Why You Shouldn't Get Off Your Parent's Cellphone Plan

Admit it. Your parents still pay your phone bill.


December 30, 2015

Not only do I not pay my own cell phone bill, until I wrote this article I had literally no idea how much my cell phone bill cost each month.

Like many of you reading this, I’m in my mid-twenties, am financially independent, have my own health insurance, and pay rent on an apartment that’s hundreds of miles from where I grew up. But I have a secret, one I know many of you share with me:

My parents still pay for my phone bill.

Am I ashamed? Embarrassed? Feel over entitled? Only when I’m at the AT&T store to upgrade my phone and have to call the account owner (i.e. my mom) to get permission.

But I shouldn’t be upset. And neither should you.

Nearly 40% of parents of millennials pay their children’s phone bills. They do it for a few reasons.

Economically it just makes sense. Opening a new line costs two to four times as much as adding another line to a family plan. Verizon, Sprint, and AT&T want you to stay on your family plan. That’s why they allow up to 10 lines per plan.

Plus, keeping you on your parent’s plan increases the chances that you’ll still be a customer. When was the last time you forgot to pay a bill? When was the last time your mom forgot? The likelihood of your bill being paid on time by your parents is significantly higher than if it were up to you.

Phone companies are so aware that millennials are staying on their parent’s plan that Verizon stopped sending data usage alerts claiming that they were becoming tattle tales on their uses.

“We did a lot of research on this with millennials,” an exec at Verizon said. “And for millennials who are still on their parents’ plan, what millennials told us is that in some ways, they felt like Verizon was telling on them, telling their parents about their data consumption.”

Your mom doesn’t even know how to use Spotify. She’s not using up all the data. It’s you.

As evil as the phone companies are, they sure are brilliant. And I love them for that. They’re saving me $80 every month. And they’re not alone.

Netflix, iTunes, and HBO GO are in the same “sharing is caring” camp as the phone companies. Not only do Netflix and HBO GO not care if parents to share their accounts with up to allow up to three other users (even though they lose $500m a year from this practice), they want parents to share their accounts.

“To us it’s in many ways a terrific marketing vehicle for the next generation of viewers,” HBO CEO Richard Plepler said. In other words, we get hooked on HBO and when our parents die and can’t pay the bill, our addiction to Game of Thrones drive us to buy a new account.

“But I feel guilty,” I used to tell my unenlightened self. “I’m supposed to be independent, I’m supposed to be able to pay for my own things!”

Listen, getting off your parents phone plan will hurt them more than it’ll help you. Last Christman when I told my parents I wanted off the family plan I thought my mother would be ecstatic. “But why would I want to do that?” she asked.

Why would I want to do that? Why would you even ask me that, mom. You’re the one paying the bill. I’m helping you, not me.

“Having you on our plan makes us feel connected to you!” my mom told me. “That’s why we like you on our Netflix account. Seeing what you’ve watched makes us feel like you’re still here. The money doesn’t matter.”

“And when the day comes that we need help,” my mother continued “I hope that you’ll take as great care of us as we did of you.”

Ok. Fair point parents. You win.

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