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Finding the Best Cell Phone Plan for Your Family: A 3-Line Buying Guide

Why Choose a Family Cell Phone Plan?

If you have three or more cell phone lines in your household, combining them onto a shared family plan can make excellent financial sense while also keeping your whole family seamlessly connected. Family plans provide a number of valuable benefits over maintaining separate individual plans:

  • Significant monthly savings compared to individual plans. Family plans allow you to share data allotments and minutes across all users at reduced rates per line. Depending on your carrier and plan selected, you could save $30-60 per month.
  • Simplified billing. Rather than tracking several different bills and due dates, family plans consolidate costs onto one monthly bill you can more easily manage.
  • Shared data for flexibility. Family plans include a pool of data for everyone to pull from as needed, allowing flexibility month-to-month based on individual use.
  • Easier line management. You can add new lines, change devices, upgrade services, and manage settings for the whole family in one place through your carrier account.
  • Advanced parental controls. Many family plans allow the account manager to set limits on things like data usage and content access to supervise children on the plan.

When comparing top carriers, you’ll need to weigh factors like data amounts, pricing structures, contract terms, device options, network coverage, and customer service. This guide will walk through the best family phone plan options and key buying considerations for choosing a 3-line plan.

Mint Mobile – Best Value Family Phone Plan

For its outstanding balance of affordability, flexibility, and premium T-Mobile network coverage, Mint Mobile stands out as the best overall value for 3-line family cell phone service.

With Mint‘s unlimited premium plan, you get:

  • Unlimited talk, text, and 5G/4G LTE data
  • Mobile hotspot with 10GB of high-speed data then unlimited at slower speeds
  • Free calls to Mexico and Canada
  • WiFi calling and texting capabilities

Pricing is very straightforward at just $30 per line when you prepay for 3 months ($90 total), with additional savings for 6 or 12-month plans. A key benefit is that data is truly unlimited for all lines with no caps or throttling. You can freely stream, shop, share, and browse each month without data anxiety kicking in if you go over a limit.

While you do have to pay upfront in 3-12 month increments, Mint offers substantial savings without binding contracts or surprise fees. It’s a great choice if you value flexibility in your wireless plan. You also have the freedom to use your existing unlocked devices or buy new phones outright without financing or lease arrangements.

Pros

  • Low monthly fees for unlimited data
  • Network coverage through T-Mobile
  • No contracts or hidden fees
  • Mobile hotspot data and international calling

Cons

  • Must pay 3-12 months up front
  • No physical retail stores for support

For families that want an affordable, contract-free unlimited data plan with excellent coverage, Mint Mobile is hard to top.

Boost Mobile – Best for 5G Data Speeds

If blazing-fast 5G connectivity is a priority for your family, Boost Mobile offers an excellent unlimited data family plan leveraging T-Mobile and AT&T’s premium 5G networks.

With Boost‘s family unlimited plan, here‘s what you get:

  • Unlimited talk, text, and high-speed smartphone data
  • 5G coverage included at no extra charge
  • Mobile hotspot capability with 15GB of high-speed allowance

For 3 lines, Boost Mobile offers its family unlimited plan for a competitive $90 per month ($30 per line). Compared to major carriers like Verizon and AT&T, Boost delivers similar premium network access and unlimited data allotments for roughly half the monthly cost.

While specific data speeds will depend on your local network capacity, testing shows Boost leveraging AT&T and T-Mobile’s 5G and 4G LTE networks to deliver low latency and impressively fast downloads ideal for video streaming, gaming, and large file downloads. Boost also allows you to freely bring your existing compatible phone or buy new devices financed over 12 or 24 months.

Some important caveats: taxes and fees are added to your bill raising monthly costs by $5-10 typically. And while unlimited in advertised data amounts, Boost does note they may slow speeds after 50GB of usage per month to reduce network congestion impacts.

Pros:

  • Affordable unlimited 5G data for families
  • Access to premium AT&T and T-Mobile networks
  • 12-24 month financing on phones

Cons:

  • Monthly fees don’t include taxes/fees
  • Potential slowing after 50GB of data used
  • Limited retail store presence

For 5G connectivity using premium T-Mobile and AT&T networks, Boost Mobile brings outstanding value and performance.

Tello – Best Low-Cost Family Phone Plan

If keeping your cell phone plan costs at a minimum is your top concern, Tello offers highly flexible and affordable prepaid options using T-Mobile‘s reliable 4G LTE network coverage.

Tello keeps things simple but customizable with their family plan building:

  • Pick unlimited talk & text for $10/line monthly
  • Add data starting at just $5 per 1GB shared across your family
  • Build your perfect data plan across 3-5 total lines

With taxes and fees included in Tello’s advertised pricing, a 3-line setup with unlimited talk & text and 2GB of shared data costs only $30 monthly. You have the flexibility of customizing data amounts based on actual family usage needs month-to-month. Speeds are capped at 5Mbps but latency and streaming capability remain reliable according to customer testing.

As a prepaid provider, Tello also doesn’t lock you into any contracts. And you can use existing T-Mobile compatible devices or buy unlocked phones to use with your plan. For families focused first on minimizing wireless costs, it’s tough to beat Tello.

Pros:

  • Customizable data amounts to meet usage
  • No contracts or commitments
  • Low monthly fees for talk, text, data

Cons:

  • Maximum 5Mbps download speeds
  • Limited network coverage outside cities
  • Few phones available for purchase

If rock-bottom pricing is important for your family cell plan, Tello brings incredible flexibility and affordability.

Comparing Top Family Cell Phone Plans

To find your best option, closely compare costs, features, and tradeoffs across leading plans using this overview:

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Cell Provider Monthly Cost (3 lines) Data Amount Network Key Perks Downsides
Mint Mobile $90 ($30 per line) Unlimited T-Mobile Mobile hotspot, international calling, no contract Prepay required, no stores
Boost Mobile $90 + taxes/fees Unlimited T-Mobile/AT&T 5G access, financing on phones Potential data slowing at 50GB
Tello $30 + taxes/fees Custom 2-5GB T-Mobile Build your own data plan, low monthly fees Max 5Mbps speeds, limited coverage

This table summarizes the closest competitors across key metrics like network performance, plan pricing, contract stipulations, data amounts, and more. Closely evaluating differences across these categories will guide you towards the right provider for your family’s needs.

I’ll next walk through exactly how to assess your specific situation.

Choosing the Best Family Phone Plan: 7 Key Steps

Rather than just diving in, making an informed decision about the best cell phone plan requires carefully working through several factors:

1. Review Current Usage

First, audit recent monthly bills to see current minutes used for calling, number of text messages, and how much data you actually consume across family members. This will determine whether unlimited plans are best or if you can save with smaller allowances that still meet needs.

2. Estimate Future Needs

Next, estimate expected growth in usage, especially data as more video and music streaming enters the equation. This ensures you choose data amounts providing headroom versus very tight quotas. Also factor in new phone upgrades using more data thanks to faster 5G connectivity.

3. Compare Network Coverage Areas

Make sure to verify coverage maps for any carriers under consideration to confirm adequate local service for workplaces, schools, and frequented parts of town. Avoid assuming all major networks have similar coverage.

4. Check Device Compatibility

Before switching carriers, use online tools to confirm whether existing phones in your family will work or need replacing. Also consider any desired upgrades in new phones as you evaluate options.

5. Estimate Total Costs

Read through plan terms closely to build expected costs across 3 lines accounting for all monthly fees, multi-line discounts, activation charges, device financing, insurance, overage penalties, taxes/fees, and other expenses. Avoid unexpected costs down the road.

6. Compare Core Plan Details

Compare specifics across top contenders like contract terms, bundling requirements, speed caps, video quality, mobile hotspot allowances, roaming, international use, and other fine print that impact experiences.

7. Read Independent Reviews

Finally, read through consumer site reviews analyzing customer satisfaction, network quality tests, pricing changes over time, and other real-world feedback before committing. This helps spot potential gotchas.

Overall, avoid simply going with name recognition or unlimited data claims. All family plans are not equal, so do research before locking your household into a multi-year wireless contract.

Frequently Asked Family Phone Plan Questions

Here are answers to some common questions when evaluating family phone plans:

How much money could I save by switching to a family plan?

Typical savings range from $30-60 per month compared to individual plans based on allocating shared data across multiple lines. Actual savings depend on your carrier, current plan costs, and new plan chosen.

Can I keep my existing phone numbers and devices?

Most carriers allow you to bring existing devices and phone numbers to new family plans, with the requirement they must be fully unlocked from prior service. Confirm compatibility before switching.

What happens if my family uses all our shared data?

Outcomes differ between carriers if your family reaches or exceeds monthly shared data limits on family allowances. Some will slow speeds, while others charge overage fees per gigabyte, for example. Understand how the carrier handles excess usage.

Who controls the family plan account and payments?

The family plan account holder handles administrative control like changing plans, adding new lines, managing settings across devices, and making a single monthly payment for all fees incurred.

What are the credit requirements to start a family plan?

Carriers have their own credit policies that must be met before they will activate a shared family plan, typically requiring good credit from the account owner. Those with poor credit may need to pay deposits to open an account.

Getting the right wireless plan for everyone doesn’t have to be a major headache. By clearly identifying your family’s needs, methodically comparing leading plans, and asking the right questions, you can confidently choose cell phone service that balances performance, affordability, and great coverage as your family grows.