Choosing the Right Mobile Plan for Families and Multiple Lines

Choosing a mobile plan that meets the needs of an entire family can be tricky. With multiple lines and varying data and talk time requirements, finding the right balance between features and cost is key. Selecting the wrong plan can lead to unnecessary overages and headaches down the road.

This guide will provide an overview of the key factors families should evaluate when selecting a mobile carrier and plan. We’ll look at determining total household data usage, comparing coverage areas, assessing plan flexibility, and reviewing customer satisfaction ratings. With insight on data limits, talk time allotments, hidden fees, and plan perks, you’ll be equipped to confidently choose the best mobile plan for your family’s needs.

Taking the time to thoroughly research and compare plans will ensure you find a mobile plan that offers the right fit at the right price. The goal is to maximize value without paying for excess services your family won’t use.

Determine Your Data Needs

When choosing a mobile plan, estimating your monthly data usage per line is crucial. Consider the data-heavy activities each family member does on their device such as video streaming, using social media apps, downloading music and games, etc. According to a report by Deloitte, average monthly mobile data usage per person increased 80% from 2013 to 2014 as activities like streaming grew in popularity (source).

Also factor in any needs for mobile hotspot/tethering to other devices. Teens may want to connect their phones to laptops or gaming devices to access high-speed data on the go. Evaluate each family member’s typical daily usage to come up with a total estimate per line. Compare the data allowances provided on different carrier plans to your estimated monthly usage. It’s better to overestimate a bit to ensure you don’t face overage fees.

According to a 2016 report, average monthly mobile data usage per person in Australia reached 12.6GB, indicating the increasing reliance on mobile devices and data-heavy apps (source). Pick a plan with enough data to comfortably meet your family’s needs.

Talk Time Requirements

When choosing a family plan, one of the most important factors to consider is monthly talk time per line. Recent studies show that the average cell phone user utilizes around 459 minutes per month (Source). Teenagers, who are often on family plans, spend even more time on their phones – over 4 hours per day on average.

Compare the included talk time on different carrier plans to your expected monthly usage. Many family plans now offer unlimited talk and text, which is ideal if you expect high monthly minutes. However, for lighter users, a limited minute plan can save money. Just beware of expensive overage charges if you exceed the allotted minutes. Some carriers will slow data speeds instead of charging overages. Understanding each carrier’s overage policy is important to avoid surprise fees.

Look at your current monthly minutes used on each line over the past 3 months. This will give you an accurate view of your talk time needs. While unlimited is easiest, a limited plan may work if your usage is well below the caps. Just buffer in some extra minutes to be safe. Overage charges can quickly cancel out any savings from a limited minute plan. Carefully compare included minutes versus your actual needs to choose the best value.

Calculate Total Monthly Cost

When selecting a family mobile plan, it’s important to calculate the total monthly cost across all lines. This includes adding up the monthly plan fees for each line, plus any additional taxes, fees, insurance or upgrade options.

For example, if you get a plan with 4 lines that costs $30 per line per month, your base monthly cost before taxes and fees would be 4 * $30 = $120. However, carriers typically charge taxes and fees on top of the plan cost. These can range from 5-30% extra per month. With a 20% tax/fee rate, a 4 line $120 base plan would actually cost $144 per month.

Many family plans also include options to add device insurance, which protects against loss or damage. This usually costs $10-15 per month per line. Upgrades like higher data allowances or mobile hotspot can also add $5-20 per line. Factor these potential extras into your total cost estimate.

To get an accurate idea of what a family plan will really cost monthly, take the per line fee, multiply by number of lines, and add estimated taxes and any additional options. This will give you the true total cost to budget for when comparing different carriers’ family plans.


Compare Carrier Coverage

When choosing a wireless carrier for your family plan, it’s important to check coverage maps for the locations where family members will use their phones. According to a comparison of coverage maps on WhistleOut, Verizon and AT&T generally have the most extensive coverage nationwide. However, T-Mobile has been rapidly expanding their coverage in recent years.

To identify any gaps, look at coverage maps from and carriers for your home location as well as school, work, and other frequent spots. T-Mobile may have strong coverage in cities but lack rural coverage. AT&T provides good coverage across most of the country. Verizon tends to be strong in suburban and rural areas. Check for areas where only 3G speeds may be available.

Consider running a test drive with new SIM cards to experience real-world performance. Identify any weak spots or dead zones where family members need coverage. Understand if in-building coverage may be lacking in concrete buildings or basements. Knowing the carrier coverage gaps can help determine the best family cell phone plan.

Evaluate Data Speeds

When choosing a mobile carrier, it’s important to evaluate and compare the data speeds each one provides. Faster data speeds allow you to stream videos, music, and download files quicker. According to a recent report by Ookla, T-Mobile offers the fastest average download speeds at 114.29 Mbps, compared to Verizon at 69.01 Mbps and AT&T at 65.57 Mbps.

T-Mobile’s speed is over 2x faster than Verizon and AT&T, making them the leader for fast streaming and downloads. Their median download speed is more than adequate for streaming HD video and multiplayer gaming. Verizon and AT&T’s speeds may still allow streaming, but quality and buffering may be impacted for HD video. For families with multiple devices, prioritize carriers with the fastest data speeds.

Assess Plan Flexibility

Considering the flexibility of a family cell phone plan is crucial, as needs tend to change over time. Look for plans that allow you to easily adjust your services as your family evolves. The ability to upgrade devices or add new lines without penalties is key. According to Are Family Plans More Beneficial than Individual Wireless Data Plan Contracts?, family plans often provide more flexibility than individual plans. With family plans, you can typically modify your data amounts or features as needed. Carriers like Xfinity even offer plans that allow you to mix and match data options across your lines each month.

Review Additional Perks

When choosing a family phone plan, it’s important to look beyond just data, minutes and text. Most carriers offer additional perks and benefits that can add value for your family.

For example, T-Mobile’s Magenta plan includes benefits like Netflix Basic, international data and texting, and unlimited in-flight WiFi, while their Essentials plan has minimal extra perks. AT&T offers mobile hotspot data, HBO Max access, and unlimited talk, text and data in Mexico and Canada on some of their unlimited plans.

Consider which additional benefits your family would actually use and find valuable versus those you may never take advantage of. For instance, free streaming subscriptions or international roaming may not provide enough value to justify a more expensive plan if you primarily use your phones domestically. Focus on perks that fit your family’s needs and usage habits.

Check Customer Satisfaction

When choosing a cell phone carrier for your family, it’s important to check customer satisfaction ratings and read reviews for each carrier you’re considering. According to a recent survey by ConsumerAffairs, the carrier with the highest customer satisfaction for service quality is Verizon, followed by T-Mobile, AT&T, and Sprint. Look at overall satisfaction as well as specific ratings for network coverage, data speeds, customer support, and value for money. Also check ratings on third-party sites like J.D. Power, PCMag, and Consumer Reports.

Pay special attention to customer service ratings, as this will impact your experience if you ever need support. According to J.D. Power’s latest ratings, Verizon ranks highest for customer care satisfaction. Also look for reviews mentioning family plans and multiple lines specifically. For example, this review of AT&T says they make it difficult to manage multiple lines on one account.

By comparing carrier ratings and reviews, you’ll get a sense of real customer experiences and can determine if a carrier is a good fit for your family’s needs.


When selecting a family mobile plan, the most important factors to consider are data needs, coverage, flexibility, and overall cost. Here are the key takeaways:

  • Calculate total data needs for all family members to determine the right data allowance.
  • Compare carrier coverage maps in the areas frequented by your family.
  • Look for plan flexibility like pooled data and unlimited talk/text.
  • Estimate total monthly costs across all lines.

The best family plans balance data, coverage, and flexibility at a reasonable price for your needs. I recommend starting with a list of must-have features, estimating data usage, and comparing total monthly costs across carriers. Don’t forget to check reviews on customer satisfaction as well. With some upfront research, you can find the ideal mobile plan to keep your whole family connected.

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