Those looking for to save on wireless for the whole family have plenty of prepaid options. Starting today, they'll have one more.
Verizon has introduced a new prepaid family plan that provides each user with their own data, rather than a pool shared across the account. Unfortunately, you can still find a better deal elsewhere.
The system is broken into four tiers, and works similarly to Verizon’s individual prepaid pricing. It starts at $40 per month for 3GB per line, $50 and $60 for 7GB and 10GB, respectively, and $80 for unlimited. Taxes and fees are not included.
The bonus is, every line after the first and up to the fifth is discounted. And if your family enrolls in a more expensive plan, those discounts are higher. For example, on the 3GB plan, lines two through five are slashed by $10 — so they’ll cost $30, rather than $40. The 7GB plan knocks $15 off the $50 you’d spend on the first line, while the 10GB and unlimited plans offer $20 discounts.
In other words, if you maxed out the unlimited plan with a total of five lines, you’d spend $320 a month. That’s $80 for the first line, followed by $60 each for the next four.
MORE: Best Prepaid Phone Plans
How does that fare against the competition? Not particularly well. MetroPCS’ unlimited prepaid family plan, currently our favorite in the business, runs $50 for the first line and $30 for lines two through five. Overall, you’d spend $170 for the same plan through MetroPCS. That’s nearly half as much as what Verizon’s offering.
To come close as a Verizon prepaid customer, you’d have to settle for 7GB per line, for a total of $190 per month. Granted, 7GB is a sufficient amount of data for most people, and Verizon’s network boasts greater coverage than T-Mobile’s, which MetroPCS utilizes. But it’s still more expensive, and you’ll have to endure similar restrictions on content and usage no matter what carrier you choose.
Both MetroPCS and Verizon cap streaming video at 480p resolution. Hotspots and tethering are not allowed, and both carriers will throttle your data speeds past a certain data threshold, if the network is under heavy load. On Verizon, that limit is 22GB. On MetroPCS, it’s 35GB.
Other prepaid carriers also offer better deals on unlimited plans. AT&T subsidiary Cricket Wireless comes close to MetroPCS, offering compounded discounts for every line after the first. Unlimited for a family of five runs $200 — $60 for the first line, followed by $50, $40, $30, and $20 for the remaining four.
However, Cricket has restrictions of its own. Users are throttled to a maximum of 8Mbps on downloads at all times. That’s not offensively slow in practice, but it is nearly five times worse than what Verizon’s customers typically average, according to our latest wireless network showdown.
While Verizon’s network is the fastest and largest, the difference in speed doesn’t justify paying double. Big Red still has some catching up to do if it wants to compete with the best deals for families in the prepaid realm.