Is A Family Plan Worth It? Here’s Everything You Need To Know
What is a family plan? How much does it cost? What are the hidden costs you should be aware of?
In this article, you’ll learn more about family cell phone plans (‘family plans’) and their fluctuating costs, limited flexibility, and frustrating upkeep.
Family plans are discounted-group “family” rates that exist because cell phone carriers want to secure more business upfront. Most of the biggest carriers in the US offer family plans where the more people you add to the plan, the cheaper it costs per person. At face value, it sounds like a great way to save money every month, but is it actually cheaper?
Here are 5 factors to consider when thinking about a family plan:
1. The Price: How Much is A Family Plan?
Family plan pricing depends on the number of people in the plan and the individual requirements per person (data packages, unlimited/basic plans, add-ons). Each of the biggest carriers in the US (T-Mobile, AT&T, and Verizon) offers family plan pricing ranging anywhere from $30 per person per month up to $60 per person per month.
It’s important to remember that pricing will vary depending on the actual number of people in your family plan for any given month.
2. Features: What’s Included?
Many carriers will incentivise customers by adding extra features like online subscriptions, free trials, UHD streaming, or wifi protection which can increase cost of the plan by anywhere from $10-$20 per line per month. It is important to note that although it may seem lucrative to have certain add-ons included in your plan, many of these presumed benefits have the same if not better offers for students or are available free for first time users outside of these family plans.
Family plans do not include international long distance calling (ability to make international calls outside the US) and require you to purchase an upgrade which can add $15-$30 per line to your monthly bill.
Pausing an individual line on a family plan is tedious and expensive; expect to pay between $10-$15 per month while your line is paused and your service is suspended. If you think about summer and winter breaks, these costs can add up fast!
To open a family plan, all users must be present and in the US. You cannot open a family plan remotely and won’t be able to benefit from having active service when you land in the US.
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3. Flexibility: How Many People in Your “Family”
Family plans are beneficial when you have enough “family” members to drive down the cost per line. Most plans begin with 4 lines and depending on the carrier, can support up to 10 lines or more.
One of the biggest drawbacks of family plans is the issue of flexibility; one person's decision to exit their plan (this could be due to a new job, moving out of the country, a better deal etc.) will increase everyone else’s monthly bill until you are able to find a replacement.
4. How Do I Manage My Plan?
Unlike individual plans, all lines on a family plan are managed by one primary user. The primary user is solely responsible for paying the entire “family” monthly bill (total bill for all members of the family plan). When students decide to join a family plan, they will be responsible for calculating how much each person owes, and paying back the primary user every month. If the primary user fails to make payment or makes a late payment, the entire group is at risk of incurring additional fees or service suspension.
Most international students attend US universities on a semester or quarter-basis and spend a few months every year outside the US. Additionally, students often add international calling packages, data roaming for international travel, and may require immediate or urgent service from the provider. In the case of a family plan, because only the primary user is able to make these arrangements, each user must rely on the primary user to manage any changes to their individual mobile service.
When asked about their experience as the primary user, one international student says:
“I am the primary user on my family plan and haven’t been paid back by my own friends in five months; I feel uncomfortable following up with the individual members of our plan, but I’m paying the bill for three other people, so the overall amount I’ve been paying myself adds up very quickly…”
5. How Much Can I Save without A Family Plan
This article highlights many factors you should consider when evaluating a family plan in the US and the hidden costs associated with joining one. The average international student will pay $35 per month on a family plan with an additional $180 per year on international calling, $50 per year on data add ons, and $40 per year on pausing fees; this amounts to $57.50 per month, or $690 annually.
With Onboard Mobile, plans start at $20 per month with international calling included and the option to pause service at the click of a button. The average plan costs $32 per month ($384 per year); that’s an annual savings of more than $300 per year compared to a typical family plan!
What’s The Verdict?
Although family plans provide great discounts for international students, they are more beneficial when each user consumes a similar amount of data, has a stable long-term future in the US, and is able to identify (and be responsible to) a primary user for their plan. Unfortunately the hassle of adjusting your plan, making last minute changes, purchasing and activating add-ons, pausing, switching, and the unfair financial responsibility one student is not worth the ‘assumed’ savings you accrue.
Onboard Mobile: Connectivity That Just Makes Sense
Onboard Mobile offers no-compromise mobile phone plans designed for international students going to the US starting at just $20/month. We deliver your US SIM card internationally to your home country's address, for free! You can activate your plan and get your US number before you leave your home country, and stay connected from the second you land.
Browse our plans: https://mobile.onboardss.com/
Note: Onboard Mobile delivers SIM cards to your home address in India in 2-4 days.
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