Data-only plans are versatile plans that can be used across a range of smart devices, such as tablets, wireless hotspots, laptops, phones, and more. Data-only plans, which are sometimes called tablet plans, are great for people who want the flexibility of using their data however they please.

In this data-only plan guide:

What is a data-only plan?

Major carriers and MVNOs alike offer data-only plans you can use for any capable device. A data-only plan enables you to access the internet when there is no WiFi available. This can be great for commutes or traveling or even at-home use if you’ve decided to forgo WiFi. The best data-only plans balance cost and data allowance to provide you with the best value possible.

Compare data-only plans from major carriers

T-Mobile data-only plans

T-Mobile offers prepaid data-only plans ranging from 2GB/month to 22GB/month, and costing between $10/month and $85/month. These plans include data access in the U.S., Mexico, and Canada, with a limit of 5GB/month in Canada and Mexico. You can use this mobile data to connect hotspots, tablets, and wearable technology, such as smart watches. Your mobile data works the same way your data on a traditional phone plan would in that you have access to the internet wherever T-Mobile has service. The good news is that T-Mobile’s 4G LTE network is reliable and widely available, covering 63% of the country. Check out T-Mobile’s coverage map below to see if you get good coverage where you live and travel.

Verizon data-only plans

Verizon has endless options when it comes to choosing a data-only tablet plan, beginning at 2GB/month to 100GB/month. The 2GB plan costs $20/month and the 100GB plan costs a whopping $710/month. If you know that you’re going to need a lot of data for your tablet or other network-capable device, you may just want to opt for a Verizon unlimited plan that includes hotspot capabilities so that you can use your unlimited data to connect all of your devices, without having to pay and arm and a leg. Either way, before getting a data-only or traditional phone plan with Verizon, you’ll want to check out Verizon’s coverage map to see if you get good service in your area. Verizon currently has the most robust 4G LTE network in the country, covering 70% of the U.S.

AT&T data-only plans

AT&T has both postpaid and prepaid data-only tablet plans. As for postpaid tablet plans, you can either get a 15GB data-only plan for $60/month or a 35GB data-only plan for $85/month, and you can use your data for your laptop, tablet, mobile hotspot, USB modem, and LTE camera. Overages cost $10 per 2GB. This data can’t be used internationally but you can always add on an international data plan. If you are interested in the 35GB data-only plan, you may want to compare it with the AT&T Unlimited Elite Plan, which also costs $85/month and gives you both unlimited data and 30GB of mobile hotspot, which you can use to connect to capable devices.

If you’d rather opt for a prepaid tablet plan so you don’t have to worry about overage fees, AT&T offers 3GB ($25), 10GB ($50), and 18GB ($75) prepaid data-only plans available for tablets and mobile hotspots. Other prepaid data-only plans include the DataConnect Pass for tablets, cameras, and gaming devices—2GB for $30/month for 90 days or 25GB for $40/month for 30 days.

Before signing up for an AT&T data-only or phone plan, you’ll want to make sure AT&T, which has 68% network coverage, covers your area.



MVNO data-only plans

Many MVNOs, or small carriers that run on one or more major networks, offer data-only tablet plans for cheap. MVNOs offering cheap tablet and hotspot plans include:

  • US Mobile
  • FreedomPop
  • Tello
  • Google Fi
  • Red Pocket
  • Net10
  • Straight Talk
  • Ting
  • Republic Wireless
  • Simple Mobile
  • Cricket Wireless
  • Metro by T-Mobile

MVNOs are able to offer cheaper data-only plans because they buy data wholesale from the major carriers and resell them at lower prices. You may want to consider an MVNO if you want to save some money on your monthly bill but still want the benefits of accessing mobile data on the go. If you decide you want a traditional phone plan through an MVNO, then you can compare MVNO phone plans below.

When to consider a phone plan with hotspot

It’s easy to see that data-only tablet plans, particularly through the major carriers, can be rather expensive, especially if you opt for more than 20GB/month. While data-only plans can be great for connecting to the internet without WiFi access, there are other options as far as connectivity on the go. For example, many phone plans include dedicated hotspot allowances or hotspot capabilities, which means you can use your cell phone to connect other devices to the data on your phone plan. Phone plans with hotspot allowances tend to provide you with a better value since you get talk, text, data, and mobile hotspot for under $100/month. You can compare the best hotspot phone plans here, and decide what’s best for you and your wireless priorities.

Frequently asked questions about data-only plans

Who has the best data-only plan?

Many different cell phone carriers offer excellent data-only plans. The best data-only plan depends on how much data you need and which devices you need it for—you’ll want to check out both major and small carriers to find the best data-only plan for you.

How can I use data only?

Every carrier is different as to which devices you can access data on, but once you sign up for a data-only plan, you’ll receive a SIM card, which you can then insert into your device. Then, you'll want to follow the instructions to set up your device.

Who has the cheapest unlimited data plan?

Mint Mobile has the cheapest unlimited data plan, which costs $30/month for a 3-month bundle. However, that is only an introductory price for new customers, and the cost will increase after the initial 3 months, unless you renew your plan with the 12-month bundle. If you’d prefer a traditional 30-day phone plan, Visible offers an unlimited plan for $40/month with taxes and fees included.