The Best Family Cell Phone Plans

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These days, if you want to get a cell phone for more than one family member, or even every single member of your family, a lot of money can be saved by getting a monthly family plan (i.e., two or more people sharing a certain amount of minutes) rather than each person signing up for an individual plan. However, as you look at the four main cell phone carriers---AT&T, Sprint Nextel, Verizon Wireless and T-Mobile---choosing the family plan suitable for the needs of everyone involves a few factors that need to be taken into consideration.

Number of Minutes

  • First, you must figure out how many people are going to be in the plan and how much each person is likely to use his/her phone to make calls to get a rough estimate on the packaged amount of minutes to select. Usually, cell phone plans consist of two types of minutes: Anytime minutes and Night & Weekend minutes (N&W).

    It is standard for cell phone carriers to include free or unlimited N&W minutes, which generally apply to calls made between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m. on weekdays (nights) and all hours on Saturdays and Sundays (weekends). AT&T, Sprint and Verizon offer Night minutes that start from 7 p.m. on a few of their higher-end family plans.

    It is the amount of Anytime minutes---i.e., time not covered by N&W minutes---that you and your family need to watch out for, since they are not free or unlimited unless you subscribe to one of the carrier's more costly plans. Choosing a plan with insufficient Anytime minutes can lead to going over the limit, and consequently racking up costly additional charges. However, there is the Free Mobile-to-Mobile feature---it comprises calls made to and received from other subscribers of the same carrier---that does not eat into the monthly Anytime-minute allotment. On average, T-Mobile has the most amount of Anytime minutes per plan.

Calling Circles

  • A calling circle is a feature that gives unlimited calling to a preselected group of phone numbers, usually five or 10. These numbers can be from anywhere and anyone: wireless or landline, subscribers and non-subscribers. T-Mobile (via myFaves) and Verizon possess this feature.

Rollover Minutes

  • Rollover minutes are unused monthly Anytime minutes that are "rolled over" to the next month for usage rather than expiring with a bill cycle. This feature is ideal for those who truly treasure their Anytime minutes, and only AT&T has it.

Other Activities

  • Other factors to consider are the monthly packages you can add to the family plan that include messaging for text, picture and video; downloading ringtones and wallpaper; Internet access and email; and international calling.

"What Are the Best Family Cell Phone Plans?"

  • There really is no such thing because cell phone plan needs varies from family to family. Rather, based on the aforementioned features, it should be a question of: "What is the best family cell phone plan for your family?"

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