September 20, 2020

Family plans — which carrier is the best for your family?

Many wireless carriers offer family plans for their customers, but which family plan is the best one for you? Read on.

Family plans

Once upon a time, single line plans were the most common out there. It’s 2020 and things have certainly changed, with even some of the youngest members of a family rocking smartphones. The majority of US carriers, including the four big ones (Verizon Wireless, AT&T, T-Mobile, and Sprint), offer family plans, which is what we’ll tackle in-depth right here. Let’s dive in.

Best family plans:

Editor’s note: We’ll be updating this list regularly as new family plans are launched.


1. Verizon family plans

Verizon Wireless Family plans

For large families who want to sign up for the nation’s largest wireless phone operator, the best option is to choose one of the carrier’s Unlimited plans. This ensures your kids don’t go over the data limits, and there are plenty of options for every user in the family. Prices per line get lower as you add more lines. If you have a four-line plan you can get plans as low as $35 per line. There is also a $35 plan for kids, which offers more parental controls and location tracking. Prices are reduced by $5 when you have five or more lines.

Read also: Best Verizon plans | Best Verizon phones

You’re supposed to get unlimited data, but users may experience data slowdowns “in times of congestion.� It also includes unlimited talk and text in the US, along with unlimited calls and texts from the US to numbers in Mexico and Canada. Those who want to make sure data speeds stay snappy can get one of the higher-priced plans. These include Play More Unlimited, Do More Unlimited, and Get More Unlimited.

Verizon Family plans also include one year of free access to both Disney Plus and Apple Music for all of your streaming needs.


2. AT&T family plans

ATT logo stock image 1

AT&T offers three unlimited plans that are great for families. The cheapest one is called Unlimited Starter and costs $65 a month for one line, while a four-line bundle goes for $140 — $35 per line. Keep in mind that under this plan, your 4G LTE data speeds could be throttled at any time if the carrier is getting too much traffic.

Read also: Best AT&T plans | Best AT&T phones

The second of the three AT&T Unlimited plans is called Unlimited Extra and will set you back $75 a month for one line or $160 a month for four lines — $40 per line. Unlike the Unlimited Started plan, it includes 15GB of free high-speed mobile hotspot data a month and allows you to use 50GB of data before any throttling kicks in. You can also access AT&T’s 5G network with the Unlimited Extra plan and a capable device.

The most expensive plan goes by the name of Unlimited Elite and can be yours for $85 per month for one line. Pricing goes down to $50 per month if you opt for four lines — $200 per month in total. The plan offers the same things as AT&T’s Unlimited Extra with double the hotspot data and also throws in access to the newly launched HBO Max for free. It also bumps up video streaming quality from SD to HD, but it will slow down your internet speed once you use 100GB of data in a given month.


3. T-Mobile family plans

Family plans by T-Mobile

T-Mobile is unique in that it only offers unlimited postpaid plans, with no plans offering limited amounts of data. The basic T-Mobile Essentials unlimited plan charges $60 a month for one line, $45 a month each for two lines, $35 a month each for three lines, $30 a month each for four lines, and $27 a month for each additional line. It offers unlimited talk, text, and data while in T-Mobile’s network. You can also use unlimited 3G data for a hotspot. Additionally, you can get unlimited talk, text, and 2G data in Mexico and Canada.

The T-Mobile Magenta plan has more perks to offer, including 3GB of LTE mobile hotspot data, and 5GB of 4G data in Mexico and Canada, among others. It costs $70 a month for a single line, $60 a month each for two lines, $40 a month each for three lines, $35 a month each for four lines, and $32 a month for each line after the fifth line.

Read also: Best T-Mobile plans | Best T-Mobile phones

Those who want to go all out can get the Magenta Plus plan. This offers HD streaming, 20GB of LTE hotspot data, unlimited in-flight Wi-Fi, and more. Prices are set at $85 a month for a single line, $70 a month each for two lines, $47 a month each for three lines, $43 a month each for four lines, and $40 a month for each line after the fifth line.

Right now, the Magenta and Magenta Plus plans include the third line of service for free through bill credits. Both plans with two or more lines come with Netflix and Quibi accounts so you can stream throughout the social distancing period. After one year of both services, the choice is yours as to which one you keep.


4. Sprint family plans

Sprint logo stock image 2

Sprint has added an Unlimited Kickstart plan to its lineup that starts at just $35 a month. You can either buy a phone or bring your own, and each line you add will cost an additional $35. Unlimited Kickstart is light on perks, but it makes up for that with savings.

The carrier’s Unlimited Basic is the second cheapest unlimited Sprint plan that’s currently being offered, and perhaps the best of its family plans. At the moment, one line on the plan costs $60 a month, and two lines cost a total of $100.

Sprint is currently running an offer in which lines three to five are free. In addition to unlimited data, talk, and texting in the US, Sprint Unlimited Basic offers video streaming at up to 480p resolution and 500MB of 4G LTE mobile hotspot. 

Read also: Best Sprint plans | Best Sprint phones

Sprint’s next plan, the Unlimited Plus plan, costs $70 a month for the first line and a total of $120 a month for two lines. Lines three to five are currently available for only $10 each. The plan increases your video streaming to 1080p resolution and 50GB of LTE data for mobile hotspot. 

The last Sprint plan is Unlimited Premium, and it’s the most unlimited of the bunch. For $80 per month for one line or $140 per month for two lines, Sprint will double your hotspot to 100GB of 4G LTE data and offer Full HD streaming. 

Finally, in addition to the free access to Hulu — also available for the Unlimited Basic plan — Sprint’s Unlimited Plus and Unlimited Premium users can also access the Tidal Premium music streaming service, which normally costs $9.99 a month. Unlimited Premium comes with Amazon Prime and Lookout Premium Plus to boot.


5. Project Fi plans

Project Fi family plans

Google’s own Project Fi offers some of the most enticing plans around. Aside from being affordable, coverage is solid thanks to the three networks it uses: T-Mobile, Sprint, and US Cellular. The system will figure out which has the best signal at any given moment and connect to it. To reduce prices, Google Fi leverages on the power of Wi-Fi. Whether you are connected to your home’s router or any Wi-Fi hotspot, calls, text, and data will be routed through the internet when possible.

Read also: Phones compatible with Google Fi | Google Fi vs T-Mobile: Which is right for you?

Time to talk money! You could save quite a bit of cash if you are often connected to Wi-Fi or don’t require too much data. Google Fi’s Flexible plans have a base price of $20 for one line, which covers talk and text privileges. You’re then charged $10 per GB for data. The base price would be lowered to $18 per line for two lines, $17 per line for three to four lines, or $16 per line for five to six lines. Of course, you would still have to pay the $10 per GB for data the family consumes.

Those who prefer an unlimited option can pay $70 for a single line, $60 per line for two lines, $50 per line for three lines, or $45 per line for four to six lines. The Google Fi Unlimited plan also comes with a Google One membership which opens up 100GB of cloud storage just for you.


6. Simple Mobile plans

Simple Mobile photo of couple having fun.

Source: Simple Mobile

Simple Mobile runs on T-Mobile’s network and the prices sure look like they could compete against Magenta. All plans include unlimited talk, text, international text, international calling to 69 countries, and roaming in 16 Latin American countries.

Plans start at $25 per month for 3GB of 4G LTE data. You can also pay $30 for 5GB, $40 for 15GB, or $50 for unlimited data. Simple has also added a new $60 per month unlimited plan with a 15GB hotspot and 50GB cloud storage. Additional lines would cost $20 for the $25 service plan and $25 for all other plans. As per usual, Simple Mobile is willing to give you a small discount if you sign up for automatic payments. These could range anywhere from $1.25 to $5, depending on your plan.


7. Cricket Wireless plans

Cricket Wireless family plans

Source: Cricket Wireless

Cricket Wireless single-line plans may not seem too exciting, but things start looking really enticing once you see prices drop after adding a few lines. Their most popular tier is the $55 unlimited Cricket Core plan. The same plan costs only $80 for two lines, $90 for three lines, $100 for four lines, and $125 for five lines. Cricket also offers smaller 2GB and 5GB plans that might just be perfect for the young ones in your family. The 2GB plan is usually $30 per month and the 5GB plan is $40 per month.

Cricket Core includes unlimited talk, text, and data, as well as added features like roaming in Canada/Mexico and SD streaming. Cricket Wireless operates on AT&T’s network, so it’s also reliable.


8. Ting plans

Family plans by Ting Wireless

Source: Ting

Ting takes customization to another level when it comes to its plans. You only pay for what you use. Start by paying $6 per line, then add your shared minutes, texts, and data for an extra sum of cash.

I put together a plan that would suit my needs, which included two lines, 1,000 shared minutes, 1,000 shared texts, and 5GB of data. For this plan, I would have to pay $85 a month. Of course, I’m not skimping out on anything. If I switched to one line with no minutes or texts (I can live without them) and 3GB of data, the price comes down to $36 a month. This isn’t the absolute best deal, but it shows the flexibility you get with Ting.

For a limited time, Ting is offering unlimited talk and text for just $15 per month. However, you’ll have to call Ting to get more information and to sign up for the plan.


Which carrier has the best plans?

Sprint offers the best bang for your buck if you have a large family, but the network is also known for its spotty signal. Make sure you live in an area with good Sprint coverage if you go with their deals. It’s still difficult to say how the T-Mobile merger will change Sprint’s offerings in the future. Verizon’s plans are pricier, but they do offer the strongest network in the country.

Those who enjoy some extras will love what AT&T has to offer. You get the choice of a premium service, fewer restrictions when going to Canada or Mexico (where they have their own network), free access to a premium streaming service, and more. Of course, T-Mobile has some things to offer too. They are the “Uncarrier,� after all.

Meanwhile, prepaid carriers and MVNOs have affordability and plenty of features to offer, as well as a no-strings-attached philosophy many of us still appreciate. I’m a fan of Cricket’s multi-line discounts and Google Fi’s flexibility.