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Ten Things You Need to Know About Your Cellular AT&T Postpaid Wireless Service by GaryLaPointe

Former Employee

Ten Things You Need to Know About Your Cellular AT&T Postpaid Wireless Service

by @Gary L


My list of things you should know. Keep in mind, things change so you should always check the web to read the most current information on whatever topic is important to YOU.


  • What plan do you have?
    You should know THE name of the plan you have. No one can answer a question (pricing, coverage in Canada, Mexico, etc.) about your plan if they don’t know what plan it is.

“3 GB” is not a plan it’s the amount of data in your plan (Mobile Share Value/Flex/Advantage, Nationwide or some other variation is the plan) and neither is “Unlimited” or even “Grandfathered Unlimited” (there are at least FOUR generations of postpaid grandfathered unlimited plans at this point, with SIX or so different plans).

You should compare the cost of your plan to current plans at least twice a year! I’ve seen people paying $20-$40 too much for years and years, for no reason other than they never bothered to take five minutes to check.


  • When you pay your bill has nothing to do with your data usage cycle (your month of data).
    You might be halfway through your new billing cycle when you pay your bill, so don’t think that you just paid and you’ve got a month of data now, your statement due date has nothing to do when your data cycle starts and ends.


I’ve seen many questions that say “I just paid my bill, and I’m out of data already,” but your statement isn’t often due until over halfway through your cycle.


  • The plan you are on might not be the most cost-effective plan for you.

Do not assume that since you’re on an old discontinued (“Grandfathered”) plan that it might be the best plan for you.


Look at the current plans and see if they might be better priced for you.


  • Speaking of data…

Your phone has a meter in it that tracks your data usage unless something is really wrong, it’s going to be 100% accurate. AT&T’s reporting can be up to 72 hours delayed (even longer when roaming or traveling internationally), so you can see how much you’ve used and which apps are using the most data. You can also forbid some apps from using cellular data.


WARNING: Some phones, such as iPhones,  do not automatically reset your data the start of your new cycle, you need to set it to zero each month. Before resetting, be sure to take a quick look and see which apps used the most.


  • Know your restrictions on Unlimited plans and understand what “deprioritized”
  1. i) Unlimited is not capped at 22GB.
    ii) Unlimited does not drop to a specific speed after 22GB.
    iii) You might not even notice that you used more than 22GB with your unlimited plan.
    iv) Some unlimited plans are deprioritized with the first byte (if it doesn’t list 22GB, then it’s all data).


Most AT&T unlimited lines are deprioritized at 22GB (some of the cheaper unlimited are deprioritized all the time) and what this means is that if you are using a congested/busy cell tower then you get served last (after the prioritized requests) it’s not a specific speed it’s all based on if the tower is busy. If I’m in a rural area, after 22GB I might be still getting better speeds than when I’m in the city before 22GB. To be clear, this is 22GB for each line.


Some people might live by a tower that is super overloaded all the time, and there isn’t much they can do about it, that’s just the way it is for them (this is based on the complaints I have seen on the forum), I’d guess the “over 22GB is unusable” group at less than 5% of the people in the forums (I’m really thinking it’s more like <2%), but I have no hard data on this.


Keep in mind, the newer less expensive unlimited plans (Unlimited Choice Enhanced and Unlimited &more) are immediately deprioritized, and in many areas, this works fine for most people. I’ve seen reports that people who had the less expensive plan that was 3Mbps upgraded to the newer plan (that is deprioritized all the time) and they now have much better speeds.


It’s unlimited data, but it’s not always full speed unlimited data (and for most people that likely will not matter).


See #6 for hotspot information on your unlimited plan.


  • Mobile Hotspot or “hotspotting” with your phone is sharing your phone’s data with a tablet or computer.

Be careful when you do this! Your laptop or tablet might decide to start doing updates which could burn through gigabytes (GB) of data in a few minutes (if you’ve got really good speeds). Your device might just thing it’s connected to WiFi and start doing all sorts of background tasks.


Be careful when you do this! Your laptop or tablet might decide to start doing updates which could burn through gigabytes (GB) of data in a few minutes (if you’ve got great speeds). Your device might just think it’s connected to WiFi and start doing all sorts of background tasks and updates.


I’m an Apple person, and my iPad and my MacBook are smart enough to know when I connect to my iPhone to share, it gives a different kind of WiFi icon, and it’s smart enough not to start doing data-intensive background “things” on its own since it knows it’s on cellular. I’m not sure about other platforms (Android, Windows, Linux and mixing them with other platforms like Apple).


Hotspotting works differently on fixed data plans and unlimited plans.


FIXED PLAN MOBILE HOTSPOT: If you’re on a fixed data plan 3GB or 20GB (or whatever), your hotspot just uses the plans data and once it’s gone on a fixed data plan, you start paying for overages (on an older plan) or on a newer plan you drop to the excruciatingly slow speed of 128Kbps (0.128Mbps) for all your data on the plan for the rest of your cycle. By excruciatingly slow, I mean that it’s pretty unusable.


UNLIMITED PLAN MOBILE HOTSPOT: Your mobile hotspot on an unlimited plan (unlimited plans from before 2017 do not have this feature), which can share with a tablet or computer is restricted to 10GB or 15GB (depending on the plan you have) is slowed to the excruciatingly slow speed of 128Kbps (0.128Mbps) once you cross the threshold. If you’re not streaming video/animated gifs (or lots of audio) 10GB (or 15GB) is a lot of data to use. And, of course, your hotspot data counts towards your 22GB deprioritization limit. Again, by excruciatingly slow, I mean that it’s pretty unusable.


  • Does your plan include Canada and Mexico roaming?
    It depends.


You need to read your plan description to see if it has either, it’s a really good idea to keep a copy of your plan description so you can check these things. If it’s part of your plan, it’s not necessarily listed in the feature list so it’s hard to look up.


You should be able to see these plan names in your account settings at att.com, you need to check EACH line. You cannot buy these Canada and/or Mexico plans:

  • Roam Mexico: Unlimited calling to/from Mexico/US while using your plans data plan.
  • Roam North America: Unlimited calling to/from Canada/Mexico/US while using your plans data plan.
  • Mexico Roaming Bonus*: Unlimited calling to/from Mexico/US with 1GB of data ($20 for overages).
  • Canada Roaming Bonus*: Unlimited calling to/from Canada/US with 1GB of data ($20 for overages).

* For the “bonus” plans, you basically get these by being super nice to an awesome rep in the customer loyalty department and beg them to add it to EACH line (you should then verify this for each line on your plan).


Some newer plans have Mexico and sometimes Canada, but you need to see your plan description to verify this (which is hard to find for expired plans). That makes this hard to check if it’s NOT listed and you don’t have a copy of your plan description.


At one point Mobile Share Value (MSV) started coming with Roam Mexico on 10GB or more plans, but it wasn’t automatically retroactive to older MSV plans (because it might have interfered with other features). You should be able to turn this on yourself in your account at att.com, so while it might be available, you need to turn it on.


WARNING: Some plans have some restrictions that if you use your plan in Mexico or Canada for more than 50% of the time for two or more consecutive months, they can take this feature away.


  • Traveling internationally outside of North America (or if your plan doesn’t cover areas in North America outside the United States).
    Get a plan. This is insanely expensive without a plan, it’s $2.05 per MB which works out to $2,050 for 1GB. If you have no plan and you have data off and tap the wrong button and enable it, your phone could easily download 100MB before you realize it and bill you $205.00. That’s IF you actually have it off.


You have two options: International Day Pass or Passport.


  • International Day Pass ($10 a day) uses your plan as is and you can use it in compatible countries. If you have 10GB or Unlimited, that’s what you get. To me this plan is the best choice IF you need to use lots of data, you need to make LOTS of phone calls (the passport charges 35 cents a minute), or it’s a short trip (less than 6 days). Unless something has changed, I’m not sure you can get IDP in all the countries you can get the passport in, the passport plan may have more countries.


  • Passport ($60/$130 for 30 days). The passport plan is unlimited texting (both ways), 35 cents a minute, and 1GB for $60 (3GB for $130). It’s $50 for overages, which gets you 1GB more.


AT&T does NOT guarantee the quality of service you’ll get in these countries. They’re just making you a deal so that you pay less.


Before leaving the country, you MUST verify that only one option is activated on each line that you want to use. If you have two enabled, I believe that the IDP takes precedence and you’re paying for no reason with your passport plan.


  • Promotional offers that AT&T offers are available on-line. Read it and the fine print (then read it again!) and print a copy for your records when the offer is over you won’t be able to find it again.
    Most promos (not all) have a requirement:
    • A new line.
    • A ported in number and line from another provider. Not from a provider affiliated with AT&T (like prepaid, Cricket, and possibly some others).
    • TV service: DirecTV or U-Verse (DirecTV Now has never counted as TV service for an offer).


  • Save $10 on your wireless service by going paperless.


  • Not all plans have this discount!
  • You must also be paying with a debit or checking account to get this discount.


How do I know things?  I love to travel!

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