Are family plans the right wireless choice for your family?
A frequent question that I am asked about family share plans is whether a family share plan is a good option compared to traditional plans. There are pros and cons to having a family share plan and it’s really important to look at each factor before making a switch to family plan and committing to a new one or two year commitment with your wireless provider.
One of the biggest reasons for going on a family share plan is the perceived lower cost. Many people make the common mistake that if everyone is sharing minutes and on the same plan then ultimately they will save money. While in some cases this is true, many times people on new family plans are unable or unwilling to keep track of each other’s usage. Most times they fly blind and are using their phone without consideration to others who share the same plan. When they get their bill at the end of the month and sometimes face big overages as some of the users have used their minutes without considering the total available minutes by the plans. Most family members are usually unaware of how others in the same household are using their minutes. What was originally thought to be a sufficient amount of minutes turns out to be insufficient. The opposite also holds true, where people buy a big bundle of minutes to share and actually not utilize all the minutes given under the plan. If you have a family the carrier will usually try to market a family share plan to you as their first option, but that may not always be the best option to serve the wireless needs of your family.
Normally, there are a limited selection of family plans available with each provider. Most carriers only offer 2-3 family plan options and try to fit everyone into one of those categories. The smallest family plan typically starts at 700 minutes per month. Many people who go on family share plans believe the hype and find out after the fact that they are spending more or getting less benefits compared to an individual plan. The base price for a family share plan for two lines is $70 a month with 700 minutes. It is far more cost efficient for small and emergency users to get small individuals plans that would cover their needs at a far lower cost than $70 per month. For example two individuals who on average use 150 minutes per month can get a $15 per month plan for 150 minutes for a total cost of $30 per month for two phones. This saves them $40 a month compared to the lowest family share plan rate available. A person wanting to spend $70 a month can also get two individual plans for $35 each with 450 minutes and therefore pay the same $70 but get 900 minutes instead of 700. Companies like InTouch America also offers pay as you go plans as low as $3 per month so emergency users can have 4 family members active on a great network at a cost of only $12 per month plus minutes & taxes!
Now family share plans aren’t all bad and they really can be beneficial for a family of 4 or 5 that just plans for the most part to talk to each other. By strictly talking mobile to mobile they can obtain a rate that makes sense while divided among 4 or 5 phones.
One of my customers called me a while ago to tell me that he and his wife wished to cancel their InTouch America service to go on a family plan with another company. I asked him why he would want to spend more money and he seemed to be taken aback from my question. He was on a 300 minute plan for $30 a month and he wanted to add his wife and start a family share plan. I pointed out to him that most companies have family share plans starting at $70 per month for 2 lines and about 700 minutes. Since he didn’t use that many minutes to begin with I offered to put him and his wife on individual plans of 19.99 for 200 minutes each. Essentially they would have plans that would better suit their needs and would save $30 every month. That adds up to $360 a year, and $720 every 2 years and that’s not taking the tax savings into account. I am sure that they are happy to put that money into use elsewhere instead of throwing it away on unused minutes.
The bottom line is that carriers have all kinds of fancy marketing towards subscribers to encourage them to activate on plans that will make them money at the end of the day. Consumers need to be smart, savvy and aware of their individual needs and usage pattern. Every wireless market is flooded with an overwhelming array of individual and family plans from numerous carriers. My advice is to always arm yourself with information as knowledge is power. Why pay more for extra minutes and access fees unless it makes sense for your family.