What different types of Family Plans are available?
- $10 plans from a variety of providers
- Notably, $10 plans from OVO and Yomojo – they come with special ‘family management’ plans
- Plans which give you a discount when multiple family members use a single phone company – for example, Yomojo
- Plans which let you share data across multiple SIMs
How do family plans work?
Family plans are first initiated by a ‘Leader’, who gets an unlimited voice and SMS plan and decides who to add. Next, the Leader adds other users for an additional monthly fee, to share the unlimited voice and SMS and a specified amount of data.
Do family plans save money?
Given the multiple SIMs, family plans can save money. This is due to the unpredictability of data plans, which typically makes them hard to manage. Because data is quite valuable, some users might exceed their data plans. Other users though, might never even come close to their data limits. Thus, having a family plan, where a lump sum of data is shared across multiple SIMs, can distribute unused data across both types of users for one fee, thus avoiding using too little or exceeding limits.
However, in actuality, these plans save money mostly when compared to individual plans on the same network. When compared to individual, separate SIM plans on smaller providers (MVNOs) they don’t save as much.
How many users can I add on a family plan?
The maximum number of possible users depends on the provider. Optus allows a maximum total of 6 users (the Leader plus 5 SIMs) at a minimum charge of $40 to add a new SIM. Vodafone allows a maximum of 11 users (the Leader plus 10 SIMs) and a minimum charge of $30 to add a new SIM.
How do Apple phones help people manage their family’s phone use?
Who are Yomojo and why are their plans so ‘Family friendly’ ?
Yomojo are a brand you might not be that familiar with. They have set their stall around facilitating family phone plans and they’re doing well by targeting this group of users.
Yomojo have a number of features which lend themselves well to families.
- They offer discounts when you add more than one SIM to your ‘account’
- They have special ‘Kids Safe’ software which helps parents manage the risks of giving their child a phone
Why are ‘$10 per month’ phone plans good for families?
In 2019, a number of phone companies now offer ‘pocket money’ phone plans with small data allowances – typically in the order of 1GB of mobile 4G data.
How does OVO Mobile help people manage their family’s phone plans?
OVO Mobile also have Parental Management software – they don’t charge you to use it.
Is everything shared on a Family plan?
Although all users get access to the unlimited voice and SMS, as well as the allocated data, not all aspects of the plan are shared.
International minutes and access to premium services such as on-demand are not shared on a family plan.
What are the alternatives to a family plan?
Normal plans are the alternative — use separate SIMs on separate, individual plans. There are prepaid plans for kids tailored to avoid huge bills. There are also cheap plans from smaller providers or MVNOs, such as Amayasim and Bendigo that access the same networks as larger telcos. They also have prepaid options.
The disadvantage here is that you might choose data options for each separate user and some might use far less than their allocated amount, while another exceeds their amount. Thus, with such an alternative, it is ideal that the plan with the right amount of data is purchased.
- Comes with unlimited SMS and voice.
- Add your family members.
- Single bill.
- Shared data means less wasted data.
- No bill-shock.
- Multi-play discounts.
- Video on demand and international calls are not shared.
- The leader account has to be on 12 / 24 month contract.
- Plans are postpaid only and no prepaid.
- Generally too much data, which means you may pay for more than you need.
Will you save money if you take a family plan ?
They key question is : Will you save real money by signing your family up with a family deal from one of these providers ?
We answer this below. In order to figure it out, we’ve taken a look at what family plans are, how they work, their pros and cons and examine the alternatives.
Family plans were born because we’re spending longer in our Digital Lives
70% of individual Australians use 3 or more devices to access the internet. Estimates for the number of tablets, phones, and laptops held by a single family in Australia vary between 4 and 7. The continued increase in the number of ways to access the internet represents an opportunity for phone companies. Whichever of them can provide the data and data management tools required by ordinary people to live their connected digital lives, will make the most money. It’s not hard, then, to see why Family Plans are the newest addition to the range of products being marketed.
Vodafone has its own ‘flavor’ of Family Plan
Vodafone brought their version of the family plan to the market back in February of the same year. At the time, Loo Fun Chee, head of marketing at Vodafone Australia, said customers who chose Vodafone for their family plans could save up to $200 per year.
Vikki Brady, Head of Optus Customer Experience, said at the Optus launch, “We believe there are around one million households that would want to sign up for family sharing [and] the average household has 4.3 devices that families can share,” ( She was quoting their own internal research. )
Family plans are a new way to save money on multiple SIMs
Currently, around two-thirds of telco customers are using less than 50 percent of their monthly data inclusions, apparently. Data is both the most valued feature in phone plans and the component which is hardest to manage. That’s especially true for younger users. Users aged 18 to 20 years old use 2.7 times more data than those over 45 years old.
On the face of it, Family Plans are a good scheme. Without them, most members of the family could waste some of their bundle while one person exceeds their allowance. This is the problem Family Plans have been designed to solve :
How do family plans work ?
Here are the mechanics of the family plans offered by both Vodafone and Optus.
- They have a pool of data for the family to share :
The key attractive element of a shared plan is the shared data allowance. The best way to describe it is to think of the data allocation as a milkshake the family can share. Every family member gets a straw.
- A single bill :
All the phones from a single household go on to one bill administered by the ‘Leader’. The Leader has their account set up first and decides to what degree anyone in a family is in charge of the setup.
- Keep adding family members :
Whoever you choose for your family plan Leader can add The Brady Bunch as extras, if they so wish. Optus has a maximum of 6 SIMs on the account. ( Optus leader + 5 ) Vodafone has a maximum of 11. ( Vodafone leader + 10 ) There is a minimum charge of $30 to add a SIM with Vodafone ( you’ll get 1GB ) and a minimum charge of $40 with Optus.
- Everyone gets unlimited SMS and voice :
Each SIM added to the family plan comes pre-enabled with unlimited national SMS and voice minutes to any network. There may be a cost of $5 per device to connect : Vodafone does not charge a fee to connect people to the service. Optus charges $5.
- Still tied in with data top ups :
Overage is still $10 per GB, charged in 1GB increments.
- Data workout is still included :
Vodafone still offers their ‘data workout’ plan feature, which gives every SIM on the account unlimited data for the first 2 months of the agreement.
- Vodafone :
The leader has to be on 12 /24-month Red plan.
- Some things aren’t shared :
International minutes and access to premium services like video on demand are not shared between the SIMs on the family plan
How Optus explain their Family Plan
What are the alternatives to family plans?
You know what the alternative is to family plans because you’ve been using it / them for years. The alternative is to take out individual plans for each family member. Your options include :
- Prepaid for the kids :
Prepaid plans offer complete cost predictability and are often deployed to avoid big bills for kids.
- Cheaper plans from alternative providers :
You’ll see these on many of our comparison pages. Smaller phone companies like Amaysim and Bendigo offer better pricing and often access to exactly the same networks. Many of these plans are available as either prepaid or postpaid variants.
Good things about Family Plans
- Clarity of plans :
The table stakes for getting a shared data plan is that national voice and SMS services are all included already in your monthly cost. To you, this means there’s going to be no bill shock.
- One bill :
Having a single company whose bills you have to manage makes things much simpler. Administration of the account is easier and you are likely to have more leverage with them if you ever have a complaint.
- Multi-play discounts :
Optus offers you further discounts on their mobile services if you tie their purchase in with your fixed line ( broadband or phone ) service. Do this and you’ll get another $10 per month off.
- More transparency :
The reporting tools which are available from the phone companies to help you understand the data usage of all the SIMs on your account are extremely strong these days.
- Less waste : Instead of multiple family members using only a proportion of their allocation, through better management and information plus pooling of low and high users, it’s possible to use your allocation more efficiently.
Bad things about Family Plans
- Huge data :
The data allowances they’re including in their plans are probably more data than you need. The data allocation in these plans is large to the point of silly. This is far more than people are currently using. Average usage for someone with a smart mobile phone is only around 1.5 GB per month at the moment. It is true that average usage is increasing rapidly but the lesson here is to ensure you are only paying for the data you need.
- You’re tied in :
By far the worst thing about them is that family plans ( and bundle discounts ) tie you in to a single company. Once the problem is solved, and people are signed up, most people stop shopping around at all. Which is, of course, why the companies offer these discounts. Internally, the measure of customers which leave phone companies is known as churn. The more products people have with a single phone company, the less likely they are to leave. Imagine the administrative difficulties of unpicking a contract with Optus if you need to wait until the broadband contract finishes AND a 24-month phone contract finishes ! You know as well as I do, you’re just not going to bother changing.
- Better deals on single SIMs :
As you can see from our infographic, Optus’ entry point for a SIM Only plan with 1.5 GB of data is $40 ! For just $5 more, you could get 5GB of 4G data on exactly the same network using Amaysim. There are better offers on the Telstra network from Boost and Cmobile.
- These plans are postpaid only :
At the moment, neither of the Family plans from Optus or Vodafone allow the addition of prepaid plans.
- Existing customers have to move to the new plan :
Nothing happens automatically, you have to call Vodafone or Optus and get yourself moved to the family plan.
- Laziness :
It’s more than possible that once this is set up, you will be stuck with them for a long, long time because you’re so busy you’ll never shop around again.
Will you save money with a family plan ?
Sorry, but the answer’s ‘Yes and No’ :
1. Yes. Compared to multiple, separate agreements from Optus or Vodafone you will save money :
Having a shared plan is going to save you money compared against the same products from the same company. If you compare the options of having multiple separate lines with Optus or Vodafone to the option of having a family plan with either then you’re going to save money.
2. But. If you bought separate SIMs from cheaper providers you’d save more :
There are cheaper alternatives on the market which will give you more data and still cost you less. We’ve included some with significant data allocations at the bottom of this article. You can find more on our ‘Unlimited plans’ page.
3. In either case, measurement of usage is the real issue – so address it :
Remember, you’re going to use more data over time. This scheme is designed to oil the slippery slope of growth in your data usage habits. If you’re confused about that take a look at the fact that the phone companies are offering you a free subscription to streaming high def video. This is the free bus to the RSL !
Problems with Family Plans
This scheme should not be considered on its own. The phone companies are motivated to help you use a lot more data. They’re encouraging high-quality video downloading through their Stan, Presto, and Netflix products or affiliations.
If people are not using their data allocations, they can be more efficient by using the app from the phone company’s website to determine their own usage and make the most of what they have. If they are exceeding their usage, it’s not that expensive these days. All 3 of the major phone companies have automatic charging at $10 per GB for those that do.
The biggest problem with shared data is a lack of personal responsibility for the use. When the average cost is less than the personal marginal cost you end up with problems like global warming. This is known as The tragedy of the Commons. In simple terms, if you add your teenager to a shared bundle and tell him you’ll pay the bill, you’ll be paying more for data pretty quick.
Family plans are another step towards the intelligent management of data. They’re a feather in the cap of both Optus and Vodafone’s Product Management teams for bringing them to market so early.
Family Plans are probably just the first incarnation. The first cab off the rank is offering a new ‘Product’ ( Family Plans ) to multiple people in a family. Further down the line, the principal can be assigned to multiple SIMs for an individual to cover things like the SIMs in their car, boat, umbrella, and laptop as everything gets added to the bill.
In our view, a better way to manage data usage ( than grouping it into a family plan ) is to make yourself aware of your own using the app from the phone company. If the real problem you have with data is used, then a shared plan insulates you from the effects; it doesn’t solve it.
We advise that you consider alternative plans from smaller phone companies. They give you data allowances which are so much bigger than Optus or Vodafone, there is no need to share data. They avoid the problem of encouraging usage by avoiding responsibility for it too ( because everyone pays their own bills. )
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