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Best family cell phone plan in 2021

best family cell phone plan
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With new phones like the iPhone 13 arriving this fall, you may be searching for the best family cell phone plan. If so, look no further than a plan with unlimited data, which can meet the needs of any family no matter how large.

The best family cell phone plans at a glance

1. Best overall family plan: T-Mobile
2. Best for coverage and speeds: Verizon
3. Best group plan for non-families: Visible
4. Best family plan for streaming: AT&T

You'll find unlimited plans from every carrier, big and small. And while they're generally pretty pricey, it's not too hard to find affordable unlimited options, especially if you're willing to look beyond AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon. Discount carriers have rolled out unlimited options, and they're among the best family cell phone plans out there precisely because they don't charge a lot.

It then becomes a matter of finding the right unlimited option for families — a tricky prospect since each carrier offers different variations on unlimited data, featuring specific perks and benefits. That means the best cell phone plans for families will depend on how much you're willing to spend, if you need to hotspot and a host of other factors.

The best family cell phone plans from the major carriers feature escalating discounts as you add more lines, allowing you to compete with the best cheap cell phone plans for the lowest prices.

Families of four can expect to pay between $120 to $220 a month for four lines from the major wireless carriers. If that seems like a wide range, that’s because benefits can increase on higher-priced plans. The average plan costs between $160 and $180 for four lines of data, with the best option depending on which carrier offers the best coverage in your area and which features best fit your wireless needs.

Here’s a closer look at the best family cell phone plans depending on your needs.

The best family cell phone plans

Best overall value family plan

T-Mobile Magenta

T-Mobile Magenta | 4-line family plan | $140/month - Best value family plan
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. T-Mobile currently waives the $20 cost on your third line, bringing the total cost down to $140 from $160. Taxes and fees are included in the price. For family plans, T-Mobile will cover the cost of a $9 Netflix subscription and throw in a free year of Apple TV Plus. You also get 5GB of LTE hotspot data with the Magenta plan. The two obvious issues with T-Mobile's plan is that it limits you to 480p streaming and you can't mix and match plans.

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

Best family plan for coverage and speeds

Verizon Start Unlimited

Verizon Play More Unlimited | 4-line family plan | $180/month - Best family plan for coverage
It's not the least expensive plan Verizon offers, but the Play More Unlimited plan easily has the best perks. Play More subscribers get access to Disney's streaming services as part of their plan, along with a year of Discovery Plus and 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. (An identically priced plan, Do More, scales back the streaming service perks in favor of cloud storage and discounts on add-on plans for tablets and watches.) Verizon even lets you mix and match its different plans, letting you pick different options for different members of the family.

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

An alternative option for families and friends

Visible Party Pay

Visible Party Pay | 4-line plan | $100/month - A family plan for non-families
Visible's family plan stands out for being... well, not for families necessarily. Visible's Party Pay plan allows you to bundle up with multiple Visible users — whether they're related to you or not —getting a discount on all your lines. Each person gets their own bill which makes it very flexible for both families and groups of friends. The savings can get pretty impressive with prices dropping all the way down to just $25 a month. (For just a single line of unlimited data, Visible charges $40.) And under a Bring a Friend promotion, you can pay just $5 a month for the month after you refer a new customer to Visible.

Pros: Big discounts available, don't have to be a family
Cons:
5G speeds are capped

Best family plan for Comcast customers

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Xfinity Mobile | 4-line plan | $120/month - A good deal for Comcast customers
Xfinity Mobile just became a much more attractive option for families by offering discounts when you add multiple lines on its unlimited plan. A single line of unlimited data normally costs $45, but escalating discounts reduce the cost for a family of four to $30 per line, or $120 total each month. Xfinity uses Verizon's network, including 5G, so you can expect fast coverage.

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

Best family plan for streaming

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AT&T | Unlimited Elite 4 line plan | $200/month - AT&Ts streaming family plan
This is a great option from AT&T if you don't mind spending a bit more on your family plan. The main benefit here is that you get HBO Max included. It also offers 5G service, 40GB of LTE hotspot data and HD video streaming — something a lot of unlimited plans limit. In fact, AT&T updated its plan to allow for 4K streaming when that option is available. Plus, AT&T no longer slows speeds for Unlimited Elite users regardless of how much data they consume. AT&T also offers an Unlimited Extra plan with more benefits or a Starter option with fewer benefits. The starter option can secure you 4 lines for just $140. Like Verizon, AT&T lets you mix and match plans to come up with the best combination for your family.

Pros:
Unlimited 5G data, free HBO Max, mix-and-match plans
Cons:
Expensive

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 or HBO Max with AT&T's priciest plan) 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 (Start Unlimited) and AT&T (Unlimited Starter) allow your data speeds to be slowed whenever there's network congestion. As for Visible, we've noted that its speeds don't always match Verizon's in the same away, as traffic can be slowed when the Verizon network is congested; Visible no longer caps data speeds outside of hotspot usage and 5G.

We’ve focused on unlimited plans, but both AT&T and Verizon offer tiered data options, too. AT&T offers a single 4GB plan, while Verizon lets you choose between 5GB and 10GB tiers. Families draw from the same pool of data at both carriers. Unless you’re only adding two lines and don’t need a lot of data, the costs savings from unlimited data plans aren’t really substantial. For example, four lines of Verizon's 10GB data plan will cost you $140 a month, which is the same amount as four lines of the carrier's Start Unlimited plan.

Philip Michaels
Philip Michaels is a senior editor at Tom's Guide. He has strong opinions about Apple, the Oakland Athletics and old movies. Follow him at @PhilipMichaels.