Shared mobile plans for family and friends: each UK network compared

Family phone contracts and SIM only

We reveal who offers discounts on additional phone contracts or SIM only plans for family and friends or lets you share data across one account. SIM Sherpa is your trusty guide. Last updated: 19th September 2017.

Shared mobile plans explained

In our guide to mobile sharer and family plans...

Mobile networks offering shared plans

Plenty of networks offered shared mobile plans

In this guide, we’re looking for the best ways that mobile networks help you save money and reward you when you take out more than one deal with them on the same account.

Generally speaking, this is most useful for families, where there’s one bill payer, who’s looking for the best value way to get mobile phones or SIMs for the entire family. But it also works for friends who want to group up.

There are two main ways that mobile providers do this:

Green number 1 Discounts and perks for taking out more than one contract

Green number 2 Plans that let you share data between multiple users

How the two types of shared plan work:

Green number 1 Family plans with discounts for every additional user you add

Mobile networks with family plans

Discounts for taking multiple contracts

This is the most common way that mobile networks run their shared family plan schemes and work like this:

First you’ll take out one new main contract or you’re already an existing customer. Then you can add extra phone or SIM only plans at a discounted cost, either straight away or later when you’re ready.

These are SIM Sherpa’s (that’s us) favourite type of shared plans because they are the easiest to understand in terms of how much money they save you on a monthly basis (unlike data-sharing plans, see below).

Below, we list all the networks who offer this type of discounted plan. We then rate them according to which ones offer the biggest savings and have the least-fiddly rules and conditions that you have to follow.

Useful link: Skip to networks offering discounted additional plans

Green number 2 Data sharer plans let you split your data allowance between users on one account

Data sharing plan example

Share data between other plans on your account

The second way of doing shared plans is much less common and doesn’t offer such clear benefits as above.

Normally called ‘sharer plans’, these work by having one main account holder who takes out a pay monthly phone or SIM only plan. This person then shares their data allowance with other people they know.

To save money, you could take out one large plan with loads of data and then add smaller, cheaper ones to share with. But it’s much harder to calculate if this works out any cheaper than it is with straight-up discounts.

We also find managing and splitting data between multiple people ends up being more hassle than it’s worth. That said, if you find you have spare data, it’s nice to be able to offload it to others to avoid it going to waste.

Further down the page, we list the networks offering data-sharing plans and rate how they compare.

Useful link: Skip to networks offering data-sharing plans

Discounts on additional SIM only or phone contracts

1st: BT Mobile’s Family SIMs - the best scheme in the UK today

Shared plans on BT Mobile

The savings vary depending on the plan you pickSee savings per plan

What we like:
Green plus sign Real savings for every extra SIM you add
Green plus sign Additional SIMs are on short 30-day plans
Green plus sign Add them to a phone or a SIM only contract
Green plus sign Manage from one account or separately

What we don't like:
Red minus sign Everyone has to take the same usage plan
Red minus sign You can’t add phone contracts and save money

Top of our rankings for discounted shared plans are BT Mobile’s Family SIMs with the handsome savings you’d expect for taking out multiple plans, alongside flexibility and convenience in the way you manage them.

You start with one main contract for either a phone or a SIM only. You can then add up to 4x more discounted SIMs immediately or later. These are only on 30-day plans so give you flexibility to drop them at short notice.

BT claim you can save up to £180 a year but we calculate it can actually be as much as £612 if you took the top-whack plan and didn’t have BT broadband (use BT’s official Family SIM calculator here to find your results)

The only real drawbacks of BT’s scheme are that everyone has to join on the same plan (you can’t pick 1GB here, 12GB there) and that you can only add SIMs: there are no discounts/rewards on extra phones.

But overall, if you combine Family SIMs with BT’s Reward Card offers, they represent excellent value.

Useful link: See Family SIM pricing at BT.com

Our ranking:
1st

Discounts on:
Extra SIM only plans

Main contract has to be:
Phone or SIM only

Max extra plans on one account:
4x extra, 5 in total

2nd: Tesco Mobile’s Family Perks - the most flexible scheme

Tesco Mobile Family Perks

Change the Perk you receive each monthSee available Perks

What we like:
Green plus sign Perks apply to any additional contract you add
Green plus sign Change which perk you want every month

What we don't like:
Red minus sign Too many tiers and rules for perk sizes
Red minus sign Underwhelming money-off discounts

Our second favourite scheme is Tesco Mobile’s Family Perks, which offers a choice of monthly discounts, extra Clubcard points or bonus minutes/data on each and every pay monthly plan you add to your main account.

In some ways these even beat BT’s Family SIMs. For instance, you’re flexible to add either phones or SIMs to get Family Perks (on BT it’s only SIMs). And everyone’s not all forced to be on exactly the same usage plan.

But overall the monetary value of the perks isn’t as high. If you choose money back, you’ll get 50p, £1 or £2 off a month depending on cost of your deal, which even the smallest discount on BT’s cheapest plan beats.

What you might find more useful is the choice of up to 1GB bonus data or 500 extra minutes, because you could make a monetary saving by picking a smaller plan and adding the Family Perk bonuses to that.

One really nice touch is that you can decide to change which Family Perk you want each month. So if you’re not using the extra data bonus for example, you could swap it for minutes or money off.

Useful links: Family Perks FAQs | Terms and conditions at tescomobile.com

Our ranking:
2nd

Discounts/bonuses on:
Extra phone contracts, SIM only plans

Main contract has to be:
Phone or SIM only

Max extra plans on one account:
4x extra, 5 in total

3rd: Vodafone offer a flat 15% discount off additional contracts

Vodafone's discounts on extra plans

Save 15% on each extra pay monthly dealSee discounts

What we like:
Green plus sign Simple easy-to-calculate discounts
Green plus sign Applies to phones, SIMs, tablets and dongles

What we don't like:
Red minus sign Pricing can be expensive in the first place

Our next best-rated scheme is Vodafone’s as it’s simple and offers the chunkiest straight-up discounts.

Join Vodafone on a phone, SIM only or tablet/mobile data dongle deal with a contract length of at least 12 months and you can add up to 9 additional products to your account, each with a 15% discount.

It’s really that simple and that’s why we like it. The additional products can be anything pay monthly deal including: an extra phone, SIM only plan, tablet or mobile broadband device (read full terms here).

You add the extra plans at any time: just make sure you log in to your Vodafone account when you purchase.

Useful links: 15% off these phones | 15% off these SIM only plans | 15% off tablets | 15% off 4G dongles

Our ranking:
3rd

Discounts/bonuses on:
Extra phone contracts, SIM only, iPads / tablets, 4G dongles

Main contract has to be:
12-month or longer SIM only or phone contract

Max extra plans on one account:
9 extra, 10 in total

4th: EE give a straight 10% discount on every additional plan

EE family discounts

Discounts on extra phones, SIMs, tablets and donglesSee latest deals

What we like:
Green plus sign Simple easy-to-calculate discounts
Green plus sign Applies to phones, SIMs, tablets and dongles

What we don't like:
Red minus sign Pricing can be expensive in the first place

Our fourth best rated scheme comes from EE and can be combined with their data-sharing plans described further down the page:

EE's method of rewarding you for taking out multiple contracts on one account is practically identical to Vodafone's but the discount is lower at 10% (on Vodafone, it's 15%).

You'll need to take out either a 12-month SIM only or 24-month phone contract at full price first. Then once you're a customer, log in to see the improved prices on additional phones, SIMs, tablets and mobile broadband.

Useful link: Example deals for EE existing customers at EE.co.uk

Our ranking:
4th

Discounts/bonuses on:
Extra phone contracts, SIM only, iPads / tablets, Mobile WiFi

Main contract has to be:
12-month or longer SIM only or phone contract

Max extra plans on one account:
4 extra, 5 in total

5th: Three waive upfront fees and reduce monthly costs

Discounts on Three for friends and family

Save on any extra pay monthly dealsSee Three's savings

What we like:
Green plus sign Valuable savings, particularly on upfront costs
Green plus sign Applies to phones, SIMs, tablets and dongles

What we don't like:
Red minus sign Discounts different for every plan or device
Red minus sign Some savings as low as £1 a month

Generally speaking, Three’s regular full price plans will work out cheaper than the other major networks EE, O2 and Vodafone in the first place but you can still get a discount if you take multiple contracts from Three too.

As long as you’re on a 1-month, 12-month SIM only plan or 24-month phone contract with Three, you can add extra phone contracts with a £0-£2 monthly discount vs the regular price, usually with upfront costs waived too.

If you’re interested in adding a SIM only plan, Three have a selection of tariffs reduced by £2 against the new-customer price. There’s also mobile broadband and tablets too with savings attached.

You can add the extra plans at any point in your contract or at the same time as you sign up for your main deal.

Decent discounts and general flexibility makes Three’s extra plans one of our highest-rated schemes.

Useful link: Full terms and conditions at Three.co.uk

Our ranking:
5th

Discounts/bonuses on:
Extra phone contracts, SIM only, iPads / tablets, Mobile WiFi

Main contract has to be:
Any length SIM only contract or phone contract

Max extra plans on one account:
4 extra, 5 in total

6th: O2 give you up to 50% off part of extra phone contracts

O2 Family plan

Increasing discounts per extra phone contractSee O2's Family Plan

What we like:
Green plus sign Discounts on up to 20 devices (phones or tablets)
Green plus sign Maximum possible savings work out pretty large

What we don't like:
Red minus sign Doesn't apply to SIM only (phones/tablets only)
Red minus sign Discount only on the airtime part of phone deal
Red minus sign Savings in tiers from as little as 20% of airtime

On paper, discounts of up to 50% on extra phone or tablet contracts would seem like the best of all the multi-plan deals available but to understand why it’s not, you need to look at how O2 Refresh deals are structured:

They’re made up of two parts: a payment for the cost of your phone, and a payment for your monthly airtime (minutes, texts and data). The discount only applies to that second part; not to the cost of the phone.

Imagine a monthly deal that normally costs £20 for the phone + £20 for the airtime = £40. A 50% airtime discount only makes the total cost £30 (£20 + £10) rather than £20 (50% of £40) as you might first expect.

Then when you consider saving on the first phone’s airtime contract is 20% (see all discount levels here), it quickly becomes even less impressive. There are also no discounts to be had on SIM only or tablets.

That said, if a family all wants to be on O2 for a phone/tablet, the discount is always going to come in handy.

Useful link: Read Family Plan terms and conditions at O2.co.uk

Our ranking:
6th

Discounts/bonuses on:
Extra phone contracts or tablets only (no SIMs or mobile broadband)

Main contract has to be:
An O2 Refresh phone contract

Max extra plans on one account:
20 extra, 21 in total

Last: Every other mobile network in the UK!

No shared mobile contracts on these networks

No shared plans on these networks

There are no types of sharer/family plans on any of these networks: giffgaff, iD Mobile, Plusnet Mobile, The People's Operator or Virgin Mobile.

But that doesn't mean these should be a write-off for you if you want to get your whole family or a group of friends on one network. These providers may still work out cheaper even without any extra discounts.

If you're specifically interested in additional SIM only plans, we'd recommend doing a check on all providers' prices first using our comparison tool:

Useful link: Compare SIM only deals using our comparison tool.

Data-sharing group plans

1st: O2's Sharer Plans are the most flexible for splitting data

O2 data sharing plans

Share data between 10 devices on O2How it works

What we like:
Green plus sign Split data with 10 other people on O2
Green plus sign Existing customers can share too

What we don't like:
Red minus sign Lead device has to be a phone (can't be SIM only)
Red minus sign Hard to calculate any overall savings up front

As we say in our introduction, we don't think data-sharing plans are a great way of directly saving money. But we do think they can be handy when you use them to offload data you're not using to people who will use it.

O2's Sharer Plans are arguably the best scheme in the UK for doing this.

You'll need one main plan that has the data you want to share with others. This has to be an O2 Refresh phone or tablet deal bought from O2 direct (not via Carphone Warehouse etc).

Existing O2 customers can activate data-sharing using these instructions. Then it's just a matter of choosing your other pay monthly O2 phone or SIM only plans that you want to share data with.

Useful link: Read O2's full guide to data-sharing on their official site.

2nd: EE's Shared 4GEE plans do practically the same thing

Shared 4GEE plans on EE

Sharer plans have been around a while on EEHow they work

What we like:
Green plus sign Split data with up to 4 other people
Green plus sign Existing customers can add sharing to their plan

What we don't like:
Red minus sign Can't buy plans or add sharing online
Red minus sign Unclear pricing

EE also offer plans with data sharing but these have a few more restrictions than O2's schemes and are a little harder to actually get hold of so only come second in our rankings.

The principle behind EE's Shared 4GEE Plans is the same but you can only share data with 4 extra people. It's open to new and existing customers but can only be bought/added over the telephone or in an EE store.

The lead plan, which shares the data also has to be a phone plan so you can't share data from a leading SIM only deal. The are also quite a few finickity rules around the plans that you share with (see EE's guide here).

Overall, EE's shared plans feel a bit like an idea that sounded clever in theory but not that useful or easy to use in practice. As such, they're not something EE really promote or shout about any more.

Useful link: EE's guide to Shared Plans from EE.co.uk

3rd: Sky Mobile let you share data leftover from prior months

Sharer plans on Sky Mobile

It's only your unused data you can shareRead Sky's full guide

What we like:
Green plus sign Avoids wasting data you’ve paid for
Green plus sign Share it with up to 4 other people

What we don't like:
Red minus sign It’s only your leftover data you can share
Red minus sign Plans don’t have a huge amount of data anyway

If you didn’t know already, one of the main benefits of joining Sky Mobile is that they let you keep any data that you’ve not used up each month. We actually rate Sky as having the best data rollover plans in the UK.

Spare data gets added to your ‘Piggybank’ (like a savings account for data). If you’re ever low, you can take some out of your Piggybank to keep you going until the end of the month. You can store data up to 3 years.

An added benefit to all this comes if you have multiple plans on one account with Sky Mobile. Because then any of the users on the account can take data out of a joint Piggybank that everyone can access.

So if you have one person not using all their data but someone else who is, it all evens out across the group. This isn’t pure data-sharing because it’s only leftover data but it still just about fits the bill as a sharer plan for us.

Useful link: Read our full Sky Mobile review

4th: Vodafone’s Red+ plans let you share data with 9 people

Vodafone Red+ sharer plans

New Vodafone customers can't get itRead why not

What we like:
Green plus sign Chance to offload and not waste surplus data
Green plus sign Full control over what each user gets

What we don't like:
Red minus sign No longer available to new customers
Red minus sign Pricing hard to calculate up front
Red minus sign Pain to manage and administer

Probably due to the reasons we’ve written in the intro, Vodafone no longer sell their data sharer plans to new customers. These Red+ plans used to let you take out multiple plans and share data between them.

If you’re an existing Vodafone customer and took out your main plan between 5th May 2016 and 11th April 2017, you can still get your contract converted to a Red+ one, as long as your deal comes with at least 1GB data.

You’re able to share the data allowance with up to 9 people. To arrange this, you’ll need to speak to someone from Vodafone over the phone as you can’t do this online (number on page here).

As you can’t get these deals any more, we can only place Vodafone’s scheme 4th (their existing customer discounts are probably better than this scheme anyway).

Useful link: How to get Red+ if you're a Vodafone customer

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