Kids love smartphones. Even when they were only four or five years old, my kids loved using our phones to play games, watch videos, or call family. Eventually, it will be time to get them their own phones. I won’t debate the best age for that, that’s a family decision, but I can help you save some money if you are ready to give them the responsibility.
Family Plans Aren’t Always the Best Idea
The four major cell phone companies would love to rope you into a family plan by adding a new line and phone for your kid. For some people this works, but don’t assume this is always the best idea. Often you have to agree to make payments on a phone for two years. Then, if you want out, it might affect the price everyone else in the family pays for their plan too. Double check these things before you add that line for your kid.
Consider the Alternatives
On the positive side, there are dozens of companies selling smartphone service a la carte these days. The companies typically pay the major carriers to use their towers. You don’t get the big brand customer service but you will get the same coverage for a fraction of the cost.
Google Fi is a great option directly from Google, Walmart Family Mobile is one of the most inexpensive options, and Straight Talk Wireless is a solid choice if you use a lot of data but need a set cost per month. There are many others, and they all work on the same premise.
The biggest hurdle to these plans is that you often have to buy a compatible phone before you get service. It just takes a few extra steps and it’s usually worth the savings. Once you find out if the provider uses GSM or CDMA phones, find an “unlocked” phone through a seller (Amazon has plenty, even big box stores sell unlocked phones) and you’re ready to go. The service provider will sell you the SIM card as part of a setup kit that you will pop into the phone itself.
Best part is, you can cancel or pause service at any time. Some, like Google Fi, even pay you back for unused data.
If this is finally the year your child gets his own smartphone, consider going with an alternative provider and you may save yourself some money and give yourself more flexibility.
Kirk Yuhnke is a father of three, self-admitted technology geek, and morning news anchor for Fox31. You can catch him weekdays on Good Day Colorado.