Comparing data, minutes, cost, perks, which carrier is right for your family?

If you live in a home with multiple phones, tablets or wearables, it might be worth looking into a family plan, which can share your data and hopefully save some money. When you're shopping between T-Mobile 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.

What sharing plans are available from T-Mobile 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.

T-Mobile doesn't really offer a true sharing plan. Instead of sharing one big chunk of data, each person on your account is given a monthly allotment of data. Once they surpass their data limit, they can still use data on their phone or tablet, but their download speeds will be slower.

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 T-Mobile 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.

T-Mobile cost per device

With T-Mobile you can have up to 12 devices on one account. The more devices you add, the cheaper it is per device (until you eventually bottom out at $10 each). Adding a tablet to your T-Mobile plan is only $10/device if you also have a phone on your plan, otherwise it's $20.

  • Phone 1, $50
  • Phone 2, $30
  • Phone 3, $10
  • Each additional phone $10
  • Each additional tablet $10 (or $20 if you don't have a phone)

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 for 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 until the device is paid off.

How does data work on a shared plan with T-Mobile and Verizon?

This is where things get tricky. T-Mobile gives you a specific data allotment for each device, whereas Verizon gives you a big pool of data to share.

If you go over on T-Mobile your data speed slows down, but you won't have to pay more. If you go over on Verizon, you have to pay overage fees.

T-Mobile monthly data rates

  • 2 GB (included with your monthly charge for each device on your account)
  • 6 GB, $15/device
  • 10 GB, $30/device
  • Unlimited, $45/device

Overage Charges: If you go over your monthly data limit with T-Mobile your connection speed can be reduced (If you have a normal, 4G, LTE connection your speed can be cut from between 6 and 20 Mbps to between 64 and 128 kbps which is slower than a 2G network connection). Even on an unlimited plan, if you exceed 25 GB on a device in one bill cycle your speeds may be reduced. This may only happen during peak use times, or if you're lucky, not at all, but T-Mobile reserves the right to limit your speeds if you go over.

Rollover Data: T-Mobile offers a service called Data Stash which allows you to rollover any unused data in future months and will save this unused, high speed data for an entire year.

Verizon monthly data rates

Verizon groups their data plans in sizes of Small to XXL.

  • 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 that month.

Rollover Data: Verizon is not like other major carriers and 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 T-Mobile and Verizon?

Both T-Mobile and Verizon include unlimited talk and text with their shared plans.

T-Mobile includes unlimited talk and text to Mexico and Canada with any plan, no matter how much data you buy.

Verizon doesn't include talk with countries outside the U.S. but this 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 sharing plans from T-Mobile and Verizon?

Sometimes it's tough to decide between one carrier or another, so each provider generally offers something extra to sweeten the pot.

T-Mobile's incentive package helps protect your high speed data, by making certain data-draining activities are exempt from your overall high speed data allotment. T-Mobile's Music Freedom allows you to stream music from popular services you already have an account with like Apple Music, Google Music, Pandora, without counting against your data. Binge On works the same way as Music Freedom, but for popular video services you have an account for like YouTube, Netflix, and Hulu. (This is limited to "DVD quality" at 480p resolution.)

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 phone 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 my family?

Both T-Mobile and Verizon leave room for customization based on the needs and budget of your household. For comparison purposes, we will look at share plans that have two phones and two tablets on them.

If you want the absolute cheapest plan, that can be built with Verizon, but you would have a very small amount of data (1GB) to share between devices.

If you want the most high speed data you can get that with T-Mobile, but even though you're buying "unlimited" high speed data, it may start to slow down after you use 25 GB on one device.

If you want the best value for your data T-Mobile lets you buy the amount of data you think you'll need for each device and won't charge you overage fees.

If you have many devices (5 or more) consider the T-Mobile plan as its per-device account fee bottoms out at $10 for three or more devices, which is less expensive than Verizon's rates. However, if you only have one smartphone on your account and the rest are tablets or wearables, then Verizon may be a better choice.

If you want to avoid overage fees then T-Mobile is a clear winner since they only slow down your data if you go over your limit instead of charging you per GB of data.

If you're primarily concerned with talk and text from your provider, T-Mobile and Verizon are pretty equal. The only difference is if you frequently talk or text with people in Mexico or Canada, T-Mobile includes this in their plans whereas you would have to upgrade for this service with Verizon.

If you already pay for TV service in your home you might find more value with Verizon if you choose to use their Fios TV service.

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. T-Mobile and Verizon have slight advantages between each other depending on what category you look at.

Overall T-Mobile's plan offers the most customization and flexibility and their low data prices and lack of overage charges make them a really appealing option for data-hungry households.