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Which Carrier Has the Best Family Smartphone Plan?

posted by on July 19, 2017 in Guides & Reviews, Phones and Mobile, Family and Parenting, Money Savers :: 9 comments

If you have a family, you likely don’t need me to tell you how expensive mobile phone bills can get. It’s not unusual for a family of four to pay $200 or more for service and still find themselves squeezed for data at the end of the month. Streaming video, streaming music, uploading and viewing pictures on Facebook and Instagram – all that data use adds up quickly.

The good news, though, is that your family can get service with a major U.S. carrier at a rate far lower than that if you’re willing to shop around, bring your own device or purchase a new phone without a subsidy. But, which plan is right for you depends on your family’s unique circumstances. Read on, consult our charts and find out for yourself!

But first, before you shop …

Before you start shopping based on price, it’s important to remember that there are other highly important aspects to cell coverage. Not all networks are created equal. This year, T-Mobile surpassed the other major carriers for download speeds and Verizon was found to have the best LTE coverage, according to OpenSignal. We recommend you compare carriers’ coverage at opensignal.com. After all, a cheaper plan won't do you any good if you can't get a signal.

You’ll also want to consider exactly how much data you and your family will use in a month. If you currently have smartphone service, you can sign in to your account online and check your last few months’ of data usage. Otherwise, note that the average American uses 2-3GB of mobile data per month. As a rule of thumb, you should avoid plans that offer significantly less than this per person unless you’re especially price sensitive. High amounts of video calling (720 MB/hour), 4G LTE video streaming (350 MB/hour) and audio streaming (60 MB/hour) could necessitate even larger plans. Thankfully, almost all carriers will let you go back and adjust your data allotment at any time if changes need to be made.

What carrier has the best deal?

Right now, the best family plan wireless deal is being offered by Sprint. The Sprint Unlimited Data, Talk & Text plan offers a family of four unlimited data for just $90 per month. But there's a catch. After 9/30/2018, your bill will jump up to $160. If you're looking for stability in your plan price, consider Metro PCS 6GB plan, with 6GB per line for $115 for a family of four. 

Want to see how all the plans from the top carriers stack up, side-by-side? Check out the comparison charts below.

Least Expensive Family Plans with Some High-Speed Data Plus Unlimited Talk & Text (based on 4 phones)

Carrier Plan Name Price Amount of 4G Data Included Hotspot Included Bring Your Own Device
AT&T AT&T Mobile Share Advantage $110 Taxes & Fees 1GB Up to plan limit Yes
Verizon Verizon XXL (24GB) $150 + Taxes & Fees 2GB Up to plan limit Yes
Sprint Unlimited Data Talk & Text $90 + Taxes & Fees Unlimited, except for MHS, P2P and VPN, which is capped at 10GB 10GB per line, then drops to 2G Yes
T-Mobile One $160 Unlimited*, capped at 32 GB for high speed Unlimited, but at 3G speeds Yes
U.S. Cellular 2GB $80 + Taxes & Fees 2GB per line Up to plan limit No
Metro PCS 6GB $115 6GB per line**  Up to 8GB Yes
Boost 3GB LTE $125 + Taxes & Fees 3GB*** Yes, up to plan limit Yes, select models
Cricket 4GB $100 + Fees 4GB No Yes
Republic Wireless 1GB $80 + Taxes & Fees 1GB per line Yes, up to plan limit Yes

 – Prices & Data Allowances Valid as of July 19, 2017
*Many video and music streaming services don't count toward cap
** 40+ premium streaming services, including Pandora, iHeartRadio, Apple Music, and Spotify don't count toward data
***Spotify, Pandora, iHeartRadio, Napster, Tracks and Slacker Radio don't count toward data

Least Expensive Unlmited Family Plans (based on 4 phones)

Carrier Plan Name Price Amount of 4G Data Included Hotspot Included HD Video: Bring Your Own Device
AT&T Unlimited  $155 + Taxes & Fees None, only 3G unlimited No No Yes
AT&T Unlimited Plus* $185 + Taxes & Fees Unlimited, capped at 22GB for high speed Yes, 10GB per line then dropped to 2G Yes Yes
Verizon Unlimited $180 + Taxes & Fees Unlimited, capped at 22GB for high speed 10GB per month, then reduced to 3G speeds Yes Yes
Sprint Unlimited Talk, Text & Data $90 + Taxes & Fees Unlimited, except for MHS, P2P and VPN, which is capped at 10GB 10GB per line then dropped to 2G Yes Yes
T-Mobile One $160 Unlimited, capped at 32GB for high speed Unlimited, but at 3G speeds No Yes
U.S. Cellular Total Unlimited $160 + Taxes & Fees Unlimited in service area, capped at 22GB per line   No No
Metro PCS Unlimited $200 Unlimited, capped at 32GB for high speed** 8GB then reduced to 2G speeds No Yes
Boost Unlimited $140 + Taxes & Fees Unlimited, capped at 32GB and data deprioritized during congestion*** 8GB then reduced to 2G speeds No Yes, select  models
Cricket Unlimited $180 + Fees Unlimited, capped at 22GB for high speed No No Yes

– Prices & Data Allowances Valid as of July 19, 2017
*Includes HBO
** 40+ premium streaming services, including Pandora, iHeartRadio, Apple Music, and Spotify don't count toward data
***Spotify, Pandora, iHeartRadio, Napster, Tracks and Slacker Radio don't count toward data

[Image credit: family using smartphones via Shutterstock]



Discussion loading

Taxes & Fees

From Keith Riggle on September 29, 2016 :: 5:02 pm

Something else to consider is taxes & fees. For example, MetroPCS includes them in the price of their plans, so the $100 plan costs exactly that. For T-Mobile, taxes and fees are extra, so my $50 individual plan with them totals to about $60 per month. I guess their $100 plan would actually total up to about $120, and so forth.

All in all, a great run-down, and it’s caused me to reconsider my current plan.

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Great point Keith! Taxes and

From Suzanne Kantra on September 29, 2016 :: 5:38 pm

Great point Keith! Taxes and fees can really add up.

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Sprint Costs Need Big Notice

From F Harvell on July 19, 2017 :: 1:09 pm

The Sprint Unlimited promotional $90/month feeds end on September 30, 2018 and the price goes to $230/month for all customers (for 5 lines). This is a huge consideration, especially when looking to switch providers.

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Consumer Cellular???

From John Steffens on July 19, 2017 :: 1:29 pm

What about Consumer Cellular? Consumer Guide rates them the best.

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Great Article!

From Christine Gallup on July 19, 2017 :: 1:41 pm

Hi Suzanne,
Your article did a great job of simplifying all the plan features-that keep changing.  I know how tough it is as I’ve written about plans for WhistleOut.

We’ve got some articles that track market changes/plan and tons of other carrier info that may be helpful. http://bit.ly/2uzTV47

Again well done on article!

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Cricket Wireless has Fees?

From A.J. on July 19, 2017 :: 1:59 pm

I have been a customer of Cricket Wireless for years now, and I NEVER paid any Fees.

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Credo Mobile

From Barbara Lawson-Svaricek on July 19, 2017 :: 3:03 pm

Does anyone have actual experience with CREDO Mobile? I’ve come across a pretty good sounding plan with a free phone from them but would like to know more. I’m planning on calling them on Monday to clarify some questions I have.

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Cricket

From Erik on July 19, 2017 :: 3:26 pm

Your Cricket plan is missing info. Im currently on 5 iphones for $100. No fees. No contract. Also each phone has 4GB of data for a total of 20GB. After the 4gb you have unlimited slow. Soon they will have wifi assisted calling. Just wanted to say that.

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coverage 900k weat of sydney

From charlie on July 19, 2017 :: 3:34 pm

hi,
    do any of the above cover western nsw ?  or is if just telstra ?

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