Last week, I shared that maintaining internet connectivity is one of my biggest challenges on the road. If you are retired or just want to unplug from the world, this is likely a good problem to have. However, I work 50-hour weeks, remotely. Of that time, about 20 hours go toward managing content for my blog, vlog, and social media. Moving that content around, especially videos, requires a lot of bandwidth and high data caps.
To meet my high-consumption data needs, I have tested out seven different data plans. If you’re currently trying to decide what data plan works best for RVers, you can test all seven, as well — or, you can use my recommendations as your starting point!
The 5 Best Data Plans for Digital Nomads
These are the data plans I am either currently using or left through no real fault of their own. While I do recommend these products, I cannot promise that you will have the same great experiences that I did. Do your due diligence to determine if these plans are right for you.
1. Google Fi Unlimited
I bought a Google Pixel 2XL in July 2018 and opted into the Google Fi plan. Since then, I’ve taken my Google Fi into about six countries with decent to excellent results. It uses towers from U.S. Cellular, Sprint, and T-Mobile. Because of this, you are rarely without a connection. Even when my Verizon-backed Visible plan did not have service, my Google Fi did. Even so, I soon discovered that more often than not, my service came from T-Mobile. It’s cheaper to buy a plan directly from T-Mobile or its resellers than to keep Google Fi, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t miss them terribly.
Cost: $70 plus taxes and fees for one line. $45 plus taxes and fees per month for four lines or more.
Throttle Point: 22GB but you can restore high speeds at $10 per GB.
Awesome Perks: Excellent customer service. Works well overseas. Free calling to 50 foreign countries from the U.S.
Downsides: The throttle point is low compared to other providers and it’s pricey for just one line.
Current Status: Great company, but I wanted cost savings via Mint Mobile. I no longer have an active account.
2. Mint Mobile Unlimited
Mint Mobile was the cheaper T-Mobile reseller that caught my eye. The company had some interesting, foxy marketing going on and I liked their sense of humour. Call the customer service line and you might hear, “Aw, fox! We’re sorry to hear you’re having trouble with your service. How can we help?” The company also allows you to pay your bill up to 12 months in advance with bulk-rate discounts. I have had zero issues with them, so far, and would recommend them to anyone.
Cost: $40 for one line for 3 months. $35 for one line for 6 months. $30 for one line for 12 months.
Throttle Point: 35 GB
Awesome Perks: Great customer service. Reliable connection. Unbeatable price point. Hilarious marketing.
Downsides: Hotspot is restricted to only 5GB for the unlimited plan. (I rarely use mine as a hotspot and have never maxed this out. Some phones are not compatible with WiFi calling or texting on the network. Also, unlike its parent company T-Mobile, roaming is not free.
Current Status: I still have an active plan and recently renewed it for another three months.
3. T-Mobile 5G MiFi 100GB Hotspot
T-Mobile came to my rescue after I blasted AT&T on Twitter for reasons I will get to in a moment, but this is not my first time using them. When I bought Google Fi service in 2018, the phone carrier I left behind was T-Mobile. Until that point, I had T-Mobile service from 2015. They were a good phone company, but one week the service went down. I was about to buy a new Google phone anyway, so I switched to Google Fi. I love the 5G MiFi device and highly recommend it with the 100GB plan. Note that while you receive 100GB of 4G LTE or 5G data, the plan is actually unlimited.
Cost: 100GB of data for $50, plus taxes and fees. The financed 5G MiFi adds $7 to your monthly bill with a 50% off promo. There are cheaper devices, so decide for yourself if the extra speed is worth the extra price.
Throttle Point: 100GB***
Awesome Perks: The 5G MiFi device offers blazing fast internet and is portable. Activating the device was easy. Connecting my devices to the WiFi was also very easy. T-Mobile just merged with Sprint, so that significantly expands its coverage.
Downsides: Customer service agents are eager to help, but are not always helpful. Our agent took forever to get the task done, messed up the address, and somehow changed my dad’s account pin without his consent. We received a $20 credit on the account for the inconvenience. The MiFi device’s battery life isn’t the best. Consider turning it off when not in use.
***Even though the throttle point is 100GB, T-Mobile might de-prioritize you after 50GB when the network is congested. My plan specifically says this only happens after 100GB, but T-Mobile said otherwise. Please see the screenshots below and draw your own conclusions, as the agents did not give me a satisfactory response. So far, I haven’t noticed any throttling.
Current Status: Despite the mishaps and confusion, I still have the service and still love it.
4. T-Mobile SyncUP 100GB Car Hotspot
While I was waiting for the agent to get back to my dad about the 5G MiFi hotspot, I called a friend. She was on the phone with T-Mobile and added me to the call. The agent gladly listened to my needs and informed me there was a current promotion that would give me the SyncUp device for free. All I had to pay was taxes and the device could be mine with any plan of my choice. My friend graciously added the device to her account and had it shipped to me overnight. It came days before the 5G MiFi device, which almost ended up getting lost in the mail because of an address error. This agent also told me I could get 50% off the 5G MiFi device, while the other agent did not.
Cost: 100GB of data for $50, plus taxes and fees. The device cost a total of around $8 in taxes and fees. I paid $11 for overnight shipping because I was completely out of high-speed data.
Throttle Point: 100GB
Awesome Perks: The SyncUp car hotspot is not just a hotspot. It’s my AI mechanic and my security device for my truck. It plugs into the OBD II Port and scans for codes. I know if my truck is bumped, moved, or otherwise disturbed. It alerts me when I exit my safety zone. It even reminds me when to get maintenance and what items are due. All of this is included with the device and free app, regardless of the data plan you choose. Most of the videos and photos I take are while adventuring away from the RV, so the car WiFi enables me to upload those to Google servers on my way back home.
Downsides: Unlike AT&T’s HARMAN Spark, the truck does not need to be in motion for the WiFi to work, but the truck does need to be on. This is not convenient for everyone’s purposes, but it works well for me.
Current Status: I think this is a great service for any digital nomad with a vehicle. I reduced my plan to around 10 GB and that has been working fine for me.
5. Visible Unlimited
I was very excited to get Visible for a few reasons. First, it came highly recommended from an RVer whose opinions I take with zero grains of salt. I respect her immensely. Next, it is owned by Verizon and allegedly had access to the Verizon towers. Finally, it was a truly unlimited plan with no throttling. Sadly, things did not go entirely as planned the first time I tried it. However, so far, the second round has been much better.
Cost: $40 per month. If you use this link we’ll both get a month of service for just $5.
Throttle: None, as far as I know.
Awesome Perks: It is very affordable and is comparable in cost to only my Mint Mobile plan. If you get a phone number with them, you can choose the number you want from available listings. I use this phone for my heavy downloads because I have never experienced throttling. The service is usually fast and the WiFi texting and calling works well.
Downsides: I bought Visible before leaving Atlanta. It worked well in the city. When I arrived in the remote areas of Lake Mead, where I camped, my Google Fi had spotty signal and worked okay-ish. My Visible had almost full bars of signal and an X. What did this mean? It means that Visible could pick up the nearby Verizon towers, but Verizon was not allowing me to access them because I was a de-prioritized small-fry. Every so often, during non-peak hours, I would get service. But, for the most part, it did not work.
The customer service was also horrendous and the company had multiple glitches with my account. Halfway into my plan, I began receiving emails asking why I had not activated my phone plan and then “sorry to see you go” emails. By the time I switched this phone over to Mint Mobile, the company could not confirm if I had an active account. I ended up losing my phone number and had to get a brand-new one from Mint Mobile.
In the second round, I had no such issues with Visible. Porting my number across was easy and service was immediate. I do still notice sometimes that I’m de-prioritized in areas that have terrible service. But, for the price, I can’t complain.
Current Status: I switched back to Visible because Verizon had equally horrendous customer service and cost more than twice as much.
The 2 Worst Data Plans for RVers
I know experienced, full-time RVers and van-dwellers who swear by AT&T and Visible. In fact, their recommendations are one of the reasons I looked into these services. However, I had terrible experiences with both. Your personal experience might be different. Companies and company policies change all the time. Nevertheless, this is why I do not recommend AT&T or Visible.
1. Verizon Get More Unlimited 5G
The only reason I had Verizon was to ensure I have connectivity everywhere I go. It was my very expensive Plan B. In fact, it was my most expensive phone plan and my least recommended. Verizon rarely worked in places that my Mint Mobile phone did not. The only two places I know with better Verizon signal than T-Mobile signal are Southern Alaska, Lake Mead, and Northeastern Wyoming.
Cost: Your initial bill with Verizon will be higher than all the others because of extra fees. Mine came to $151.93. Since then, my bill has continued to fluctuate, despite an $85 monthly quote. I paid $84.58 for the second month and $94.93 for the third month. My bill this month is also $94.93. Verizon gives you a $300 gift card, but it can create complications when you use it to pay your phone bill.
Throttle Point: 30GB
Awesome Perks: I got free Disney Plus, HULU, Apple Music, and ESPN. I don’t use these services, but my parents do. So, I created accounts and gave them the passwords. Note that even though Verizon says it only pays for the HULU with ads, if you choose to upgrade to ad-free HULU, that payment can subsidize the cost.
Downsides: I don’t have a 5G-capable phone, so I get regular 4G LTE speeds. The price is too high and the customer service is awful. If you’re expecting immediate responses in the live chat, think again. One agent explained to me that it’s not an actual chat on their end. It’s text messages and they are expected to talk to multiple customers at once. You will find yourself waiting for several minutes for one reply, even after being connected to an agent. When signing up, I could not chat with an agent because you have to log in to get access to chats and I didn’t have a line or an account. That makes zero sense. Account activities, such as paying your bill with your gift card, can also cause a glitch that removes your $10 autopay discount and it’s a hassle to get back on.
***UPDATE Feb.08.2021*** Verizon told me that not only did the gift card cancel my autopay discount, but I was never receiving it at all. It takes roughly 2 billing cycles before you start receiving the discount. This will reset every time you use a different payment method from your autopay setup, so keep this in mind. I just think it’s ridiculous to give us a gift card and then penalize us for using it. I also think it’s false advertising to tell me I’m getting the discount, take 2 months to deliver it, and then never credit the account for the previous months of using autopay.
Current Status: I dumped Verizon. I did not like the service and find that Visible works well enough as a replacement. When I left Verizon, they sent me a bill for the gift card I had received even though I had already passed the eligibility period. I didn’t see the email for a week and in the second week, they started threatening to send it to collections if I didn’t pay immediately. The payment link didn’t work because I had no account to sign into. So, I was forced to pay over the phone and paid a ridiculous fee for doing this instead of using the link — as if I had a choice.
2. AT&T Business Unlimited Elite
When I saw 100GB of hotspot advertising on Twitter for businesses, it immediately caught my eye. While it costs about the same as Verizon, it offered more than three times the un-throttled data, so it was well worth the price. I was ecstatic to try the service and immediately tried to sign up.
Cost: $85 per month for one line
Awesome Perks: High data cap. Unlimited texts and calls to Mexico and Canada.
Downside: The trouble started the first day I called. I was re-routed to multiple servers and then told the contact centre was closed. I had the same issue the next day. Finally, I got through and set up a business account, which is a lengthy process. I asked to have my sim card shipped overnight. It did not arrive that day or the day after that or the day after that; so, I called back. Once again, I was re-routed through multiple servers and told the business was closed. Finally, I got through and spoke to a rep, who sent me out a second sim card. This one came overnight, along with a HARMAN Spark, which is the AT&T version of T-Mobile’s SyncUp.
I was excited to get started, but could not activate the sim card online; so, I called. While I was on the phone with AT&T, trying to activate the line, a second call came in. Naturally, I was busy, so I didn’t answer. Then, the fraud department conferenced in to say that because I did not answer the phone — the same phone I was on, talking to them — they could not confirm I had a legitimate business.
After two or three more days, half a dozen agents and hours on the phone, I stopped taking their calls and asked my dad to order me a T-Mobile hotspot. I packed everything back in their boxes, slapped on the return label, and dropped them off at the nearest USPS.
Current Status: The friend who got me the T-Mobile Sync expressed having similar problems with AT&T, as did multiple people who saw my post on Twitter. Note that I set up a business account, not a personal account. I do not currently have an active account with them and finally received my refund.
Getting reliable data is essential to surviving as a digital nomad with an active social media presence. If you don’t mind going to local coffee shops and you spend a lot of time in the city, buying expensive data plans might not be the best choice for you. I spend a lot of time in rural areas and prefer not to frequent public spaces during a pandemic. Driving to a spot in my gas-guzzling truck every time I need WiFi does not make economical sense for me, either.
So, if you’re like me and need high-speed data in rural areas, I hope you find my recommendations helpful. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to ask. Note that if you use the Mint Mobile link, I may receive a referral credit toward my bill when you sign up. However, this is not a sponsored post. All opinions are my own and I paid for all services and devices out of pocket (or, in the case of business plans, via my company: Alexis Chateau PR).