The mobile carrier market is getting more complex every day. No longer can you just choose from the big-boy carriers like T-Mobile, AT&T, Verizon, and Sprint. Now you have upstart competitors trying to steal you away from them. Cricket, Boost, MetroPCS, and many others want their SIM’s in your phones. Competition means lower prices with better service, so that’s great for all of us.
While more carriers means cheaper plans, the market is also more complex. When you have four carriers differentiating their plans with only minor tweaks, it’s easy to find exactly the right one for you. But now, there are so many plans, with so much variation, that few can keep track of it all. Well, we’re here to help you find a mobile plan that just right for you.
What Do You Need?
When you’re looking for a plan, you first need to understand how you intend to use your phones. You’ll have to figure out these details.
- The Number of People Who Need Plans. Do you have a dozen kids who need phones or is it just you?
- How Much Data You Need. Do you mostly talk or text, or are you streaming Baby Shark 24/7?
- How Much You Travel. Are you constantly jetting to Uruguay for business? Have you never left your home state? Foreign coverage can get expensive if you don’t plan ahead.
- Bells and Whistles. Some plans offer tons of extras, like streaming services.
All of these things, and more, will affect how you choose the right plan for you and for your family.
When An Individual Mobile Plan Works Best
There are some obvious situations where an Individual cell phone plan makes the most sense. You’re a single guy who’s moved to a new city, and you have no close friends. Yeah. You want an individual plan. But there are some other times when individual plans would make sense, even if you need several lines.
Each Line’s Usage Is Dramatically Different
So, you’re a family of four and you’re looking to get everyone a phone. You want one line to be emergencies only. Your eight-year-old doesn’t need to stare at PAW Patrol all day, so he gets a flip phone. You need a ton of mobile hotspot data. The older kid has a smartphone, but you want to help him learn to budget his time and money. Kids spend too much time on their phones anyway. What do you do?
You could just go all-out into an unlimited data family plan, but they can be super expensive. If you choose a smaller mobile share program, the overage fees from your kids gaming can get crazy.
Maybe you need to use a combo. The kids get individual plans. Pay as you go, so it would cost next to nothing to maintain each month. The older kid gets a limited line, but he has to pay when he uses too much. The other lines get a family plan to share.
Work Pays For A Phone
When businesses expect their employees to be on call at all times, it’s not surprising that more companies are springing for phone plans. It works great for everyone. The employee gets a nice perk and the boss can connect any time. What about the rest of the family? Depending on their usage, individual plans might be the way to go.
Lots Of Overseas Travel
While most phones will work travelling just about anywhere, US carriers charge incredible fees for international roaming. No one likes coming home from a long trip with an extra $800 on their phone bill. If one person travels overseas a lot, it could make sense to get a plan that covers talk, messages, and data at a reasonable price.
Data Only Plans
There are a few innovative companies that offer data-only plans. Who uses their phone to make calls, anyway? These plans can cost a lot less than your traditional talk, text, and data plans. Companies like Ting, Tello, TextNow, and US Mobile offer plans that are inexpensive with great coverage. Some of these companies offer family plans, too.
When Family Mobile Plans Work Best
We all know that a family plan works great when everyone’s an average user. Industry data suggests that most users burn up between 2GB and 5GB of data a month. Even if you have slight variations, you can still find family plans with easy flexibility, like this Verizon Plan, which lets you customize the options for each line. Is that the only way a family plan makes sense?
Join Up With Friends
Family mobile plans aren’t just for families. You don’t need to present your birth certificates to get a shared mobile plan. Four single friends could pool their collective buying power to get more for their money. Why not get together with a few friends to share a one of these plans. If everyone uses their data within the limits and pays on time, it works great.
But that’s the catch. You’d have to trust the people on the plan to contribute what they promised. No one wants to be stuck with paying for someone else’s phone plan when they bail. But if you know a bunch of upstanding citizens, it can be a great way to save a few bucks.
The Average Users
If you’re an average user, the standard plans work really well. A family with average users should choose a shared mobile plan. You save a little money for each line you hook up together, and you get it all with one bill. As long as you can manage the whole family’s usage, everything works pretty well. A single individual should go with an individual plan.
It’s the unusual cases that make it more complicated. When your family’s needs are different from the norm, think about cobbling together some individual plans. Depending on your usage, you could save money over those big shared plans the major carriers offer.