When you want to get value for money in the world of phone contracts, it can be hard to know where to look. You want to upgrade to the latest handset, and the kids are regularly using up all of their mobile data. Before you know it, you’re spending hundreds of pounds a month on what feels like the bare essentials.
That is the reason family mobile phone plans are becoming more popular than ever.
Let’s take a look at what they are and how they can help.
What are family mobile phone plans?
Mobile phone providers know that everyone in the family, young and old, is always online. That means there’s a market for packages that cater for the whole family in one go, and allow you to make savings.
By being able to split your minutes, texts, and mobile data across multiple handsets, you get the flexibility you’ve been craving. All you need to do now is weigh up your choices, and find the right package for you.
How do I get started?
The first thing you’re going to want to do is to calculate your family’s average monthly usage. It’s bound to fluctuate, so we’d suggest taking an average of the last three months. That way, you’ll have a figure in mind when you come to look at the specifics of each offer.
Any terms I need to know about?
Just make sure you avoid the confusion that can be caused by shared SIM packages. These tend to be bulk discounts on purchases of multiple SIM cards. They are family plans in the sense that everyone in the family gets a SIM card, but there’s little or no sharing of data. If you want to have a central stockpile of mobile data, you need to be looking exclusively at shared plans. They are ideal when the amount of data you use varies significantly from person to person.
How flexible are the deals?
Most family mobile phone plans will give you the option to add or remove a user at any point during your fixed term contract. That is great if you decide the youngest is now old enough for their first iPhone, or if one of the kids leaves home. One thing to bear in mind is that most family deals are limited to 5 SIMs, so if you’re blessed with a large family, you may find things a little trickier.
Any tips on how I can save even more?
You might think that a family plan is the ultimate money saver, but there are a few things you can do to save even more. Mobile phone companies are now bundling services like Sky and broadband with their offerings. That means if you do your research, you could end up saving even more money.
Now that we’ve covered the basics let’s take a look at some of the leading family plans out there.
Here’s what you can get for your money.
BT Mobile Family SIMs
If you’ve checked out the definitions above and you still just want a discount on bundling your SIMs, take a look at these options from BT Mobile. To begin with, you’ll need to nominate someone to hold the main contract in their name — it makes sense for this to be the person who’s been with the network the longest.
The main contract holder will have to choose between signing up for 12 or 24 months, and then has the option of adding additional SIMs. They will all be on rolling 30-day contracts, which is great for flexibility if you want to chop and change your setup. There’s also the added bonus of a 20% discount on each SIM which will save you money from day one.
Save More With BT Mobile
If you want to save even more money with BT Mobile, there’s also the option of having BT supply your broadband. These kind of bundle deals are often open to a fair amount of negotiation and haggling, so don’t be surprised if it’s hard to track down prices. The key point is BT is flexible, and the more SIMs you want, the more leverage you’ll have to talk down the rate.
Last but not least, let’s take a look at the downsides of this plan. The main one we should highlight is the inflexibility of the data. You’re all going to be on the same monthly amount, so if someone races through their data, it may be an issue. You could, of course, get around it by upgrading the mobile data package, but you would have to do this across the board. This then costs you money and de-feats the point of going in together on a family plan.
Vodafone Family Mobile Phone Plans
Vodafone has made a lot of noise about the simplicity of their contracts in recent years, so it’s only fair we put them to the test. Their claim of a flat discount of 15% for every additional contract certainly stacks up, but there are a few downsides. You might feel that their prices start off higher than other entries on this list, eating into your 15% discount.
Add up to Nine Devices to Your Account
The real selling point, though is the simplicity. Provided you sign up for at least 12 months, you can add as many as nine products to your new account. That covers smartphones, tablets, and mobile data dongles, and they’ll each get a 15% discount. If you use all nine then you’re getting 1 of them for free, and another with a substantial discount.
All of this makes it a great option for those who travel regularly, or don’t have access to a reliable broadband connection. By being able to consume mobile data on a variety of different devices at a discounted rate, you’re buying flexibility. Ideal if you want the peace of mind that you can always get online.
The O2 Data Sharer Plan
With a name like that it’s not hard to see why the Data Sharer Plan is an obvious choice for inclusion in this list. It’s simple, to the point, and tells you everything you need to know about the plan. So, what happens when you delve into the detail for a closer look?
Luckily the level of clarity and service continues, and you’ll find plenty of flexibility thrown in there for good measure. With the option to add up to 10 phones to any plan, you’re getting the freedom to do just about whatever you want.
Standard Contract Length
The contract lengths are fixed at 12 months, which is pretty standard based on the other plans on this list. If you know you’re going to be there for longer, there’s also the option of signing up for the full 24 months. This then gives you a little more leverage if you want to try and negotiate a better deal, or some extra bundled features, over the phone with the sales rep.
You can add extra SIMs at any point which is ideal for families who want the freedom to be able to chop and change who’s part of the plan. The best thing though is the ability to share your data between different users. You will need each person who joins your plan to pay for at least 1 GB, after that there’s no end to what you can do.
The only restriction is that the pool of mobile data has to be under the name of the designated main person on the contract. They then have the freedom to allow anyone else on the plan to use as much, or as little, as they wish.
The starting price for contracts will depend on the handset and amount of data you use. The good thing to know is that they all come with unlimited calls and texts as standard with O2. You should also be aware that there is one downside which could be significant for some of you.
The Galaxy S8 and S8 Plus are currently not compatible with the plan. A hard blow for the Samsung enthusiasts amongst you.
Tesco has been in the mobile business for some time, and recently they’re really starting to up their game. It’s family plan option allows you to have up to 5 phones, each on a 12-month contract. While this might not sound a lot when you compare it to the O2 deals, it will be more than enough for a lot of users.
The great thing about their approach is it allows every user to have a completely different phone plan. You can each have your own personal amount of calls, texts, and data, and there’s also the option to select personal monthly perks individually. These are the rewards Tesco gives you in exchange for a price that’s slightly higher than a lot of the entries on this list.
O2 Family Mobile Phone Plans
Next, we have O2’s designated Family Plan, and this is where things really start to get interesting. While the previous plan focuses on flexible data usage, this one is all about devices. With the ability to use up to 21 different devices it’s ideal for families with multiple devices that they need to take care of.
You might think that you’re never going to need 21 different SIM cards, and you may well be right. The enticing thing about the Family Plan is it gives you a staggering 50% discount when you add 4 or more devices to your contract. That means if you use the whole lot, it’ll only cost you the same as 12 individual signups.
There are, however, a few caveats to all of the above that you need to be aware of. Firstly, the plan is only compatible when you’re buying a handset, which rules out those of you who want SIM-only deals for your tablets. It’s a shame, but as this list shows, there are plenty of options which cater to that portion of the market. The other thing that’s worth remembering is the main plan has to be an O2 Refresh deal. If you don’t like the idea of this type of slightly complex arrangement, then you may be better off looking elsewhere.
Low Starting Price
That said, the initial starting price for their basic package comes in at a highly competitive £7.50 per month at the time of writing. By being able to each select your own data packages, you can tailor your plan to suit the individual needs of the family.
One thing that’s worth bearing in mind is that the main account holder has no control over the other accounts. If this is going to be the first contract your kids use, you may want to think whether you are comfortable with letting them loose.
All in all, it’s a flexible and affordable option that allows a greater degree of personalisation than the other packages we’re looking at.
3 Mobile Family Plan Options
While there are no options to bundle different services to secure better discounts, the options from 3 are still worth a look. It gives you the ability to select any length of phone contract you like which is ideal if you’re liable to change in the near future. They also make signup options particularly attractive to try and capture your attention.
It’s common for 3 to waive all of the upfront costs on their new contracts if you push them hard enough. They also offer discounts on phones, SIM-only deals, and even dongles. Ideal if you want to get everything you need for your next business trip all under one contract.
Many Levels of Discount
One of the real difficulties with their approach is finding out whether you’re getting the best deal. While the ability to go for a one month contract is great; it means there are so many different levels of discount. This makes it increasingly difficult to try and compare different packages. If you know exactly what you want, then, by all means, take a closer look. If you want to see what you can get for your money, it may get complicated rather quickly.
Red+ (Vodafone in disguise)
This might not be a name that’s familiar with all that many of you, but it’s certainly worth a closer look. If you got your main plan between 5/5/16 and 11/4/17, you can be a bit clever and convert to Red+ from Vodafone. It’s basically a data-sharing contract that allows you to pool your data with up to 9 other users.
The only restriction, other than the dates, is that the main contract has to have come with at least 1 GB of mobile data. You can then share anywhere from 1 to 50 GB amongst the other 9 SIMs any way you like. This makes it a great way to get everyone online for £15-30. You’ll all also get unlimited calls and texts as standard, which is pretty good too.
As we say, it won’t be a name many of you have heard of, but if you meet the requirements, take a look.
The EE Shared Plan
Last but not least, we come to EE’s offering in the family mobile phone plans market. It’s actually quite similar to what O2 are currently offering, so that’s worth having in mind for purposes of comparison. The great thing about the plan is that the main account holder has the freedom to restrict certain types of content. Ideal if you want to keep the kids safe online when you give them their first iPhone for their birthday.
Every device receives unlimited calls and texts, which is basically par for the course these days. There’s the option to use anywhere from 1-50 GB of mobile data too which allows the plan to work for most families. With prices starting from as little as £10 per month, it gives you the flexibility you need.
The only real downsides are the potential for arguments if one user drains the family’s data pool that month. Plus the bundling options are quite limited when compared to some of the other networks on here. All in all, it’s ideally suited to the cautious parent whose primary concern is online safety.
Anything else you need to know?
We’ve covered just about everything you need to know, the only thing left to say is get everyone’s input. Family plans inevitably need a bit of teamwork to get them working well, so check everyone is happy with the contract. Ask the kids how much data they typically use, and then pick a plan that will comfortably take care of it. Once you’ve taken care of that you should be able to save money on your outgoings every single month.
Now that you’ve heard all about the best family mobile phone plans the UK networks have to offer, all you need to do is take a look and decide which one you like best. It’s worth putting a bit of thought into it so that you get a solution everyone’s happy with.