There’s plenty to be anxious about when your kids become old enough to have their own cell phones. However, one concern that may be foremost on your mind is that of cost. After all, two cell phones are expensive enough. When you outfit the whole family, you’re likely looking at a hefty bill. Thankfully, cell phone providers understand this and provide family plan options to bring down the cost of multiple cell phones.

What is a Family Plan?

Family cell phone plans are basically a big umbrella that covers all of the cell phones in your household. Family plans provide deals on additional cell phones. In short, a family pan containing four cell phones will be cheaper than four individual cell phones plans. What’s more, your monthly costs will be lumped together into one sum, making it easier to pay. Family plans often involve shared cellular data plans (unless you have unlimited data) and may give parents opportunities to place restrictions on their children's cell phone use.

How Do I Choose a Family Plan?

To be perfectly honest, you’re probably safe going with any of the four major cell companies. Although they offer somewhat different benefits at different rates, they are all solid services and provide the best cell phone deals. We’ve taken some time to outline the pros and cons of each of the top family plan services below.

You’ll also want to consider your specific needs. What kind of coverage do you require? Which phone companies perform the highest in your area? How much data are you and your children likely to use? It’s possible you can go for a less expensive option if your needs aren’t that great. However, cell phone plans with unlimited data are ideal for larger families.

Finally, if you’re not in any rush, consider waiting for a bit. Cell phone service providers are always having deals and the best deals tend to emerge around the winter holidays. And hey, a brand new cell phone makes a memorable Christmas present. In fact, if you wait long enough you can recycle your old phone and upgrade the whole family. 

T-Mobile

  • Price: $180 ($160 with auto-pay discount)
  • Data: Unlimited

True, T-Mobile offers family plans for as little as $140 for 24GB of shared data. However, there’s something to say for shelling out a little extra for unlimited data cell phone plans (especially if you’re sharing data with teenagers). T-Mobile’s wide coverage area, great price to data ratio, and lack of hidden fees makes it an appealing match for many families. However, if you choose from T-Mobile phone plans, you will have to live with some restrictions on video streaming.

Verizon

  • Price: $110 (plus $20 a line). Typically, this caps at $190 ($180 with auto-pay discount).
  • Data: Unlimited

Verizon Wireless also offers a data limited option at $160. This gets you only 12GB of data, making it significantly inferior to the T-Mobile option. What’s more, overage charges are as much as $15 per GB over the limit. Verizon’s data limited plan is steep, but it’s a solid choice for unlimited data. It also has a wider reaching service than T-Mobile does, although T-Mobile is quickly catching up.  

Sprint

  • Price: $160
  • Data: Unlimited

Sprint’s limited data option is $140 for 12GB. Unlike Verizon, Sprint data overage charges are nil. Instead, they simply throttle back data speeds after the data limit has been reached. However, also unlike Verizon, data can’t be rolled over from one month to the next. Sprint is a solid choice and has an economical unlimited data plan. However, it matches T-Mobile penny for penny if you opt for auto-pay on your T-Mobile account and lacks T-Mobile’s extensive coverage.

AT&T

  • Price: $165 ($155 with auto-pay discount).
  • Data: Unlimited

The unlimited AT&T wireless family plans are the clear winners when it comes to AT&T, as their 12GB family plan costs only $5 less at $160. Not to mention, they charge a $15 overage penalty per GB. AT&T’s plan is affordable and reliable but has few bells and whistles past that. If you’re considering AT&T for your family plan, look into the AT&T prepay Cricket Wireless. You’ll use AT&T’s network with only $100 for four lines each month. Of course, the pre-pay plan does not come with unlimited data. But if your data needs aren’t great, it may be the most economical choice.

Do Your Homework

Wireless service pricing is changing all the time. If one of these mobile plans catches your eye, visit the website to learn more about the unlimited data family plan options. And remember that there’s no such thing as a best family cell phone plan – only the best one for you.