Raising a family is the best, but supporting one can get a bit expensive. Even something as simple as going out to eat or catching a movie often feels like highway robbery, and let’s not even talk about the Christmas budget. Fortunately, wireless companies feel your pain, which is why they’ve designed plans affordable enough to give everyone a seat at the table (and the drinks are often included). To help you choose a plan for your family, here’s a breakdown of the best family plans from the top wireless carriers on the menu.
- Best overall family plan: T-Mobile
- Best value family plan: Mint
- Best features family plan: Verizon
- Free HBO Bonus for families: AT&T
- Best “No Frills” family option: Boost
Top Family Cell Phone Plans
|View Plans Online
|Overall Best Cheap Plan
|Value & Cost
|Verizon Family Plan
|Features & Coverage
|AT&T Family Plan
|HBO Max Free
|No-Frills / Cheapest Option
T-Mobile: The Best Overall Family Plan
+Taxes and fees included
+Netflix subscription included
+Low prices for high-end perks
—SD video streaming on most plans
T-Mobile’s current options absolutely further their reputation as a pioneer in unlimited family data plans. Their Magenta plan, at $140/month for 4 lines, is perhaps the best value on the market right now for its top mix of features and perks—and that price includes all taxes and fees. At that reasonable rate you’ll get unlimited talk, text, and data, 5G access, scam protection, texting abroad, and even a free Netflix subscription. It also comes with up to 3 GB per line of 4G mobile hotspot data, which can be crucial for working in faulty Wi-Fi conditions. Basically, it’s a great value for nearly everything you could use a smartphone for.
There are just a couple catches. One, the unlimited data only applies to Standard Definition video streaming. This may not be a big deal if your activities sans Wi-Fi are limited to scrolling Twitter, checking e-mail, and talking. But if you’re often watching Netflix on the move or video chatting through dating apps, you’re going to miss that HD video streaming. On top of that, unlimited data doesn’t mean unlimited speed. Families that use over 50 GB of data per month may experience slower speeds when the network is congested, which can be an inconvenience especially when many family members are on-line simultaneously.
Fortunately, even for a large family, this is an unlikely scenario. On average, individuals in the U.S. consume around 7 GB of mobile data per month. So, unless your teenager streams their favorite Youtuber on a loop all day, your speed is probably safe. The HD issue, though, is a little stickier. For HD streaming you’ll have to upgrade to Magenta Plus, which is currently $170/month for a family of four. The Magenta Plus plan also comes with faster data speeds under some circumstances and almost seven times the mobile hotspot data of the Magenta plan. It’s a little annoying to pay $30 extra per month for HD streaming and Hotspot flexibility, but even at that price, T-Mobile offers great value for their suite of features.
Along with these selling points, T-Mobile provides the fastest download and upload speeds on the market, so it’s the most efficient choice in wireless coverage—as long as that coverage applies to your area. T-Mobile currently covers 59% of the country’s area, and the most densely populated regions are taken care of. However, if you live in the Southeast, the Mountain West, and especially the Midwest, coverage can be spotty or even nonexistent. Be sure to check a coverage map before you commit to their network, or risk snagging a top family plan that you can’t even use.
Metro by T-Mobile’s Prepaid Alternatives
Metro by T-Mobile does offer a fixed-data option, their prepaid 10GB plan which covers a family of four for $130/month. This includes data-free access to many music apps through Music Unlimited, but if you’re interested in Mobile Hotspot data, you’ll have to upgrade to an Unlimited High-Speed prepaid plan. The best option of these Unlimited plans is the $60/month (for a single line) High-Speed option, which includes 15GB of mobile data, free Google Backup, and Amazon Prime. This is normally $150/month for four lines, but a current promo brings this price to as low as $120/month. Either way, T-Mobile’s plans tend to be reasonable and full of add-ons that sweeten the deal.
Mint Mobile: a.k.a. T-Mobile on a budget
If you’re willing to sacrifice most of T-Mobile’s features, try out Mint. This provider uses T-Mobile’s network to provide affordable fixed and unlimited data plans. These are basic, with unlimited talk and text, and 5G or 4G LTE coverage. Here’s a breakdown of Mint Mobile’s plan options:
|Data per Month
To turn this into a family plan, Mint Mobile allows you to place up to five existing plans under one umbrella. Just send the invite to other members of the family, and you can view their data activities and add extra data as needed.
Verizon Has a Flexible Plan with All the Trimmings
+Best plan flexibility
+Most available extra features (i.e., streaming subscriptions)
—Pay structure can be confusing
It’s no surprise that the nation’s most comprehensive network also offers the most complete set of plans. Verizon recognizes that not every family—or even every family member—has the same needs, so they provide plans tailored to each specific individual within a family unit. The complete monthly bill is the total cost of all these individualized plans added together. This sounds confusing, but it’s actually an economical, common-sense way to handle family phone plans. Here are the available plan options:
–Get More ($55/month-$220/month for 4 lines)-Welcome to the most luxurious phone plan on the market. The Get More Plan includes unlimited talk, text, and data (including up to 50 GB/month of 5G and 4G premium data), HD streaming, Disney+/Hulu/ESPN+/AppleMusic/Discovery+(12 months), international texting, unlimited Mobile Hotspot data, and more. Basically, it’s the best suite of coverage, data, and built-in subscriptions, although it comes at a high price.
–Play More ($45/month-$180/month for 4 lines)-Offers almost everything the Get More Plan does. However, it offers only 6 months of free Apple Music, and there’s no cloud storage or discount on the Unlimited Connected Device Plan.
–Do More ($45/month-$180/month for 4 lines)-This is weaker on streaming subscriptions. Disney+, AppleMusic, and Discovery+ are included for 6 months, but that’s it. In exchange for less entertainment, the Do More plan offers extra Cloud Storage and a discount on unlimited connected devices.
–Start Unlimited ($35/month-$140/month for 4 lines)-same subscriptions as the Do More plan, without the extra storage and connected devices perk. Streams video in DVD-quality, rather than High Definition.
–Just Kids ($35/month)-This option still offers unlimited data, but it limits the number of contacts and allows parents to track and control the content on the phones. It’s a great starter option for kids beginning their own plans.
We know it’s a lot of information to digest, but the idea is that you find the plan to fit each person, then add them up to reach your family’s total monthly bill. One drawback to this option is that these charges don’t include taxes and fees, so you can expect to pay a bit above the sticker price. At least with Verizon you know you’re getting the best coverage, so you’re more likely to get what you pay for on a consistent basis.
Alternatives Cell Plans for Families
Verizon pushes their unlimited plans pretty hard, so they don’t give great deals on many fixed data options. Their Connected Home plan does allow you to purchase anywhere from 10GB/line to 40GB/line each month. But the prices start at $60/line and climb all the way to $150/line, and don’t include any of the subscription perks. Verizon’s Prepaid plans do have more reasonable data-capped options. For $35/month, customers get an allowance of 5 GB, and they have a 15GB Prepaid Plan for $45/month. Unlimited prepaid plans climb into the $60-$70 range.
Verizon offers a family version of these prepaid plans, where one member—the “head” of the family—can pay for and control up to 10 lines. This also doesn’t include subscriptions like Disney+ and Hulu, but it can add up to be your family’s most efficient option.
AT&T has Plans for Families
+Access to HBO Max
+Highest premium data allowance (on most expensive plan)
—Lower-tiered plans lack perks for the price
Like Verizon, AT&T gives families the chance to mix and match plans based on each individual’s needs—just with less snappy names. The top Unlimited Elite plan will cost a family of 4 $50 per line, which is slightly less than Verizon’s best unlimited plan. This is the only AT&T plan that offers unlimited HD streaming, and it comes with a unique bonus: HBO Max. If you value this free subscription over the content options offered by Verizon’s plans, then AT&T is probably where you’ll want to go. It also doesn’t hurt that Unlimited Elite offers 100GB of premium data before your speeds start to slow.
Part of what makes this plan seem so attractive is that AT&T’s lower-tier unlimited data plans don’t nearly measure up. The next plan, Unlimited Extra, still costs $40/month with no free subscriptions, no HD streaming, and the more conventional 50GB data allowance before internet speeds start to slow. The cheapest Unlimited Starter plan, at $35/month, has similar shortcomings along with no data allowance for mobile hotspots. The result is a group of products that generally features fewer options and above-market prices.
Cricket is a Great Affordable Option for Families
+Generous Mobile Hotspot data
—Slow data speeds on most affordable plan
For a more affordable family plan without all the bells and whistles, look no further than Cricket. Cricket More is its most robust unlimited data plan. For $130/month a family of four receives 5G coverage, DVD-quality video streaming, and 15GB of mobile hotspot data per line. This isn’t the most deluxe plan on the market, but it provides lots of mobile data for plenty of people at an impressive price
The Cricket Core plan is one step lower, but provides most of the same features at only $100 per month for a family of four. It’s essentially a slower version of the same plan, since it doesn’t include 5G coverage and limits data speeds to 8 Mbps.
Boost Mobile is another Cheap Option for Families
+Affordable pricing on lowest-tier plan
—No 5G network access
Boost doesn’t boast the 5G network of the more cutting-edge providers, but for $140/month, a family of four gets access to 35GB/line and 12GB of mobile hotspot data. That price inflates to $180/month for 30GB of Mobile Hotspot data, but most families should be able to make do with the 12GB per line. This is a similar deal to what Cricket offers, with unlimited talk and text, but at a slightly higher price. Also, once you reach that 35GB threshold, Boost reduces you to 2G data speeds, which is a significant cut in efficiency.
One of the advantages of both Boost and Cricket is their nearly complete coverage of the United States. Boost piggybacks off of T-Mobile’s network, and Cricket uses AT&T’s, so both providers service almost all the territory east of the Rockies, and most of the West that isn’t part of a mountain range. They may provide fewer features, but with these coverage maps, at least they provide high-quality access for one of the more affordable rates on the market.