Author Topic: Cell phones - family plans, best deal?  (Read 2326 times)

Setters-r-Better

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Cell phones - family plans, best deal?
« on: October 11, 2015, 07:10:43 AM »
We have four lines, eventually to be five when another child gets older. Monthly bill is about $200 for four lines of unlimited talk/text/data. We have each line separately paid through boost mobile. That was a really good deal when we had just one or two lines, but with 4 or 5 lines...can we get a significantly better deal by switching to a "family plan"?

And will we have to purchase new phones if we switch to a new carrier? I wouldn't think so, but if we did have to that would make it really expensive to switch.

Daley

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Re: Cell phones - family plans, best deal?
« Reply #1 on: October 11, 2015, 07:25:25 AM »
Ting or Consumer Cellular are reasonably priced on multiple handset situations so long as the math works out.

Ting is both a Sprint and T-Mobile MVNO and activates Sprint CDMA handsets and all unlocked GSM handsets on T-Mobile's network. Consumer Cellular is an AT&T and T-Mobile MVNO with roaming agreements between networks. Though there's no multi-line MVNO that's on the Verizon network or can activate Verizon CDMA handsets, many Verizon LTE smartphones have factory unlocked SIM card slots and GSM network support, making them viable candidates on both AT&T and T-Mobile MVNOs. A smaller subset of Sprint LTE phones have the same potential for GSM network hopping, but you must get Sprint to carrier unlock the handset first before leaving. The same advice for asking to carrier unlock handsets before leaving applies to both AT&T and T-Mobile as well. You do that, and you can take 'em wherever you please. As to which MVNO I'd recommend, I'd start with looking at providers using the same network you're already on.

As for whether a multi-line postpaid MVNO will be cheaper than perhaps PAYGO or "unlimited" talk and text plans on some of the other MVNOs from the guide (take the time to read it), that's simply a matter of needing to do the math in advance or be willing to impose limits on usage. So, take the time to look over your bills and see exactly what each line is actually using so you realize you probably don't need unlimited anything, and if your mobile data habit is bloated, go on a data diet.

That should get you started. Any other questions, just ask.

Setters-r-Better

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Re: Cell phones - family plans, best deal?
« Reply #2 on: October 11, 2015, 07:39:17 AM »
Thank you. A lot of that was confusing. Boost (what we're on now, pay monthly no contract) is on the Sprint Network.  Sprint website says that have 4 line family plans at $100 (more or less depending on how much data you want).  Do I need to find out if our current phones need to be "unlocked" to move?

Daley

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Re: Cell phones - family plans, best deal?
« Reply #3 on: October 11, 2015, 08:13:44 AM »
Take the time to read the guide (unabridged here), it'll help clear up a lot of your confusion if you let it digest and you follow definition links.

It used to be that Sprint MVNO branded handsets (Virgin, Boost) were locked into only activating on those brands and no other Sprint MVNO. They have since changed that policy, but it's still twitchy. Here's Boost's requirements for carrier unlocking and porting. Generally when everything works right, for Boost and Virgin handsets, it needs to be active for a year to be able to be unlocked and/or taken elsewhere (including Sprint postpaid, IIRC).

For you, the only MVNO that would probably work would be Ting CDMA. You can check if the phones can be taken out of Boost to Ting here.

Regarding Sprint's family plan "deal" they have going, note the fine print. It requires paying for new handsets either on lease, contract or through their "Easy Pay" system. That's their gotcha. It's only $100/month if you pay for your handsets on a monthly basis, a price they don't include in the math. Needless to say, you're probably not going to be able to take over your Boost handsets to Sprint postpaid and get that deal. Look at your usage, do the math, and see what it'll cost to go to Ting. Nobody needs unlimited anything, and if you do that math, you'll probably realize that.

If you feel like you need to buy new handsets to get cheaper phone service, consider going with any of the other MVNOs I mentioned first. GSM handsets (AT&T, T-Mobile) are considerably cheaper than CDMA (Sprint, Verizon), even buying carrier unlocked...

Setters-r-Better

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Re: Cell phones - family plans, best deal?
« Reply #4 on: October 11, 2015, 09:09:54 AM »
Thanks for the links! I will do some research.

MayDay

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Re: Cell phones - family plans, best deal?
« Reply #5 on: October 11, 2015, 11:45:25 AM »
I know IP Daley does not recommend it, but we have Cricket and love it.  We have 5 family members on the plan and each pay 20$ a line.  1 gb of data each and unlimited talk and text.  We ported over our Verizon numbers and used our old Verizon phones. 

csprof

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Re: Cell phones - family plans, best deal?
« Reply #6 on: October 11, 2015, 02:39:54 PM »
I know IP Daley does not recommend it, but we have Cricket and love it.  We have 5 family members on the plan and each pay 20$ a line.  1 gb of data each and unlimited talk and text.  We ported over our Verizon numbers and used our old Verizon phones.

Ditto (I love it at 2 lines, because we're non-mustachian data hogs).  I have a colleague with a large family who has 5 lines on it who introduced me to it -- for his family, it's a huge win, especially with the "after your data cap, you get rate-limited, not charged extra" bit.  Great for kids who might decide to stream the entire internet to their phone. :)

(I'd strongly recommend finding a provider with a rate-limiting policy for anyone with kids.  It lets them suffer the (very mild, slightly slower Internet access) consequences of overuse instead of it going on your bill.)  Cricket and t-mobile both do this, for example.

BYOP also makes more sense to me with kids, because it eliminates the false efficiency of the "get a new phone every two years - after all, you're already paying for it!" phone-included plans.  If they can go 3 years without breaking their phone, they can see the financial win.