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T-Mobile vs. AT&T: Don't Make A Mistake!

This article will help you decide if T-Mobile or AT&T is the right carrier for you.
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Selected cell phone plans (scroll left and right):
Red Pocket 5GB Annual
1 Line
1 Line
AT&T
$
15
/mo.
+tax
tax included
5GB
high-speed, then data stops
high-speed
high-speed, then 64Kbps
Deprioritized
Deprioritized
Included Hotspot
No Hotspot
Add-on Hotspot
No hotspot
720p HD Streaming
Unlimited Minutes
Unlimited Texts
Mint Mobile 20GB
1 Line
1 Line
T-Mobile
$
25
/mo.
+tax
tax included
20GB
high-speed, then data stops
high-speed
high-speed, then 128Kbps
Deprioritized
Deprioritized
Included Hotspot
No Hotspot
Add-on Hotspot
No hotspot
4K Streaming
Unlimited Minutes
Unlimited Texts
AT&T Unlimited Starter SL
1 Line
1 Line
AT&T
$
66
/mo.
+tax
tax included
Unlimited
high-speed, then data stops
high-speed
high-speed, then None
Deprioritized
Deprioritized
Included Hotspot
5GB Hotspot
Add-on Hotspot
5GB hotspot
480p SD Streaming
Unlimited Minutes
Unlimited Texts
AT&T Unlimited Premium PL
1 Line
1 Line
AT&T
$
86
/mo.
+tax
tax included
Unlimited
high-speed, then data stops
high-speed
high-speed, then None
Unlimited priority
Unlimited priority
Included Hotspot
60GB Hotspot
Add-on Hotspot
60GB hotspot
4K Streaming
Unlimited Minutes
Unlimited Texts
T-Mobile Go5G Plus
1 Line
1 Line
T-Mobile
$
90
/mo.
+tax
tax included
Unlimited
high-speed, then data stops
high-speed
high-speed, then None
Unlimited priority
Unlimited priority
Included Hotspot
50GB Hotspot
Add-on Hotspot
50GB hotspot
4K Streaming
Unlimited Minutes
Unlimited Texts
T-Mobile Go5G Next
1 Line
1 Line
T-Mobile
$
100
/mo.
+tax
tax included
Unlimited
high-speed, then data stops
high-speed
high-speed, then None
Unlimited priority
Unlimited priority
Included Hotspot
50GB Hotspot
Add-on Hotspot
50GB hotspot
4K Streaming
Unlimited Minutes
Unlimited Texts
In this article:
Hand holding a phone with the T-Mobile logo on screen next to a hand holding a phone with an AT&T logo on screen

T-Mobile vs. AT&T: which one is actually worth your money?

For most people, AT&T is the better choice.

AT&T is more affordable. It has better coverage. And the plans come with all the features you need. 

However, T-Mobile may be better in two scenarios:

  1. You travel a lot internationally
  2. You prefer to upgrade your device more frequently

Before you sign up for either carrier though, it is important to understand what plans they offer.

It turns out most of AT&T and T-Mobile's plans are a waste of money, and I wouldn't want you accidentally picking the wrong one!

Let's get into it:

T-Mobile vs. AT&T Cell Phone Plan Comparison

AT&T and T-Mobile both offer three types of plans to choose from:

  1. Entry-level plans
  2. Mid-level plans
  3. Premium plans

And it turns out only some of these plans are worth it. 

All of T-Mobile's available cell phone plans
T-Mobile offers five cell phone plans to choose from. Only one is worth it.

For T-Mobile, there is only one plan that’s worth it.

It is the Go5G Plus plan.

What makes Go5G Plus worth it and the other plans a waste of money?

Two key reasons.

First, Go5G Plus gives you a free phone every two years with a program T-Mobile calls New In Two. 

Go5G Plus customers get a free new phone every two years with New In Two
Go5G Plus customers get a free new phone every two years with New In Two

All you do is trade in your old device, and every two years you get up to $830 off a new one. That’s enough to cover the cost of an entry-level iPhone or Samsung phone. Considering 55% of consumers finance their phones, this is a pretty good deal.

Financing a phone through T-Mobile saves you $21.25 per month when compared to buying a new iPhone outright from Apple every two years.

Buying an iPhone Outright from Apple Financing with T-Mobile Go5G Plus
Device Cost $830 $800
Trade-in Credit $320 $800
Device Total $510 $0
Over 24 Months $21.25 $0
Monthly Savings $0 $21.25 per month

When you factor in the cost of owning a phone to the cost of the plans, suddenly T-Mobile’s most expensive plan becomes the third cheapest option.

Plan Lines Plan Cost Per Line (after tax) Monthly Phone Cost Total Bill
T-Mobile Essentials $1 $65 $20.00 $84.83
T-Mobile Magenta $1 $70 $18.75 $88.75
T-Mobile Go5G Plus $1 $90 $0.00 $90.00
T-Mobile Go5G $1.00 $75 $18.75 $93.75
T-Mobile Magenta MAX $1 $85.00 $18.75 $103.75

The price difference between the cheapest option and Go5G Plus is just $5.17 per month. And when you have 3 or more lines, Go5G Plus becomes the number one cheapest option.

Plan Lines Plan Cost Per Line (after tax) Monthly Phone Cost Per Line Per Line Total Total Bill
T-Mobile Go5G Plus $3 $50 $0.00 $50.00 $150.00
T-Mobile Essentials $3 $37 $20.00 $57.18 $171.54
T-Mobile Go5G $3 $43 $18.75 $61.75 $185.25
T-Mobile Magenta $3.00 $47 $18.75 $65.42 $196.25
T-Mobile Magenta MAX $3 $56.67 $18.75 $75.42 $226.25

This brings us to the second reason that T-Mobile Go5G Plus is worth it:

It is literally the best plan T-Mobile offers. 

Go5G Plus is packed with features. It includes unlimited premium data, so you’ll never be slowed down based on how much data you use. It has 50GB of hotspot data. It comes with 4K video streaming. And it comes with free data roaming in Canada, Mexico, and over 215 other destinations. 

T-Mobile Go5G Plus
AT&T
Dish
T-Mobile
Verizon
$
90
/mo
+ tax
tax included
Unlimited
Unlimited
Minutes
Unlimited
Texts
Included Hotspot
Add-on
Hotspot
50GB
Hotspot
No Hotspot
Unlimited premium
Unlimited premium
Unlimited slow data (
None
)
Unlimited
slow data
4K UHD
video streaming
International calling
International calling add-on
International calling
International data
International data add-on
International data
Domestic roaming
Domestic roaming
Visual VM
Visual VM
VoLTE
VoLTE
Wi-Fi calling
Wi-Fi calling
MMS
MMS
5G
5G add-on
5G
eSIM
eSIM
$
90
/mo
+ tax
tax included

Go5G Plus also comes with a few extra perks like Netflix, Apple TV+, and a year subscription to AAA.

T-Mobile's Go5G Plus plan comes with perks like Netflix and Apple TV+
T-Mobile's Go5G Plus plan comes with perks like Netflix and Apple TV+

You lose out on these benefits if you were to pick any of the other T-Mobile plans.

But how does T-Mobile Go5G Plus compare to AT&T’s plans?

AT&T's cell phone plans
AT&T's cell phone plans

AT&T offers three plans to choose from: Unlimited Starter, Unlimited Extra, and Unlimited Premium. Of these three plans, only two are worth it.The two plans that are worth it are Unlimited Starter and Unlimited Premium.

And I think AT&T Unlimited Starter is the #1 plan most people should sign up for out of any postpaid plan available right now. 

But before we talk about how AT&T Unlimited Starter absolutely smokes T-Mobile, let’s talk about why Unlimited Premium is worth it.

This is pretty simple. 

AT&T Unlimited Premium is worth it because it is the best plan AT&T offers with the most features, and because you can get it for the same price as Unlimited Extra.

That’s right. 

AT&T offers a secret discount that ANYONE can get that makes Unlimited Premium the exact same cost as Unlimited Extra.

What is the discount?

It’s the AT&T Signature Discount.

Specifically, it’s the Signature Discount for AARP members.

AARP members save $10 off per line per month on the AT&T Unlimited Premium plan
AARP members save $10 off per line per month on the AT&T Unlimited Premium plan

This saves you $10 off per line per month on Unlimited Premium, which makes it the same price as Unlimited Extra.

What is AARP and how do you get this discount?

AARP stands for American Association of Retired Persons. It sounds like it’s for older people, but it turns out that anyone can register. All you do is click join, fill out a form, and pay $12. And that $12 instantly saves you between $120 and $560 per year on AT&T Unlimited Premium depending on how many lines you have. 

It is not a bad deal. 

AARP costs $12 per year and anyone is eligible to sign up
AARP costs $12 per year and anyone is eligible to sign up

But what is an even better deal?

AT&T Unlimited Starter.

AT&T Unlimited Starter is one of the best deals available in the telecom industry right now. And it’s all because of two magical reasons.

First, it has all the core features you need. 

It comes with truly unlimited data, unlimited 480p video streaming, 3GB of hotspot, and free talk, text, and data roaming in Canada and Mexico. 

AT&T Unlimited Starter
AT&T
Dish
T-Mobile
Verizon
$
65
/mo
+ tax
tax included
Unlimited
Unlimited
Minutes
Unlimited
Texts
Included Hotspot
Add-on
Hotspot
3GB
Hotspot
No Hotspot
Deprioritized
Deprioritized
Unlimited slow data (
None
)
Unlimited
slow data
480p SD
video streaming
International calling
International calling add-on
International calling
International data
International data add-on
International data
Domestic roaming
Domestic roaming
Visual VM
Visual VM
VoLTE
VoLTE
Wi-Fi calling
Wi-Fi calling
MMS
MMS
5G
5G add-on
5G
eSIM
eSIM
$
65
/mo
+ tax
tax included

All your essentials.

Second––and this is where the real magic happens––AT&T Unlimited Starter is eligible for AT&T’s best device promos. 

No other carrier is doing this. 

AT&T is the only carrier that gives their best deals on smartphones to customers on entry level plans
AT&T is the only carrier that gives their best deals on smartphones to customers on entry level plans

AT&T’s cheapest plan is eligible for the same best deals that their Unlimited Premium plan is eligible for. This means you can get a free iPhone every 3 years and enjoy AT&T’s most affordable plan.

When you combine the affordable price of Unlimited Starter with the extra savings from getting a free phone, you get a deal that is basically untouchable. 

AT&T Unlimited Starter saves you $240 per year for a single line compared to T-Mobile Go5G Plus.

And when you go up to four lines, the savings go up to $336 per year.

The only option that is less expensive for four lines is a $15 prepaid plan from Red Pocket.

But before you trade in your old phone and sign 3 years of your life away to AT&T, there is one more hugely important factor to consider: 

Coverage.

T-Mobile vs. AT&T Coverage

When it comes to coverage, I’m not going to say AT&T walks away with the win here, but it does do pretty well.

According to data from the FCC, AT&T covers 55% of the United States. T-Mobile covers just 35%. AT&T also has more 5G coverage than T-Mobile does, covering 31% of the country compared to 26%.

Check out the comparisons below from CoverageMap.com:

The only area where T-Mobile comes out ahead is in data speeds. 

According to Ookla's United States June 2023 report, T-Mobile has the fastest median speeds across the country. AT&T has the slowest.

T-Mobile’s median speed is 2.5x faster than AT&T’s.

T-Mobile has the fastest median cellular data speeds in the U.S.
T-Mobile has the fastest median cellular data speeds in the U.S.

Of course, coverage and data speeds vary a LOT state to state and city to city. So before you sign up for either carrier, you’ll probably want to check coverage in the area you live. You can do this by checking the carrier coverage maps. 

T-Mobile self-reported coverage map
T-Mobile self-reported coverage map
AT&T self-reported coverage map

That said, the maps are kind of hard to compare, and neither map tells you the actual speeds you will get. 

To help make comparing cellular coverage easy for you, I co-founded the site CoverageMap.com.

You can use the coverage search feature to enter your state, county, city, or ZIP code, and you will instantly see the top rated carrier in that area. 

The Coverage Search tool from CoverageMap.com lets you easily check what carrier provides the best service in a state, county, city, or ZIP code
The Coverage Search tool from CoverageMap.com lets you easily check what carrier provides the best service in a state, county, city, or ZIP code

You can also browse the signal strength maps that show you a more granular detail of where the carriers report they have coverage. Or you can check out the crowdsourced coverage maps that show real data speeds submitted by real people.

Check T-Mobile coverage.

Check AT&T coverage.

T-Mobile vs. AT&T: What Carrier Is Best?

If you’re looking for a plan with great international features and you prefer to upgrade your device more frequently, then T-Mobile is a phenomenal choice.

But if you’re not opposed to keeping your phone an extra year and you’re open to saving even more money, then I think AT&T’s Unlimited Starter plan is the winner.

AT&T Unlimited Starter
AT&T
Dish
T-Mobile
Verizon
$
65
/mo
+ tax
tax included
Unlimited
Unlimited
Minutes
Unlimited
Texts
Included Hotspot
Add-on
Hotspot
3GB
Hotspot
No Hotspot
Deprioritized
Deprioritized
Unlimited slow data (
None
)
Unlimited
slow data
480p SD
video streaming
International calling
International calling add-on
International calling
International data
International data add-on
International data
Domestic roaming
Domestic roaming
Visual VM
Visual VM
VoLTE
VoLTE
Wi-Fi calling
Wi-Fi calling
MMS
MMS
5G
5G add-on
5G
eSIM
eSIM
$
65
/mo
+ tax
tax included

My name is Stetson and my goal is to help 1 million people save $10 per month or more on their cell phone bill. 

Please do me a favor and share this article with one friend if you found it helpful. 

Thank you!

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Stetson Doggett profile picture
Stetson Doggett

Stetson graduated from Ithaca College in 2019 with a degree in Communication Management and Design. He launched BestPhonePlans.net as part a senior project in school. He loves helping people find great, affordable cell phone plans that meet their needs. When he’s not reviewing cell phone plans on his YouTube channel or website, Stetson is out hiking in the crisp Colorado air, playing board games with friends, or competing in an epic game of pickleball.

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