How We Chose Our Phone Plan

How We Chose Our Phone Plan

A few days ago we had a meetup for our local ChooseFI group where the topic was cell phone plans. As is usually the case, we focused on the topic and then conversations went all over the map as the evening went on. In an effort to provide a comprehensive review of the topic for the night I came to realize that we were split down the middle of those that were still using one of the four major carriers (AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon) and those that had taken the plunge with one of the various Mobile Virtual Network Operators (MVNO) out there.

We didn’t have the chance to open up a spreadsheet and compare plans side by side then and there, so I decided to do so myself in this post.

Full disclosure: my family and I switched from Verizon to Ting about 16 months ago. We have had no issues and are very happy with the coverage, service and pricing. That being said, it is always good to shop around every year or so, so let’s get started.

Our Situation

We need 3 lines – one for me, one for my wife and one “home” phone. We keep this last phone at home primarily for our older kids to use when we have to step away from the house and don’t want to drag them to stores or when we are running late. This phone never leaves the house, so it really doesn’t have any need for data. My wife and I both have an iPhone 6S and our home phone is a ZTE Avid Plus Z828.

Looking back over our last six months of bills, between the three lines we average 529 minutes, 257 messages and about 1.5 GB of data. We both have WiFi at our jobs and at home and we are rarely anywhere else that requires us to be using our phones for data. We are also very aware of what we use our cellular data for – personally I have cellular data turned off for 95% of the apps on my phone.

That all being said, different people have different needs, but we will be making this initial comparison based on what we use. We will be comparing the big four carriers and the following 5 MVNOs – Google Fi, Mint Mobile, Republic Wireless, Ting and Total Wireless.

All prices listed do NOT include taxes and fees (except for T-Mobile, because they had to be difficult 😛 ) We are also assuming that each plan allows you to bring whatever phone you want or to put it another way – buying a device is not factored into this cost comparison at all.

The Rundown

AT&T – For three lines the least expensive option is their AT&T Mobile Share Plus 3 GB plan for $100.

Google Fi – They charge $20 for the first line for unlimited talk and text and $15 per line to add a line. For data they charge $10 per GB, capped at $120. The monthly cost for this would be $65.

Mint Mobile – 1 line = 1 account. Their lowest plan is $25 per month for 3 GB per line (unlimited talk and text). The intro rate is $15 but for a true analysis we never go by introductory rates. This MVNO would cost us $75 per month.

Republic Wireless – $25 per line for 1 – 2GB of data plus unlimited talk and text. $20 for the third line using between 0 – 1GB. The cost for this would be $75 per month.

Sprint – For 3 lines it seems like their lowest option is $40 per line for unlimited talk, data and text. This rigid plan would run us $120 per month.

T-Mobile – Their current limited time offer is for 2 lines and add a 3rd line free for $40 per line on their T-Mobile ONE plan. Unlimited talk, text and data. They claim to include taxes and fees – sigh they had to be a unique snowflake – let’s just call it $80.

Ting – Unlike every other option in this comparison, Ting does not have unlimited talk and text. They charge $6 per line so that comes out to $18. They then have different pay as you go tiers for minutes, messages and data. We fall in the 101 – 500 minutes ($18), 101 – 1000 messages ($5) and 1.1 GB – 2 GB ($20) for data tiers respectively. This puts our bill before taxes and fees at $61.

Total Wireless – Their cheapest option for 3 lines is $80.70 with auto-refill (or $85 without). This would get us unlimited talk and text and 20 GB to share.

Verizon – The plan that makes the most sense for us out of Verizon’s offerings is their S Shared Data plan which charges $35 per month plus $20 per line, which comes in at $95 per month.

The Results

As I mentioned earlier, it is always a good idea to shop around periodically for everything – car insurance, home insurance, beer distributors and in this case – phone plans. That being said, I am relieved to find that, for our situation, Ting still wins the day in terms of savings.

Now that we have the straight cost comparison out of the way, I will mention that I likely wouldn’t go with some of these carriers based on what phones they do and do not support.

Google Fi sounds nice and all but we can’t bring our ZTE Avid over. Also, they don’t fully support iPhones (at least our models) in terms of networking reliability and security. Not a major concern, but certainly worth thinking about.

Republic Wireless comes in third in terms of pricing, but doesn’t support iPhones at all at this point. I don’t understand how that is part of a realistic business model in 2019.

How We Could Save More

Reduce Our Call Time – The tiers for minutes for Ting for minutes are 1-100 ($3), 101-500 ($9), 501-1000 ($18). A push to reduce our current average monthly minutes of 529 by 30 would put us in the next tier down and save us $9 per month.

Reduce Our Data Usage – Two people only using 1.5 GB combined may seem low in today’s terms, but when we first switched to Ting, we kept our data usage to under 500 MB. If we were to replicate this, it would reduce our charge for data from $20 to $10.

Between the two, we could take our $61 bill down to $42!

How You Could Save More

As I mentioned before, we have been using Ting for the last 16 months and love it. We went on a trip out west last year to southern Utah and Arizona and had no issues with cell service. We use the CDMA network that Ting offers, which is provided on the Sprint network.

Bring our iPhone 6Ses that we purchased via Verizon over was really easy. A simple chat with customer support from Ting and a quick phone call with Verizon and then we put the Ting SIM cards in and we were set. Moving the ZTE Avid Plus over was even easier – we just plugged the new SIM in and we were good to go!

The numbers don’t lie – for the low-data user – Ting has the best prices. The customer support is also amazing. They also don’t sell your data like others do.

If you are interested and would like to learn more you can check out more here. If you end up signing up for Ting with this link, you will get $25 off a device or $25 in Ting credit. We get $25 in Ting credit for each referral.


Admittedly, not everyone falls into the same boat as us, so here are the links that I used to do this comparison. I have also included the links to each carriers coverage maps.

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