ChatGPT vs. ChatGPT Plus: Is the Upgrade Still Worth It With GPT-4o?

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The launch of OpenAI’s GPT-4o has once again shaken up the world of AI language models. As the successor to the groundbreaking GPT-4, GPT-4o promises even more advanced natural language capabilities that blur the line between human and machine-generated content.

But what does this mean for the existing ChatGPT and ChatGPT Plus offerings?

With GPT-4o now being the model used for both versions of ChatGPT, has its arrival erased the differences between ChatGPT Plus vs. free, or are there still compelling reasons to upgrade to the paid tier?

Key Takeaways

  • GPT-4o has narrowed the gap between free ChatGPT and ChatGPT Plus.
  • ChatGPT Plus offers higher usage limits compared to the free version.
  • Heavy users, businesses, and those who need consistent access benefit most from ChatGPT Plus.
  • Free ChatGPT with GPT-4o satisfies the needs of most casual users and is a great starting point.

Understanding GPT-4o: OpenAI’s Latest Model

Before diving into the ChatGPT vs. ChatGPT Plus comparison, it’s important to understand what GPT-4o is and how it differs from its predecessors. GPT-4o is the latest iteration of OpenAI’s large language model, built upon the advances of GPT-4 and GPT-3.5.

Some advanced capabilities of GPT-4o include:

  • Expanded Knowledge Cutoff: GPT-4o has been trained on a vast corpus of online data up until June 2023, giving it more current knowledge compared to GPT-4’s October 2022 cutoff.
  • Improved Multilingual Capabilities: While GPT-4 excelled at English-based tasks, GPT-4o has been optimized for better performance across a wider range of languages.
  • Enhanced Reasoning and Problem-Solving: Compared to GPT-4, GPT-4o demonstrates even more advanced capabilities in areas like math, coding, and complex reasoning.
  • More Nuanced Language Understanding: GPT-4o picks up on subtle context clues and can engage in more human-like dialogue compared to previous models.

New Features in GPT-4o
Language Support Over 50 languages for user interface
Voice Conversations Enables more natural, real-time voice chats
Image/Document Uploads Allows uploading images, screenshots, and documents to start conversations
Web Browsing Can search the web for real-time information during chats
Speed Faster response times compared to GPT-4
Memory Includes memory for greater continuity across conversations
Plugins Expanded plugin support for enhanced capabilities
Data Analysis Advanced data analysis via chart/tool uploads
Availability Iterative rollout starting May 15, 2024, to Plus, Team, and Enterprise users; some free access
Message Cap 80 messages every 3 hours for Plus users
API Available for developers, 50% cheaper and 5x rate limits vs. GPT-4

ChatGPT Free vs. ChatGPT Plus: What’s the Difference Now?

With the introduction of the GPT-4o model to both the free and paid versions of ChatGPT, many users are wondering if there’s still a compelling reason to upgrade to ChatGPT Plus.


In the past, the main distinction between ChatGPT Free vs. Plus was the underlying language model — GPT-3.5 for the free version and GPT-4 Turbo for the paid tier. However, now that both versions have access to GPT-4o, this difference has largely vanished.

So what sets ChatGPT Plus apart in the GPT-4o era? The primary remaining differentiator is usage limits.

While both free and paid users can now leverage the advanced capabilities of GPT-4o, free users will face restrictions on the number of messages they can send. When free users hit their cap, ChatGPT will automatically switch over to the GPT-3.5 model for their queries.

In contrast, ChatGPT Plus subscribers will enjoy significantly higher usage limits – around five times that of free users, according to OpenAI. This means paid users can ask GPT-4o a much greater volume of questions before being throttled.

Even when they exceed their GPT-4o limit, they will still have access to the GPT-4 model rather than being bumped down to GPT-3.5 like free users.

According to OpenAI:

“As of May 13th, 2024, Plus users will be able to send up to 80 messages every 3 hours on GPT-4o and up to 40 messages every 3 hours on GPT-4. We may reduce the limit during peak hours to keep GPT-4 and GPT-4o accessible to the widest number of people.”

It’s worth noting that the current GPT-4o usage limits for both free and paid users may just be a starting point.

Many experts anticipate that OpenAI will gradually increase the caps over time as they fine-tune the model and assess its capacity. The company has been conservative with access to their latest models in the past to avoid overwhelming their systems.

Beyond usage limits, ChatGPT Plus still offers a few other benefits, like guaranteed access during peak times, faster response speeds, and priority customer support.

However, with the core language model advantage now equalized, these perks may not be enough to justify the $20 per month ChatGPT pricing for casual users.

Ultimately, whether the ChatGPT subscription is worth it will depend on your use case and query volume.

Heavy ChatGPT users who consistently exceed the free tier limits will likely find value in upgrading to maintain uninterrupted access to GPT-4o. More casual users who only need occasional queries may be content with the free offering now that it includes the advanced model.

Comparison of text evaluation performance between GPT-4o and other LLMs
Comparison of text evaluation performance between GPT-4o and other LLMs – Source: OpenAI

When to Use ChatGPT Plus

Despite the narrowing of the gap between ChatGPT Plus vs ChatGPT Free, there are still some compelling scenarios where upgrading to the paid tier makes sense. If any of the following use cases resonate with your needs, it may be worth considering a ChatGPT Plus subscription:

Heavy ChatGPT Users

If you find yourself constantly pushing up against the usage limits on the free tier, ChatGPT Plus could be a worthwhile investment.

With five times the query capacity of free users, the paid version provides much more breathing room for power users who rely on ChatGPT for a significant part of their workflow.

Professionals or Businesses

For professionals and businesses who use ChatGPT as a key productivity tool, the guaranteed access and priority support of the paid tier could be valuable.

The last thing you want is to be locked out of the service during crucial work hours because you’ve hit your limit or the system is overloaded.

Early Adopters or Tech Enthusiasts

For users who pride themselves on always having access to the latest and greatest technology, ChatGPT Plus holds an undeniable appeal.

Even if you don’t necessarily need the higher usage limits, being able to test out new features and improvements to the GPT-4o model as soon as they’re available could be worth the subscription cost.

When to Use the Free Version of ChatGPT

With the free version of ChatGPT now powered by the advanced GPT-4o model, many users may find that the complimentary tier meets their needs.

Here are some scenarios where sticking with free ChatGPT vs, ChatGPT Plus is likely the most practical choice:

Casual Users and Hobbyists

If you only use ChatGPT occasionally for tasks like brainstorming ideas, getting writing inspiration, or asking one-off questions, the free version should be more than sufficient.

The usage limits on the free tier are designed to accommodate the needs of casual users, so you likely won’t feel constrained unless you start using the tool much more frequently.

Budget-Conscious Users

For users who are price-sensitive or simply can’t justify the ChatGPT price of the paid tier, the free version remains a powerful and versatile tool. Especially now that it has access to GPT-4o, the free tier offers an impressive range of capabilities at no cost.

If you’re on a tight budget or just starting to explore AI language tools, it makes sense to start with the free version and only consider upgrading if you consistently hit the usage limits.

Users With Simpler Query Needs

If your primary use case for ChatGPT involves straightforward queries and prompts, you may not notice a significant difference between the free and paid versions.

Infrequent Users

For users who only turn to ChatGPT sporadically or for one-off projects, the ChatGPT subscription model may not make sense. If you know you’ll only need the tool for a specific, time-limited purpose, you can likely accomplish your goals within the constraints of the free tier.

The Bottom Line

While the launch of GPT-4o has narrowed the gap between ChatGPT vs ChatGPT Plus, there are still some key differences to consider. The paid tier offers significantly higher usage limits, guaranteed access, and a few other perks that may be worth it for power users and businesses.

However, thanks to the GPT-4o model, the free version now provides an impressive range of capabilities for the majority of casual users. Ultimately, whether ChatGPT Plus is worth it depends on your individual use case, query volume, and budget.


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Alex McFarland
AI Journalist
Alex McFarland
AI Journalist

Alex is the creator of AI Disruptor, an AI-focused newsletter for entrepreneurs and businesses. Alongside his role at Techopedia, he serves as a lead writer at Unite.AI, collaborating with several successful startups and CEOs in the industry. With a history degree and as an American expat in Brazil, he offers a unique perspective to the AI field.