"Family plans" claim to offer increased savings, simplified bills, and a greater level of control for keeping tabs on what people are using their phones for.
But are family plans worth it?
With the recent rise in "unlimited" plans, families have more options to bundle lines together and save.
However, much like individual lines, many of the major carriers offer very similar family packages at equally similar prices.
We’re rounding up
the top 3 picks
to cover the various ways people use their phones.
Editor’s Note: This post has been updated for 2020
Best Family Plan for Heavy Data Use
While not as unlimited as the marketing might claim, Rogers' Infinite 50+ plan offers 50GB of 4G LTE data with reduced speeds until your next bill should you use it all. No worries about overages!
A family of three will pay $355 for three lines with additional lines running $115 per month. There are also larger and smaller data allotments available, but we think the 50GB plan is a good starting point for heavy data use.
The plan also includes access to their Roam Like Home feature for added savings while travelling.
Rogers Infinite +50 Plan
Best Family Cell Phone Plan for Controlling Usage
Featuring 20GB of 4G data with unlimited throttled data thereafter, and unlimited Canada-wide talk and text, this plan runs $195 per month for 3 lines.
Telus' family plan works a little differently than other companies. For each additional line you save $5 more per line. This means that your overall savings increases with each phone.
Better still, Telus allows you to enable or disable data, set data limits, and monitor the usage of each line on your plan in real time using the My Account dashboard.
This makes it easy to establish healthy usage habits -- and to make sure the kids don't blow through all your high-speed data.
Their Telus WISE program also provides educational resources and tutorials to ensure that you and your family use your mobile phones in a safe, secure manner.
Telus Peace of Mind Plan
Best Basic Family Cell Phone Plan, Best Couples (Two-Person) Cell Phone Plan
When it comes to a basic family plan -- or a plan for just two people -- we simply cannot find one we'd recommend when comparing the value offered by our other picks.
Instead, we recommend going with multiple single lines through Public Mobile. For one, you can be flexible in what you choose on each line to set limits for kids or friends.
Secondly, their pricing is well below anything on offer from the bigger names. Better still, they use the Telus network to provide service, so coverage should be strong in most areas.
A single line plan with unlimited Canada-wide calling and texting, and 500MB of 3G data runs $25 per month before taxes and fees. If you sign up for autopay, they'll double the data to 1GB. This means that 3 lines would only run you $75 per month before taxes and fees.
The downside is that there's not a ton of phone based support options for Public Mobile. However, they have a very active community forum with moderators who can help with most issues you'd typically call in for.
Public Mobile Build Your Own Plan
How We Picked
When answering the question, “What’s the best cell phone plan for families?”, we considered the following primary criteria:
With discounts for every line added, the savings on most family plans add up quickly -- especially if you’re using a major carrier.
While there are cheaper plans available than some of our picks, we scoured the plans on offer to make picks we felt found the sweet spot between savings and features.
Managing multiple bills for multiple lines can be a headache. If you’re using more than 2 or 3 lines, it’s easy for bills to go unnoticed or mix up the plans and features on each line.
Family plans with consolidating billing make it easy to keep track of both what you owe and what the people on your plan are using each month.
Reduced credit requirements
Getting a new phone plan is expensive enough without considering the deposits for services or new phones.
Family plans are based on the credit ratings of the main account holder instead of the people using each phone.
This makes them ideal in situations where either credit ratings aren’t stellar for everyone involved or they’re simply not old enough to sign a contract.
Credit requirements vary by provide and will still increase based on the number of lines or model of phones you request. However, family plans consolidate credit checks to reduce the impact on our credit rating and increase the chance of approval if everyone doesn’t have sparkling credit.
With individual plans, you’d need to log in to each account or call up customer service and verify each account to make any changes to features or plans. With family plans, everything is available with one login or account verification. You can even add authorized people to your plan to allow them to make changes.
Better still, you can often track usage, set limits, and change other features across the whole account. This makes it easy to highlight any potential issues -- such as kids using all your data or talking until 3am -- and apply controls to fix them without impacting the settings for other people on the plan.
Using these principles as the foundation of our picks, we dug through the seemingly endless plan options available from carriers both big and small to create a list of picks to suit a variety of preferences.
While most plans are labelled “family” plans, they’re actually group plans in essence. Most carriers won’t require any sort of true relation between people. As long as they get their money each month, the requirements are often quite slack.
However, if you’re considering being the main account holder, you are liable for anyone on your account. If you sign up a roommate, partner, or co-worker on your plan and they don’t pay up when the bill comes due, you’ll have to cover the difference.
Moreso, if you sign up for a plan with a two-year commitment, you’re betting on relations staying good for the entire term. And since it’s all one bill and one payment, that means that if you don’t cover the difference should someone flake, everyone on the plan might lose service and it might impact your credit score .
So while you can put friends on your family plan, always consider if you should before committing.
Most carriers aren’t picky about people living at the same address. Or if the people on their family plans are actually family. They just want the bill paid on time and in full.
There should be no problems with keeping your kids on your plan while they’re away at school as long as they’re in the same country.
However, be sure to check coverage at the school as well. Keeping them on your plan doesn’t do anyone any good if they can’t actually get a signal or are roaming when they use their phone.
This also applies to plans with calling zones or separate rates for local or “in-zone” calling -- if your kid racks up a hefty bill calling out of area, savings from the family plan discount will vanish quickly.
Yes and no. This answer is a bit more complicated.
Can you use a family plan to register a few lines and use them for your business? Probably… as long as you have real people to register the phones to.
However, the moment you have issues with service or questions, you could run into trouble. Like your Internet provider, most mobile phone companies price business and residential services differently. They also configure accounts slightly differently.
As such, most also have clauses in their Terms of Service stating that they do not allow dedicated business use on residential plans and vice versa.
So if you call in complaining of service issues, you could find yourself forced to upgrade to a business package. Even if they allow you to keep your plan, if you’re violating terms of service, you likely cannot hold your phone service provider liable for losses due to their service.
In most cases, while business plans are often more expensive, they’re our recommendation for any serious business use.
A family plan might work for a small business with a couple employees or an independent contractor, but most business plans offer greater flexibility and guarantees for larger businesses which family plans cannot bring to the table.
This will depend on the carrier.
Most carriers offer discounts starting at only 2 lines. However, the sweet spot is often closer to 4 lines.
Upper limits vary, with most carriers offering support for 6 to 8 lines.
Keep in mind, this may or may not include data-only lines for tablets. So if you have a large family, or a lot of gadgets, be sure to check before signing anything.
Ultimately, this comes down to your needs and the level of control you’d like.
In most cases, shared data plans are cheaper.
But unless the carrier also supports limiting data use per line, this means that your kids or friend can blow through all your data, leaving you stuck until the next billing cycle or -- worse still -- paying overages every month.
Separate data lines often cost a little more, but if one person uses more data than everyone else, they see the impact while everyone else enjoys that fact that they were frugal with their streaming, social media, or downloads and budgeted ahead.
In short, shared plans offer more data for less money, but separate lines offer the greatest amount of control.
In most cases, shared plans are billed just like individual plans -- except every line is on one bill. This means you don’t have to open four envelopes and make four payments every month for four lines.
Most carriers still provide of a comprehensive breakdown of how each line was used each month, just the total charges are rolled into one sum.
If you’re sharing the plan with friends or a partner, it’s up to you to do the footwork on collecting their part of the bill. The only thing the carrier cares about is who’s name is on the account, not who is using the phones.
As with billing, if your name is on the account, you are liable for all the lines. This means if someone wants to leave, you have a few options, but you’re still on the hook.
- Find someone else to assume the line
- Keep paying the bill
- Pay the early termination fee for the line
- Transfer them to their own plan
While transferring them to their own plan sounds like an obvious fix, it isn’t as simple as it appears…
First off, the carrier must allow this. While most will allow you to do this, they often require that the person transferring to their own plan meet any credit requirements and pay a deposit accordingly.
But more importantly, it requires the consent of the person you’re transferring. If a friend is moving away or a kid is moving out, that’s probably not a big deal. But if you’re needing to split up plans due to a relationship ending or friendships falling out, things get more dicey and delicate.
If you can’t find someone to take over the line or you can’t transfer it out, you might be able to recoup some of the fees by selling your used phone. If it’s a recent flagship model, you might break even. But we’d still bet on having to pay out of pocket for a portion of the fees.
In most cases, carriers charge early termination fees per line. This means that instead of paying a single cancellation charge to end your family plan early, you’ll need to pay one for each line on the account.
That number can get scary mighty quickly…
For this reason, we highly recommend researching options before signing anything. If you’re not extremely sure that the arrangement will work for the term of the contract, go with a prepaid plan or simply pay more for individual lines.
By the time you factor in early termination fees on 4 lines, you probably won’t save anything over 4 separate plans anyhow. You might even end up paying more...
Most family plans work exactly like individual plans in terms of upgrades. Typically, if there are any discounts involved, they’re attached to a term commitment.
Keep in mind, however, that if you’re planning to perform multiple device upgrades using a carrier-based financing option, that you might run into limits based on the credit checks they performed when you started the plan.
- Best Family Plan for Heavy Data Use: Rogers Infinite +50
- Best Family Cell Phone Plan for Controlling Usage: Telus Peace of Mind Plan
- Best Basic Family Cell Phone Plan, Best Couples (Two-Person) Cell Phone Plan: Public Mobile Build Your Own Plans
Still Not Sure?
Family plans are a popular way to both simplify billing for multiple lines and save a little money over the cost of individual lines.
But they come with some risk. Should relationships sour, or better deals arise, you’re likely locked into a contract for at least 2 years.
More to the point, you might save even more money by picking up individual plans through a smaller carrier -- especially if you don’t need unlimited data or already own your own phones.
If you’re curious how our best family plan picks stack up to other options, be sure to check out our plan comparison tool.
It makes it easy to pick and choose the exact features you’re looking for in a plan and get a quick snapshot of what the various carriers in your area offer. Better still, you don’t have to read page after page of lists or bounce between tabs.
We make researching options easy so you can get more out of your mobile phone with less hassle.
Not sold on the family plan concept? Or simply looking to check out all of your options before committing? We
also have guides on the
best prepaid plans
and best postpaid plans around!
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