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Best family cell phone plan in 2022

best family cell phone plan
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

Picking the best family cell phone plan could become a pressing concern over the next few months, as phone makers roll out new devices and tie in some of the best cell phone deals to a long-term commitment to one of their various plans. But is that plan you're about to sign up for really the best one for you and your family?

If it's among the choices, we've listed below, it probably is, as we've put in the research to find the best family cell phone plan for different needs and budgets. And even if you're not about to buy a new phone, checking out what's available from different carriers just might help you save money on your cell phone bill. You can see which plans cost less than what you're paying now and which ones deliver better value with more perks.

The best family cell phone plans at a glance

1. Best overall family plan: T-Mobile (opens in new tab)
2. Best for coverage and speeds: Verizon (opens in new tab)
3. Best plan for bargain hunters: Mint (opens in new tab)
4. Best plan for small families: Xfinity Mobile (opens in new tab)

We've studied all the different options from carriers big and small and can point your toward the best family cell phone plan based on your needs. Unlimited data is usually the way to go for families, so that you're not having to keep an eye on who's gobbling up all the data in your plan. Because carriers offer different perks and benefits with their best unlimited data plans, you'll want to consider how much you're willing to spend, if you need hotspot data and value perks like streaming service subscriptions. 

Families of four can expect to pay between $120 to $220 a month for four lines from the major wireless carriers, with some discount services offering even lower prices. If that seems like a wide range, that’s because benefits can increase on higher-priced plans. (We've also compared the cheapest unlimited data plans from AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon if you're on a budget.)

Here’s a closer look at the best family cell phone plan options.

The best family cell phone plans

Best family cell phone plan value

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T-Mobile Magenta | 4-line family plan | $160/month - Best value family plan (opens in new tab)
T-Mobile is arguably the best overall value family plan you can get. That's because every family member will get unlimited 5G data on all the plans. And despite this, T-Mobile really isn't that expensive. The first line will cost $70 if you sign up for auto-pay then the second costs $50 and any extra lines costs just $20. That totals $160, which also reflects a discount for enrolling in autopay; taxes and fees are included in that price as well. Note that T-Mobile occasionally waives the $20 monthly cost on the third line of data, allowing you to save on your monthly bill, so check to see if this deal is in place when shopping for the best family cell phone plan. On multi-line plans, T-Mobile will cover the cost of a $9 Netflix subscription and throw in a free year of Paramount Plus along with six months of Apple TV Plus.  (Apple's streaming service is included as part of T-Mobile's more expensive Magenta Max plan, by the way.)

Pros: Third line for free, free Netflix, 5G available
Cons: Can’t mix-and-match unlimited plans

Best family cell phone plan for coverage and speeds

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Verizon 5G Play More | 4-line family plan | $180/month - Best family plan for coverage (opens in new tab)
It's not the least expensive plan Verizon offers — more on that below — but the 5G Play More plan easily has the best perks. Play More subscribers get access to Disney's streaming services as part of their plan, along with an online gaming subscription from either Apple or Google. There's a six-month Apple Music trial, too. Even better, you get 5G coverage, which includes access to Verizon's faster Ultra Wideband service, which now reaches more customers with the launch of C-Band 5G (opens in new tab) this year. Verizon does reserve the right to throttle your data if you go over 50GB on this plan, so it that restriction is too much, sign up for 5G Get More, which offers truly unlimited data, plus other perks at a higher rate. The 5G Start Plan at Verizon lowers the total to $140/month for 4 lines, but with far fewer perks.

Pros: Excellent coverage, unlimited hotspot on all plans
Cons: T-Mobile's plan offers more value

Best family cell phone plan for bargain hunters

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Mint Mobile | 4-line 4GB plan | $60/month - Cheapest family plan, with a catch (opens in new tab)
Mint doesn't offer escalating discounts as you add lines of data to your plan, making it different from most of the other best family cell phone plan options. Instead, each line of data gets the same discount that Mint offers, meaning everyone who signs up for a 4GB plan through the discount carrier pays $15 per line each month. To keep that price after a three-month trial period, you need to commit (and pay for) a year of service, but the discount is substantial. And Mint also lets families mix and match its different plans.

Pros: Big discounts relative to other family plans, you can mix and match plans
Cons: Requires a year commitment for best price

Best family plan for Comcast customers

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Xfinity Mobile | 4-line plan | $120/month - A good deal for Comcast customers (opens in new tab)
Xfinity Mobile has established itself as an attractive option for families, with a discount on its unlimited data plan kicking in once you tack on additional lines. Multiple lines of unlimited data cost $30 each per month, so a two-line plan now costs $60 while a family of four plays $120. For that reason, we'd especially recommend Xfinity if you need two or three lines of data. Xfinity also uses Verizon's network, including that carrier's expanding 5G network, so you can expect fast coverage.

Pros: Discounts on multiple lines, uses Verizon's network
Cons: Only available to Xfinity internet customers

AT&T's best family cell phone plan

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AT&T | Unlimited Extra 4 line plan | $160/month - AT&Ts best family plan (opens in new tab)
We previously recommended AT&T's Unlimited Elite plan because it included an HBO Max subscription as a free perk. But AT&T replaced that offering with a new Unlimited Premium plan that drops the HBO Max subscription. Instead, AT&T customers should consider the carrier's Unlimited Extra plan, which includes some benefits like 15GB of hotspot data and the promise that your speeds won't be slowed unless you use more than 50GB of data in a month. AT&T's cheapest plan for families — Unlimited Starter — slows your speeds at any time.

Pros:
15GB of hotspot data, unlimited data when traveling in Mexico and Canada
Cons:
No more HBO Max, speeds can be slowed after 50GB of use

Cheapest family plan on AT&T's network

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Cricket Wireless | Unlimited + 15 GB Mobile Hotspot | $130/month - Unlimited data for less on AT&T's network (opens in new tab)
Cricket Wireless is AT&T's prepaid subsidiary, meaning it uses the same network, including 5G coverage. But Cricket plans cost much less, as you can see with this unlimited offering, where four lines of data will cost you $33 per line. This plan even comes with perks, which is a rarity, even among the best prepaid phone plans (opens in new tab). You get 15GB of hotspot data, and unlike AT&T, Cricket's plan still includes HBO Max among its benefits. (Be aware it is the ad-supported tier of the streaming service.) Cricket is a great way to enjoy the benefits of AT&T but without paying for that carrier's most expensive plan.

Pros: 5G coverage included, cheaper than AT&T plans, includes HBO Max
Cons: AT&T can slow data if there's lot of network traffic, HBO Max features ads



Verizon's cheapest family plan

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Verizon Welcome Unlimited | 4-line family plan | $120/month - Cheapest Verizon family plan (opens in new tab)
As much as we like the 5G Play More plan, it is pretty expensive at $180 for a family of four. Verizon has lowered the cost of unlimited data, especially for families, with its Welcome Unlimited plan. That costs $120/month for four lines of data — or $60 less than what that same family would pay for 5G Play More. The perks are gone — no streaming service subscriptions or hotspot data — but you do get access to Verizon's nationwide 5G service, so this is a good bare-bones option.

Pros: Verizon's cheapest unlimited plan, includes 5G coverage
Cons: No mixing and matching with other Verizon unlimited plans, no perks

How to pick the best family cell phone plans

Picking the right cell phone plan comes down to balancing the costs of multiple lines of data with the perks each carrier offers. If you do a lot of video streaming, for example, you’ll want to pick a plan that not only throws in a streaming service as a perk (Netflix with T-Mobile, multiple streaming services with Verizon) but also doesn’t slow your data if you consume a lot of data in a given month.

Because the thing about unlimited data is that, with the exception of one plan, it’s not truly unlimited. AT&T's Unlimited Extra customers will enjoy a 50GB cap, just like three of Verizon's four unlimited plans. T-Mobile has doubled the cap on its Magenta plan to 100GB, while the more expensive Magenta Max plan does away with caps entirely for a truly unlimited plan; AT&T followed Magenta Max's lead with its Unlimited Elite plan.

The lowest-priced plans at Verizon (Welcome Unlimited) and AT&T (Unlimited Starter) allow your data speeds to be slowed whenever there's network congestion. That's also a risk you run when you get your service from MVNOs like Mint and Cricket, which can see their traffic deprioritized in favor of other customers on their parent networks (T-Mobile and AT&T, respectively).

We’ve focused on unlimited plans, as only AT&T is the only major carrier that continues to offer a tiered data option (a 4GB in this case). If you prefer tiered data, you'd want to turn to service like Mint, which offers plans with different data allocations. 

Philip Michaels is a Managing Editor at Tom's Guide. He's been covering personal technology since 1999 and was in the building when Steve Jobs showed off the iPhone for the first time. He's been evaluating smartphones since that first iPhone debuted in 2007, and he's been following phone carriers and smartphone plans since 2015. He has strong opinions about Apple, the Oakland Athletics, old movies and proper butchery techniques. Follow him at @PhilipMichaels.

  • TGO
    Is that the car from Vacation??
    Reply
  • Larry831
    admin said:
    Looking for the best family cell phone plan? We can help you find a smartphone plan that brings unlimited data to multiple people without breaking the bank.

    Best family cell phone plan in 2020 : Read more

    Great Read. The problem is that I don't have a family to get these deals! I'm debating on Visible or Circledin. Has anyone tried Circledin before? I know with Visible you can join a family plan, but i heard it's super slow.
    Reply
  • Jwhite326
    This article says it was published 11 days ago. But it looks like maybe it was just reposted from two years ago.

    I love Tom's Guide and read it for all things tech-related. But if these are your "best" family plan suggestions in mid-2022, I'm a little underwhelmed. I need to move a family of four from Straight Talk, and was looking for alternatives. Anyway, I spent 2-3 hours digging and I came up with a few other MVNOs that seem to dominate these.

    For example, Google Fi's Simply Unlimited Family plan offers nearly identical service compared to the Magenta plan you're suggesting: the same prioritized data allocations and hotspot capability along with talk and text, but for $20 a line. That's HALF the price. This would save folks almost a grand a year.

    Similarly, US Mobile offers 30 GB of prioritized data on Verizon, plus unlimited talk and text for $20 a line. It's got the same speed as the Verizon Play More plan you're touting, and it costs $100 less PER MONTH, so people could save $1,200 a year. That's a huge chunk of change!

    I feel like with some more research you guys could come up with some better suggestions.
    Reply