The Best Family Cell Phone Plans


WhistleOut
15 March 2017

best family cell phone plans


Buying a one line cell phone plan is hard...Buying multiple lines can be even harder. 

With almost half a million wireless combinations out there, trying to find a family plan that not only meets your needs, but also the needs of everyone else can be annoyingly Tetris-like. 

We get it. WhistleOut's comparison engine monitors over 400,000+ cell phone plans. When you tell us what you are looking for, we can calculate the best family plan for you instantly. With this guide we've picked our favorite family plans for 2 or 3 or 4 or 5 people. We've covered the following two usage types at each step:

  • The plans best suited average data users on each line (about 2.5GB per month on each line)
  • The plans suited to unlimited data users on each line

And, if you thought pre-paid was only for teenagers, think again. A number of prepaid carriers (Cricket, Metro, Ting, Net10, US Mobile, Total Wireless) all offer multiple line share plans for use by families

Benefits of Family Plans

  • Bulk discounts: get better deals for signing up multiple phone lines at once. 
  • Easy: One account, one bill, one payment. 
  • Flexibility: option to share a single pool of data among the different users
  • No credit check for additional users : Only the main account must pass a credit check.

How to Buy Family Plans

When you're going to the latest Star Wars movie or buying airline tickets, being a family can be expensive. Yet in the wireless market, buying in bulk can save you money. Often the more lines you have on your family plan, the more the price per line drops. Getting everyone on one plan can mean big annual savings.  

For example, one unlimited line is at $60/mo, but 5 unlimited lines can be as cheap as $100/mo.

Many pre-pay carriers offer great bargains for families meaning that your options stretch far beyond the Big 4 carriers (Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile and Sprint respectively). And, since the *entire* wireless market has moved to monthly no-contract plans, the main difference now between your traditional post-paid plans from the Big 4 and other carriers is that on post-paid plans. you pay at the end of the month, whereas with pre-paid, you pay at the beginning of the month. The entire market is basically now 'no contract' mean 'monthly' plans are the new normal. 

With no service contracts, many people switch multiple times a year between carriers to get the best deals. To check your phone compatibility to switch carriers, check our phone compatibility tool here.

More Than Just Family

There's no need to be a relative to the main account holder to be part of a family plan. Your friends (or foes) can join your plan.

If the account holder has good credit, those carrier deals and benefits -- including attractive phone payment plans -- trickle down to the users of the additional service lines. (Frenemy Alert! The main account holder is fiscally responsible so take care not to miss any bill payments.) 

Leaving the family plan plan is relatively simple. The number that you have on the plan is your own number and can be switched to another carrier's single line plan. 

Shared Plans or Single Line Plans

There are two ways data is allotted on family plans. 

  • Shared amount of minutes / texts / data across all the users
  • Fixed amount of minutes / texts / data per line (single lines with allocated amounts, all adding to a total bill)

1) Shared Data

In this type of family plan, the data is shared between the users - think of it as a bucket filled with some water and each line is a hose which can suck water out of the bucket. 

For example...

    Plan with total of 6GB shared data

  • Line 1 can tap into this
  • Line 2 can tap into this
  • Line 3 can tap into this
  • When all 6 GB is used, the plan will be slowed for the rest of the billing cycle

Any line can use any amount of data until the sum of the data usage for all the lines equals 6GB. (Speeds will be throttled on all the lines' when plan's data allotment is met.) 

Plans that offer data sharing are great ways for tech-addled teenagers and screen adverse parents to coexist on the same plan (and if you are already on AT&T or Verizon, you already know what that feels like). If you have a diversity of data appetites in your household, this could be a great option. However, if the idea of running out of data from sharing scares you, then you might be best suited with a fixed amount of data per line

2) Fixed Amount of Usage Per Line

In this plan, each of the lines is allotted a certain amount of data for use each month.

For example, on a 3-line family plan, you might have 6GB of total data on your account where each line has 2 GB of data only. This makes it a 6GB family plan, but when one of the family members uses all of their data, they can't tap into the other lines. 

  • Line 1 2 GB only
  • Line 2 2 GB only
  • Line 3 2 GB only
  • Total of 6 GB on the account

If a user goes over their data allotment, only the speed on that line will be slowed (until the end of that billing period) and this user cannot access the other data on the other lines. Speeds will be throttled (slowed) by line. 

So, if you think your teenagers should be able to exist just fine with about 2 GB each a month, you can pay for just the data amount you set on each line, and if they go over, the only consequence is their snarky comments bemoaning how slow their phone are as they wait for the billing cycle to finish. 

Here's our Pick of Best Family Plans in 2017...

* Average data use is 2GB per line...

Lines Best for Carrier Total Data
2 Average data  AT&T 5GB total (2.5GB per line)
2 Unlimited data per line Sprint Unlimited on all lines
3 Average data  Total Wireless12GB total shared
3 Unlimited data per line Boost Mobile Unlimited on all lines
4 Average data Cricket 12GB (3GB per line)
4 Unlimited data per lineT-Mobile Unlimited on all lines
5 Average data  Cricket 15GB (3GB per line)
5 Unlimited data per line Sprint Unlimited
Last updated: 29 January 2017.

2-Lines Best Family Plan, Average data

GoPhone Multi Line Monthly Plan

Why we like it:  AT&T's great 4G LTE network coverage at an affordable price. Plus there are no data overage charges!

This prepaid plan includes 30 days of Unlimited Nationwide Talk, Text, and Data, with 2.5 GB of data assigned to each line. If you exceed your allotment of high-speed data, your data speed will be slowed until your next billing cycle. It also includes unlimited text only to Mexico, Canada and over 100 other countries. Unused data from your plan will be rolled towards your next month's allowance which expires after one billing cycle or with any plan change. Also there is no activation fee for service.

2-Lines Best Family Plan, Unlimited data

Sprint Unlimited Freedom Plan

Why we like it:  This is a great deal which gives you unlimited data running of Sprint's strong network coverage.

This plan includes Unlimited Talk, Text and High-Speed Data which will slow after 23 GB (and you probably won't hit that limit unless you're a serious gamer or listen to Spotify 24/7). It also includes 5 GB of data usage for mobile hotspot and a virtual private network (VPN) -- an awesome safety feature to use to protect your information while using public WiFi.

You can bring any unlocked CDMA (i.e. phones from Sprint or Verizon) and use this service. 

3-Lines Best Family Plan, Average data

Total Wireless $85 Shared* Plan

Why we like it: This carrier uses Verizon's superior 4G LTE network and offers great plans for a fraction of the price. In fact, at publish date, it's an unbeatable data deal for a trio -- a shared 12GB data plan with unlimited calls and text in the US for $85. Phones,though, need to be compatible with CDMA network. (Sprint or Verizon purchased phones)

With this plan, there are no activation fees! Plus no credit check. Refill your service plan every 30 days to keep your phone active online or at a participating WalMart store. You can also enroll in Auto-Refill to automatically refill your service plan on the end date and save 5% on your refill. 

3-Lines Best Family Plan, Unlimited data

Boost Unlimited Family with Unlimited Gigs

 Why we like it: Boost's plan offers solid coverage (runs off Sprint's 4G LTE network)  and some of the data-saving perks offered by the bigger carriers.

This plan offers data-free Unlimited Music Streaming from select music services including Pandora, iHeartRadio, Slacker Radio, 8tracks and Napster. Music streaming is optimized at extreme quality (up to 500kbps).  Also you can save $5 per month on the primary line of a family plan when you sign up for Auto Re-boost which allows you to auto-pay your monthly bill. 

Phones, though, need to be compatible with CDMA network. (Sprint or Verizon purchased phones)

4-Lines Best Family Plan, Average data

Cricket Basic Group Save

Why we like it: Small prices for big coverage. This carrier uses AT&T's infrastructure and offers bargain prices, especially for families, so you can still meet your budget and expect great service. 

With this pre-paid plan, you won't see any surprises on your bill. Their All-in prices include taxes and surcharges. Speeds are slightly slower than their parent AT&T's at 8 Mbps -- which is mostly unnoticeable and should not effect streaming quality. Plan includes Unlimited Talk, Text and High-Speed Data. You can also add 1 GB of data to your lines for $10/mo per line. All left-over data expires at the end of the monthly cycle. 

You can bring any unlocked GSM device (i.e. phones from T-Mobile or AT&T) and use this service. 

4-Lines Best Family Plan, Unlimited data

T-Mobile ONE Family  Plan Unlimited Data

Why we like it: Everyone in your household, stream away!  The Un-Carrier offers a great deal on unlimited data with their All-In pricing. Plus, no activation or line access fees which can save a family of four almost a hundred dollars when you consider the average activation fee for a single line is of $20 then multiply that by 4.

Plan on giving everyone in your family unlimited data at a great price! Sure, speeds may slow a bit at 23 GB but aside from the serious gamers and streamer addicts, most of us are not going to  notice. But we are going to notice all the fun little perks of this plan like unlimited  mobile hotspots (at speeds up to 3G), unlimited video streaming and for a limited-time) get 1 hour free of Gogo Air per month so at 30,000 feet high, you can text, picture message or check your voicemail. 

5-Lines Best Family Plan, Average data

Cricket Basic Group Save

Why we like it:  In this plan, there are no sacrifices; you get top-notch coverage (from Cricket's parent AT&T infrastructure) at a great low cost. 

With this pre-paid plan, you won't see any surprises on your bill. All-in prices include taxes and surcharges. Speeds are slightly slower than their parent AT&T's at 8 Mbps -- which is mostly unnoticeable and should not effect streaming quality. Plan includes Unlimited Talk, Text and High-Speed Data. You can also add 1 GB of data to your lines for $10/mo per line. All left-over data expires at the end of the monthly cycle. 
You can bring any unlocked GSM device (i.e. phones from T-Mobile or AT&T) and use this service. 

5-Lines Best Family Plan, Unlimited data

Sprint Unlimited Freedom Plan

Why we like it:  This is a great deal which gives you unlimited data running of Sprint's strong network coverage.

This plan includes Unlimited Talk, Text and High-Speed Data which will slow after 23 GB (and you probably won't hit that limit unless you're a serious gamer or listen to Spotify 24/7). It also includes 5 GB of data usage for mobile hotspot and a virtual private network (VPN) -- an awesome safety feature to use to protect your information while using public WiFi.
You can bring any unlocked CDMA (i.e. phones from Sprint or Verizon) and use this service. 

Other Things to Know

You need to know these things about getting the best family plan:

  • With some shared plans you can actually set data limits per line to ensure that the primary account holder does not wake up to an empty bucket
  • Cheap deals need a sharp eye: Some plans offer a great price yet have some elements removed to make them cheaper. For example, the coverage and speeds might only be 3G.
  • Auto pay will save you as every carrier offers discounts if you elect to auto renew  each month (typically $5/month discount).

The key to getting a great family plan is knowing how much data you need.


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