On Finally Letting Our Grandfathered Unlimited AT&T Data Plan Die

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I have had an AT&T unlimited data plan for longer than I can remember. Those initial unlimited plans eventually ceased being available as AT&T and other carriers opted to instead sell data packages each month with limits and overage charges. However, those with the old AT&T unlimited data plans got to keep them as long as they wished to keep paying for them, though the cost for that privilege continued to increase over the years. If you ever stopped carrying your AT&T grandfathered unlimited data plan, it was gone for good.

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In light of all that, I held onto my unlimited plan like it was my job. As I saw flashy low prices for other plans and packages, I held on. As new features and discounts and even free international roaming perks were added to other plans and carriers, I held on. As I knew I was likely over-paying, I held on. I was not going to release something that I knew I could never get back. It was slightly irrational, but it was also comforting to know I never needed to worry about data usage, especially given how frequently we travel away from home.

While we are all on one family plan, Josh and I had the unlimited data plans while my mom did not, and I did not envy her when she would get those “you are over your monthly data limit” texts. No thank you, I’ll keep clutching to my unlimited plan even if I’m probably paying more than necessary for that honor.

Then today as we were trying to get through some tasks before the holidays really kick in, we tried to set up an Apple Watch 3. Everything was going as well as you could expect with a multi-step set-up process when we got to a screen that said we had to call AT&T as our rate plan was not compatible with the Apple Watch. Super duper. I was hoping that wasn’t accurate and it was just a glitch that had to be manually over-ridden.

Getting through to a real human at AT&T was easier than anticipated, but she was the bearer of the bad news that we couldn’t keep our grandfathered unlimited plan and link the cellular feature of the new Apple Watch to my account. A little internet research revealed that that may not have been 100% accurate as there does seem to be another way to do it, but it was a cost-prohibitive solution in my view. After an hour of hemming, hawing, and researching online we finally let our much loved unlimited data AT&T grandfathered plans ride off into the sunset.

The Apple Watch issue may have been what prompted the much-delayed action, but the math supported the decision. The AT&T Unlimited Choice plan looks like utter garbage, but the pricier AT&T Unlimited Plus plan includes about twice as much data as we typically use between all four phones before speeds are potentially throttled. It will cost $40 – $50 less per month for the four lines we currently have on the plan than what we were paying, it will provide free HBO (that we currently pay for), give $15 credit for DIRECTV (that we subscribe to), and there are no fees for talk, text, and roaming in Canada and Mexico, which is great. All in, we should save about $70 per month, should pick up free usage in Mexico and Canada, can now tether and use our phones as a hotspot, and shouldn’t be impacted by the 22GB data limit before we may be slowed down unless our usage really increases.

Perhaps best of all, I finally broke free of the fear to lose my unlimited AT&T grandfathered plan and can now be a phone free agent in the event I need to make another change in the future, as our needs change, the number of phones on the plan grows, or a better option presents itself. We are now not under any contracts or grasping tightly to a now-defunct data plan. Phone freedom, here we come.

I’d love to hear what cell phone plan you have found to offer the best overall deal for your traveling family?

 

 

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Comments

  1. T-Mobile. Seriously the best. Unlimited data and now it includes Netflix. Their plans include international roaming as well. We went to London in Edinburgh this summer and used our phones everywhere and didn’t pay extra. Being able to use Google Maps was so awesome! We have two adults and two kids on our plan and pay less than $130/month total.

  2. We let ours go last year and I felt sick to my stomach after. Especially when I saw the AT&T rep getting high 5’s on our way out the door. I’m sure they get paid a bonus when somebody lets go of one of the old plans.

  3. I was in the same situation. I had been a customer of AT&T since 2005 and in the grandfathered unlimited data plan… I resisted switching. After going to Europe a few times in the summer and my phone bill being $300 – $400 per month I switched to T-mobile. Now I am paying $80 for two lines with unlimited data and text and includes coverage in Europe. I even used it in Moscow and that was in the plan as well. AT&T is falling behind. My only regret is not switching to T-Mobile sooner. Yes, T-Mobile isn’t the greatest in my home when I’m making a phone call, but that is ok with me. T-Mobile also has “T-Mobile Tuesdays” which has cool promotions that I have been able to use…

  4. We also had unlimited plans with iPhones from AT&T. We quit AT&T cold turkey by turning off our landline phone and changing cellular service to T-Mobile. No regrets. The service in the our house isn’t great with either carrier but with T-Mobile you can connect to make calls through Wi-Fi. Haven’t used it internationally yet but being able to use phone when traveling without getting a SIM right away is also appealing. We’re also now able to tether for data usage when in-room wi-fi in hotels is poor and we only need to download some emails.

  5. Still have mine. We live in Austin, and non-AT&T coverage is horrible in much of the hill country. In fact, my SO’s T-Mobile phone doesn’t work anywhere on the ranch where he hunts. All the other guys on the lease have AT&T and are always sending messages to each other, which he doesn’t see until he gets back to the house on wifi.

  6. T-Mobile.

    Being able to use my phone number and free intl data around the world has been a godsend for years now. Flew a RTW a few years ago with stops in Europe, the Middle East, and Asia. Used the free data to check the KVS mobile app for seat availability to make flight changes, etc. The price is right – $100 for 2 lines of truly unlimited (ie full hd video), free tethering, and throttling that starts at 50GB.

    Their network used to be a joke in terms of coverage. Not anymore – it’s exploded in size.

    5/5 would recommend.

  7. A great benefit nowadays with the new unlimited plan is that you’re eligible to get the discounted iPhone X 64gb for $550 if you sign a new 2 year contract. You have to go through some steps to get transferred to the Loyalty Department, but that’s a pretty great deal if you’re willing to stay with ATT for 2 years.

    I’m sure some ppl mind getting back into a contract, but I actually prefer a discounted phone in exchange for a 2 year contract. I haven’t done this deal yet, but I probably will in the next month.

  8. OMG That is sooo funny. I feel the same way. I have the old Cingular plan rolled into ATT and walking through the Miami airport a couple of weeks ago on way to Buenos Aires and had forgotten to add international for the month. The agent on the phone reminded me I could change plans etc etc.. but I just couldn’t pull the trigger. I am glad to hear you were able.

  9. You most definitely could have kept that plan! You just needed to add a line ATT number sync the line to your line. I have read all about it on macrumors forums actually. But as long as your happy with your new plan then thats all that matters.

  10. AT&T should be ashamed of the lies I was told to make a sale. Cody Farmer and Jennifer should be ashamed. I guess you got your commission. You’re happy.

  11. I gave up on my grandfathered unlimited plan with AT&T when I switched to T-Mobile a few years back. The service with T-Mobile, while offering many really cool benefits, was horrendous in my town. I have the Unlimited Plus plan and enjoy a $25 per month credit on my DirecTV Now so I only pay $10 a month for tv!

  12. Not sure why you held onto the old unlimited plan for so long after the new ones were released…. As you did the math there were a ton of cost savings to move to the new unlimited plan. The old plan you had to have a minute based package plus a texting plan. I really couldn’t see any advantage…. the new unlimited plus while theoretically has deprioritzation (not throttling) after 22GB use I’ve never seen it to a point where it’s really made any difference (furthermore they instituted the same policy on the old plans). I got in earlier where I got a $25 discount for DirectTV as well (which I used on the IP based service, DirectTVNow).10 GB of hotspot per phone is also beneficial, but I’ve never seen it enforced as well (meaning I’ve gone way over that limit)… And, the really awesome thing is you can add a Mifi type device… sure it’s subject to deprioritzation as well but I have two on my account and we average about 20 Mbps speeds for downloads….

    I considered T-Mobile and tested there service twice; once when they first released their intentional roaming plan and again last year.. the service just didn’t math what I got with ATT.. i.e. I couldn’t even get LTE in my house or at work when I always had an ATT signal.. so I decided that the benefits for 20 days a year of international travel were not worth the drawbacks of poor service at home…

    • It was just fear of change and laziness that kept us on the plan. I’m glad to have finally had a reason to make the move.

  13. T-mobile. Hands down. No questions. AT&T is for people who fear switching companies but don’t realize they are missing out and overpaying.

  14. T mobile , AT&T and Sprint are horrid here in NW Ohio . I’ll keep my Verizon cell. At least with them I can make a phone call with the cell in my house.

  15. Im still on the grandfathered plan. I have an unlocked phone and that makes all the difference in the world. I have one phone not grandfathered plus this one and checking the rates to opt out does not result in any price savings unless you factor in the Canada and Mexico deal. But, don’t travel there often enough to justify.

  16. The problem with reception issues turned out to be the modem in the phone. Even the latest iPhone 8 and X do not have as good as modem as something with a snapdragon 835. My wife has the 7 plus and I had the SE and we both had terrible reception in our house on TMobile. I switched back to Android with the pixel 2 and the difference is night and day. Data speeds on lte ranged between and 1-3 Mbps down now they are between 10 and 25 down! Huge difference. So much so I am thinking about cutting charter out of my life and going to just hotspotting. Unlimited data and fast enough speeds to stream anything in HD. Anybody with an iffy connection using an iPhone on TMobile should try the pixel or any Samsung Galaxy as they have the same chipset with the same modem.

    • I have an iPhone 7 with the Qualcomm chipset (same LTE modem) and just struggled on T-Mobile. Where as I would get excellent reception with ATT…

  17. For those who spend much time overseas, T-Mobile is totally wonderful. This summer we just got off the ferry in St Petersburg, Russia, and called Uber for a ride to our hotel. Easy peasy.

    Using Google Maps in Hong Kong to find our restaurant when we got off the MTR was a god send as well.

    Signed up at Costco for a 2 line unlimited plan for $100, but then $20 off of that a month for using auto pay. For those over 55 it’s only $60 a month (with auto-pay) for 2 unlimited lines.

    Our reception, (in an urban area), is fine, but we do have Galaxy phones, so I don’t know about Apple phones.

    Being able to just get off the plane almost anywhere, turn off airplane mode, and make unlimited calls just the same as from home stills make me happy every time I do it. 🙂

  18. Google fi. You will be using T Mobile’s network ( and supposedly Sprint and US Cellular while in the US) Overseas it just uses any prevalent network and is transparent to you. You just turn your phone on and use as you would at home. Data is $10/Gb everywhere in the world. Texts are always free while abroad, and calls are 0.20/min while on cell data. You can use Wi-fi calling for free. While you are on wi-fi, turn off cell data and make the call, completely free. The cost is $20 for the basic service for the first line, $15 per line for up to 4 lines. Then you pay for your data. Any unused data at the end of the cycle gets credited and any overage gets billed, all at the prorated $10/Gb. It is a brilliant plan and I have been happy as I travel internationally regularly.

  19. I really like Project Fi (Google) (Gus, nice to see another fan here!). I just bought a Moto X4 (in my price range and I’m not an apple user) and I really like the 10/GB per month, with refund if you don’t use all and no restriction if you go over. There is a family plan, but my husband gets his through work and my daughter isn’t going to get data until at LEAST 13. It works on more than one network (and wifi, but that is less priority than with Republic Wireless in the past) and it worked like a dream in the UK and Belgium. My data was charged at the same rate as it would in the US. I’m really a fan.

  20. The cellular carriers make money on data. Voice, text, etc…Not really the profit centers they once were. AT&T, Verizon, etc all have the ability to switch to voice over WIFI.

    As such, regardless of carrier – make sure that your WIFI at home completely blankets your home. Consider disabling high bandwidth over apps (e.g. youtube) over cell, and only enable on wifi. Broadband allow for your local account to attach to their WIFI access points, and have sprinkled it everywhere around the local areas. Your coverage will improve, and your data usage will drop significantly in most cases.

    Most international travelers at the high end still prefer AT&T. If they don’t have an expense account T-Mobile has gained some serious ground.

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