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Cheapest cell phone family plan for 3 lines

jsally 19 March 9, 2012 at 03:35 PM
Hey all, our contract with T-Mobile is over so we are on the market for a new plan or a prepaid option. Our needs are very basic: 3 lines with voice and unlimited (or ~1000) texting. ~500 "peak" minutes. No data needed.

I have been looking at a T--Mobile value plan that is the lowest cost I am aware offered by the big companies (for 3 lines $65 for 1000 minutes and unlimited texting and we could use our current phones), 2 year contract.

Would some smaller/independent company offer something similar at even more attractive prices? There seems to be many companies in the business, how can I find information about all of them? I could consider a prepaid plan too but do any on the market offer free calls between family phones (family members talk mainly in the nights and weekends)?

Thanks, in advance!

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#2
Probably the only alternative worth mentioning would be Republic Wireless, but they are not open to the public right now. Maybe it would be different if one or two persons used much less than the other. Then maybe that person could use a bare-minimum plan. Otherwise, T-Mobile is probably your best bet provided you are reasonably happy with the service.

The small guys do not own any towers. They have to buy airtime from the big guys. Obviously, the big guys have no reason to offer mvno's amazingly low rates to resell to the public.
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#3
Quote from jsally View Post :
I could consider a prepaid plan too but do any on the market offer free calls between family phones (family members talk mainly in the nights and weekends)?
I can't think of any that beats that Tmobile plan for that.

I was thinking maybe add a "power text 2000" $11 card to a $12 "The 12" plan at Page Plus, but it looks like you can only add the power text additions to the "standard prepaid" plans, not the pay-every-month prepaid plans. Plus, no free family calling.

I think prepaid plans are great unless somebody needs a ton of data or something. ...and apparently if people want to share minutes. I would figure out how many minutes you would actually use between family members and nights/weekends and then go from there. Wanting 500 peak minutes but not saying/knowing how many total minutes you want makes things difficult.

One thing I'd make sure about that Tmobile plan is how much taxes and fees there are. If you get charged fees per phone, suddenly that $65 plan might be $85+, so $65 wouldn't be a fair comparison to prepaids since they usually/always include all fees and taxes in the stated price.
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#4
Thanks fellas for the replies. I'll look into the Republic and Page Plus offerings.

I'd estimate we use about 500 to 1000 "family minutes" a month so it's not a lot really, perhaps a cheap prepaid minutes could work. To be accurate just one line would need the texting capability really. This line also uses bunch of night and weekend minutes as they are free now with TMobile. If they cost something I'm assuming the the pattern would be different based more on Skype calls. If we get a prepaid plan we probably would use more Skype instead of family minutes too.

I don't know if this help to understand our use but if you think there are other suitable low cost options for us let me know. Thanks again!
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#5
I think you need to give numbers if you want a better answer.

1. Current Total Cost (including tax) for the month.

2. Total Minutes and texts you will need for each line. Number would include anytime, nights & weekend, and mobile to mobile. Use the higher number in your range.


Maybe Ting might be an option, but it is hard to say without knowing exactly how much you need.
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#6
WackyP...the T-Mobile plan I mentioned above would be $60 base price (incl. unlimited txt on one line) + approx. $10 to $15 taxes & fees i.e. total up to $75 a month. About $80 if all 3 lines have texting.

We could manage with about 500 call minutes per line minimum by using Skype more than now. Texting: Just one line need unlimited (or at least 1000 texts per month), the other two lines do not need texting. No data needed.

I'l check Ting too...I have never heard of them before. How do I get to know about all these smaller providers that use other's networks? This is a long list but Ting for example is not included here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List..._providers

Thanks!!
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#7
Now we can see how Page Plus might fulfill those needs.

The typical monthly plan is $29.99 + .50 cents fee.

Each line is 1,200 Minutes, 3,000 Text/MMS Messages, 100 MB Data

That would be $91.50 a month, but anytime minutes are 3600 total, and 9000 texts total, plus some data thrown in too.

You can also use almost any phone you want except iPhones. Though I think you can use smart phones on Tmobile without a data plan too; not sure.

With the Tmobile contract, I am guessing you can get deals on new phones. That combined with so many unlimited nights/weekends minutes, (or that you just use so many free minutes via family to family calls, whichever), that might make Tmobile the better deal in this case. Though you're still stuck with only 1000 anytime minutes between three people.

After having to fight just to finish out my last contract as it was -- they wanted to charge me like 25% more a month while claiming the terms didn't change so I couldn't cancel -- I was pretty much at the whim of which customer service person I talked to. I now despise contracts. So consider that there is some value of not being forced into a two-year contract. Two years can be a long time. With separate plans and no contract, people can change their own plan if/when the need arises.

If you haven't already, check the coverage map for Page Plus. It's the same (nearly the same?) as the Verizon prepaid map. Maybe you're in a dead spot and all this talk about them is moot anyway.

edit: I just noticed you said only one line mainly uses the nights/weekends. There's an unlimited talk and text plan for $39.99 a month. You could maybe do something like one unlimited at $40, and you can save money on the other two with lesser plans. Maybe. Just tossing that out quick.
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#8
I do not believe there is a list out there that has everybody and up-to-date. Meaning businesses that no longer exits are not removed.

Here is just about everybody that might fit your situation. Obviously, you can mix and match. Remember to take into consideration any coverage difference, the need to remember to add minutes, the cost of service, and cost of getting new phones. Plus, there is generally no nights & weekend or mobile-to-mobile. Thus, all calling is anytime minutes. You may end up finding that moving to another provider is not worth it.

As mentioned, Republic Wireless is in beta. They use Sprint towers. You must also purchase a phone from them. Last I heard, they only had 1 phone.

Ting is Sprint-based, but roams on Verizon for calling. Must buy phone from them. Plus, they charge the usual postpaid taxes.

MetroPCS $20 for 500min and unlimited texts. You would need to buy one of their non-smartphones. Coverage is not so great, so they have to charge less to get people interested.

PlatinumTel via dealer gives you 500min/500text/20mb for $20. Sprint towers with no roaming. Either buy one of their phones or acquire a Sprint phone elsewhere and pay a one-time fee of $40 to activate it.

H2O gives you 1000min/1000texts/80gb for $25 a month. They are an At&t mvno. This service would be the easiest to try out as you only need to buy a sim provided that your T-Mobile phone is unlocked.

Page Plus $80/2000 minute card via dealer. This might be an option for the 500min/no-text user. For 500min, that would be about $20 a month. Page Plus has a service fee of 50 cents a month which they detect from your balance. They are a Verzion mvno and allows Verizon phones that are not prepaid or 4G.

Ready Mobile uses Sprint with no roaming, and you need to buy one of their few phones. For $20, you get 500min/1000texts/20mb. I have only seen this brand sold at Rite Aid.

Forgot about Net10. Their $25 plan gives you 750 minutes. I believe 1 text = 1 minute. Coverage depends on where you live & what phone they give you. Using a Net10 phone is required.
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#9
Wow gents, super!! Thanks so much for the information, this really helps!! I'll make a spreadsheet to compare rates and will obviously include the cost of the phones too. With TMobile we could continue using our existing Blackberrys that we are pretty happy with so that will be a factor too.

It's great to learn about all these options I haven't heard before, hopefully other forum member will benefit from this information too. Page Plus coverage looks fine for us btw and not being under a contract definitely counts too. I'll discuss with my family before I make a decision, it will be based on the cost and coverage really. I'll let you know what we decide.

Thanks again!!!
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#10
Hey guys...sorry for the delayed reply but we went for the T-Mobile family value plan that still was the cheapest one overall, especially after they knocked $10 off the list price to keep us as their customer. We are bound by a new 2-year contract even though we use the same same phones we have had. Still a pretty good deal I think.
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#11
You may want to look into Walmart Family Mobile plan which is $115/Month (for 3-lines) includes Unlimited Voice/Text/Web

http://www.walmart.com/cp/Family-Mobile/1076544

Oh and you can use your current T-Mobile phones as they use T-Mobile network.
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#12
I looked into that too, T-Mobile value plan was cheaper as we don't need the data, just voice and text really. Thanks though.
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