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Best Family Cell Phone Plans for 2017

The best family cell phone plans can be a great way to reduce monthly costs

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Best Family Phone Plans

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.

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In my research, I made sure that 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.

Best Cell Phone Family Plans - What to Consider

Best Family Cell Phone Plans

  1. AT&T
  2. Verizon
  3. Sprint
  4. T-Mobile
  5. MetroPCS

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:

1. Incentives

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.

2. Pricing

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.

3. Features

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.

4. Coverage

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.

Best Family Phone Plans - Defining a Mobile Family Plan

According to the Pew Research Center, in 2015, 64 percent of American adults owned a smartphone, an increase of six percent since early 2014. And just how many of those smartphone owners belong to a family plan? 68 percent.

As mentioned in the introduction, family cell phone plans offer a better deal for a single household or family compared to a single plan. How? Well, these shared plans blend desired features into a single plan at one monthly fee, typically between $100 and $500. With a family plan, which normally features unlimited talk and text, there is a greater amount of data that must be shared. Forewarning: shared data might be consumed like water if there are no restrictions in place.

The family mobile plan is a very beneficial plan for families (or more than one person).

The Best Cell Phone Family Plans

AT&T Family Cell Phone Plans

  • Pros
  • No overage charges for data
  • Share data with up to ten devices
  • Rollover data
  • Cons
  • Questionable customer service
  • Plans are pricier than average

AT&T initially created a family share plan in response to Verizon's "Share Everything" plan, which was introduced in 2012. There are no overage charges regarding the data plan. However, after you use up all of your high-speed data, you will face heavily reduced 2G speeds. If your family doesn't consume all of the data available, it'll "roll over" to the following month.

The family data plans range in price between $50 -$470. The smallest family plan offers 1GB of data, whereas the largest plan provides everyone with a whopping 100GB of data. This does not include any extra devices added to the plan, so the plans are considerably pricey for the service, depending on the amount of data you need.

There is an unlimited plan available as well for $100 a month, which includes the plan and a $40 a month access charge. However, you need to have a TV service with it, whether it's U-Verse TV or DirectTV.

What is a concern is the amount of poor customer service reviews floating around the Internet. There are a lot of complaints regarding the service, namely with billing issues, long waiting times, and constant routing to different departments. For many customers, the customer service is an absolute nightmare.

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.

Verizon Family Cell Phone Plans

  • Pros
  • Top-notch quality
  • Reliable network
  • One plan allows up to 10 devices
  • Rollover data
  • Cons
  • You're paying for quality - it's expensive
  • Unlimited 2G only available via Verizon's newest plans

Verizon introduced its "Share Everything" plan back in 2012, which prompted other services to follow suit. It has recently implemented carryover data only accessible with its newest plans. However, Verizon offers fewer perks than other networks.

These plans also offer Safety Mode, which allows you unlimited 2G speeds after your high-speed data allotment has been reached for the month. Unfortunately, Safety Mode is only free with sizes X-Large or higher. You'll need to play $5 per account with smaller plans if you want to access unlimited 2G data. Without Safety Mode, you'll be paying $15 for every gigabyte of data used.

Prices for its plan range from $35 a month for 2GB to $450 a month for 100GB of data, excluding line access fees. These plans, like other carriers, include unlimited talk and text. Sometimes there are limited-time-only plans available, such as a 12GB + 2GB per line, which includes carryover data and Safety Mode for only $80 a month. Beginning with the L-sized plan, customers will receive 2GB per line on top of the designated amount of data. For instance, for the L plan, you'll receive 8GB, with 2GB per line. For two people, that totals to 12GB of data.

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.

Sprint Family Cell Phone Plans

  • Pros
  • Carries unlimited data plan
  • Offers unlimited 2G data when you run out of 4G LTE data
  • No overage charges
  • Cons
  • Unlimited data plan means 480p streamed video
  • No tethering with unlimited data plan
  • Coverage is not the greatest in rural areas

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.

T-Mobile Family Cell Phone Plans

  • Pros
  • Offers perks no other provider offers
  • Provides unlimited data plan
  • Affordable prices
  • Rollover data
  • No overage charges
  • Cons
  • 2G speed restriction after high-speed data cap
  • Rural service is unreliable

There are two types of family plans that T-Mobile offers, just like Sprint - its Simple Choice Plans and the T-Mobile One.

First, the Simple Choice Plans. The family plans offered are rather on the cheaper side. For instance, for two lines on the family plan, you'll pay $80 a month for up to 2GB per line, $110 a month for up to 6GB per line or $140 a month for up to 10GB per line.

However, if you want more data than 6GB per month, then you may want to consider T-Mobile's ONE plan, which provides unlimited 4G LTE data, talk, and text. 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. Unfortunately, you'll also only be able to stream video on smartphones and tablets at 480p, while tethering at max 3G speeds. Unfortunate, but hey, it's unlimited.

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.

MetroPCS Family Cell Phone Plans

  • Pros
  • Cheaper than average in plan prices
  • Music unlimited
  • Unlimited data
  • Cons
  • Unlimited data slows after specified data amount for first few plans
  • Doesn't accept CDMA devices

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.

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:

1. BYOP

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.

3. Trade-Ins

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.

5. Promotion

Many carriers offer special promotions in relation to their phones. Sometimes there will be a sale on special phones, and 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.

Saving Data on the Best Family Cell Phone Plans

Though you are saving money with a family plan compared to an individual plan, you can always save a little more by cutting back on data so you can "size down" to a smaller plan (unless you're on an unlimited data plan). Here are some ways to save on data:

  • Unless you need the app immediately, do not download an app unless you are on a wifi network. You can normally set it so that the app will only download via wifi.
  • You can restrict your data using your phone's settings. That way, once your phone reaches a specified amount of data, the access to the data will automatically be cut.
  • Make sure that your phone is not consumed by data-hungry apps. Mobile advertisements alone represented between 18 percent and 79 percent of data required to read an article on an iPhone 6.That is a lot of data used just to read a single article, excluding the data eaten by mobile gaming. And you know what? That adds up, fast. It's always a good idea to monitor the apps you use in case they are data hogs (free apps more so). Better yet, install an ad-blocker for your mobile phone's browser.
  • Avoid streaming high-quality music. It may sound a lot better, but it's not worth the devouring of data.
  • Avoid streaming video on data if you're desperate to save data. According to Netflix, using the company's "High" data usage setting leads to the consumption of 3GB per hour when streaming HD videos and 7GB per hour for Ultra HD. And standard definition? 0.7GB per hour. That is a lot of data per hour. Not the best idea to use data if you enjoy falling asleep to Netflix's videos.

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.

Best Family Cell Phone Plans Recap

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.

Finding the best cell phone family plans is not exactly easy. Neither is searching for great cable providers, so it's worth taking a look at our review of the best cable providers? Then again, if you're a cord-cutter, you probably are placing priority over internet providers. If you're considering switching providers or moving into a new area, why not check out our review of the best internet providers?

Best Family Cell Phone Plans FAQs

Is AT&T or Verizon cheaper?

AT&T delivers a better deal than Verizon for low-data users. Their $55 per month plan includes 2GB of data, a better value than Verizon's 1GB plan at $50 or 3GB plan at $65. AT&T also offers a 300MB plan at $45, but most users need more data per month. All plans include text and calling.

Is Sprint better than AT&T?

AT&T's 4G LTE service across an extensive network is superior, but Sprint offers straight-forward data plans at better prices than AT&T, giving them the overall edge.

AT&T

  • 300 MB $20
  • 2GB $30
  • 5GB $50
  • 15GB $100

Sprint

  • 1GB $20
  • 3GB $30
  • 6GB $45
  • 12GB $60

Is AT&T or Verizon better?

Verizon's plans are a bit more expensive than AT&T's, but Verizon offers superior coverage. If you want the best coverage and can budget a bit more, Verizon is better. If price is your main concern, choose AT&T, as their coverage is still quite good.

Who has the best cell phone service?

Of the Big Four cell phone service providers (Verizon, T-Mobile, Sprint and AT&T), the leader in overall customer satisfaction is T-Mobile. Sprint comes in last place for both it's monthly plans and for prepaid service. But small companies like Consumer Cellular and Ting get higher customer satisfaction ratings, according to Consumer Reports.

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In order for MoneySavingPro to remain a consumer free service, many of the companies covered in our industry reviews compensate MoneySavingPro for new sign ups.

However, the results of our comparison tools, the rankings of the providers and the information presented is not affected by compensation. Indeed, many of these companies approach us for an advertising partnership after we have already written a published their reviews.

While we try to research and review as many providers as possible in the 100+ industries we cover, we have not reviewed every company available.

Our rating system is independent of compensation and reflects our true understanding of the industry and the company based on a variety of factors. The companies that receive the highest rating will always be the providers that we believe offer the best value to the consumer.

Advertiser Disclosure

In order for MoneySavingPro to remain a consumer free service, many of the companies covered in our industry reviews compensate MoneySavingPro for new sign ups.

However, the results of our comparison tools, the rankings of the providers and the information presented is not affected by compensation. Indeed, many of these companies approach us for an advertising partnership after we have already written a published their reviews.

While we try to research and review as many providers as possible in the 100+ industries we cover, we have not reviewed every company available.

Our rating system is independent of compensation and reflects our true understanding of the industry and the company based on a variety of factors. The companies that receive the highest rating will always be the providers that we believe offer the best value to the consumer.