Family Cell Phone Plans

Michael Kwan
Family Cell Phone Plans

If each of your family members has his or her own cell phone, it may be less expensive and more manageable to sign up for a family plan instead of maintaining separate accounts. Most major cell phone companies offer family phone plans, starting with just two people sharing the same plan and charging an extra fee for each additional phone line added to the plan. Typically, an overall bucket of minutes is shared among plan members and conversations between family members on the same plan are unlimited. The same is true for text messages and wireless data allotments.

Please note that the information provided in this article is accurate as of November 2012, but it is best to follow up with your preferred wireless provider to confirm the availability and details of each plan.

AT&T Family Plans

The family plans offered by AT&T are broken up into two main categories: Nation Plans and Nation with Canada Plans. The former includes minutes for calls within the United States, while the latter does not levy any long distance or roaming charges for voice calls between the United States and Canada.

Nation Plans

With the exception of the Unlimited Nation Plan, additional lines are $9.99 each, in addition to the base rate. For the unlimited Nation Plan, an extra line is $49.99. Also, all Nation plans have a maximum of 5 lines, except for the $59.99 Plan that has a maximum of 3 lines.

  • $59.99 - 550 shared minutes, rollover minutes, unlimited nights and weekends, unlimited mobile to mobile
  • $69.99 - 700 shared minutes, rollover minutes, unlimited nights and weekends, unlimited mobile to mobile
  • $89.99 - 1400 shared minutes, rollover minutes, unlimited nights and weekends, unlimited mobile to mobile
  • $109.99 - 2100 shared minutes, rollover minutes, unlimited nights and weekends, unlimited mobile to mobile
  • $119.99 - unlimited shared minutes, unlimited nights and weekends, unlimited mobile to mobile

Nation with Canada Plans

All Nation with Canada Plans offer a maximum of 5 lines with additional lines costing $9.99 each. While there are no long distance or roaming charges for voice calls between Canada and the United States, there is a $2/MB pay-per-use data rate in Canada.

  • $89.99 - 700 shared minutes, rollover minutes, 1000 night and weekend minutes, unlimited mobile to mobile minutes
  • $109.99 - 1400 shared minutes, rollover minutes, 1000 night and weekend minutes, unlimited mobile to mobile minutes
  • $129.99 - 2100 shared minutes, rollover minutes, 1000 night and weekend minutes, unlimited mobile to mobile minutes
  • $169.99 - 3000 shared minutes, rollover minutes, 1000 night and weekend minutes, unlimited mobile to mobile minutes
  • $219.99 - 4000 shared minutes, rollover minutes, 1000 night and weekend minutes, unlimited mobile to mobile minutes
  • $319.99 - 6000 shared minutes, rollover minutes, 1000 night and weekend minutes, unlimited mobile to mobile minutes

Verizon Family Cell Phone Plans

The family cell phone plans from Verizon Wireless are structured differently. Dubbed "Share Everything" plans, they all include unlimited voice minutes and text messages for a set fee based on the type of device. Then, an additional fee is levied for the amount of data that can be shared among all family members and devices on the same plan.

Device Fees

  • Smartphone - $40
  • Feature phone - $30
  • Tablet device - $10
  • Mobile hotspot, USB stick or connected notebook/netbook - $20

Data Fees

  • 1 GB - $50
  • 2 GB - $60
  • 4 GB - $70

Each additional 2 GB for the shared data plan is $10. So, for example, 10 GB of data would cost $100 ($70 + $10 + $10 + $10).

Example Calculation

A hypothetical family of three has two smartphones, one feature phone and a tablet device. They would all get unlimited text messages and voice minutes. They would like to share 6 GB of data between all devices on the plan.

  • Two smartphones = $40 x 2 = $80
  • One feature phone = $30
  • One tablet = $10
  • 6 GB of shared data = $80
  • Total = $200

This is the total monthly bill before other applicable taxes, fees, and data overage charges.

Family Phone Plans from T-Mobile

T-Mobile has a large selection of family cell phone plans with up to unlimited minutes, unlimited data, and smartphone mobile hotspot service. All family plans include unlimited T-Mobile to T-Mobile calling, unlimited nights and weekends, and free domestic long distance. You get two lines to start with additional lines starting at $5 each.

  • $59.98 - Classic 1000 Talk with 1000 anytime minutes
  • $79.98 - Classic 1000 Talk + Text featuring 1000 anytime minutes, unlimited text
  • $119.98 - Classic 1000 Unlimited Plus with 1000 anytime minutes, unlimited text, unlimited data with up to 2 GB of high-speed
  • $139.98 - Classic 1000 Unlimited Nationwide 4G featuring 1000 anytime minutes, unlimited text, unlimited 4G high-speed data
  • $149.98 - Classic 1000 Unlimited Premium offering 1000 anytime minutes, unlimited text, unlimited data with up to 5 GB of high-speed, mobile hotspot sharing included
  • $209.98 - Classic 1000 Unlimited Ultra with1000 anytime minutes with unlimited text, unlimited data with up to 10 GB of high-speed, mobile hotspot sharing
  • $99.98 - Classic Unlimited Talk + Text offering unlimited minutes, unlimited text
  • $139.98 - Classic Unlimited Plus with unlimited minutes, unlimited text, unlimited data with up to 2 GB of high-speed
  • $159.98 - Classic Unlimited Nationwide 4G with unlimited minutes, unlimited text, unlimited 4G data
  • $169.98 - Classic Unlimited Premium featuring unlimited minutes, unlimited text, unlimited data with up to 5 GB of high-speed, mobile hotspot sharing
  • $229.98 - Classic Unlimited Ultra offering unlimited minutes, unlimited text, unlimited data with up to 10 GB of 4G high-speed, mobile hotspot sharing enabled

Sprint Cell Phone Family Plans

All family plans from Sprint include unlimited night and weekend calling starting at 7 p.m. and domestic long distance. They vary in terms of cost for additional lines and other features, but they all include the first two lines.

  • $69.99 - Talk for Family featuring 700 anytime minutes, $9.99 per additional line
  • $99.99 - Everything Messaging Family 1500 featuring 1500 anytime minutes, $9.99 per additional line, unlimited messaging
  • $149.99 - Everything Messaging Family 3000 with 3000 anytime minutes, $9.99 per additional line, unlimited messaging
  • $149.99 - Everything Data Family 1500 with 1500 anytime minutes, $29.99 per additional smartphone line, unlimited messaging, unlimited mobile to mobile, unlimited data
  • $189.99 - Everything Data Family 3000 offering 3000 anytime minutes, $29.99 per additional smartphone line, unlimited messaging, unlimited mobile to mobile, unlimited data
  • $209.98 - Simply Everything Family with unlimited anytime minutes, $99.99 per additional smartphone line, unlimited messaging, unlimited mobile to mobile, unlimited push to talk, unlimited data

Family Plan Considerations

Pro: Savings

Family plans can save you a lot of money. For a small fee per additional line, you can bring your family members onto your plan. Normally, when you share a phone plan, you and the other people on that plan can talk amongst yourselves without digging into the minutes on your plan. This can definitely save you a lot of airtime, especially when most of the calls are between family members anyhow. Also, with multiple people using the plan, you can share a bucket of minutes; instead of two people having 200 minutes each, they share 400 minutes in total. Person A might be the heavier user one month and Person B might be the heavier user the next month. Under a normal plan, someone would be paying an overage fee each month. With the family plan, so long as the aggregate minutes don't exceed the limit, there is no overage.

Con: Sharing

The major con to family cell phone plans is the fact that you have to share minutes, but that's not a problem in most cases. You may need a month or so to determine just how many minutes you'll need. Texts may count twice as well, because you could be charged for both sending and receiving a message between family members. Make sure to ask the company you choose about any text plan you add. If you have a plan with 100 text messages and text the other person on your plan 50 times, your texts could be used up. If you have a teenager who loves talking on the phone, you might want to consider a prepaid cell phone instead, so that service ends when the budget is reached. This will help ensure that your bill stays the same every month.

Managing Mobile Expenses

They aren't for everyone, but family cell phone plans can be a great way to cut costs and better manage your family's mobile expenses.

Family Cell Phone Plans