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HomeTechSave money on subscriptions with family plans—even if you aren’t family

Save money on subscriptions with family plans—even if you aren’t family

Managing your own forgotten monthly fees means checking your app-store subscriptions and credit-card statements, then pruning the list down to essentials. But you might also rethink the approach entirely, especially if you have some willing accomplices: Splitting the bill with people using family plans can save you money, even if you aren’t family.

Family plans generally offer a discounted group rate that gets cheaper with more people. The typical head-count cap is four or six.

Many services, such as Hulu and Spotify, stipulate that members must live in the same household. Sharing an account with a kid away at college, for example, would technically violate those services’ terms. And while there’s a long tradition of sharing Netflix logins, the streaming giant said recently that it plans to ask accounts with unauthorized users to pay more.

Here are some services that do allow you to share your plan with others you don’t live with, without breaking the rules. If you can get several people on board, these group plans can save you money—up to 75% in one case.

Share the Account

The Plan: Amazon Prime delivery, video and other benefits

The Cost: $15 a month; $139 a year

You can share Prime benefits, including expedited delivery and Prime Video streaming, with an Amazon Household. This includes up to two adults and four teens (ages 13 to 17) who don’t need to be at the same residence. Four younger children can be added but can’t shop on Amazon.

Adults and teens have their own Amazon logins, but they share payment methods for shopping and digital content. Amazon Household adult members can’t see each other’s purchase history or order information. The service allows three simultaneous Prime Video streams within the same Amazon account and two simultaneous streams of the same content.

If you end up splitting Prime with a friend, it’s probably best to add multiple credit cards to the shared digital wallet. Make sure it’s someone you trust. And just be aware that if you choose to leave the shared plan, you can’t join another one for 180 days.

The Plan:Apple One and iCloud+storage and services

The Cost: $15 to $30 a month; $1 to $10 a month

Apple One, launched in 2020, is a bundle of services including iCloud storage, Music, TV+, Fitness+, Arcade and more.

With Family Sharing, you can split iCloud storage or Apple One with up to five other people, as long as all members live in the same country. iCloud+ offers tiers ranging from 50 gigabytes to 2 terabytes of storage. All members can see how much storage each person is using, but they can’t see each others’ photos or other files stored in iCloud. Start a family group by going to Settings and tapping your name, then go to Family Sharing.

If purchase sharing is enabled, everyone can access any apps or media other family members buy. The caveat is that one adult, the family organizer, pays for the purchases. There’s a workaround: Members can purchase an Apple gift card and add the balance to their Apple ID to pay for App Store purchases separately.

The Plan: Google Onecloud storage and services

The Cost: $20 to $250 a year

Google One expands storage capacity for Photos, Gmail and Drive. Plans, ranging from 100 GB to 2 TB, can be shared with up to five other people. Family members don’t have access to each others’ files, but they can view how much storage space others are using. Members must live in the same country as the family manager and can’t have been in another family group within the past year. You must share the same payment method, and you have the option to share digital purchases. Create a family group at families.google.com and sign in with your Google account.

There’s one wrinkle: If you’re using a family group with YouTube TV, all members must live in the same household.

The Plan: 1Password and Dashlane password managers

The Cost: For 1Password, $18 a year for individuals and $30 for six accounts; for Dashlane, $60 annually for individuals, $90 a year for six accounts

These services remember all of your passwords and generate secure new ones. I like both 1Password and Dashlane, which offer family plans at steep discounts.

1Password organizers can recover accounts for family members in case they forget their master passwords. Each member has a private vault but can add communal logins to a shared vault. If you need more than six accounts, each additional one will cost an extra $1 a month.

Dashlane costs more but adds extras such as a virtual private network (VPN) for private browsing.

The Plan: Visible Phone Service

The Cost: $40 a month for individuals; $25 a month each for four or more members

Most cellular providers don’t require family-plan members to live together, but Visible, a provider owned and operated by Verizon, is unusual in that members pay individually for their own service. The most affordable Party Pay plan ($25 a month) includes a party of four or more members. Everyone needs to pay on time; whoever doesn’t is removed from the party. If the group dips below four people, everyone has to pay more. Can’t find enough willing friends? There’s an official forum to find a group to join.

Visible’s prices for unlimited data and calling are cheaper than Verizon’s own plans, which start at $35 a month. The catch? Visible won’t work overseas. You’d need to use a local SIM card. There’s no number to call for customer service; you can only chat through the app or website. Mobile hot-spot speeds are capped at a slow 5 megabits a second and, like Verizon’s entry-level 5G plan, data speeds are slowed when the network is congested.

Split the bill

With all of the plans discussed above, the first step is finding folks to share with. The second is getting them all to pay their dues.

Fuse is an app that simplifies splitting by fronting the cost of the subscription, then automatically charging everyone their share from their bank accounts. You don’t have to be that friend who’s always nagging everybody to Venmo you.

It works like a shared debit card: The Fuse app generates a card number that can be added as a payment method to the subscription service. In the Fuse app, you can split equally or in proportions that better match your situation. It’s free to use, and Fuse isn’t trying to sell your data. (The company makes its revenue from interchange fees charged to merchants, similar to credit cards.)

There’s also a low-tech solution: Group members can set up bill pay through their banks to automatically mail checks to the primary account owner. You might have to deal with depositing the checks, but at least you can avoid those pesky Venmo requests.



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