(Editor’s note: This content is sponsored by Consumer Cellular.)
Don and Kathy Miller consider themselves meticulous about their finances. The Seattle-area couple worked diligently for years to create a comfortable nest egg which now allows them to enjoy an active retirement, regularly traveling to visit family and friends across the country.
So, it came as a shock when it hit them just how much they were spending on individual wireless bills. “We were well over a hundred dollars a month with two bills to pay,” notes Don. The couple had carried separate plans for ages, having each signed up with different wireless carriers over five years ago and worrying that switching could be a hassle.
The story has a happy ending. Sharing your wireless plan with family members is easy and 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 as family plans today come in all shapes and sizes.
Here are a few key things to consider to help find the best deal for you:
How Much Data Do You Need?
The biggest differences among wireless plans these days is based on data needs. Since cellphones function more as personal computers than calling devices, data packages drive 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 in addition to the expense, unlimited data plans actually have some limits. Most carriers give you a fixed amount of super-fast LTE data but then slow down your speeds after you’ve used that amount.
Instead, review your most recent wireless bills to determine your actual data usage. Then see if you can adopt a plan that’s more in line with what you really require. The average person uses about 5GB of mobile data per month. Once you’re clear on how much data you really need, 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 from your new carrier into your phone. 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 larger (or smaller) plan.
A recent study by Wirecutter, The New York Times product review website, found that the best value comes from Consumer Cellular. Its monthly charge is just $15 per additional line, with no fees for changing plans at any time. Wirecutter highlighted these specific Consumer Cellular plans as top deals. It’s worth noting that since then, Consumer Cellular has actually added data to each of these plans with no increase in price:
- 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.” (The plan now includes 15GB).
- 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.” (The plan now includes 25GB).
The Millers switched to Consumer Cellular last year. They cut their wireless costs by more than half, and found the process refreshingly easy. “We just ordered SIM cards for our phones and had the whole thing done in two days,” Kathy recalls. “It was so simple, and we’re saving so much, we could almost kick ourselves for having waited this long to do it.”
If there is more than one person in your household, you really ought to be in a family cellphone plan. Start by deciding on the data you’ll need then choose a customized plan that’s right for your needs and your budget. You’ll be saving in no time!
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