Note: This is part of a series about searching for cheaper cell phone service.
As part of my ongoing series looking into cell phone plans this week, I wanted to find the cheapest family plan out there.
I gathered information from the four top companies plus two pre-paid companies that offer familiy plans. While this isn’t a comprehensive report, it offers a glimpse into what is out there and an idea of how low you can go. Chart of the details and fees that were calculated is below.
Based on two users, the cheapest famiy cell-phone package is from … TRACFONE.
TRACFONE is one of those pre-paid service providers. I hadn’t paid too much attention to the company until my colleague Marla Fisher wrote about it (read “Mommy, I’m still in your uterus, but can I have a cellphone?“). She bought her kids a TracFone for $9.99. Ultimately though, she ditched them because of “abominable” customer service.
Because of that, plus other negative user reviews, I’m also highlighting the second cheapest: A tie between AT&T and T-Mobile.
In this case, I’d give the award to AT&T. Even though AT&T has fewer minutes, it offers rollover, so unused minutes roll into the next month. So, in case you’re extra chatty one month, your overage fees will come first from the rollover basket.
People I’ve spoken to about cheap cell phone plans say that they use just a few hundred minutes a month. With all the plans offering free mobile-to-mobile so calls within the same network are free, these basic plans can outfit a family of five for under $100.
Plus points, however, go to Sprint for letting unlimited night minutes start at 7 p.m.
One other note: Verizon offers a plan for seniors 65 and over. For two people, you’ll get 450 shared minutes to use at anytime, plus 1,000 night and weekend minutes. Total comes to $59.99 per month. Details are HERE.
Family plans aren’t for everyone. When it comes to pre-paid, family plans are rare. Says Matthew Kunkle, a wireless services pricing analyst for market researcher Current Analysis, it’s a case by case basis.
Here’s the chart I compiled using data from the store Web sites. This is for two people. It doesn’t include monthly fees, taxes and phones in the total price. This is based on two users on a plan. Total price also doesn’t include add-ons, such as text messaging.
|Price per month||$69.99||$69.99||$59.99||$59.99||$70||$9.99 (1 line)|
|Additional line||$9.99||$9.99||$9.99||$9.99||varies||$5.99 (extra 30 minutes)|
|Texting||$0.10 text, $0.25 video/image||$0.20 text, $0.25 video/photo||$0.20||15 cents||$3/line text; $5/line video (unlimited)||1 unit for pictures plus .5 per minute|
|Data||$0.03/KB||$1.99/MB ($0.002/KB)||$0.01/KB||n/a||$5/line (unlimited)||1 minute uses .5 units airtime|
|Activation fee||$36||$35 for first line, $25 second||$36 first, $26 additional||$35||None||None|
|Unlimited nights||yes, starts at 7 p.m.||yes, starts at 9:01 p.m.||yes, starts at 9 p.m.||yes, starts at 9 p.m.||yes||no|
|Early termination fee||Up to $200||$175||$175||Up to $200||none||none|
From around the web:
Check out my new guide to cell phone services in Orange County, available at gadgetress.freedomblogging.com/cellphones
For more cell phone news affecting Orange County residents and beyond, visit the Gadgetress cell phone archive.