to selecting a wireless plan for your new phone — whether you have an iPhone, Galaxy, Android or even a flip phone — things can quickly get complicated. Unlike home internet where there’s often only one or two available options, most of the US can pick wireless plans from several competitors at different price points that offer similar claims of performance or coverage.

Know your area
Before we get to the plans, even more important to getting the best deal is making sure you have the coverage you need. This makes it very hard for us to give a blanket recommendation of any one carrier. T-Mobile’s service in New York may be excellent, but if you’re in rural Iowa, Verizon is more reliable.

5G graphic
Screenshot by Sarah Tew/CNET
While your mileage may vary, the good news is that these networks are growing and improving all the time, particularly as the three major players race to blanket the US with 5G. It’s quite possible that a decade ago you left a network complaining about their sparse service, but now it has beefed itself up because of that arms race to acquire customers.

If you know any friends or family in your area that already use the carrier you are considering, ask about their experience. You could also go to a carrier’s store, and see if they offer any free ways to try out the service before bringing your phone number to it, such as T-Mobile’s Test Drive.

Know your discounts
One other thing to keep in mind: discounts. All of the carriers offer additional discounts which you could be eligible for depending on your employer, military status, age or being a student.

First responders, military, veterans, nurses and teachers can get discounts on every major carrier. Verizon has discounts for students, while T-Mobile’s Work perk could knock $10 a month off a Magenta Max plan, with AT&T offering a similar program for its Unlimited Elite plan that it calls Signature.

If you’re 55 or older, you may also be eligible for a discounted plan: T-Mobile offers discounted plans nationwide for as low as $55 a month for two lines, meanwhile, Verizon and AT&T offer similar options but only for Florida residents.

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