New Sprint 'Framily' plan could save you big bucks

By Mike GikasConsumer Reports

The new Sprint Framily plan, which becomes available on Jan. 10, seems like a great deal. It rewards you for assembling a co-op style group of up to 10 people to lower monthly service costs. (It’s also a clever way for Sprint to act as its own sales force.) More important, Sprint follows T-Mobile in the billing-transparency department. You can buy the phone outright, pay it off in installments over 24 months, or bring your own phone at no extra cost. No early-termination costs; just pay the balance you own on the phone when you leave. Sprint will announce its Easy Pay phone pricing on Friday.

Ultimately, each Framily member can end up paying just $45 a month for unlimited voice, messaging, and data—much less than what you’d currently pay at AT&T, Verizon, and even T-Mobile. I’ll have a price comparison between Sprint and the other carriers later. I imagine plans at other carriers will be changing soon.

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Framily plan members don’t have to live with you or actually be family members. Every person in the plan gets their own bill, but Sprint will send one bill per household if more than one family member is on the same Sprint Framily plan.

How it works: The monthly fee for the first person is $55 per month, which includes unlimited talk, messaging, and 1GB of data for each person. As you add people, it drops by $5 a month per person for a maximum cost reduction of up to $30 per user, or $25 a month. There’s no data sharing, but individuals can up their data allowance to 3GB for just $10 a month, or get unlimited data for $20 a month.

Caveats: If someone leaves the group, everyone’s monthly bill goes up by $5 (unless you already had more than seven members). Also, you can start your own Framily at any time after you sign up with Sprint, but you only have 14 days to join an existing group.

It gets trickier for existing Sprint customers. If you’re in the middle of an existing Sprint contract, you can still switch to the Framily plan. But you’ll have to pay an additional $15 monthly “Framily Service Charge” until the terms of the old contract are satisfied.

The charge will be billed as a separate line item called the Framily Service Charge. But a Sprint spokesperson told me that for a limited time, Sprint will not assess the Framily Service Charge for customers who bought a discounted phone before Jan. 10, 2014, and is not upgrade eligible.

Bottom line: The Sprint Framily plan seems like a great deal for families or anyone who can muster up a phone-service collective. What remains to be seen is what happens when problems crop up in your extended Sprint Framily.

—Mike Gikas

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