The Bottom Line
Consider a family plan for two to five members of a household or a small business as a way to minimize and better manage wireless costs.
Cell phone family plans contain two or more (up to five) lines combined on a single bill, with one shared family rate plan. Each person on the family plan gets his or her own phone and his or her own phone number. Most family plans are priced with two lines included; additional lines are commonly priced at about $10 each.
Family plans can save subscribers 25% or more each month off the cost of having a single line for each user. Here are a few more things to think about as you consider a family plan.
- It is possible to get more than one model of phone with a family plan.
- While the family plan offers you see displayed online are for two phones only, you can sometimes get as many as five for the same per-phone price. Check the retailer's website for details.
- Sign up for all the lines you'll need at the time of purchase to avoid higher phone prices. For example, if you want to add a third line to a family plan two months after the contract is established you won't be considered a new customer, and you may have to pay substantially more for the third phone.
- Since a family plan is usually approved on the credit of the primary account holder, additional subscribers may be able to get service even though they might have a lower credit score that would otherwise relegate them to prepaid phone service.
- Since “mobile party pays” in the U.S., minutes are spent two at a time when family members call one another, unless the plan has free mobile-to-mobile airtime. Most family plans include this feature, but check the plan you are considering to confirm it.
- Family plan members need not be related; a small office would also qualify if there is a single responsible party and a single bill.
- If you want to stay with your carrier when your contract ends, but you discover that they won't give you a good deal on new phones, consider doing this: Set up an entirely new family plan in the name of one of the plan members (other than the current primary account holder). Since a new person is qualifying for service, the account will be seen as new, and thus eligible for new customer phone pricing. The old plan can be canceled whenever you wish, as it is unrelated to the new transaction. The catch: You won't be able to keep your same phone numbers and you will have to pay activation fees.