Best Family Cell Phone Plans

We looked at some of the top wireless plans to find the best options for families—and anyone else who wants to save money and share data.

Family plans can knock a few dollars off your monthly cell phone bill and make your kids stop complaining that their friends can reach them only by smoke signals. But if you want to get the whole crew (or even just you and your partner) on a single plan, then you need one that’ll meet your needs and budget.

We looked over the major wireless carriers’ plans to find the best ones for families who share data. Or heck, just the best one for you and your YouTube-streaming best friend.

T-Mobile: Best overall

T-Mobile’s Essentials plan is an obvious choice thanks to lots of fast data and a Netflix subscription included.

What we like

Lots of LTE data

Surprise! Even unlimited data plans have some limits. Most cell phone carriers (T-Mobile included) give you some super fast LTE data but then slow down your speeds after you’ve used a certain amount. If you stream enough YouTube videos, your binge-watch session is going to slow to a crawl.

But that’s not such a concern with T-Mobile because it’s pretty generous. T-Mobile’s Essentials plan gives you 50 GB of high-speed data per month. (After that, your speeds will slow down.) That 50 GB is more than twice the amount of LTE data you’d get from any other provider except Verizon.

So even if your kid insists on streaming Riverdale on the bus, you don’t have to worry too much about it slowing down the whole family’s data speeds.

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Data-lovers tip
If your family doesn’t use much Wi-Fi and you really want the most unlimited data plan, then Verizon’s Above Unlimited plan is unbeatable at 75 GB of LTE data per month. It’s expensive, but you don’t have to worry about being throttled.

Included Netflix subscription

If you already have a monthly Netflix plan, then T-Mobile can save you some money. T-Mobile ONE comes with the Standard Netflix subscription included. (It’s normally $12.99 per month by itself.)

That’s pretty good, but if you have multiple streamers in your family, we still recommend upgrading to the Premium Netflix subscription. That way, you can watch four screens at the same time instead of two.

If you have T-Mobile, then it’s just a $3-per-month upgrade, and you won’t get locked out of your account when both your kids are already watching different episodes of PJ Masks on separate tablets. Kids, amirite?

Fast speeds nationwide

T-Mobile has some of the fastest speeds in the country (depending on who you ask).1 Some studies rank T-Mobile as neck and neck with Verizon for fastest speeds nationwide,2 while others rate it third out of four companies.3

Like most things with wireless service, it might depend on where you live. But it’s safe to say your speeds with T-Mobile will always be faster than with Sprint.

What we don’t like

Low coverage in some areas

T-Mobile doesn’t win first prize for coverage. That doesn’t mean it’s bad, though—and especially if you live in a fairly populated place, like a city or suburb, you shouldn’t have to worry too much about getting a signal.

That said, if your family lives somewhere more rural or just outside T-Mobile’s coverage zones, then you might want to go with a plan from Verizon or AT&T instead.

AT&T: Best for media-lovers

AT&T’s Unlimited &More plan comes with some extra TV perks. And if you upgrade to the Unlimited &More Premium plan, you get even more extras.

What we like

TV/music streaming

If you’re in a family of TV lovers and music fanatics, then AT&T Unlimited &More plan seems like a pretty good deal. It comes with access to the WatchTV app, which lets you stream over 30 channels and includes some movies as well.

If you upgrade to the next plan tier—the Unlimited &More Premium plan—then you also get either one premium TV channel (think HBO or STARZ) or one music subscription, like Pandora Premium.

If you already subscribe to these services on your own, then the Unlimited &More Premium plan could save you one more monthly bill.

Premium channel options

  • HBO
  • SHOWTIME
  • STARZ
  • CINEMAX
  • VRV

Music streaming options

  • Amazon Music
  • Pandora Premium

TV discounts

If you already have (or want to have) DIRECTV, DIRECTV NOW, or AT&T U-verse TV, then your upgrade option—AT&T’s Unlimited &More Premium plan—has a perk for that too. You’ll get a discount credit to use toward your monthly TV bill.

Good coverage

AT&T usually comes in second (just behind Verizon) for nationwide coverage.4 If you live in a place where not all carriers have service, then AT&T’s coverage is a pretty good bet.

What we don’t like

The price

AT&T costs more than both Sprint and T-Mobile. It tends to be one of the more expensive cell phone carriers—especially if you upgrade to the Unlimited &More Premium plan.

But if you already subscribe to a service like HBO NOW and you use DIRECTV, then AT&T’s perks can save you a good chunk of money every month, which makes the price pretty reasonable.

Verizon: Best for coverage

If you want a lot of data and the best coverage, then Verizon is an easy pick.

What we like

Excellent coverage

Verizon’s coverage tops the charts in the US.5 It doesn’t always rank first for speed,6 but if you want reliable coverage and pretty fast data, then Verizon is your friend—especially if you live in a rural area, or even just if you like hiking and prefer having service on the mountain.

Music perks

Set down that Spotify subscription—Verizon’s Go Unlimited plan gives you six months of Apple Music for free.

That’s pretty good, but it’s not the best perk we’ve seen. Sprint, T-Mobile, and AT&T all offer better extras than Verizon.

That’s because Verizon knows it has the best coverage and it doesn’t have to give you anything else to make you sign on. But for the music lovers among you, six months of Apple Music is worth about $60!

What we don’t like

Data deprioritization

Verizon’s top unlimited plan, Above Unlimited, offers a whopping 75 GB of high-speed data. But this one? Not so much.

The Go Unlimited plan doesn’t give you any guaranteed amount of high-speed data. Verizon gives a disclaimer that says it can deprioritize data speeds for Go Unlimited users any time the network gets congested.7

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Heads up
Verizon’s not the only one who does this. AT&T’s Unlimited &More plan has the same data stipulation.8

Verizon’s prices are a bit steep considering they can slow down your speeds whenever things get busy.

Sprint: Best for budgeters

If you want unlimited data without the high cost, Sprint is your best bet for a low monthly bill.

What we like

Low prices

Sprint has the cheapest prices on the unlimited plan market. You’ll pay less each month for Sprint than you would for an unlimited plan from AT&T, T-Mobile, or Verizon.

If Sprint phones get good service in your area, then Sprint’s Unlimited plan is a great way to still get unlimited data for your family without the high cost.

What we don’t like

Not-so-great service

Sprint is less expensive for a reason—its service isn’t as reliable as the other three major cell phone companies. Case in point: Sprint ranks fourth of four providers for countrywide coverage.9

It has improved its network over the last few years, and it’s definitely better than it used to be. But that doesn’t mean your family can take your Sprint phones on a camping trip and still expect full—or any, really—bars.

We’ve found Sprint works pretty well in cities, although not always. (We ran into some annoying service issues in Chicago.) But for the most part, Sprint service in well-populated areas will work okay.

Recap

  • Best overall: T-Mobile gives you lots of fast, unthrottled data with pretty good coverage and decent prices. Its Essentials plan will work well for basically any family.
  • Best for media lovers: AT&T is expensive, but it sweetens the deal with media perks, like access to the WatchTV app and an included premium channel or music streaming service. Its Unlimited &More plan also lets you take $15 off DIRECTV, DIRECTV NOW, or U-verse TV.
  • Best for couples: Verizon’s Go Unlimited plan gives you the best coverage on the market—just keep in mind you’ll pay for it. Plus, Verizon says it can deprioritize your data speeds whenever the network gets busy.
  • Best for budgeters: Sprint’s prices are hard to beat, especially for a plan that gives your family unlimited data. But make sure Sprint’s service works well in your area before you sign on.