Many contract mobile plans allow you to share their provisions, which can be a real budget boon for your family. Here’s how they work, and how to best take advantage of them.
When you sign up for a mobile contract, you’re typically presented with a set of inclusions. Usually these will cover standard national mobile calling, texts and a quantity of data, although some plans also include international calling provisions or other extra goodies. It used to be the case that your inclusions were yours alone, and if you wanted to share them with somebody else, it meant handing them your phone (or your SIM card), which was hardly ideal.
However, now, many mobile carriers offer the facility to "share" your inclusions across multiple SIMs on the same network. In the case of calls and texts this often doesn’t make a huge difference, as many of the plans that are applicable for this kind of sharing come with unlimited calls and texts anyway. You can split infinite as many times as you like, and it’s still going to be infinite.
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Where these "family" plans really pay off is in data sharing. If you’ve got a data quota that you never really come close to using all of, but your kids are constantly running out of data, or worse, running up large excess data bills, being able to share your otherwise unused data with them could save you big bucks. However, how each telco handles data sharing across mobile plans differs slightly.
Telstra data sharing
Up until mid-2018, Telstra offered data sharing across the vast majority of its mobile plans. It has since restructured its mobile business, and now data on its plans is strictly for personal use only. That means no sharing of extra GBs, even if you bundle multiple Telstra mobile plans on the same bill.
Optus data sharing
Optus’ plan sharing features are built into its My Plan Plus plans at all tiers, as well as its My Plan Flex leasing plans and its My Mobile Broadband Plus plans. You can bundle any number of these plans together into a single bill and all their data inclusions will be combined into one massive data pool. Any device connected to one of those plans can access that data pool as needed, so bear that in mind when picking what plans to bundle together. If you don't want to share the data allowance for one of your devices, you'll need to separate its plan on its own bill.
It's also worth noting that data sharing is not applicable on any Optus prepaid plans, so if you have the kids on a cheaper prepaid plan they won’t be able to access your data pool unless you get them on contract. Optus does offer month-to-month contract options as well as traditional 12-month plans, so that’s always an option. Given all of these plans already include unlimited standard national calls and texts, it’s a purely data-sharing only option.
Account management is handled via the Optus MyAccount portal, and all linked "shared" accounts then appear on a single bill.
Vodafone data sharing
Like Optus, Vodafone considers all of its regular post-paid mobile plans eligible for data sharing. This includes Vodafone Red contract plans as well as SIM-only plans, tablet plans and mobile broadband plans. Equally, because Vodafone offers unlimited standard national calls across all plans, sharing in this context is simply about pooling data.
Vodafone does pose a few limitations on its data sharing. Its "unlimited" Plus plans can share their Max Speed data only with other Plus plans on the same bill, so Red and SIM-only plans cannot take advantage of that uncapped data. You're also limited to sharing data with a maximum of five Plus plans on the same bill.
Regular data sharing is also regulated, with no more than ten plans per account allowed to share data. Within those ten plans, only five can be either a SIM-only plan or a Red phone plan.
Bonus data isn't shareable either, though you can continue to access your data pool even when taking advantage of Vodafone's $5 Roaming option.
Yomojo family bundles
Yomojo takes a different tack with its family options compared to most other telcos. Instead of pooling calls or data, it offers a discount when you combine multiple mobile plans onto the same bill. All Yomojo mobile plans are eligible for this discount, and depending on how many plans you bundle together, you can save between 5% and 15% on your total bill.
The benefit here is that you can choose an appropriate mobile plan for each member of your family and still enjoy the discount, whether that's a bare bones plan for your youngest child or a hefty 3G data plan for hotspot-friendly Internet access.
Yomojo provides a family dashboard for monitoring and managing call, text and data inclusions across all shared plans, with an option to top-up any of those inclusions should you need to.
What about other telcos?
If you’re with a Mobile Virtual Network Operator not listed here, then you’re not currently able to take advantage of data sharing services. That doesn’t automatically mean that you should look to swap carriers. What’s important here is making sure that even with a shared plan service that you’re still getting the best possible value for your money based on your actual or predictable usage patterns.
Everyone’s usage patterns will vary over time, but if you have at least a moderate view of the usage of your family group, that gives you a good starting point to assess relative value.
Any shared plan is only really giving you slightly more mixed access to data you’re already paying for, but it also introduces the greater possibility that as a group you’ll go over your data quota. If that’s already happening to a family member not on a shared plan then you’re probably going to benefit from shared plans, but the prospect is also there that as a group you’ll go over quota and end up spending even more on additional data packs. All of the telcos who offer shared plans do state that they’ll send you usage quota warnings before you go over quota, but bear in mind most automatically top up usage with an additional $10 per GB charge when you do.