Best cell phone family plans (2020)

Best cell phone family plans (2020)



The wireless industry has undergone a recent and rather impactful change with the merging of T-Mobile and Sprint. But despite the fact that the U.S. market now has three major wireless carriers instead of four, that really hasn’t changed how people should be shopping for their wireless cell phone plan. People still want to get the most value for their budget, and when looking for a cell phone plan for an entire family — getting the most value for your budget becomes even more important. Make sure to keep reading if you’ve found yourself looking around and asking which carrier has the best family cell phone plan.


Who has the best family cell phone plan?

Shopping for a new cell phone plan isn’t easy, after all, there are lots of factors to consider. It also becomes slightly more difficult when you are shopping for a family, as opposed to an individual plan. When you consider moving a few phone lines — you want to be reasonably certain that you are making the right choice so you do not have to make multiple moves.

Family cell phone plan features to consider

Finding a plan with unlimited talk, text, and data sounds great, but that may not always be the best option. We really aren’t carrying phones these days, we are carrying pocket computers and because of that, data limits may be more important than voice minutes. Similarly, finding a plan with unlimited data is nice, but even unlimited data may not always be necessary.

The best place to start when considering a cell phone plan switch is to review your current usage. You may be surprised, and you could even be overpaying. Of course, we do admit that there is some convenience in finding a plan with unlimited talk, text, and data — you can just use your phone pocket computer and not worry about running out of data or paying extra for overage fees.

A few other items to consider when shopping for a new family cell phone plan are as follows:

  • How many GB of data is included at high-speed? Plans that offer unlimited data often allow you to reach a certain level at high-speed before slowing data to a crawl.
  • Is mobile hotspot data included? Depending on the carrier, and the specific plan, you may or not have mobile hotspot data included as part of the plan.
  • Will you get HD or SD quality streaming? Streaming video quality and speeds, similar to mobile hotspot data, will vary from carrier to carrier and plan to plan.
  • Does your plan include any extra goodies? Again, this varies carrier to carrier, and from plan to plan, but you can often get bundled extra services such as Netflix, Disney+, or Apple Music.

You may not have a 5G capable phone just yet, but another item worth considering is whether 5G coverage is included as part of your plan, or if that would be an additional cost. With more and more phones supporting 5G connectivity, this could end up being an important factor sooner rather than later.

These days the three major U.S. carriers offer lots of unlimited options, and the plans aren’t necessarily individual or family, as much as they are just plans that allow you to add multiple lines. That said, let us take a look at what each of these carriers has to offer.

Verizon

Verizon has a handful of plans available. There are four “unlimited” options, with the fifth being a plan built specifically for kids. Or more accurately, a plan built to make it easier for parents to manage their kids’ usage. Verizon allows you to mix and match the different plans, and gives discounts based on the number of lines you add: 1, 2, 3, 4, or 5+. Highlights for each of these plans are as follows;

Start UnlimitedPlay More UnlimitedDo More UnlimitedGet More UnlimitedJust Kids
Talk & TextUnlimitedUnlimitedUnlimitedUnlimitedUnlimited to 20 contacts
5G Ultra WidebandN/AIncludedIncludedIncludedN/A
4G LTEIncludedIncludedIncludedIncludedIncluded
Unlimited Mobile HotspotN/A15GB of 4G LTE15GB of 4G LTE30GB of 4G LTEN/A
Included PerksDisney+ and Apple Music (each for 6-months)Disney+ (included) and Apple Music (for 6-months)Disney+ and Apple Music (each for 6-months)Disney+ and Apple Music (both included)N/A
Smart Family Premium with Parental ControlsN/AN/AN/AN/AIncluded
Price$60 per line per month (2 lines)
$45 per line per month (3 lines)
$35 per line per month (4 lines)
$30 per line per month (5+ lines)
$70 per line per month (2 lines)
$55 per line per month (3 lines)
$45 per line per month (4 lines)
$40 per line per month (5+ lines)
$70 per line per month (2 lines)
$55 per line per month (3 lines)
$45 per line per month (4 lines)
$40 per line per month (5+ lines)
$80 per line per month (2 lines)
$65 per line per month (3 lines)
$55 per line per month (4 lines)
$50 per line per month (5+ lines)
$50 per line per month (2 lines)
$40 per line per month (3 lines)
$35 per line per month (4 lines)
$25 per line per month (5+ lines)

If you are looking for a family plan that includes a mix of adults and kids, the best Verizon cell phone plan for kids is the “Just Kids” plan. Two key benefits of the Just Kids plan are Smart Family Premium with Parental Controls and the option to specify 20 parent-approved contacts.

  • Smart Family Premium with Parental Controls: This allows you to track your kids’ locations, filter their content, and other goodies such as easy pickups, which lets the child request a ride and share their current location with the designated parent.
  • Unlimited talk and text with up to 20 parent-approved contacts: This one is just as its name suggests, and allows the parent to approve up to 20 contacts. This means you’ll know exactly who your child is able to call or text.

 

AT&T

AT&T has fewer plan options than Verizon, but there are three solid plans to choose from, along with family (child) friendly add-ons such as AT&T Secure Family.

Unlimited StarterUnlimited ExtraUnlimited Elite
Talk & TextUnlimitedUnlimitedUnlimited
5GIncludedIncludedIncluded
4G LTEUnlimited (Speeds may be slowed if network is busy)Unlimited (Speeds may be slowed after 50GB)Unlimited (Speeds may be slowed after 100GB)
Mobile HotspotN/A15GB per line30GB per line
Streaming Video QualitySD quality streamingSD quality streamingHD quality streaming
Included PerksStandard Mobile SecurityAdvanced Mobile SecurityHBO Max and Advanced Mobile Security
Price$60 per line per month (2 lines)
$45 per line per month (3 lines)
$35 per line per month (4 lines)

$65 per line per month (2 lines)
$50 per line per month (3 lines)
$40 per line per month (4 lines)
$75 per line per month (2 lines)
$60 per line per month (3 lines)
$50 per line per month (4 lines)

  • AT&T Secure Family: This is a parental control app offering features such as the ability to track your kids’ location in real-time, get arrival and departure alerts, view up to seven days of location history, limit (or block) internet access, or pause their access to Wi-Fi.

If you are looking for the best AT&T cell phone plan for kids, you want to choose the Unlimited plan that best fits your family’s needs — and make sure to add the AT&T Secure Family option, which lets you monitor and manage up to 10 lines for $7.99 per month.

 

T-Mobile

Similar to AT&T, T-Mobile offers three plan options. T-Mobile Magenta plans with two or more lines also include the T-Mobile Family Allowance feature at no additional charge.

EssentialsMagentaMagenta Plus
Talk & TextUnlimitedUnlimitedUnlimited
5GIncludedIncludedIncluded
4G LTEUnlimited (Speeds may be slowed if network is busy)Unlimited (Speeds may be slowed after 50GB)Unlimited (Speeds may be slowed after 50GB)
Mobile HotspotUnlimited (3G speeds)Unlimited (3G at 4G LTE speeds)Unlimited (20G at 4G LTE speeds)
Netflix or QuibiN/ANetflix (Basic) / QuibiNetflix (Standard) / Quibi
Included PerksScam Blocking and T-Mobile TuesdaysT-Mobile Family Allowance, Scam Blocking and T-Mobile TuesdaysT-Mobile Family Allowance, Scam Blocking and T-Mobile Tuesdays
Price$45 per line per month (2 lines)
$35 per line per month (3 lines)
$30 per line per month (4 lines)
$27 per line per month (5 lines)
$25 per line per month (6 lines)
$60 per line per month (2 lines)
$47 per line per month (3 lines)
$40 per line per month (4 lines)
$36 per line per month (5 lines)
$34 per line per month (6 lines)
$70 per line per month (2 lines)
$57 per line per month (3 lines)
$50 per line per month (4 lines)
$46 per line per month (5 lines)
$44 per line per month (6 lines)

  • T-Mobile Family Allowance: This feature is included for free on Magenta or Magenta Plus plans with two or more lines, and T-Mobile provides line discounts for up to six lines on their family plans. T-Mobile Family Allowance allows you to monitor your kids’ phone time and also set usage limits, such as restricting use during school hours or mealtimes. You can also designate up to 10 numbers that are Always Allowed and up to 10 numbers that are Never Allowed.

If you are looking for the best family T-Mobile cell phone plan for kids, you would want to choose either the Magenta or Magenta Plus plan with T-Mobile Family Allowance.

 

Mint Mobile

While the three major U.S. carriers have solid options for multi-line (family and kid-friendly) accounts, the best family phone plans are the ones that meet your specific needs. It is also worth checking out MVNO carriers, such as Mint Mobile. As we noted earlier, you may not need (or want to pay for) unlimited data. This is where a carrier like Mint Mobile comes in — with plans that start at $15 per month (for a single line) for 3GB of data.

Mint Mobile has Mint Family, which allows you to manage up to 5 plans under one account. As the plan manager, you handle the billing for the accounts in your family group, monitor the amount of data used, and approve requests for additional data.

The Mint Family option is good for a family looking to spend a bit less money each month and pay only for what they need in terms of data, as opposed to the convenience of getting unlimited data. The only drawback we see is that you (as the plan manager) do not have the same level of control in terms of real-time location monitoring or call and messaging restrictions to specific numbers.

All Mint Mobile plans include unlimited talk and text, offer nationwide coverage, and have support for 5G and 4G LTE coverage. Data limits and prices for each of the plans are as follows:

  • 3GB for $15 per line/month (based on a 12-month renewal)
  • 8GB for $20 per line/month (based on a 12-month renewal)
  • 12GB for $25 per line/month (based on a 12-month renewal)
  • Unlimited for $30 per line/month (based on a 12-month renewal)

 


Which cell phone carrier has the cheapest family plan?

The cheapest family cell phone plan is likely Mint Family from Mint Mobile. Of course, this depends on how much data you and your family actually need. Mint Family may not have all the options to control family usage; however, the potential for savings could easily outweigh these missing features. Assuming a family of four, you can expect to pay between $60 and $120 per month on Mint Mobile.

A family of four can expect to pay at least $140 (plus taxes and fees) per month with Verizon or AT&T. The T-Mobile Essentials plan would set you back $120 per month (plus taxes and fees). But as we noted earlier, the Essentials plan does not include T-Mobile Family Allowance. If you’re looking for a T-Mobile plan that includes Family Allowance, you can expect to pay $160 per month.

Price is always important, probably even more so when you are considering a family account. But regardless of whether you are looking for cheap family phone plans, or a cheap cell phone plan for kids — you’ll also want to take network coverage into consideration. We recommend that you ask friends and family in your area about their wireless experience. You can also tap the green button below to read independent reviews from other Swappa users.

 

What are the best kid-friendly cell phones?

The days of basic phones are pretty much over. These days we are carrying smartphones, and while there are entry-level, mid-range, and high-end smartphones — all smartphones can break if they are dropped or mishandled.

This is why the price often becomes the main factor, and why the best plan for choosing a kid-friendly phone often comes down to setting a budget that you feel comfortable with. After all, not many people want to spend a ton of money on a phone only to have it get damaged and need to be repaired or replaced.

Fortunately, the safe and friendly Swappa marketplace will help you get a great phone at a great price, making it kid- and budget-friendly. We’ve recently outlined the best cell phones for kids here on the Swappa blog. You can read the full post here, but to offer a bit of a tldr — our top five best cell phones for kids range in price from $100 on the low-end to $400 on the high-end and the list includes the iPhone 8, iPhone SE (2nd gen), Pixel 3, Pixel 4, and the iPhone 6s.