Any reason to keep a grandfathered unlimited data plan on AT&T?
May 29, 2020 1:31 PM   Subscribe

My wife and I have been AT&T Mobile customers forever, well since the early 2000s. We're on the grandfathered unlimited plan, which once you leave it, it's gone forever. But grandfather is expensive ($170/month for 2 lines) and it seems we can get more bang for our buck by switching to one of the newer unlimited plans. Is there a catch, or is time to say goodbye to grandfather?

Our current bill seems high to me, and that's after a $25 discount from my job. Data is unlimited but there's no option for tethering and text messages are capped at 200 (my wife often exceeds this number). We use <15G of data/month between the two of us, often around 8G. Our data usage might be higher during a vacation, but that's rare (I wanted to check back a couple of years but the AT&T website only offers the last 16 months of bills).

I see there are now several unlimited data plans offered by AT&T. The AT&T Unlimited Extra Plan looks better than what we currently have (unlimited data and text plus tethering) and it's $65/line which should mean our bill would be $130, correct? Or am I missing some fee/tax/whatever? Would I be losing anything in service? I see a post on an AT&T forum where someone says their friends regret the switch because it chokes your speed and the service is spotty. Other people say that unless you use ungodly amounts of data, you should switch, and keeping a grandfathered plan is simple loss aversion bias.

Bottom line: Would we be losing anything to give up on the grandfathered plan, or it pure upside?
posted by timnyc to Shopping (14 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
That seems ungodly expensive to me. I've used MintMobile for years now and have never paid more than $15/mo. for unlimited calls/texts and 3gb data. For your usage it seems you'd do fine with their $25/mo. plan if service is available in your area (I never have issues with coverage). MeMail me if you want an affiliate link or if you have any questions.
posted by mezzanayne at 1:43 PM on May 29, 2020 [3 favorites]

The advertised $65/line very likely does not include taxes/fees ... that $130 for two lines will probably be closer to $150-$160. So only a $10 difference monthly, but changing to a newer plan would allow you to tether and would give you the unlimited texting.
posted by mccxxiii at 2:02 PM on May 29, 2020 [2 favorites]

We just switched from our grandfathered data plan to get unlimited talk (and the unlimited text and tethering is a bonus). Our bill for 4 lines did end up going down. I can't say if our data connection speeds have suffered because I have only been "out" a few times and did not notice any issues, but I don't consider that a true test.

Now that there are 3 major phone companies, I don't think one is going to be able to be so much more expensive without losing customers. Most other companies are buying service from one of the big 3 anyway.

I do work for said company and get a discount on my service, but our bill still crept up every year on the old plan.
posted by soelo at 2:04 PM on May 29, 2020

I held on to our grandfathered plan for way too long. We traded in for a Att unlimited plus multi line and haven't had any problems with slowing down or what not. Not any more problems than we had before anyway. Rural area, but not the absolute sticks, there have been months where one of my kids used up a crazy amount of data and still not a problem. like more than 20 GB.

The key for me was going to an ATT store and having someone figure out true costs. That per line cost might not include taxes etc.
posted by domino at 2:12 PM on May 29, 2020

I recently switched to Verizon, but prior to that paid $35 a month for a prepaid AT&T unlimited plan. I use my home wifi at home. Do you really need 8GB of data? The prepaid plan does slow speeds after you pass 2GB, but I never did because I used wifi most of the time.
posted by pinochiette at 2:13 PM on May 29, 2020

You are paying an insane amount of money for a very poor plan (no tethering?! limited texts?!)

Our Verizon plan is $85/month for two lines, 15GB/line, tethering, and unlimited calls and texts with no contract (i.e. we can walk away any time if we find a better deal). Verizon is expensive!

If you want to get serious about saving money, you can probably get your family bill well below that by looking into these recommendations.
posted by caek at 2:17 PM on May 29, 2020 [1 favorite]

15gb/month seems so (relatively) low, and $170 seems so high, that even if you were to switch to something like Mint Mobile (which I have and like) and not like the experience because of speeds or coverage, you should be able to find a new different plan that would meet your needs (in terms of what you actually use) for what you were paying before (or less.) For example Verizon has $45/month prepaid plans with 16gb. And having the option of tethering for random unforeseen situations is really worthwhile.
posted by needs more cowbell at 2:21 PM on May 29, 2020

Switch plans! The old plans stopped being a good deal a few years ago (when T-Mobile embarrassed AT&T/Verizon into lowering their prices). I have a Google Fi plan at $35 per month (for two people) plus $10 per GB data cost, with "free" data after 10GB. Your 15GB usage would be $135 under my plan -- which I don't necessarily recommend to you, but simply use as an example that you should be getting a better deal.

You could probably call AT&T up and tell them you don't think their plan is a good deal anymore and you want [whatever terms you want at whatever price you think is fair]. You will probably be able to get $30 off per month and a year of free HBO pretty easily. (If you say no, cancel, and switch providers then they'll start contacting you with the REALLY aggressive pitches.)
posted by grandiloquiet at 2:37 PM on May 29, 2020

Use your own phone and tether; there are many ways around that BS restriction.

New "unlimited" isn't actually unlimited, but you don't use so much data that it should matter.
posted by flimflam at 2:58 PM on May 29, 2020

Switch. (redacted horror story about AT&T and grandfathered plans). I also use GoogleFi (for reasons) the data part rolls-over to some extent and I tether without worry.
posted by zengargoyle at 3:02 PM on May 29, 2020

Was in this exact situation until late last year. We switched to the highest level (elite unlimited) and have a lower monthly rate (around 140 for two lines) which comes out less than our previous plan with the bonus of tethering, unlimited texts and HBO included. I know we could get less elsewhere, but we use a lot of data and this is easy. The employer discount does not apply to some of the plans, but we still come out less per month than the grandfathered unlimited.
posted by wsquared at 7:26 PM on May 29, 2020

I sold my grandfathered-in unlimited Verizon plan for hundreds of dollars about five years ago, not sure if that’s still a thing / if your plan would be desirable to heavy users. It was fairly well documented online, worth a little searching to see if you can cash in when you switch.
posted by momus_window at 12:02 PM on May 30, 2020

Nthing the sentiment that you are being overcharged and the recommendation to switch. There are various low-cost providers nowadays that have excellent plans at low prices. Just an FYI, typically these plans don't do family plans, so you simply purchase a separate plan for each person and you can't share data.

My husband has had MintMobile (T-Mobile towers) for about half a year. All of MintMobile's plans come with unlimited talk and text. You each could get a 3gb plan for $15 per person, an 8gb plan for $20, or 12gb for $25 (here). MintMobile has a slightly different set-up where you typically get a three-month plan to start off (you pay in advance for all three months). Then, if you want to continue, you prepay for a year's service to get the best rates (the ones I just quoted to you). If you don't want to commit for as long, the rates are higher.

I have had Tello (Sprint towers) for over a year and have been delighted with it. You pay monthly with no obligation beyond a month (rather than prepay for a year like Mint), and their plans are especially good for low data users. I have a 1gb plan for $10, and as with MintMobile, all the plans come with unlimited talk and text. You each could get a 4gb plan for $19, a 6gb plan for $24, or an 8gb plan for $29 (here). As you can see, Tello is a bit more expensive than MintMobile as you get into the kind of data usage that you're talking about, but still extremely reasonable. The one advantage of Tello is that you can change your plan choice monthly, so if you're going on vacation, you could pick a larger data plan for that one month (conversely, when I went abroad for a few weeks and didn't need my US phone plan, I was able to pay something like $5 for the cheapest plan during that month as a placeholder for my US number, and simply bought a foreign SIM card with unlimited talk/text and lots of data for like $15 once I landed, to use for the duration of my time abroad). I believe that both Tello and MintMobile only soft cap your data if you hit your allowance (they both throttle you down to 2g speeds).

Anyway, we've both been very happy with Tello and Mint. There are probably other similar companies that are also good, although these appeared to be two of the best/cheapest when I researched it a while back. We've been generally very happy with reception (Mint has the edge on Tello in our experience, in our town, but they're both great). I really think there's no point in you paying $170 for two lines with a 200-text cap (?!!?!?) when you could be paying $40 for unlimited talk and text and as much data as you typically use: I'm sure you could find another better use for that $130/month. Feel free to message me if you have any questions. I have no connections to Tello or MintMobile, just a happy customer who thinks the big phone companies have obscene pricing for their services.
posted by ClaireBear at 2:20 PM on May 30, 2020 [2 favorites]

I'm still on an old unlimited plan at AT&T, but mine INCLUDES tethering, which I use all the dang time. The last time I ran the numbers with them, it wouldn't have saved me any money to switch plans, so I didn't.

This is probably because i was an utter bastard to them at one point years ago and got a bunch of shit locked in, and the real plans haven't caught up.
posted by uberchet at 1:01 PM on May 31, 2020

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