What is the difference between family and shared cell phone plans?
Family and shared cell phone plans are rather recent creations that enjoy great popularity. There are some excellent reasons for this popularity, most of which relate to monthly cost and available minutes. The heavy competition between cell phone carriers gave birth to these options and they continue to be improved and refined.
There is little technical difference between family and shared cell phone plans. The apparent differences are often related to marketing and perception. To further blur the differences, some wireless carriers have combined the two names and offer "family share plans" now. Does that clear up any mystery? Let's try a different approach.
Look at regular (classic) cell phone plans. The basic components are:
- A monthly fee for your phone number.
- A specified number of calling minutes – both calls made and calls received.
- A stated charge for minutes used beyond the maximum limit provided in your monthly plan.
- Either a "rollover" provision, that moves unused minutes to the following month, or a provision that minutes not used in a given month are lost.
- A defined "calling area", which might be local, regional, or national plans that specify calls that can be made without surcharge or long distance charges.
Family plans typically provide that you can:
- Add other lines (numbers) for family members for a small monthly fee, and
- Share the total minutes allowed under the primary cell phone number plan, and
- Often incur no minute charges for calls to the other lines (numbers) included in your family plan.
Shared plans work substantially the same. The difference is more marketing than reality. Additional lines sharing allotted monthly minutes are not targeted to family members, but to any "unrelated" numbers you choose to include in your plan.
In both instances, you, the primary cell phone customer, is liable for all monthly charges and fees. Therefore, a shared minutes plan that includes people other than your spouse, significant other, children, parents, etc. creates a monthly liability for you as the people having the other lines are either only secondarily liable or not liable at all for payment.
When family and shared cell phone plans are a good option
These both are often excellent options for cell phone service. A good indicator of the value of these options can be found if you analyze the current cell phone usage pattern of those you might want to include in one of these plans.
By simply adding up the monthly cost of the different plans and comparing it to similar family or shared plans, you'll quickly learn which is the most cost effective option. Here are some examples that indicate which shared or family plans would be a good choice for you.
Example #1: The family
You, your spouse, and your two children all have individual cell phone plans. Collectively, you use around 750 minutes per month. You use around 250, your spouse uses around 100, and your children use around 200 minutes each month. The total cost for these lines is $375 each month.
You might find a plan that gives you 750 or 800 minutes for $100 and the additional three lines cost around $10 per month each. You can share the total minutes among all the lines and possibly save serious money every month.
Example #2: The business
You own a small business and you have four employees who use cell phones to transact company necessities. There are no consistent patterns of minutes used by your employees on a monthly basis. This fact makes it difficult, sometimes wasteful, to have large minute plans for each person.
Trying to save money on a monthly basis, you might have expensive extra minute charges if you purchase lower minute plans. Shared plans may be perfect for you. Add the total minutes used by everyone for a few months – this will give you a good idea of how many "group minutes" are typically used.
Getting one of the shared plans that have sufficient minutes, regardless of who is the different "chatty Cathy" each month, might save you and your company big dollars.
Consider the options
As you can see, family shared plans can give you the excellent service you want and often save you a great deal of money. If you are with a wireless carrier that permits "rollover" of unused minutes each month, you might enjoy a calling plan that often gives you more minutes to use in subsequent months.
Recommended resource: Shared cell phone plan finder