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Various logos of UK mobile networks

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

Family phone contracts and SIM only

The retailers featured on this page may compensate us when our readers follow links to their websites and make a purchase. More

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: 5th September 2019

Shared mobile plans explained

There are two types of mobile sharer or family plans

Here's how they work and their benefits

Green number 1 Family plans that give you discounts on extra deals

Mobile networks with family plans

Discounts for taking multiple contracts

This type of shared mobile plan is easiest to understand and probably the most beneficial:

You take out one main phone contract or a SIM only deal. Then you add extra phones/SIMs for other people to that account and receive a monthly discount or extra perk in return.

This is the most common type of shared family plan. We think they are the best type of shared deal for squeezing value for money out of mobile contracts.

If this appeals to you, use the link below to skip to the section of this article where we rate each provider for the discounts on extra deals they give.

Useful link: Skip to family deals that discount extra plans you add

Green number 2 Sharer plans that let you split and share data

Data sharing plan example

Share data between other plans on your account

The other type of shared plan is more about convenience and making sure you avoid extra charges on your account, rather than out-and-out money saving.

These let you share data between plans. So that people who need more data get it, and people who need less data don’t waste it.

There’s quite a bit of variation in how these work, and how flexible and useful they actually are.

In the section on data-sharing plans, we pick through the mobile networks offering this type of deal and rank them according to how good the scheme is.

Useful link: Skip to networks offering data-sharing plans

Plans with discounts for taking extra deals

1st: BT Mobile’s Family SIMs - discounts on flexible SIMs

BT Mobile logoShared plans on BT Mobile

Save with each extra SIM you addSee BT's Family plans

at BT.com
(opens in a new window)

What we like:
Green plus sign Save with each extra SIM you add
Green plus sign Extra SIMs on short 30-day plans
Green plus sign Add 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 have the same plan
Red minus sign Hard to compare prices
Red minus sign You can’t save on phone contracts

As long as you've got BT broadband at home, we still rate BT Mobile's Family SIMs as the best shared plans for straight-up discounts (without the £5 monthly broadband-customer saving they're less appealing).

You start with one main contract, at the regular price. This can be for a 12-month SIM only plan or a 24-month phone contract. You can then either immediately add extra SIMs, or wait until you're ready later on.

Each of the SIMs you add is discounted by around 20% (although this varies and is quite hard to calculate easily). They're also on 30-day contracts, so you can chop and change them if you no longer need them.

The main downside is that everyone has to join on the same plan (you can’t pick 1GB here, 12GB there) and you can only add SIMs, not phones. Don't miss BT’s Reward Card offers when you first sign up.

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: Virgin Mobile's Family Plans discount 4x extra SIMs

Virgin Family Plans

£2 off Virgin's regular SIM only dealsSee the deals

at virginmedia.com
(opens in a new window)

What we like:
Green plus sign Discount off already-cheap SIMs
Green plus sign Online security extras
Green plus sign Manage from same account

What we don't like:
Red minus sign Have to have Virgin Media at home
Red minus sign Long 12-month contracts only

As long as you have Virgin Media's broadband or TV at home, you qualify for Virgin Mobile's new Family Plans. You do need to take out one main phone or SIM only contract at full price first though.

Once you've done that, you can add up to 4x 12-month SIM only plans from Virgin's regular range to your main account - each with a £2 monthly discount (£24 per year, per SIM). And that's against low starting prices.

You'll also benefit from an option 12 months of completely free F-Secure Safe, which has features like timed internet access blocking and content filtering for each device on your account (see all features here).

The scheme would be better if it was open to all customers and the plans were on shorter contracts like BT, but overall Virgin's Family Plans are excellent value for money.

Useful link: Read full Virgin Family Plan FAQs

Our ranking:
2nd

Discounts/bonuses on:
Extra SIM only plans

Main contract has to be:
Full price phone or SIM only contract

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

3rd: Vodafone's 15% discounts off additional contracts

Vodafone logoVodafone's discounts on extra plans

Save 15% on each extra pay monthly dealHow it works

at vodafone.co.uk
(opens in a new window)

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

If you already have one pay monthly deal with Vodafone (12-month SIM only plan or 24-month phone contract), you can then add extra pay monthly deals to your account and receive a 15% discount on each of them.

It's a tidy saving. And we like that it can be applied to any contract product (SIM only, phone, tablet or mobile broadband). Subject to your credit status, you can have up to 9 discounted products on one account.

It's particularly valuable on phone contracts. When you consider some models cost around £60 a month, you're looking at a £9 monthly discount - totalling £216 over a 24-month contract. That's not to be sniffed at.

You can add the extra plans to your account at any time: just make sure you log in to your Vodafone account when you purchase - and they'll apply the discount automatically.

Useful links: 15% off phones | 15% off SIM only plans | 15% off tablets | 15% off 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 logoEE family discounts

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

at EE.co.uk
(opens in a new window)

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

It's worth looking at EE too if you've got multiple contracts you want to manage from one account. They offer a 10% discount on each extra plan you add to your main deal.

To get the discount, you need one full-price phone contract or 12-month SIM only plan on your account first. When you want to add extra plan you just log in and the discount is automatically applied.

If you want to take out multiple products when you first join EE, it's the cheapest ones that are discounted. So it's worth signing up to the cheapest plan first, then adding the more expensive ones to that, to maximise the value of the discount.

The extra products can be a SIM only plan, phone contract, mobile broadband or tablet. You'll also get a 1GB data boost yourself, which you can share with anyone else on the account thanks to EE's data gifting scheme.

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: O2 give you up to 40% off Airtime plans

O2 logoO2 Family plan

Increasing discounts per extra contractSee O2's Family Plan

at O2.co.uk
(opens in a new window)

What we like:
Green plus sign Large savings possible
Green plus sign Works on SIM only and device contracts
Green plus sign Add up to 20 extra plans!

What we don't like:
Red minus sign Discount not automatically applied
Red minus sign Orginal prices quite high
Red minus sign Phone discounts hard to calculate

Join O2 on any full-price phone contract or 12-month (or longer) SIM only plan and you can add up 20 extra deals to your account, with progressively higher discounts.

Off the first extra connection, you get a 10% discount, on the second it's 20%, the third is 30% and the fourth and all others come with the full 40% discount. But it's important to understand what's discounted:

If you add a SIM only plan, it's a straight-up discount on the entire monthly cost of the deal. If you add a phone or tablet deal, it's a discount of the Airtime part of your contract only (not the cost of the device).

If you're adding multiple SIMs, the discounts are actually quite impressive. O2 have a nice calculator here to work out potential savings on phones and SIMs.

Be aware, you do have to manually claim the discount. It's not automatic.

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

Our ranking:
5th

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

Main contract has to be:
An Phone contract or SIM only

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

6th: 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

at three.co.uk
(opens in a new window)

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:
6th

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

7th: Tesco Mobile’s Family Perks are an interesting option

Tesco Mobile logoTesco Mobile Family Perks

Change the Perk you receive each monthSee available Perks

at tescomobile.com
(opens in a new window)

What we like:
Green plus sign Works for phone contracts and SIMs
Green plus sign Change perks each month

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

Tesco Mobile’s Family Perks offer 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.

Overall the monetary value of the perks isn’t that high. If you choose money back, you’ll get 50p, £1 or £2 off a month depending on cost of your deal, which isn't ground-breaking.

Some might find more useful 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:
7th

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

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, SMARTY or VOXI.

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.

Plans that let you share data

1st: EE's Data Gifting is the simplest data-sharing system

EE logoEE data gifting

Move around spare data on EEHow data gifting works

at EE.co.uk
(opens in a new window)

What we like:
Green plus sign Everyone just has a normal pay monthly plan
Green plus sign You can share anybody's data with anybody else
Green plus sign It works for existing customers
Green plus sign You can add new people to your account whenever

What we don't like:
Red minus sign EE plans can be quite expensive

EE's Data Gifting scheme gets our top spot among data-sharing plans, because it's the simplest system to understand and actually use.

It lets you transfer chunks of data from any pay monthly deal on your account to any other, as and when you need to. It works both on phone contracts and SIM only plans.

So if one member of your family's running low and another has some spare, you simply move the data between them. And you avoid extra charges for going over your limit.

Where EE have the edge over other providers is that you're all just on normal pay monthly plans. You don't have to sign up to any special joint plans, and people can be added to your account whenever you like.

Useful link: Read EE's full guide to data gifting on their official site.

2nd: O2's Sharer Plans let you split your data with others

O2 logoO2 data sharing plans

Share data between 10 devices on O2How it works

at O2.co.uk
(opens in a new window)

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.

We'd say O2's Sharer Plans are the second 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 (on EE it can be a SIM only plan).

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.

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

Sky Mobile logoSharer plans on Sky Mobile

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

at sky.com
(opens in a new window)

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 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

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