(BPT) - Sharing your wireless plan with family members is a great way to save. It eliminates the hassle of multiple bills and lets you benefit from bundled savings offered by your provider. But choosing the right one requires some homework: Family plans today come in all shapes and sizes.
Here are a few key things to consider before signing your family up with a new carrier.
How much data do you need?
The biggest difference in wireless plans these days is based on your data needs. Since cellphones function more as personal computers than calling devices, data packages drive up the price far more than minutes or texts.
Many carriers offer “unlimited” data which, at a glance, may seem like a great option for a family. But unlimited data plans actually have some limits. Most carriers give you some super-fast LTE data but then slow down your speeds after you’ve used a certain amount.
Instead, calculate your actual data usage to see if you can adopt a plan that is more affordable. By connecting to Wi-Fi and using other data saving methods, the average person uses less than 3GB of data per month. Once you're clear on your real data usage, you can choose a more customized plan, and the savings can be substantial.
Do you really need the latest phone?
Before you settle on a family plan, consider what you're going to do regarding cellphones. There are plenty of choices available from a new carrier, but purchasing a few new phones, or even one, can be an expensive proposition.
Most wireless carriers allow you to bring your own device to their service, if the phone is compatible with their networks. Some carriers will even attempt to entice new customers with “Bring Your Own Phone” incentives, like an extra credit or a free month of a certain plan. This is especially convenient if you're ready for a new carrier but don't want to give up a like-new iPhone or Samsung Galaxy.
You can typically switch carriers by removing your existing SIM card and inserting a SIM card obtained from your new carrier. Just be sure to check that you can use your device with the new provider’s network. To check if your device is compatible, visit the carrier's website and look for information on bringing your device or swapping SIM cards.
Who has the best deal?
Every cellphone carrier offers some sort of bundled or family plan. To find the one that’s right for you, focus on the amount of data the packages offer, the monthly charge for each additional line (these will vary), and any additional fees you may incur if you decide to switch to a different plan.
A recent survey by Wirecutter, the New York Times product review website, found the best value as belonging to Consumer Cellular. Their monthly per-line charge is a low $15, with no fees for changing plans. Wirecutter highlighted these Consumer Plans as top deals:
- A two-line plan, including unlimited talk and 10GB of shared data for $65 a month, was found to be “the best plan for couples.”
- A four-line plan, with unlimited talk and 20GB of shared data for $105 a month, was selected as “the best plan for a family of four.”
If there is more than one person in your household, you really ought to be in a family cellphone plan. You’ll save money over going it alone. Start by deciding on the data you’ll need, then choose a customized plan that's just right for your needs and your budget.