In this article I’ll be covering everything you need to know about AT&T’s new Unlimited Elite plan, how it compares to the premium plan offerings from T-Mobile and Verizon, how it compares to AT&T’s other plans, and if you should switch to the new Elite plan.
What’s New with Unlimited Elite?
Unlimited Elite is the most premium plan offering from AT&T. It’s also the most expensive at $85 per month for single-line users.
The old Elite plan (that was offered until July 13th, 2021) included the following features: 100GB of priority data, 30GB hotspot data, 4K video streaming, and unlimited high-speed data in Canada and Mexico.
As additional perks, you also got HBO Max included for free, 6 months of Stadia Pro, and you could purchase international day passes for $10 per day when traveling abroad.
The new Elite plan is largely the same, but there are three key changes.
First, the amount of priority data was increased from 100GB to unlimited. This means you will never be slowed down based on how much data you use.
Second, the hotspot data was increased from 30GB to 40GB.
And third, international day passes are now free after 10 days. This sounds like a nice perk on the onset, but I don’t think it’s worth it.
To get the free international day passes, you would need to first purchase 10 day passes yourself for $100. This is on top of the $85 cost of the Elite plan, plus taxes and fees, so in total you’re looking to spend around $200 per month before getting the free international data.
Why not just grab a cheap international eSIM plan instead?
US Mobile and Airalo both have affordable options for 1 week or 1 month international data plans. For example, US Mobile’s Europe eSIM plan, which works all across European countries, is just $15 for 5GB of data.
When Do These Changes Take Effect?
AT&T’s new Unlimited Elite plan went live on Wednesday, July 14th, 2021.
All new customers who sign up for Elite will get the new plan with the new features.
All existing AT&T subscribers on the Elite plan will be automatically transitioned to the new plan on July 14th.
How Does Unlimited Elite Compare to What T-Mobile and Verizon Are Offering?
So how does it stack up?
Honestly, really well.
AT&T Unlimited Elite matches T-Mobile Magenta MAX with unlimited priority data and 40GB of hotspot data, which is great to see.
Plus, AT&T continues to dominate with unlimited high-speed data roaming in Canada and Mexico. This is way better than the 5GB and 0.5GB that T-Mobile and Verizon are offering.
Unfortunately, AT&T still lacks behind T-Mobile when it comes to international roaming.
T-Mobile’s international data is completely free at speeds up to 256Kbps, whereas AT&T and Verizon are $10 per day.
If AT&T were to cut the cost of their international day pass add-on from $10 to $5, I think it would be a more competitive option.
Another difference is in the plan perks. These can be largely subjective, but I still think AT&T does really well here.
AT&T includes HBO Max with their Elite plan, which is a $15 value. I was originally skeptical of HBO Max, but I have since learned it includes a huge library of high quality content. You also now get Stadia Pro free for 6 months. These perks are available for both single-line users and families.
T-Mobile includes Netflix Basic for single-line users, a $9 value, and Netflix Standard for family plans, a $14 value. Single-line users can upgrade to the Netflix Standard plan by purchasing a $4 add-on from their T-Mobile account.
I’ve been a long-time Netflix user and loved the service. However, it’s important to note that with the Netflix Basic plan, the one that’s included for single-line Magenta MAX users, video streaming is limited to 480p quality. That totally sucks when you’re trying to enjoy your movies and TV shows on your nice 4K television. HBO Max, on the other hand, always allows you to stream in the highest quality possible.
And Verizon goes all-out with their perks. You get Disney+, Hulu, ESPN+, Apple Music, 12 months of discovery+, 12 months of Apple Arcade, and 12 months of Google Play Pass all included for free.
The final difference between these plans is the cost.
AT&T Unlimited Elite is $85 per month. However, they offer a substantial discount on Elite with their Signature Program.
Eligible business employees, AARP members, union members, and students can save $10/month per line on Unlimited Elite. And military veterans, first responders, teachers, and nurses and physicians save 25% off the cost of the Elite plan.
If you’re eligible for the Signature Program discount, AT&T Unlimited Elite can easily become the most affordable unlimited plan here.
However, if you’re not eligible for the discount, as I was not, then T-Mobile Magenta MAX is the cheapest plan. It’s the same list price as AT&T, $85 per month, but T-Mobile includes all taxes and fees in that price.
Considering AT&T and Verizon typically stack on $10 per line in extra taxes, fees, and surcharges per month, T-Mobile’s plan can easily save you between $120-$240 per year.
Verizon’s plan is the most expensive here. It’s $90 per month, and taxes and fees are extra.
What Premium Plan is Best?
In my opinion, T-Mobile’s Magenta MAX plan is still the best value.
5GB of high-speed data in Canada and Mexico is plenty for most people, and the free international data is a huge perk. Plus, T-Mobile is the lowest cost plan with all taxes and fees included.
Overall I think T-Mobile offers the best combination of features and price point that will benefit most consumers.
However, there is one big downside to T-Mobile. And that is coverage.
Sure, T-Mobile may be boasting to the press that they have the most 5G coverage…
...but do you know what T-Mobile isn’t talking about?
That’s because their LTE network simply isn’t as good as the competition.
And this is where AT&T swoops in and steals the crown.
AT&T’s network not only blankets the United States, far more than T-Mobile’s network does, but they also have great network capacity. This means you’re less likely to notice slowdowns on AT&T, and you’ll typically get fast speeds.
In fact, when I tested 5G vs LTE on Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile, AT&T’s LTE speeds were consistently faster than T-Mobile and Verizon on both LTE and 5G. AT&T’s LTE speeds peaked at over 300Mbps.
And because this is LTE, your current LTE phone will work with it. You don’t need to upgrade to an expensive 5G phone to enjoy great speeds and performance.
So ultimately, I think the best premium plan for you comes down to coverage.
If you’re in a good T-Mobile coverage area, like I am, then I still believe Magenta MAX is the best value.
You can also test to see if you’re in a good T-Mobile coverage area by taking advantage of T-Mobile’s free trial plan. You get 30GB free for 30 days, which is perfect for testing the network.
And if it turns out that you are not in a good T-Mobile coverage area, then AT&T’s new Unlimited Elite plan is easily the best option available.
It ties with T-Mobile on key features, and with the Signature Discount it could potentially be even cheaper than T-Mobile’s plan.
Either way, both T-Mobile and AT&T are way better than what Verizon is offering. I mean, Verizon, what are you doing? 50GB priority data? Only 30GB of hotspot data? Still only 720p video streaming?? And $90 per month????
Are you KIDDING ME?!
I’d love to see Verizon improve their plan soon. For now, AT&T and T-Mobile remain the champs.
Should T-Mobile or Verizon Subscribers Switch to the New AT&T Unlimited Elite Plan?
Now that we’ve established AT&T Unlimited Elite is the best premium plan in terms of coverage, data speeds, and network performance, should you upgrade or consider switching over to it?
If you’re an existing T-Mobile or Verizon customer, and you’ve been feeling dissatisfied with your service, or you simply want to take advantage of a free iPhone 12 or Galaxy S21 trade-in deal that AT&T happens to be offering, yes, I would seriously consider it.
But, you may not actually need Unlimited Elite.
If you’re on a lower-tier plan, like T-Mobile Essentials or Magenta, or Verizon Start Unlimited, Do More Unlimited, or Play More Unlimited, then it may make more sense to consider switching to a lower-tier AT&T plan as well.
The AT&T Unlimited Starter plan is a great low-cost unlimited plan for people who just want unlimited data and don’t need hotspot data. It’s $65 for single-lines and $35 per line for four lines.
And if you do want hotspot data, then AT&T Unlimited Extra is great option. It includes 50GB of priority data, 15GB of hotspot data, and unlimited high speed data in Canada and Mexico. One line is $75 per month, and four lines are $40 per line per month.
I would only recommend you get the Elite plan if you are eligible for the AT&T Signature Discount, if you need more than 15GB of hotspot data, or if you really want HBO Max.
Even if you want the 4K video streaming perk, it turns out that you can actually get 4K video streaming on any of AT&T’s plans simply by using a VPN. I’ve been using ExpressVPN as my VPN, and if you’re interested you can get 3 months free when you sign up using my link.
For more details on how AT&T's plans compare to Verizon and T-Mobile's plans, check out my T-Mobile vs Verizon vs AT&T ultimate plan comparison article and video.
Should Existing AT&T Subscribers Switch to the New Unlimited Elite Plan?
Nope. Definitely not. Why? Let me explain.
If you’re an existing AT&T customer and you’ve been satisfied with your plan so far, that likely means it’s working perfectly for your needs.
So why switch to something that’s more expensive if you don’t need it?
I’m all about helping consumers save money on their cell phone bill, and if your current Unlimited Starter or Unlimited Extra plan works for you, I say keep it.
Sure, some of the perks of Unlimited Elite are nice, such as having unlimited priority data and 40GB of hotspot data, but the truth is very few people will ever need these features.
Cisco's annual internet report shows that only 4% of consumers use over 50GB of data per month.
AT&T’s Unlimited Extra plan already includes 50GB of priority data, so that means 96% of you reading this right now would never notice any slowdowns or deprioritization anyway.
The 15GB of hotspot data is typically plenty for most people, too.
Plus, with AT&T’s excellent network capacity that I talked about earlier, you’re not likely to notice a change in performance even if you do go over your priority data allotment.
Heck, you could be on Unlimited Starter and still get great speeds.
And when it comes to video streaming, you can actually get 4K video streaming on the lower-cost Starter and Extra plans simply by using a VPN. I’ve been using ExpressVPN and enjoyed their product, and if you’re interested you can get 3 months free when you sign up at expressvpn.com/stetson.
So really, my point is this––I encourage you to evaluate what your needs are and what plan from AT&T meets your needs.
My goal is to help you save money on your cell phone bill, so I would encourage you to consider more affordable options. I think most people would be fine on Starter or Extra.
And keep in mind that AT&T has their “Unlimited Your Way” policy, so you could have some lines on Elite, some lines on Extra, and some lines on Starter based on what the needs are for each particular line. And you can always switch plans in the future.
The Secret Best-Value Unlimited Data Plan on AT&T
Finally, there is one secret plan that I think blows AT&T’s Elite plan out of the water, not in terms of features, but in terms of value.
It’s AT&T’s Prepaid Unlimited Plus plan.
This is currently discounted down to just $50 per month with auto-pay, and it packs almost the same features as Unlimited Extra.
You get 22GB of priority data, 10GB of hotspot data, HD video streaming, unlimited data roaming in Mexico and Canada, and even 100GB of cloud storage as a bonus.
This plan is 41% cheaper than Unlimited Elite and saves you $420 per year. That’s easily enough to cover the cost of HBO Max, Disney+, Netflix, or whatever your favorite subscription services are. Or you could consider putting the savings toward a new smartphone or device.
So single-line users, give AT&T Prepaid a look. I think you’ll really like what it has to offer.
And families, I encourage you to mix and match AT&T plans based on what each line needs and what will be most affordable for you.