Choosing the best unlimited data plan


MISSOULA, Mont. - Data is big business for cellphone companies in America, but those commercials touting unlimited data can be downright confusing.

Every major phone carrier now offers unlimited data, but what's the best deal for your pocketbook?

At least one person we asked in downtown Missoula said she didn't have unlimited data. When asked if it was something she would consider, she said "it depends how much it would cost."

We dig some digging to find that out, too. We went straight to one of the experts, Bridget Carey, a senior editor for

"I think as competition is heating up the deals are just getting better right now," she told NBC Montana.

"We, as consumers, are hungry for better unlimited deals because our phones are demanding more, our apps are demanding more, our streaming habits are demanding more from us, and we watch way more video on our phones," Carey said.

American's are using so much data that the U.S. leads the world in data usage. The average person uses around two gigabytes a month, according to

If you're lucky enough to still be holding on to one of those grandfathered unlimited plans now is a good time to ditch it.

"You don't have to worry anymore," said Carey. "The unlimited options are out there. Maybe in the future -- I guess everything changes so fast, I don't see anything negative in the future."

Let's cut to the chase. How much it costs depends on how much you plan to use. Just don't get fooled by those flashy numbers. There are still taxes and other fees that get loaded on to your monthly bill.

"You (might) have to go paperless to get the full discount, otherwise they might charge you $5 more," Carey said.

And unlimited does not mean truly unlimited.

"If you gobble up data all these networks are going to slow you down. For example, if you use Verizon and use 22 gigs of data, your speed is going to take a hit. They're going to give other customers preference over you if the network is congested."

Since all the plans are about the same you have to ask yourself -- where will I make most of my calls?

"You have to take network quality into consideration," Carey said.

We've made it easy to compare plans from AT&T and Verizon, which are the most used cell providers in Montana:

AT&T: There are two options: one that includes HotSpot coverage for $90, and one without for $60 Verizon: $90, or $85 if you connect a credit card for auto-pay