If you are 55 or over, T-Mobile has a really good deal — called T-Mobile ONE 55+ — that includes unlimited data. The basic deal is two lines for $60 a month, and for an extra $25 a month, one of those lines (or both for $50) can have unlimited 4G hotspot data. They say they guarantee this rate for life, and it includes all taxes and fees. (NOTE: if no one on your account is 55, or you need more than two lines, you can still have all the benefits described below but the base plan will cost a bit more.)
I’ve had this plan since August and can attest that it works as advertised. And my experience with T-Mobile has been that their customer service both in store and on the phone has been considerably better and less frustrating than what I experienced with Verizon (my previous carrier). The bills are definitely easier to understand!
If you remember T-Mobile from a few years ago and think their coverage is lacking, check their coverage map again. It has radically improved! Its coverage is now almost as good as Verizon’s (see report).
Here are the basic facts, but double-check everything on the T-Mobile website — you may have questions or issues that are different from mine or the plan may have changed:
- Only the primary account holder has to be 55 or over.
- You cannot get more than two lines; one line will cost $50, two lines for $60. Must be on auto-pay (which is great anyway if you’re cruising — no having to remember to pay a bill).
- The base price gets you unlimited 4G data on the phone and unlimited 3G hotspot data.
- If you’re new to using your cell phone as a hotspot for internet, you’ll find that 4G speed is decent for most purposes and that 3G is noticeably slow. Dave and I are often online at the same time using the same 4G hotspot and the speed is good. I never have to go looking for wifi.
- One phone can be a hotspot for up to 8 other devices via wifi — and you can use the phone and all other apps at the same time. You do not need a separate router or “MiFi” type device.
- $10 extra a month (per line) will get you 10GB of 4G hotspot data; $25 extra a month (per line) will get you unlimited 4G hotspot data (see details). We put the $25 upgrade on one line (Dave’s phone) and use it as our primary hotspot; we put the $10 plan on the other line so that if Dave leaves the boat with his phone, I still have a fast internet connection via my phone.
- With the “unlimited” portion of your data, there isn’t throttling per se but T-Mobile does have the right to “de-prioritize” your traffic once you exceed 50GB in a billing cycle month for the remainder of that billing cycle. What that means is that if you are in an area with a congested T-Mobile tower, you may have slower speeds until the congestion lessens. Typically that occurs only in large cities, at big events where people are using a lot of data, or other times with a big surge in demand. As far as I know, we’ve never been de-prioritized.
- Unlimited texting and data in over 140 countries is included, with three caveats: data in foreign countries is slow at 128 kbps (the $10 and $25 add-ons will double the speed), and at least half your usage has to be in the US. International phone calls (whether originating in the US or abroad) are $0.20 per minute (the $25 add-on will give you unlimited international calling to landlines in 70 countries and mobile lines in 30).
- Using your phone in Mexico and Canada: unlimited talk, text and data on the basic plan but subject to a cap of 5GB of 4G data (unlimited with the $25 add-on), $0.20 a minute for international calls and, again, at least half your usage must be in the US. I am unsure if you can use the included data as hotspot data or if it is only for use on the phone.
- No contract.
If you are already on T-Mobile, you will not automatically be put on the 55+ plan even if you are 55 or over. You have to request it.
If you are planning to switch to T-Mobile, assume your current phone won’t be fully compatible (and be pleasantly surprised if it is). When we switched, our Verizon phone was supposed to be compatible and basically was — except that you couldn’t text with it. That didn’t work for us, so we had to buy a new phone. However, they always seem to have some good deals on “pretty good” smartphones (not the top of the line ones but perfectly good for everything we do) for around $10 a month per phone.