AT&T vs Verizon: Best Family Plan

I don't blame you for looking this up. Getting a mobile plan that benefits both you and the various members of your family — whatever that might look like — is difficult. Every person has different needs from their data, as cliché as the saying goes, and I bet that there's at least a few of you reading this who resent the data hog in your shared family plan. You can help prevent this kind of resentment by signing up for the right shared plan.

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.

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

They don't really call them "family plans" anymore because a family simply refers to a cluster of people willing to be on the same bill. You'll have more luck if you ask for AT&T and Verizon's shared plans.

AT&T currently offers the Mobile Share Advantage plan, which nets you and your cluster up to 16GB. The price doesn't include the access charges per device on the plan, though there's a helpful calculator at the site.

Verizon lets you choose between plans ranging from S-XXL, with the least available at 2GB and the most set at 24GB plus 2GB per line, though you can go up to 100GB if you're, say, running a small business. All plans include unlimited talk and text and carryover data, which is a helpful way of rewarding data savers. You'll also have to pay a monthly access fee per device.

How many devices are allowed on a shared plan?

As mentioned, you'll have to pay an access fee for every device you bring onto the plan, including smartphones, tablets, and mobile hotspots. Verizon and AT&T's plans both work for up to ten devices.

AT&T cost per device

AT&T allows up to 10 devices on a shared plan. The cost of adding a device depends on how many GB of data you are sharing.

  • $20/month/smartphone
  • $10/month/tablet
  • $10/month/wearable
  • $20/month/laptop or hot spot device

Verizon cost per device

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

Pay mind that even if you bring your own phone over, the carrier will charge you a monthly access fee. And if you want a new phone, you'll also be looking at about $25-$35 a month as you pay off that device (unless you pay for it upfront).

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

Both AT&T and Verizon have similar policies for data overages. If you go over the monthly allotment, you'll be charged an overage fee, typically per gigabyte. Verizon will also round up your data overage to the next increment and charge you for it (they might even try to sell you on the Safety Mode, as a result), while AT&T will slow your data usage down to 2G speeds for the remainder of the billing cycle.

AT&T monthly data rates

  • 1 GB, $50
  • 3 GB, $60
  • 6 GB, $80
  • 10 GB, $100
  • 16 GB, $110
  • 25 GB, $130
  • 30 GB, $155
  • 40 GB, $200
  • 50 GB, $245
  • 60 GB, $290
  • 80 GB, $380
  • 100 GB, $470

Overage Charges: After your high-speed data allotments are used, all data usage is slowed to a maximum of 128Kbps (2G speed) for the rest of the bill cycle.

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

  • S: 2 GB, $35
  • M: 4 GB, $50
  • L: 8 GB (+2GB per line), $70
  • XL: 16 GB (+2GB per line), $90
  • XXL: 24GB (+2GB per line), $110
  • 30GB (+2GB per line), $135
  • 40GB (+2GB per line), $180
  • 50GB (+2GB per line), $225
  • 60GB (+2GB per line), $270
  • 80GB (+2GB per line), $360
  • 100GB (+2GB per line), $450

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 now offers carryover data with every data plan.

What about Verizon's Unlimited plan?

The brand new unlimited data plan from Verizon sounds like a wonderful deal at first glance. For $80 a person, $70 per line for two lines, $54 per line for three lines, or $45 per line for four lines or more, you get unlimited data, phone calls, and text messages. There's also a $5 discount applied if you sign up for paperless billing and auto pay. This plan includes HD video streaming (we're unclear if that means 1080p or 720p) and hotspot capabilities, but there's fine print:

4G LTE only. We may manage your network usage to ensure a quality experience all customers, and may prioritize your data behind some Verizon customers during times/places of network congestion. Not available for machine-to-machine services. Mobile hotspot/tethering reduced to 3G speeds after 10GB/month; domestic data roaming at 2G speeds; int'l data reduced to 2G speeds after 500MB/day. If more than 50% of your talk, text or data usage in a 60-day period is in Canada or Mexico, use of those services in those countries may be removed or limited. Discounts not available.

Also, after using up 22GB (we're still not clear if that's per line or per account), Verizon will "prioritize usage behind other customers," which it's been known to do with its existing, grandfathered-in unlimited data customers.

Verizon's other data plans are still cheaper in the long run if you account for the activation fees, especially if you're not looking for that much data. And anyway, if your main objective is to keep your family honest about how much data they use, getting a limited plan will require fewer headaches. The Unlimited plan is worth considering, however, if there is someone in the family who often travels, since the plan comes with international roaming.

Does AT&T have an Unlimited plan?

AT&T's unlimited-data plan is only available for DirectTV subscribers, and that comes as a packaged deal. Mobile hotspot capablities aren't part of the deal, either.

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 10 GB or higher plan, you also get free talk and text to Mexico and Canada, and no roaming charges while in Mexico.

Verizon includes unlimited talk and text for all plans, in addition to the ability to call Mexico and Canada and use your device in those two countries if you purchase a 12GB or higher plan.

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

Great question! After all, who doesn't love a deal?

AT&T offers DirecTV, essentially satellite TV, with access to local and network shows, as well as a DVR. If you subscribe, you get unlimited data (though after 22GB of usage, AT&T will slow you down).

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

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

Here a few things to consider when you're choosing the carrier that's right for you and your family. We'll use two smartphones and two tablets on a plan for comparison.

If you want the cheapest plan that offers the best deal, that's Verizon. If you sign up for the 8GB a month deal for two people, Verizon will throw in 2GB extra of data for each device. That's $70 a month plus $60 for the four devices you'll have on the plan — a total of $130 before taxes. AT&T's pricing for the same lineup, by comparison, would cost $160 before taxes, since it's $100 for just 10GB of data.

However, if you pay $10 more you can get an even better deal at Verizon. The 16GB data plan starts at $110. If you add on those four aforementioned devices, it comes out to $170 before taxes. You'll have to avoid going over your data limit on AT&T, however, since the carrier will slow your connection speed for the billing cycle. On the other hand, Verizon will likely attempt to sell you on its Safety Mode option if you hit your data cap, which will cost you extra in the long run. Thus is the penalty for being a data hog.

If you have many devices, Verizon's bulk data plans become more of a deal. The 24GB + 2GB per line deal is great for four devices. That's $170 for 8GB of data per device. That's a ton of reading on transit!

It's all a blur

Shopping for deals at your carrier is a tough time. A good tip of the hat is to take the time to walk in to your nearest kiosk or brick and mortar to see if any associates can strike up a better deal.

If you'd rather just shop online and this page isn't helping you for whatever reason, give Whistle Out a try. It's a fantastic resource for shopping for wireless plans, including smaller budget carriers.

This post may contain affiliate links. See our disclosure policy for more details.