Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Comparing Verizon and AT&T Family Plans: Which is best for your family?

Wireless carriers don't necessarily make it easy for you to compare between their services. They all offer data, and minutes, and messaging, but the small details between them can mean a big difference on your monthly bill.

Choosing a shared plan for your family is a big decision. When you're shopping between AT&T and Verizon it's important to know how much data you need, how many devices will be on your account, and how much data you expect to use.

  1. What sharing plans are available?
  2. How many devices are allowed on a shared plan?
  3. How does data work on a shared plan
  4. How do talk and text work on a shared plan?
  5. What perks come with a shared plan?
  6. Which carrier's shared plan is right for your family?

What sharing plans are available from AT&T and Verizon?

Sharing plans allow you to purchase one big chunk of data and divvy it up between all the phones and devices on your account.

AT&T offers their Mobile Share Value plans. These plans are different sizes and allow you to choose exactly how much data you and your family need to share each month.

The Verizon Plan lets you choose between plans sized from S-XXL depending on how much data you need. From there you add the number of devices you want to share the data with.

How many devices are allowed on a shared plan?

With both AT&T and Verizon you are charged for each device on your plan. Adding smartphones to your plan costs more than adding tablets or wearables, so knowing how many devices you want to share data with will impact your total bill each month.

AT&T cost per device

AT&T allows up to 10 devices to be on one of their shared plans. The cost of adding a device depends on how many GB of data you are sharing.
  • $25/month/smartphone (on plans with 5 GB or less of data)
  • $15/month/smartphone (on plans with 15 GB of data or more)
  • $10/month/tablet (no data restrictions)
  • $10/month/wearable (no data restrictions)
  • $20/month/laptop or hotspot device

Verizon cost per device

On Verizon, you pay a flat rate per device, regardless of the size of your plan; however, the rate varies depending on what kind of device you're using. At least one of the devices on your plan must be a smartphone in order to share data.
  • $20/month/smartphone
  • $10/tablet/month
  • $10/mobile hotspot/month
  • $5/device/month

Remember, if you're not bringing your own phone, your carrier will also charge you a monthly fee to purchase one of their phones. Costs vary, but if you want the most up-to-date phone, you'll be looking at about $25-$30 per month.

How does data work on a shared plan with AT&T and Verizon?

Both AT&T and Verizon let you choose a set monthly data amount for your family to share. If you go over your monthly allotment, you will be charged an overage fee.

AT&T monthly data rates

  • 300 mb, $20
  • 2 GB, $30
  • 5 GB, $50
  • 15 GB, $100
  • 20 GB, $140
  • 25 GB, $175
  • 30 GB, $225
  • 40 GB, $300
  • 50 GB, $375

Overage Charges: If you go over your allotted data on one of these plans you will be charged an additional $20/300 mb on the 300 mb plan, or $15/1 GB on all other plans.

Rollover Data: Unused data is rolled over into the next month and expires one month after rolling over.

Verizon monthly data rates

  • 1 GB, $30
  • 3 GB, $45
  • 6 GB, $60
  • 12 GB, $80
  • 18 GB, $100

Overage Charges: If you go over your data limit, Verizon charges $15 per GB (rounded up). This means if you have a 6 GB plan and use 6.1 GB, Verizon rounds up and charges you an additional $15 overage fee for a full extra GB of data for that month.

Rollover Data: Verizon does not let you carry unused data into the next month. If you don't binge through all your data in one billing cycle, it's gone.

How do talk and text work on a shared plan on AT&T and Verizon?

Both AT&T and Verizon include unlimited talk and text with their shared plans.

With AT&T if you purchase a 15 GB or higher plan, you also get free talk and text to Mexico and Canada.

Verizon doesn't include talk with countries outside the U.S. but it can be added to your plan. However, you will be able to send an unlimited number of text and multimedia messages internationally from any device on the shared plan as long as you're in the US when you send them.

What perks come with share plans from AT&T and Verizon?

Sometimes it's tough to decide between one carrier or another, so each provider will offer something to sweeten the pot and hopefully make you choose them over someone else.

AT&T offers a popular TV service called DIRECTV, giving you access to local and network shows as well as a DVR. If you subscribe to this TV service, AT&T will give you unlimited data on for your cell phone, which could save you a lot of money each month depending on how much data your family uses. However, AT&T will slow down your connection if you use more than 22 GB of data between your mobile devices.

Verizon will let you bundle services together which could be helpful if you're also interested in having a home phone, and/or TV hookup. They also offer a loyalty program called Verizon My Rewards + which allows you to earn points when you pay your cell bill or order products from their shop or third-party services. You can use these points to put toward gift cards at restaurants, receive discounts on products, or use them for travel rewards program.

Which carrier's shared plan is right for your family?

There are a few important factors that will ultimately help you decide which carrier will get your business when it's time to choose a shared plan for your family.

For comparison we'll judge AT&T and Verizon on plans that share two smartphones and two tablets.

  • If you want the absolute cheapest plan, that can be built with AT&T. Beware this plan has an unrealistically low 300 mb of data to share, so you'd likely be paying their $20/month overage fee.
  • If you want the plan with most high speed data you can get that with AT&T, but you're going to pay through the nose for it.
  • If you want the best value for your data there are some really great options through Verizon if you're not a complete data-fiend and have access to Wi-Fi for most of your day.
  • If you have many devices consider the Verizon plan as it's per-device fee is lower than AT&T's.
  • If you are concerned about overage fees then there is no clear winner between either provider as they both charge $15/GB (though on the lowest AT&T data plan they charge more for overages).
  • If you're primarily concerned with talk and text from your provider, AT&T includes talk AND text with people in Mexico and Canada on all plans with more than $15 GB of data; however, Verizon includes unlimited international messaging (with optional talk-plan add ons), so this is a draw.
  • If you already pay for TV service in your home you might find more value with AT&T depending on how much data you use in a typical month, but both carriers offer bundling services.

    Keep calm and carrier on

    Ultimately choosing a shared plan for your family comes down to how many people are in your home, what devices they use, and what they use them for. AT&T and Verizon have slight advantages between each other depending on what category you look at.

    Overall Verizon's plan is straight-forward and simple if you are looking for data on multiple devices for a good price. AT&T offers a few extra services with their base price, which could be advantageous if you like to talk with family and friends in Canada and Mexico rather than text with them.

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