AT&T imposes several fees that annoy customers but are generally lower than or equal to those at Verizon and Sprint. AT&T is a good option for international travelers, as GSM phones work well overseas and international talk, text, and data packages are reasonably priced.
AT&T traces its history back to 1875 and the inventor Alexander Graham Bell, but remains a player in the 21st century with slightly lower mobile phone fees than some of the competition. Still, be prepared to pay a $36 activation fee and an additional $36 to upgrade a phone, about on par with Sprint and Verizon Wireless but leagues behind the no-fee T-Mobile.
In spite of the overwhelming bad press AT&T attracted with its new 61-cent administrative fee - some customers threatened to quit the wireless carrier and some claim to have done so - this charge is actually lower than that assessed for years by Verizon Wireless and Sprint. AT&T fees for canceling a contract (a.k.a., the early termination fee) are also slightly lower than those imposed by these two carriers. AT&T's shared family plan is expensive however. 2GB of data costs $55 per month and each line costs $40 on top of that. Sprint and Verizon charge $20-$40 for additional lines; T-Mobile demands $10 for each extra line.
Usage-based fees at AT&T for voice and text are equal to, or less than, overages at Verizon Wireless and Sprint (new T-Mobile plans impose no limits on either). AT&T fees for exceeding a plan's monthly allotments cost 35-45 cents for each extra minute and 20-30 cents for each message. Data overages can run up to $20 for 300 megabytes or $10 for each extra gigabyte, depending on the plan -- fees that are cheaper than those at Sprint and about the same, on average, as those at Verizon. (T-Mobile sets no data limits but with some plans slows transmission after hitting a ceiling.) AT&T no longer charges roaming fees but reserves the right to curtail service for too much off-network usage.
AT&T fees for international travelers are in the ballpark, especially if they buy an upgrade package that unlocks cheaper rates. Prices for the upgrade vary by the number of minutes and the calling zone, topping out at $120 a month for 100 minutes outside of the Europe region, Canada, and Mexico. Text packages are also available by the month (up to $60 for 600 messages) as are data packages (800MB of data in select countries goes for $120 a month). Forgoing these packages can be a costly mistake. For example, calls originating or received outside of North America and Europe cost $2.60 a minute ($1.50 in Europe); messages received are 20 cents apiece and each outgoing text is 50 cents; 1MB of data is priced at $19.97 everywhere but Canada. Of course, owners of unlocked AT&T phones can buy local SIM cards because the phones work on the GSM network. U.S.-based customers who frequently call and text overseas also can sign up for reduced-rate packages: $3.99 a month for calls and $15 a month for 1,000 messages.
With competitive fees and an extensive coverage map, both domestic and international, AT&T is a worthy contender.