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Prepaid Family Plans Compared

Group of young people using smartphones
Multi-line or family plans used to be one of the few use cases where postpaid was a better deal than prepaid, but that's no longer true. After T-Mobile bought MetroPCS and AT&T acquired Cricket a few years ago they both launched aggressive family plan promotions that started a family plan price war that continues to this day. Here's a roundup of the best current options for multiple lines.


Unlimited Multi-line Plans: The best deals among the currently available family plans are on plans that include unlimited voice minutes and unlimited SMS and MMS messaging. The majority of them also include unlimited data, with the first  2.5 to 10 GB (depending on plan) of data at high speeds and the rest throttled to 2G speeds, typically 128 Kbps or less. Here are my picks for the best unlimited family plans:

Cricket, which is owned by AT&T, has one of  the best current family plan deals. Cricket lets you create a family plan using any combination of its single line plans priced at $40 higher. All Cricket plans include unlimited talk and text and an allotment of "high speed" data. Cricket's high speed data is not all that fast as it's throttled to a maximum of 8 Mbps. That's fast enough for any use including video streaming, but it's a far cry from the up to 100 Mbps speeds At&T's LTE network can deliver in ideal conditions. Cricket plan prices for a single line are:

  • $40 - first 5 GB of data at high speeds followed by unlimited data at 2G (128 Kbps or less) speeds
  • $55 - Unlimited data at 3 mbps
  • $60 - Unlimited high speed data
Cricket charges $10/month to use 8 GB of your "unlimited" data for hotspot on the $55 and $60 plans. Hotspot is not allowed on other plans. Cricket prices include all taxes and fees, even sales taxes.

Adding more lines up to a maximum of five is rewarded with a discount:

  • Second line gets a $10/month discount (a $5 per line saving) 
  • Third line gets a $20/month discount for a total discount of $30 (a $10 per line saving) 
  • The fourth line gets a $20/month discount for a total discount of $50 (a $12.50 per line saving)
  • The fifth line gets a $20 discount for a total discount of $70 (a $214 per line saving). 
With the discounts, five lines on the $40/month 4 GB plan are $130/month, a savings of $70 over five individual lines. Five lines on the $60 unlimited plan are $230/month.

Cricket launched a promotional Group Save plan on Dec. 1, 2017 that will be open for signups for a limited time. The promotion makes two lines of $55 plan available for $80, three lines are $90, four lines $100 and five lines $125.

Pure TalkUSA is an AT&T MVNO that takes 10% off your total bill if you have 2 lines, 15% off your total bill if you have 3 lines and 20% off if you have four  more lines. All plans include unlimited voice, messaging and data with varying amounts of high speed data as follows: $20 500 MB, $25 1 GB, $30 3 GB, $35 5 GB, $45 10 GB.

Pure Talk is one the few AT&T MVNOs that support MMS on iPhones. Hotspot is allowed but only officially supported on iPhones.

MetroPCS  - Unlike Cricket, T-mobile's MetroPCS doesn't throttle the high speed portion of its data. MetroPCS is currently offering additional lines on any plan for $30/month. All MetroPCS plans include unlimited voice and messaging and varying amounts of high speed data. MetroPCS single line prices are:
  • $30 - first 2 GB of data at high speeds followed by unlimited data at 2G (128 Kbps or less) speeds
  • $40 - first 6 GB of data at high speeds followed by unlimited data at 2G (128 Kbps or less) speeds
  • $50 - Unlimited high speed data, no hotspot, video throttled to 480p.
  • $60 - Unlimited high speed data, 8 GB hotspot.
MetroPCS plan prices include all taxes and fees, even sales taxes.

On December 9, 2017 MetroPCS replaced its Four Lines of Unlimited for $100 Promotion with a new Two Lines of Unlimited Promotion: Two lines of the $50/month unlimited talk, text and LTE data plan for $80.  At least one of lines must be a new activation. This offer is available at MetroPCS stores only.

Boost Mobile (part of Sprint) lets customers on its $35 3 GB plan or $50 Unlimited Gigs plan add additional lines (up to 5 lines total) for $25 per month per line.

  • The $35 plan includes unlimited talk and text and unlimited 128 kbps data after the first 3 GB is used. Hotspot is allowed and music streaming from several services is zero rated.
  • The $50 Unlimited Gigs plan includes unlimited talk, text and data. Although data is unlimited and browsing data is unthrottled, video streaming is degraded to 480p resolution, audio streaming is restricted to 500Kbps, online gaming data throttled to 2 Mbps and hotspot is throttled to 128 Kbps after 8 GB is used.
There is also a promotional family plan that's are  available for a limited time.
  • 4 Lines of Unlimited Gigs for $100 available for new activations until Jan. 29, 2018. The plan includes Three or fewer lines also cost $100 and five lines are $125.  The first line is also eligible for a $5/month auto pay discount.  The offer is available for new activations at a Boost dealer only and at least one line must be a port-in from a non-Sprint based MVNO or operator.
As with Cricket and MetroPCS, Boost plan prices include all applicable state and local point of sale taxes.

Total Wireless is a TracFone brand that uses the Verizon network. All plans include unlimited talk and text. Unlike most other operator's unlimited plans, which give each line its own allotment of data, data on Total Wireless family plans is shared between all lines. Total has three multi-line plans:

  • $60/month ($57 with autopay) 2 lines, 15 GB of shared data
  • $85/month ($80.70 with autopay) 3 lines, 20 GB of shared data
  • $100/month ($95 with autopay) 4 lines 25 GB of shared data
Unlike the other carriers mentioned here, Total Wireless data is hard capped, meaning that data stops working when the high speed allotment is used up. Additional data is available for $10 for 5 GB. Unused add-on data rolls over and never expires as long as the monthly plan is renewed on time. Like all Verizon MVNOs, Total Wireless' high speed data is throttled to 5 Mbps. Hotspot and tethering are not allowed on Total Wireless.

Total Wireless  charges all applicable state and local point of sale taxes plus an additional 1.7% for federal USF and cost recovery.

Net10 is another TracFone brand that offers service on the the user's choice of either AT&T, Verizon or T-Mobile. All plans include unlimited talk, text and 2G data. Net10's throttled data is 64 Kbps which is significantly slower than the 128 Kbps throttled speed on most carriers. Net10 high speed data is also throttled to 5 Mbps for phones on the Verizon network. Hotspot and tethering are not allowed on Net10. The following family plans are available from Net10:
  • $75/month ($72 with autopay) - 2 lines, 3 GB of high speed data per line
  • $90/month ($85 with autopay) - 2 lines, 5 GB of high speed data per line
  • $130/month ($125 with autopay) - 3 lines, 5 GB of high speed data per line
  • $170/month ($165 with autopay) 4 lines, 5 GB of high speed data per line
Net10 charges all applicable state and local point of sale taxes plus 1.7% for federal USF and cost recovery.

Lycamobile is a T-Mobile MVNO that offers a Family Plan priced a $80 for 2 lines, $105 for 3 lines, $120 for four lines and $125 for 5 lines. Each line gets unlimited voice minutes, unlimited messaging and unlimited data with the first 5 GB per line delivered at high speed. The price for a single line is $45//month.

Ultra Mobile, another T-Mobile MVNO, offers an Ultra Flex Family plan that includes unlimited nationwide calls, unlimited global text, unlimited international voice to 10 destinations and 250 MB of shareable 4G LTE per line. The plan is priced at $22 for one line, $35 for two lines, $45 for three lines and $50 for four lines. Five or more lines cost $12.50 per line.

Verizon Prepaid offers a discount on the second though fifth lines attached to a singe account.  The discount varies depending on the price of the plan. Verizon Prepaid's plans and prices are:


  • $40/month ($30 for lines 2-5) - unlimited voice, messaging and data with the first 3 GB at high speeds.
  • $50/month ($35 for lines 2-5) - unlimited voice, messaging and data with the first 7 GB at high speeds.
  • $60/month ($40 for lines 2-5) - unlimited voice, messaging and data with the first 10 GB high speeds.
  • $80/month ($60 for lines 2-5) - unlimited voice, messaging and high speed data.
The table below compares the best of the plans mentioned above.

Multi-line Plans with Unlimited Voice and Messaging 

Operator Network High Speed Data Hot-spot Unlim 2G Data? 1 Line 2 Lines 3 Lines 4 Lines 5 Lines Notes
Ultra Mobile T-Mobile 250 MB per line (shared) No N/A $22 $35 $45 $50 $62.50
Pure TalkUSA AT&T 500 MB Per Line iPhones only Yes $20 $36 $51 $64 $80
Pure TalkUSA AT&T 1 GB Per Line iPhones only Yes $25 $45 $63.75 $80 $100
Total Wireless Verizon 15 to 25 GB Shared No No N/A $57 15 GB shared $80 20 GB shared $95 25 GB shared N/A With Auto Pay
Pure TalkUSA AT&T 3 GB Per Line iPhones only Yes $30 $54 $63.75 $96 $120
Boost Mobile Sprint 3 GB Per Line Yes Yes $35 $50 $75 $100 $125
Boost Mobile Sprint Unlimited 8 GB Yes $50 $75 $100 $100 $125
Cricket AT&T Unlimited $10/mo Yes $55 $80 $90 $100 $125  480P video, all data throttled to 3 mbps
Cricket AT&T 5 GB Per Line No Yes $40 $70 $90 $110 $130
Pure TalkUSA AT&T 5 GB Per Line iPhones only Yes $35 $63 $89.25 $112 $140
MetroPCS T-Mobile 2 GB Per Line Yes Yes $30 $60 $90 $120 $150 480P video
Lyca-mobile T-Mobile 5 GB Per Line No Yes $45 $80 $105 $120 $125
MetroPCS T-Mobile 5 GB Per Line Yes Yes $40 $70 $100 $130 $160
Verizon Verizon 3 GB Per Line Yes Yes $40 $70 $100 $130 $160
MetroPCS T-Mobile Unlimited No N/A $50 $80 $110 $140 $170 480P video
Pure TalkUSA AT&T 10 GB Per Line iPhones only Yes $45 $81 $114.75 $144 $180
MetroPCS T-Mobile Unlimited 10 GB N/A $60 $90 $120 $150 $180
Verizon Verizon 7 GB Per Line Yes Yes $50 $85 $120 $155 $190
Net10 AT&T, T-Mobile or Verizon 5 GB Per Line No Yes $45 $85 $125 $165 N/A With Auto Pay
Verizon Verizon 10 GB Per Line Yes Yes $60 $100 $140 $180 $220
Cricket AT&T Unlimited No N/A $60 $110 $150 $190 $230
Verizon Verizon Unlimited No N/A $80 $140 $200 $260 $320

Non-unlimited Family plans: If you and the other members of your family or group use their phones sparingly, you might be able to save a little with a family plan that offers a fixed number of minutes, texts and MBs of data. Here's what's available in non-unlimited family plans:

Consumer Cellular is a no-contract postpaid MVNO that offers service on your choice of either T-Mobile or AT&T. Consumer Cellular allows up to five lines to share a plan for an additional $10 per month per extra line. Consumer Cellular has separate plans for voice minutes and for data, SMS and MMS. Customers build a plan by combining any voice plan with a data/messaging plan. Both voice and data/SMS/MMS are shared on family plans.

Available voice plans are (price is per month):
$15 - 250 minutes, $20 - unlimited minutes.

Available data plans, all of which include unlimited messaging (SMS or MMS), are:
$5 - 250 MB; $10 - 1 GB; $20 - 3 GB; $30 - 5 GB; $40 - 10 GB.

Plan prices do not include include taxes and fees which add between 15% and 35% to the monthly cost.

Warning: On all plans, if you exceed the minutes, messages or megabytes included with your plan in any month, Consumer Cellular will automatically upgrade to whatever plan covers the minutes, messages or megabytes you have used. Unless you manually downgrade you plan you will stay on the higher plan in subsequent months. If you use more than 10 GB in a month, Consumer Cellular will charge $10 or each gigabyte over ten, up to a maximum of 18 GB. In addition to charging $5/GB for data over 10 GB, Consumer also throttles the added data to 128 Kbps.

Ting  is another no-contract postpaid MVNO. Ting offers service on the customer's choice of T-Mobile or Sprint. Ting's pricing model is unusual. Customers are billed for separate tiers of minutes, texts and megabytes of data. If a customer uses up all the minutes, messages or data in a tier, Ting will automatically upgrade them to the next larger tier for the current month only. Customers can block automatic updates by setting usage and/or spending limits on a line by line basis as well as restrict some lines from using voice data, tests or MMS.

Here are the available tiers.
Talk 100 min $3 500 min $9 1000 min $18 2100 min $35  2100+ $35 + 1.9¢/min
Text 100 texts $3 1000 texts $5 2000 texts $8 4800  min $11  4800+ $11 + 1/4¢/text
Data 100 MB $3 500 MB $10 1 GB $16 2 GB $20 2 GB+ $20 + $10/GB

There's a $6/month charge per line, which is charged on each line of a family plan, including the first line. Plan prices do not include include taxes and fees which add between 15% and 35% to the monthly cost.

Image: Tom Sulcer [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons

Updated Jan 13 2017: MetroPCS changes.

12 comments:

Comment Page :
  1. Cricket wins again. Unless you like faster data.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. What is 8mbps too slow to do?

      Delete
  2. Wireless Services US (for dealers who promote their own brand) Family Plan:
    Operator Network HS Data Ulim 2G 1Line 2Line 3Line 4Line 5Line Notes
    "Dealer's Own" VZW 3-6GB No $40 $75 $110 $145 NA
    3GB 4.5GB 6GB
    Shared Shared Shared

    ReplyDelete
  3. Hi Dennis, pls. add Gophone to the comparison table too. They now have multi line discounts, international calls texts and hotspot included on At&t

    ReplyDelete
  4. Darrell what's the website for wireless services us?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Sagar, the dealer portal is at www.wirelessservices.us

      Delete
  5. "Unlimited" is not the best word to use that Boost plan, which can't be used in most of the territory of the contiguous 48 States. That is QUITE limiting.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Thank you for the insightful article, very helpful indeed. I checked out Consumer Cellular's website and from what I understand minutes are not deducted when making calls to other members under the same account, which is a good fit for my family. I also appreciate that they have lower data options, as we utilize wi-fi as much as possible (we stay under 1 GB between our 3 lines).

    ReplyDelete
  7. I have yet to see a family plan that makes sense for two users who normally pay $20 to $30 each for single user plans. Using PureTalk's $29 unlimited Talk/1GB data on AT&T towers as a baseline, even PureTalk's own family plans are not competitive!

    A family plan would result in us paying more (we don't need more data), getting less, or having less coverage.


    ReplyDelete
  8. Tracfones' Total Wireless now seems to be available at most Target Stores. There are (4) phones now available on their website and in most of my local Target Stores.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Consumer Cellular now charges $15 to add a second line, up from $10.

    ReplyDelete
  10. My wife and I are 3 months into the "free" year of Sprint postpaid Unlimited Bring Your Phone plan ($7.54/month taxes and surcharges). We use less than 300 minutes/month, about 2000 sms and MMS, and less than 500 MB of mobile data, combined. Very good CS and coverage for voice/SMS are important to us. All four major networks work well for coverage where we travel. Here's how much a family plan that meets all our needs will cost after our year with Sprint. Taxes are not included:
    1. Twigby: $27
    2. Pure TalkUSA: $30 (from AMAC order page; $10 plus $20 plans)
    3. Boom: $35
    4. Ting: $39
    5. ROK; Consumer Cellular (no voice charges between our phones): $40

    ReplyDelete
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