While  smartphones  add convenience to our lives, they come with rather hefty bills… especially if you’re looking to equip the whole family with new phones.

"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?

Simply put, if you need more than two lines... there’s a good chance you can save with a family plan.

And when it comes to options currently available in the US, we consider the  T-Mobile Magenta plan to be one of the best family cell phone plans .

Between the unlimited data, the free Netflix, and the rock-solid coverage, it offers an excellent value for the average smartphone user.

But there’s plenty of other options as well.

If you’re looking to dig a little deeper into choosing the perfect family plan for your needs, we’re rounding up the top 4 picks to cover the various ways people use their phones.

Editor’s Note: This post has been updated for 2019.


Our Picks

1. T-Mobile Magenta

Best Overall Family Plan, Best Family Plan for Heavy Data Use

While T-Mobile’s “unlimited” data caps at 50GB, it’s still the most generous allotment of the current unlimited plans.

On top of that, you’ll get unlimited calls and texts, no roaming charges in more than 140+ countries, free in-flight texting and up to an hour of data on GoGo-enabled flights , Netflix in SD on one screen, 3GB of 4G LTE tethering, and unlimited data text in a range of countries.

All of this is available starting at $160 for 4 lines -- taxes and fees included.

There are a few limitations though.

The main one is that video streams in 480p.

But given they hand you a free Netflix subscription and that phone screens only get so big, we think the slight drop in quality isn’t going to make video stream unwatchable.

You can also upgrade to the Magenta Plus plan to get Netflix streaming in HD on up to two devices

You’re also limited on tethering speeds. However, you can add a tablet to your plan for $20 with the same unlimited data as our phone if your other devices support a SIM card .

T-Mobile Magenta Plan 

Price: $160 (for 4 lines)
Data: "Unlimited" (50GB cap)
Talk / Text: Unlimited

2. Verizon Start Unlimited

Best Family Cell Phone Plan for Controlling Usage

Featuring unlimited 4G data, talk, and text, this plan runs $140 per month with autopay for 4 lines.

Like many other “unlimited” plans, it limits video to 480p and music streaming quality 0.5Mbps.

What helps this plan stand out is the level of control over the account features. Verizon offers one of the most comprehensive sets of control options available. Better still, you can manage it all through an app on your smartphone.

Want to setup call forwarding, set data limits, or restrict other phone features? It’s all a tap away for the main account holder.

Of course, all of these options are also available through the web portal or by calling customer service.

The plan also includes exclusive Verizon Up rewards , calling to and from Mexico and Canada, and they offer discounts for active service members and military veterans.

Verizon Start Unlimited

Price: $140 (for 4 lines)
Data: "Unlimited" (throttled during times of)
Talk / Text: Unlimited

3. Cricket Core Plan

Best Basic Family Cell Phone Plan

If you don’t require the fastest speeds and a ton of extras, the from Cricket Core Plan  is a great value.

You get up to 22GB of 4G data per month capped at 3Mbps with 480p video streaming.

Talking and texting is also unlimited, so you never need to worry about how you use your phone.

If you travel often or have friends and family abroad, you’ll also enjoy free unlimited texts to more than 38 countries and no roaming fees in Canada and Mexico.

All of this is available across 4 lines for only $100.

Cricket Core Plan  

Price: $100 (for 4 lines)
Data: "Unlimited" (22GB bandwidth cap with a 3Mbps download speed cap)
Talk / Text: Unlimited

4. Metro by T-Mobile Unlimited High-Speed Plan

Best Prepaid Family Cell Phone Plan, Best Couples (Two-Person) Cell Phone Plan

Using the same network as T-Mobile, Metro by T-Mobile offers 4 lines for $140 without the hassle of credit checks. The price includes all taxes and fees, so it really is just $140 per month.

All lines get “unlimited” 4G LTE data -- in this case, that means up to 35GB -- as well as unlimited US calls and texts, 5GB of 4G LTE tethering and 100GB of Google One cloud storage.

Metro by T-Mobile is constantly running promotions, so you’ll likely also find bonuses for switching, trade-in options, and rebates that further reduce the cost for a few months.

If you don’t already have a phone, the selection at Metro by T-Mobile isn’t amazing, but the options are at least solid entry-level models.

While powerful enough to keep the kids happy, you might want to consider picking up a phone elsewhere if you’re looking to get more out of your smartphone experience.

Metro by T-Mobile Unlimited High Speed Plan 

Price: $100 (for 4 lines)
Data: "Unlimited" (35GB cap)
Talk / Text: Unlimited


How we Picked

When answering the question, “What’s the best cell phone plan for families?” , we considered the following primary criteria:

 

Savings

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 is probably 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.

 

Simplified billing

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 actually 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.

 

Better control

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.


Common Questions












Recap


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 the our best family plan picks stack up to other options, be sure to check out our plan comparison tool .

COMPARE CELL PHONE PLANS

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.


P.S. 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!


Disclosure: You should know that in some cases, we may receive a referral fee (at no additional cost to you) for products purchased through the links on our site. These links help support our work but they do not influence our content. Our editorial recommendations are always genuine and we try to feature only the best products and services. Why trust us?