Finding the best family cell phone plans is a big deal in today’s speedy and expensive world. Without family plans – otherwise known as a group or shared plans – families and groups would suffer from exponentially higher phone bills. With family plans, you are saving money that would instead go toward other bills or a much-needed vacation.
In my research, I made sure that the value and benefits were at the top of my list. Some family plans are cheaper, while others carry greater benefits at a more expensive fee. Knowing this, what is the best provider when it comes to the best family cell phone plan? Well, I’m here to help you decide what services will provide you with the greatest value.
When selecting the best cell phone family plan, there are many factors to take into account. When you do your own research, here are a few things to reflect on:
Some providers offer valuable incentives alongside their family plan to lure in potential new customers. This might include a certain number of phones added for free or a hefty discount on added lines. Incentives are always a great way to attract fresh customers, but there are other factors to acknowledge, which could extend the duration of customer’s stay with the provider and enhance the customer’s loyalty with said provider.
Pricing is a major factor for most families who are seeking a shared plan. According to ABC News, as of May 2015, the average American spent roughly $1,000 a year on their cell phone bill. Fortunately, all family plans are valuable in comparison to single plans, but some are far cheaper than others. Not only should the monthly fees be taken into account, but additional fees, such as monthly phone charges should also be considered.
Features, such as a data plan, should be factored in when deciding upon a family plan. Data is important in today’s world, whether for streaming video and music, using a GPS, or just passing time at a dentist appointment.
Coverage is important, especially in today’s world. Families and groups need to be, for the most part, connected with not only their phones but with each other. If a service offers poor coverage, that service is limiting the connectivity a group has.
The Best Family Cell Phone Plans for 2018
Verizon has a family plan called Go Unlimited. The plan may include numerous lines. For just one line, you have to pay $85. However, the price goes as low as $50 each if you have four lines or more. For example, you may have 5 lines within your plan and it will cost you $250 per month. Though, there may be added fees and taxes on top of that charge.
You get unlimited calling, text and high-speed data with the Go Unlimited plan. With this plan, if you go over 22 GB of data in the month, then the speed will temporarily slow down. This is a common form of throttling that helps to discourage people from overusing their mobile data.
HD video streaming has a resolution of 720p for smartphones, and for tablets, the resolution may climb as high as 1080p. Texts and calls will be free of charge nationally (i.e. they are included in the plan), and some of your international is included in your plans, such as if you are calling Canada or Mexico.
Verizon’s prices are rather high – you may want to bring your own phone in this case if you’re eligible. But for the price you pay, you’ll earn quality coverage in most areas, including remote and rural locations. Verizon might not offer as many perks as T-Mobile, but it’s a top-tier provider with great plans, even if a little on the expensive side.
- 1 Line: $75/line
- 2 Lines: $65/line ($130/mo)
- 3 Lines: $50/line ($150/mo)
- 4 Lines: $40/line ($160/mo)
If you are looking for the cheapest family plan, then you may want to consider T-Mobile’s ONE plan, which provides unlimited 4G LTE data, talk, and text, including unlimited mobile hotspot at data speeds that top out at 512kbps, unlimited 480p video streaming; unlimited talk, text, and 4G LTE data in Mexico and Canada; and unlimited text, unlimited 128kbps data, and $0.20 per minute calls in more than 140 countries and destinations. T-Mobile One customers will also get unlimited texting/messaging on their flights as well as one free hour of Gogo in-flight Wi-Fi. However, if you’re in the top three percent of data users (using more than 28GB per month) you’ll notice reduced speeds until the next billing cycle.
Pricing for T-Mobile One starts at $140 for four lines ($35 per line) or $140 a month for a family of three ($47 per line), the lengthy list of T-Mobile perks makes it hard to pass up, although T-Mobile’s coverage in your area will certainly play a factor.
Keep in mind that those prices factor in AutoPay, which gets you a $5 per line per month discount when enabled. If you’re not enrolled in AutoPay, the monthly cost for each line increases $5 per month. You can add a tablet to your T-Mobile One plan for $20 per month, or a wearable for $5 per month.
T-Mobile also carries another major advantage: for one, it offers quite a few perks, including T-Mobile Tuesdays that allow customers to earn free stuff, such as free movies, free treats, and more, every Tuesday. As an added bonus, you can also own shares of the company. Sometimes, T-Mobile offers holiday incentives and other promotions, such as receiving a prepaid MasterCard worth up to $800 when switching your family of four to T-Mobile and trading in your old devices.
Of course, T-Mobile bears some disadvantages. One major disadvantage of T-Mobile is that the service in rural areas is lackluster. For instance, there are quite a few locations in Maine (even where there is a T-Mobile store in the area), that aren’t exactly supported by T-Mobile, leading to slow data speeds and dropped calls. This can be frustrating for a lot of customers. Overall, T-Mobile offers fantastic family plans if you’re living in greater populated areas.
- 1 Line:$70/line
- 2 Lines:$60/line ($120/mo)
- 3 Lines:$50/line ($150/mo)
- 4 Lines:$40/line ($160/mo)
Sprint offers some excellent family cell phone plans, but one plan stands out from the rest – Unlimited Freedom. With the Unlimited Freedom plan, which typically starts at $60 per month for one line (though it is $40 a month for a second line and $30 per month for lines three through 10), the family will be able to enjoy unlimited video streaming, gaming, and music. Sometimes Sprint offers promotions that discount the Unlimited Freedom plan and provide the third, fourth, and fifth lines for free. These promotions are often what gives Sprint an advantage over the other providers.
There are two types of Unlimited Freedom plans – the regular Unlimited Freedom and the Unlimited Freedom Premium plan. The Unlimited Freedom plan comes with mobile-optimized streaming, which unfortunately limits video streaming to 480p+ resolution, music streaming to 500kpbs, and cloud gaming streaming to 2Mbps. The Unlimited Freedom Premium plan, which is an extra $20 per line per month more, nets you higher-quality streaming. You are able to stream video at 1080p+ quality, music at 1.5Mbps, and gaming at up to 8Mpbs.
Overall, the Unlimited Freedom plan is a tempting offer for families who don’t wish to be restricted by data. Unfortunately, coverage in some areas, particularly rural areas, can be a tad unreliable.
- 1 Line: $60/line
- 2 Lines:$50/line ($100/mo)
- 3 Lines:$33/line ($100/mo)
- 4 Lines:$25/line ($100/mo)
AT&T offers the second most reliable coverage across the U.S. AT&T today announced a new unlimited data plan available to all of its customers. While AT&T brought back an unlimited data plan last year, it was limited to DirecTV and U-Verse subscribers. Today’s plan, however, is open to anyone.
AT&T also offers two unlimited data plans: Unlimited Choice and Unlimited Plus. Both unlimited data plans include unlimited talk, text and data plus, high definition video streaming, unlimited text to over 120 countries and unlimited talk, text to Canada and Mexico. The data reduces your speeds after 22GB in a month. Every line beyond the first two is an additional $20 per month. You can add up to eight lines in a single plan.
AT&T’s unlimited plus starts at $90, making it far and away the most expensive no-cap data option among the four major U.S. carriers. which comes with no restrictions plus 10GB of Hotspot.
Unlimited Choice starts at $60 a month and comes with some limitation with download speed which limits at 3 megabits per second and video streaming which is limited to (480p).
Overall, AT&T is a great choice if you’re seeking a family plan, offering amazing coverage, high-speed data, and no overage charges. That being said, the customer service does need improvement.
- 1 Line:$60/line
- 2 Lines:$58/line ($115/mo)
- 3 Lines:$45/line ($135/mo)
- 4 Lines:$39/line ($155/mo)
MetroPCS, which relies on T-Mobile’s network, is a fantastic option. Though MetroPCS doesn’t offer the bells and whistles T-Mobile offers, the provider does offer family plans at more affordable prices. Sometimes, MetroPCS offers special promotions for families, such as 8GB of 4G LTE Data for only $30 per line, though the first line must be on the $50 rate plan and you must purchase a promotional phone to qualify.
You can have up to five lines on a family plan, and each line will receive its own stash of data. Any extra lines will cost you a bit more.
There are also incentives and add-ons to select from as well. For $40-and-above, plans include Music Unlimited, which allows you to stream with popular music services. Not only that, but Mobile Hotspot is available with the particular plans but at an extra $5 a month fee.
If you want to save money and bring your phones in, then you may be disappointed, as the provider does not accept CDMA devices. That being said, it will allow GSM-capable devices. So you may end up purchasing new devices through MetroPCS, which can be expensive, considering the fact that there are no payment plans available through the service.
Overall, MetroPCS is a great, affordable service for families, relying on T-Mobile’s network, but prepared to spend a bit more upfront on phones if you do not have GSM-compatible devices to turn in.
- 5 GB: $40/1 line and $10 off each additional lines
- Unlimited: $60/1 line and $20 off each additional lines
As MetroPCS is to T-Mobile, Cricket Wireless is to AT&T. This subsidiary has a wide variety of plans that start at $25 for unlimited talk and text but no data. Add an extra $5 and you get 2GB of data. Cricket also offers to tether if you have an unlimited monthly plan and pay the extra $10 per month for the Mobile Hotspot feature. All data usage is capped at a speed of 8Mbps.
One distinguishing feature of Cricket’s plans is its discounts for autopay and for multiple lines. Autopay nets a $5 credit per month, while group discounts start at $10 for the first line and then jumps to $20 per line for the third through fifth persons on the plan. Autopay and group discounts cannot be combined.
Cricket supports BYOD and also offers a variety of phones for sale but no financing. It does offer discounted prices on lower-tier smartphones, however, if you transfer your number from another carrier. (Restrictions apply.)
Cricket also offers restricted domestic roaming and international roaming in Mexico and Canada. The latter is available only if you have the $55-per-month plan or greater.
- 5 GB: 1er line/$40 – 2nd line/$30 – $20 off each additional lines
- Unlimited: 1er line/$55 – 2nd line/$45 – $20 off each additional lines
Choosing Your Phone on the Best Cell Phone Family Plans
Before you settle down with what you consider to be the best family plan, you should ponder over whether or not you should obtain a new phone. There are plenty of new phones available if you choose to migrate to a new carrier or plan, but unfortunately, purchasing a few new phones, never mind one phone, can be incredibly expensive. So here are your options for adding a family of phones to your new plan:
Otherwise known as bring your own phone, BYOP allows both individuals and families to connect their phones to a new carrier’s network, provided that the phone is compatible with the service. Sometimes the services attempt to entice new customers with BYOP incentives, such an extra $200 credit or a free month of a certain plan.
2. Installment Plans
Major carriers now offer installment/finance plans for new phones. If you don’t want to pay the full price of a phone, you can always order a phone (or in this case, a set of phones) and pay a monthly fee, usually between $20 and $35 per phone, if the phone is the latest device. Though it will not save you money in the long-term, it’s better than paying the full price for a set of phones immediately. Unfortunately, MetroPCS does not installment plans for their phones.
If you don’t want to use your current phone, you can always trade it in and upgrade to a new device. Some carriers offer trade-in deals, which add extra credit which can be placed towards a new phone.
4. Full Fee Payment
You can always purchase the phones for a full price, but to purchase more than one phone can empty your wallet rapidly. Typically, this is the least desirable method of accessing a phone, though you won’t have to worry about long-term payments.
Many carriers offer special promotions in relation to their phones. Sometimes there will be a sale on special phones, and at other times they will offer a phone for free if you sign up for a specific plan.
Advice for Finding the Best Cell Phone Family Plans
- Understand that what works for another family may not work for you. If your family consumes more data than the average family, then you may want to either select a hefty data plan or even an unlimited data plan. If you’re unsure about how much data you might need for your family, then be sure to check out the carrier’s data calculator. You don’t want to pay too much for your service. Referring to Pew Research Center’s “A Portrait of Smartphone Ownership”, 23 percent of smartphone owners have had to cancel or suspend their accounts at one point due to financial constraints.
- If possible, you should be on the lookout for deals on new phones. Obtaining new phones for a family can be a bit pricey. Better yet, consider bringing your own phone to the carrier.
- If you’re concerned about data consumption, then make sure to look into restricting data and other services with your provider. Most carriers offering family plans provide such services that will give you peace of mind.
- If you fret at the thought of your child encountering something they shouldn’t with their phone, you should consider either looking into your carrier’s parental controls app or even download a third-party parental control app.
- If you’re attempting to save money beyond opting into a carrier’s family plan, you should consider looking into other ways to save money on your phone bill.
The methodology of Finding the Best Family Phone Plans
It’s not easy finding the best mobile family plans, but I’ve managed to put together the list by performing the following:
- With the help of search engines like Google, I’ve managed to compile a list of providers that offered family plans. Carriers included Cricket Wireless, Ting, Project Fi, Total Wireless, and US Cellular.
- I eliminated the carriers that clearly lacked desired features, such as unlimited talk and text. Ting Mobile was one such carrier that was crossed from the list.
- Other competitors were then rated by factors such as data amount (unlimited is a major factor), quality of the network, family plan incentives, pricing, and more, leading to the list you see in this article. Data offered played a hefty role in forming the list. As of 2015, the average U.S. wireless customer uses 1.8GB of data per month, and that number is only growing. You’re more than likely going to consume a lot of data, so why not find a provider that offers plenty of data at a great value?
There were a few worthy competitors on the list, but they were knocked out from the competition due to having weaker family plans.
Finding the best cell phone family plans is not exactly easy. AT&T offers one of the strongest family plans available, but that doesn’t mean that it should be the only network to consider. Other providers have amazing prices and perks, such as T-Mobile’s ONE plan and it’s T-Mobile Tuesday perk. Sprint grants an unlimited everything plan. Verizon offers a strong network despite its hefty prices. MetroPCS provides T-Mobile’s network at cheaper fees. Yet, at the end of the day, it is you and your family who will be building a relationship with a provider, so feel free to select a provider that suits you and your family’s needs best.