MONEY Estate Planning

The Trickiest Items to Pass On to Your Heirs

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Decide who will take care of Fido.

So you’ve finally made an estate plan. Your kids get a nice inheritance, your nephew gets the baseball cards, and your cousin gets Grandma’s ring. But with some assets, it’s not that easy to impose your will. Here are a few that can cause surprise headaches—and how to handle them.

Vacation Homes

Sharing is hard. Conflicts can arise when one sibling lives farther away, earns less, or wants to sell his share, says Tracy Craig, an estate-planning attorney in Worcester, Mass. “One of the worst things to do is to leave property outright in equal shares,” she says. “Anytime you have more than one person who owns real estate, you have a potential problem.”

The fix: Talk to your kids first to learn their preferences, then put the real estate in a trust and make your heirs the beneficiaries, Craig says. The trust structure lets you spell out under what conditions the house can be sold, how a sharing schedule will be decided, and who pays for upkeep. If possible, reduce conflict by leaving extra money to cover costs.

Pets

Until recently, provisions that left money to pets were often unenforceable, says Gerry Beyer, a law professor at Texas Tech University. If you gave your friend Jack $10,000 to take care of your dog, what was to stop Jack from taking your money and abandoning Lassie?

The fix: Every state except Minnesota has now passed a “pet trust” law, which means if you add a simple line to your will explaining who takes the pet and how much money is provided for its care, probate court will appoint someone to enforce the provision, Beyer says. Want absolute control? Draft a detailed pet trust. (Your estate attorney may not even charge extra.) Name the caretaker and the trustee, set aside money for food and vet bills, and leave care instructions. Technically, the trust will own your pet, so if the caretaker doesn’t meet your standards, the trustee can assign care elsewhere.

Airline Miles

Frequent-flier miles can be worth a tidy sum, but you might not be able to pass on the wealth. Some carriers explicitly say you cannot bequeath miles. And policies change; Delta disallowed mileage bequests in 2013.

The fix: First, ask your airline. You might be better off spending down miles now, Beyer says, buying trips for other people if you’re traveling less. (Avoid transferring miles, as you can quickly rack up fees.) But even carriers that officially bar fliers from bequeathing miles—like American Airlines—often allow it on a case-by-case basis, so do name a conditional beneficiary in your will. Heirs may need to request and complete an affidavit and provide the death certificate.

Read next: Does Grandpa Need a Prenup?

MONEY Health Care

What You’ll Have to Pay for ‘Female Viagra’

A tablet of flibanserin female viagra
Allen G. Breed—AP A tablet of flibanserin

The answer is, it depends

On Tuesday the Food and Drug Administration approved Addyi, the first sexual dysfunction drug for women. Questions remain about the drug’s side effects and risks. But if it works well, will it be affordable for most women?

Sprout CEO Cindy Whitehead said that while the cost of Addyi has not been finalized, it should be priced similarly to a month of Viagra pills. GoodRx, a drug cost comparison site, found that the average fair cash price for Viagra is around $400 a month. However, Whitehead expected that patients with insurance coverage would only need to pay about $30 to $75 a month in copays.

That’s the amount most Americans currently pay for non-generic prescription drugs. Virtually all job-based health plans have prescription drug benefits with a “formulary,” or a list of which drugs are covered and which are not. Most drug formularies have more than one tier, which means that some drugs require a higher co-pay or co-insurance rate than others, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. For formularies with just two tiers, the average co-pay for first-tier drugs like generics is just $11, while more specialized second-tier drugs go up to $30. On plans with four or more pricing levels, the most expensive average co-pay is $80.

That said, it’s not yet known whether all insurers will cover Addyi. For men seeking erectile-dysfunction medication, some insurers require evidence of a documented medical condition or refuse to cover certain drugs, according to the Cleveland Clinic. For instance, starting next year, CVS/Caremark will remove Viagra and Levitra from its formulary (though Cialis will still be available). Plus, those over 65 are often out of luck: By law, Medicare Part D is prohibited from paying for erectile dysfunction drugs.

MONEY Estate Planning

What Happens to Your Airline Miles When You Die?

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Getty Images—Getty Images/iStockphoto

The official rules may say one thing, but heirs usually have options.

What would you do if you knew you had a potentially valuable asset that could vanish upon your death? Your bank account, empty. Your antique car, gone. Your grandmother’s jewelry, evaporated.

Globe-trotters appear to have that problem: Many airlines say officially that frequent flier miles are not your property and cannot be willed to your heirs upon your death.

“It is a big problem, because people accumulate lots of miles that they don’t use, and the policies of the different airlines are different,” says Gerry Beyer, a law professor at Texas Tech University School of Law. “They’re constantly shifting the policy, and sometimes it depends upon who you talk to and what you can get done.”

Frequent flier miles pose a bigger problem for estates than other loyalty programs because heavy travelers and rewards-card wizards can accumulate many hundreds of thousands (or even millions) of miles, Beyer says. And that adds up: By one estimate, 500,000 miles could be worth between $4,000 and $10,000, depending on the airline.

But can you pass your miles on? That depends. The secret is: Don’t take an airline’s written policy at face value. The terms of service often say one thing while the carrier’s practices offer another path.

Get the Paperwork

For example, American Airlines’ AAdvantage program terms and conditions say, “Neither accrued mileage, nor award tickets, nor upgrades are transferable by the member upon death.” That seems pretty clear.

But if you read on, you’ll see that the airline reserves the right to decide, “in its sole discretion,” to pass your miles on to beneficiaries “upon receipt of documentation satisfactory to American Airlines and upon payment of any applicable fees.”

American Airlines spokeswoman Laura Nedbal clarified that the airline does indeed transfer mileage to heirs. How it works: Upon request, American Airlines provides a special affidavit form for beneficiaries to sign, affirming that they are the rightful recipients of the miles. Your heirs will need to complete it and send that back, along with the death certificate. Happily, as of now, there are no mileage transfer fees.

Similarly, United has a procedure for transferring miles — but you have to know to ask about it. The MileagePlus program rules say mileage may not be transferred, except as “expressly permitted by United.”

Spokeswoman Karen May says the airline has made “case-by-case exceptions” when members have died. Should your heirs apply for one of those exceptions, they would need to send the death certificate, a signed and notarized affidavit provided by United, and a $150 mileage transfer fee, May says.

Ask Nicely

Smaller carriers don’t always have paperwork ready for heirs to sign, but they might have luck if they just ask nicely.

For instance, Virgin America’s Elevate Reward Points credit card program rules say points “may not be transferred upon death.” But although the small airline doesn’t receive that many requests to bequeath points, says spokesman Dave Arnold, he confirms that the airline does make “case-by-case” exceptions to its rules when heirs provide documentation of a bequest.

Even if you can’t pass on your miles, you can leave your username and password behind. At Southwest Airlines, for instance, you can’t will your miles to heirs — but the Rapid Rewards program rules say your points will live on in your account 24 months after your last account activity. During that time, if your heirs have your account information, they can go into your account and use the miles, or transfer them for a fee of about 1 cent per mile, says spokesman Adam Rucker.

And no rule is ironclad. Take Delta, which made headlines in 2013 when the airline said it would stop honoring bequest requests. Delta’s SkyMiles program rules still say points may not be transferred upon death, and a Delta spokesman confirmed that, officially, that’s still the policy.

But tell that to Roberta Bekerman, a widow who wrote to Delta, “It is with great sadness that I inform you that my beloved husband, Philip, passed away on Dec. 21 … Please be so kind as to transfer his accrued SkyMiles into my account.” Delta did, the New York Times reports.

The Takeaway

You simply can’t guarantee that your spouse or kids will get your miles. “One of the biggest problems is the airlines change their policies so many times, even if you do everything perfect when you write the will, it might not work anymore,” Beyer says.

Still, there’s a good chance your airline will honor your request anyway. The best you can do is add a line to your will that says, “I leave [name of heir] my airline miles, if allowed,” Beyer suggests — and advise your children to be polite to the airline customer service reps. Either that or spend down your miles when you’re still alive; now’s the time to enjoy them.

MONEY cellphones

Does Putting a Wet iPhone in Rice Really Work?

We decided to test out the theory with an iPhone and a Samsung Galaxy.

Anyone who’s dropped their phone in a toilet, sink, or swimming pool has probably heard that the way to salvage a waterlogged device is to submerge it in a container of uncooked rice. The theory is that the rice will suck all the moisture out off your phone’s nooks and crannies and bring it back to life.

But does it work in practice? MONEY decided to find out. For the test, we bought two (functioning) used phones on eBay, dropped them in buckets of water and left them submerged for several seconds, then plunged them in uncooked rice and left them over the weekend. Here’s what happened.

Read next: The Trick to Getting a Really Good Cell Phone for Less

MONEY Health Care

Here is How Much the Government Will Pay to Help You Buy Obamacare

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The Supreme Court decided that health care subsidies should remain available to everyone who buys Obamacare plans

Today the Supreme Court decided that Americans who buy health insurance on Healthcare.gov are eligible for subsidies to help them pay their premiums.

The decision shines a bright light on the oft-forgotten linchpin that holds the sweeping 2010 health care law together: The federal government is handing people significant amounts of money to pay their premiums.

Under the Affordable Care Act, popularly known as Obamacare, those who don’t have health insurance can buy plans on government-run marketplaces or “exchanges.” States may either set up their own marketplaces or opt to use the federal government’s marketplace, available on Healthcare.gov. Then, the government provides subsidies to help people afford the healthcare premiums.

The court case was about whether the law said the subsidies applied in states that didn’t set up their own exchanges. (The argument was over how to read one clause in the legislation.) The Supreme Court decided that health care subsidies should remain available to everyone who buys Obamacare plans.

The subsidies make a huge difference to the people who receive them: On the federal exchange, they’re worth an average of $272 a month.

Use this calculator from the Kaiser Family Foundation to see how much an Obamacare plan would cost you, and how much is covered by the subsidies:

And a lot of people qualify: 87% of people who bought Obamacare plans on the federal exchange got a subsidy. Anyone who makes up to 400% of the poverty line is eligible. In 2015, families of four that earned $95,400 made the cutoff.

Policymakers will continue to debate whether the subsidies are accomplishing the goal of making health care affordable. The Government Accountability Office recently found that subsidies “likely contributed to an expansion of health insurance coverage in 2014.” But it’s not like health insurance premiums are cheap, even with financial assistance from the government. After all, Americans who get health insurance at work pay less, on average: $90 a month for single coverage, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. That’s up from just $27 a month 15 years ago.

And by the way, workplace coverage is (indirectly) subsidized by the government too, in the form of a tax break that makes it very attractive for companies to offer.

MONEY Health Care

9 Numbers That Explain the Supreme Court’s Latest Obamacare Case

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Rafe Swan—Getty Images

And how it might affect your wallet, whether or not you use Obamacare.

Any day now, the Supreme Court will make a decision that could change how much you pay for healthcare—and how much you pay in taxes.

Under the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare, Americans without health insurance can buy coverage from government-run marketplaces, or “exchanges.” The ACA also offers subsidies to help middle-class and low-income Americans afford their monthly health care premiums. Some states set up their own health insurance marketplaces, and some piggybacked off the federal government’s exchange.

The case before the Supreme Court hinges on a part of the law that says the subsidies are only available to Americans who buy health insurance “through an Exchange established by the State.” But what about Americans who bought health insurance through the exchange established by the federal government, Healthcare.gov? That’s up to the Supreme Court to decide. Legislators say this clause was just a “drafting error”, and Americans who bought insurance on the federal exchange are eligible for subsidies, too. But the plaintiffs say the law clearly states that only state exchanges can offer subsidies.

If the high court sides with the plaintiffs, millions of Americans who bought health insurance on the federal exchange will need to pay more for health insurance every month. Here are the key stats to know:

37

The number of states that could be directly affected. Only 13 states (and D.C.) are running their own exchanges. (Click here to see if your state could be affected.) That means that citizens in more than half of all states could lose access to Obamacare subsidies if the Supreme Court decides that subsidies are only available to Americans who buy insurance “through an Exchange operated by the State.”

The 34 states with “federally-facilitated marketplaces” are at the most risk, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. But another three states — Nevada, New Mexico and Oregon — have “supported state-based marketplaces,” meaning they tried to set up their own exchanges but now use Healthcare.gov because of technical problems with their own systems. It’s unclear whether the Supreme Court decision will affect those states, according to the Rio Grande Foundation. Also, while another three states with federally-facilitated marketplaces plan to set up their own state exchanges in 2016 —Arkansas, Pennsylvania and Delaware — the marketplaces will not be operational by the time the Supreme Court decides.

6.4 million

The number of Americans who could lose their Obamacare subsidies. As of March 2015, that’s how many Americans bought subsidized Obamacare plans in states with federally-facilitated marketplaces, according to the Center for Medicare and Medicaid services. Altogether, 7.3 million Americans bought insurance from federal exchanges, but not all qualified for subsidies.

$3,156

The average amount of the subsidy. Here’s how Obamacare subsidies work: If you make between 100% and 400% of the federal poverty line, you pay between 2.01% to 9.56% of your income for premiums. The government makes up the difference between what you contribute and the market price of the second lowest cost silver plan in your area. In 2015, the average subsidy nationwide was $263 per person per month, according to the Department of Health and Human Services, or $3,156 a year.

Technically, the subsidy is a tax credit. You can choose either to pay less for your premiums every month or to receive a lump sum refund at the end of the year. But if you overestimate your income when you sign up for Obamacare and you opt to receive a discount on your premiums every month, you may have to pay back part of your subsidy at tax time. If you underestimate, you can get a bigger tax refund.

$101

Average amount that people who receive subsidies pay for health insurance every month. With a $263 subsidy, the average American pays just $101 for premiums every month, according to the Department of Health and Human Services. The subsidy keeps Obamacare premiums roughly in line with employer-provided health insurance: Employees pay $90 a month on average for single coverage, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

But Obamacare costs vary significantly by state. Subsidy recipients in Alabama pay just $52 a month for their premiums, while those in Ohio pay $145 a month.

$95,400

The most a family of four can make and still be eligible for an Obamacare subsidy. Subsidies aren’t just for the poorest of the poor. Americans with incomes up to four times the poverty line can qualify for an Obamacare subsidy to help them pay for premiums. This year, 400% of the poverty line for a family of four was $95,400, according to Healthcare.gov. Individuals making up to $46,680 a year also qualify.

87%

The percent of people who shopped on the federal marketplace who qualified for a subsidy. The vast majority of Americans who bought Obamacare plans qualified for financial assistance, according to the Department of Health and Human Services. Again, some states are getting more help than others. Some 93% of Floridians with Obamacare plans got a subsidy.

55%

How much Obamacare premiums are projected to rise in the effected states if the Supreme Court rules for the plaintiffs. Even if you bought a plan under Obamacare but don’t receive a subsidy, you could end up paying more for health insurance. The Urban Institute says that if the Supreme Court dismantles the financial assistance available for Americans who enroll through the federal marketplace, many people will be forced to give up their insurance. And a disproportionate number of those who remain, the Urban Institute predicts, will be those who most desperately need health insurance—in other words, the very sick. As a result, insurers will need to raise all premiums in order to pay the medical bills of the sick people who remain in the insurance pool. Ultimately, the Urban Institute estimates, 70% of enrollees will leave the pool. (Remember that 87% of enrollees receive subsidies.) In an earlier analysis, the Rand Corporation predicted that premiums could rise 47%.

300,000

The number of employees projected to lose their employer-subsidized health insurance if the Supreme Court rules for the plaintiffs. Another section of the Affordable Care Act is built on the tax credit: The employer mandate. As of this year, large employers have to provide health insurance benefits or pay a fine. The thing is, large employers owe the penalty only if a) they do not provide quality health insurance to 95% of their full-time employees, and b) at least one of their full-time employees buys a plan on the marketplace and receives a subsidy. Which means that if a state has no subsidies, it has no employer mandate.

As a result, a Urban Institute and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation report predicted that if there were no employer mandate, some employers would stop offering health insurance. As of June 2015, the Urban Institute projects that 300,000 employees will lose their health coverage if the Supreme Court strikes down subsidies in 34 states. (In a separate analysis, the Rand Corporation expects that 300,000 people would lose their employer-subsidized insurance without an employer mandate, but predicts that nearly all of those people would find coverage elsewhere.)

8.2 million

The number of Americans projected to become uninsured if the Supreme Court rules for the plaintiffs. While only 6.4 million Americans are projected to lose their subsidies, the Urban Institute projects that 8.2 million will become uninsured. Here’s why: More people will drop their insurance if premiums spike, others will lose their employer-provided insurance, and some will lose their Medicaid coverage as states give up more federal funding. (In an older report, the Rand Corporation predicted that 8 million would become uninsured.) So the Supreme Court’s decision could have a big impact on a lot of people, not just the 6.4 million who receive the subsidies in question.

MONEY cellphone plans

Here’s How to Figure Out How Much Cellphone Data You Need

detail of apps on an iPhone home screen
Brent Lewin—Bloomberg via Getty Images

Do you use more cellular data than the average person?

As smartphones have gotten more powerful, users have gotten hungrier for more and more high-speed cellular data. In just the past 18 months, average data consumption has more than doubled, according to the NPD Group, a market research firm. But how do you know how much data you really need? Buy too much and you’re wasting money. Buy too little and you could owe overage fees or your data speeds could be “throttled,” or slowed to the point of uselessness. Here’s what to ask to pick the right data package for today’s world:

“How much data am I using now?”

The best way to gauge your needs is to check your phone bills, which should tell you how much data you use each month. The average smartphone owner nowadays uses 2.9GB, reports NPD Group. But light users don’t need much: Thirty percent of smartphone owners currently use 500MB.

“How much are my kids using?”

Between streaming Netflix, checking Facebook, and posting to Instagram, young people run through data more quickly. While the average customer 55 or older needs just 1.4GB a month, the average young adult uses more than double that. If your kids are on your family plan, you may need to budget for more gigabytes.

“Can I conserve more data?”

Now that free public Wi-Fi networks have become more common, you don’t always need cellular data to access the Internet on your phone. Instead, the average smartphone user consumes a whopping 11.3GB of Wi-Fi data every month, up from just 5GB a year and a half ago. If you can connect to Wi-Fi much of the time, switch to Virgin Mobile’s Wi-Fi Lovers Delight plan or a “Wi-Fi first” plan, or just buy a traditional plan with a smaller data package.

“Am I using my phone as a television?”

That’s a surefire way to run through your data allotment. Fifty to sixty percent of all data consumption arises from video and social media, estimates the NPD Group’s Brad Akyuz. Streaming media services such as Netflix and Hulu Plus are big data drains, he says. But if you’re mostly watching YouTube, 5GB will probably suffice.

“Do I really need unlimited data?”

Unlimited data plans are back again at Sprint, T-Mobile, and MetroPCS—but unless you’re a Netflix junkie (see the prior answer), you probably don’t need one. Unlimited plans are like restaurant buffets, says Jon Colgan of CellBreaker, a startup that helps people get out of their cellphone contracts: “Most people don’t eat as much as they think they’re going to eat.” Plus, carriers have pledged to notify customers before imposing overage charges, so data fees shouldn’t take you by surprise. Before you buy an unlimited plan, make sure you can’t find a cheaper plan already offering more data than you need.

Find the Best Cellphone Plan For You

“Is this data plan really unlimited?”

Read advertisements for cellphone service plans carefully. Some carriers promising “unlimited data” will actually limit your high-speed, 4G LTE data to a couple of gigabytes per month. Once you use up that allotment, you’ll have unlimited access to slower data—but you’ll have trouble loading pages quickly and streaming video. Usually, carriers will explain when plans have a high-speed data limit, but the FTC just imposed a $100 million fine on AT&T for allegedly slowing data speeds on grandfathered unlimited plans without telling customers. Make sure you’ll get what you pay for.

Read next: The Best Cellphone Plans of 2015

This story has been adapted from “Find Your Perfect Cell Plan,” originally published in MONEY magazine’s July 2015 issue.

MONEY cellphone plans

5 Reasons You Should Be Paying Less for Your Cellphone Plan

circle of friends with smartphones
Tim Robberts—Getty Images

Plus tips on making that happen.

Are you getting hit with data overage charges? Dropped calls? Huge monthly bills for your family plan? Don’t put up with that anymore.

This is your moment to find a better, cheaper smartphone plan. “There are more deals to be had now than there have ever been,” says Logan Abbott, president of plan comparison site Wirefly.com. Here’s why:

1. We’re in the midst of a price war.

Carriers are slashing prices and fattening data packages in an attempt to steal you away from your current wireless provider—or keep you from leaving. Even at Verizon, which has long charged a premium for its top-rated network, you can buy 15GB of data for what it cost to buy a 10GB package a year ago. “In the last year or so, the data bucket prices have gone down significantly across the board,” says Brad Akyuz, research director of Connected Intelligence at the NPD Group market research firm. “You really have competition driven by T-Mobile and Sprint pushing prices down significantly.”

2. You have other carrier options.

You can look beyond the “big four”—AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon—to find deals at lesser-known carriers. Think of them as the generic drugs of wireless service. Some carriers, such as Straight Talk and Net10, buy bandwidth from the big four, offering you access to the same network at a big discount. Others, such as MetroPCS and Boost Mobile, are discount brands owned by the big four. “A lot of them can give you similar plans for a lot less,” says Tara Donnelly, U.S. editor at WhistleOut, a plan comparison site.

On some small carriers, your data might run slightly slower when a lot of people are using the network, says Dennis Bournique of PrepaidPhoneNews.com. But recent mergers and acquisitions should work in your favor. In recent years, AT&T bought smaller carrier Cricket while T-Mobile bought MetroPCS, letting the bigger names acquire wireless spectrum and attract value-conscious customers. “The fact that these larger companies own these smaller carriers means they have that responsibility to make sure that service is up to snuff,” says Kirk Parsons, senior director of telecom services at J.D. Power.

3. You can save if you dump your two-year service contract.

In the past, when you went to get a new cellphone plan, you usually had to sign a two-year contract promising to stick it out with the same carrier, or else pay hundreds of dollars in early termination fees. But you’d feel okay about it because you’d get a really cheap phone—for example, a $200 iPhone that was really worth $650.

But what you might not have known is that you were always paying off the full cost of that expensive phone, in the form of higher monthly bills. Nowadays you can choose non-contract plans with lower monthly bills and pay separately for the full cost of the phone. That’s okay, because plans without service contracts are almost always a better deal over a two-year period. These monthly plans are getting more popular and are slowly replacing two-year service contracts altogether: T-Mobile no longer offers service contracts, and more than half of the new customers on Sprint and AT&T have already ditched them.

4. You can do a lot on Wi-Fi.

The mobile trend to watch? “Wi-Fi first” coverage. For calling, texting, or using the Internet, carriers attempt to connect you to the nearest Wi-Fi network before falling back on a cellular network. Since cellular usage is lighter, your monthly payments can be lower than even our best pick for infrequent callers. For example, carriers like FreedomPop and Republic Wireless offer plans that range from free to $40.

If you have reliable access to Wi-Fi at work or home and aren’t looking for extra features like cloud storage, then a Wi-Fi first plan could be good. But when you’re on a call, the transition between Wi-Fi and cellular isn’t always seamless, so moving around can disrupt your service. “Wi-Fi has become so widespread, it’s not insane to think that it could rival cellular in terms of coverage—but not quality,” says IDC senior research analyst Brian Haven.

Despite its shortcomings, Wi-Fi got a lot of attention this spring when Google launched Project Fi, a service that analyzes signal strength from Sprint, T-Mobile, and Wi-Fi before connecting you to the strongest option. Plans start at $20 a month, plus $10 for every gigabyte of data you want to purchase.

5. It pays to know what’s out there.

Cellphone plans have become much more complicated. So while deals are everywhere, they can be hard to understand. Do you want your family to share a pool of data or do you want to give each line its own allotment? How much data do you actually need? If you ditch the monthly contract, do you want to pay upfront for your phone, lease it, or pay it off in monthly installments? “With the rise of the device installment plans, it’s become even more confusing than it used to be,” says Philip Goldstein, editor of FierceWireless.

That’s where MONEY comes in. We pored over the fine print on more than 70 cellphone plans at 10 different cellphone carriers. We considered the full two-year cost of each plan, including the price of phones. We also checked each carrier’s network quality and customer satisfaction ratings. Here’s our guide to the best cellphone plans of 2015. And for more customized guidance, head on over to our interactive tool, which will show you the most affordable plans that meet your particular needs, plus the network performance you can expect in your area.

This story has been adapted from “Find Your Perfect Cell Plan,” originally published in MONEY magazine’s July 2015 issue.

Read next: The Best Cellphone Plans of 2015

MONEY mobile service

The Best Cellphone Plans of 2015

MONEY found the right plan, at the right price, for every type of cellphone user.

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Getting hit with data overage charges? Is your family’s cellphone bill busting your budget? Now you can land a better, cheaper smartphone plan. After studying more than 70 plans from 10 different wireless carriers, we picked the best plans for every kind of user.

For a more personalized recommendation based on your specific needs, check out MONEY’s Cellphone Plan Picking Tool.

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  • Best For Light Users

    Ryan Snook

    Best for individuals:
    Boost Mobile Data Boost 1GB

    Best for families:
    Virgin Mobile Wi-Fi Lovers Delight

    Individual Plan: Boost Mobile Data Boost 1GB Family Plan: Virgin Mobile Wi-Fi Lovers Delight
    Monthly service bill $35 $80 ($20 each for four plans)
    Two-year cost with phones $1,390 $3,920
    Can you bring a phone? Sprint only No
    Data 1GB Wi-Fi only
    Data overage? Speed slows Not applicable
    Network Sprint 3G/4G LTE Sprint 3G/4G LTE
    Why it wins Don’t need the bells and whistles of a data-driven plan? This is our pick for bare-bones functions like talk and text, as well as data to cover basic email needs. If you have a data-heavy month, your speeds will be reduced, but you won’t be charged extra. Virgin Mobile is the only carrier here offering sub-$100 service for four lines. Downsides: Each user has only 300 monthly talk minutes (all other plans are unlimited), cellular data isn’t included, and you can’t get an iPhone or Samsung Galaxy S6. But customer satisfaction ratings are high.
    You should also know … An iPhone 6 is $100 cheaper than at other carriers. The two-year cost includes a $500 Samsung Galaxy S5 for each user.
    Runner-up The MetroPCS $30/Month plan offers similar options and features for $5 less per month, but iPhones aren’t available. Want an iPhone and just a wee bit of cellular data? T-Mobile Simple Choice offers the iPhone 6 and 1GB per line for $100 a month.
    Methodology: For all plans we added up the cost of two years of service and a 16BG iPhone 6 for each user (or a Samsung Galaxy S6 if the iPhone wasn’t offered). We looked at both 2-year service contracts and non-contract plans. Family plans are priced for four lines. Winners were chosen on the basis of price, plan features, and ratings for network quality, and customer satisfaction.
  • Best for Typical Users

    Ryan Snook

    Best for individuals:
    Cricket Basic

    Best for families:
    Cricket Basic with Group Save Discount

    Individual Plan: Cricket Basic Family Plan: Cricket Basic With Group Save Discount
    Monthly service bill $40 $100
    Two-year cost with phones $1,610 $5,000
    Can you bring a phone? Yes Yes
    Data 2.5GB 2.5GB on each line
    Data overage? Speed slows Speed slows
    Network AT&T 4G LTE AT&T 4G LTE
    Why it wins Cricket uses AT&T’s network, so you get Big Four coverage for only $40 a month. That amount drops to $35 if you enroll in an autopay program. Though the carrier doesn’t offer the iPhone 6, it does have an iPhone 5c, along with other smart and basic phones. The price includes taxes and fees. By offering big discounts when you add other lines, Cricket is also a good deal for the entire family. If you’re worried that 2.5GB isn’t meeting your data needs, you can add 1GB to a line for only $10 per month. As with the individual plan, taxes and fees are included, and an iPhone 6 isn’t offered.
    You should also know … Get a Galaxy S6 for $0 down with a phone payment plan. Sign up for four lines, and service for a fifth phone comes free.
    Runner-up For $5 less a month, get the iPhone 6 with Boost Mobile’s $35 Data Boost Up plan. ­Video streaming, however, can be limited to a slow 3G. Sprint’s Family Share Pack lets you share 8GB of data for $130 a month.
    Methodology: For all plans we added up the cost of two years of service and a 16BG iPhone 6 for each user (or a Samsung Galaxy S6 if the iPhone wasn’t offered). We looked at both 2-year service contracts and non-contract plans. Family plans are priced for four lines. Winners were chosen on the basis of price, plan features, and ratings for network quality, and customer satisfaction.
  • Best for Bargain Hunters

    Ryan Snook

    Best for individuals:
    Sprint $60 Unlimited

    Best for families:
    Cricket Pro with Group Save Discount

    Individual Plan: Sprint $60 Unlimited Family Plan: Cricket Pro With Group Save Discount
    Monthly service bill $60 $160
    Two-year cost with phones $2,090 $6,440
    Can you bring a phone? Yes Yes
    Data Unlimited 10GB on each line
    Data overage? None Speed slows
    Network Sprint 4G LTE AT&T 4G LTE
    Why it wins “Sprint is positioning itself as the value leader,” says FierceWireless editor Phil Goldstein. Savings, he says, can be even greater than promised by Sprint’s Cut Your Bill in Half promotion. Save further over two years by leasing an iPhone 6 for $20 a month instead of buying one. The 10GB of high-speed data per month should be more than enough for the heaviest users. Anything more would be “a bit extreme,” says Kirk Parsons, senior director of telecom services at J.D. Power.
    You should also know … Sprint will pay your early-termination fee if you hand in your old phone. Get service on a fifth line for another $20 per month.
    Runner-up If Sprint’s network is slow in your area, you can get a $60 Unlimited plan (but no iPhone) from MetroPCS. If you want an iPhone 6, you can go with Sprint’s Unlimited Family plan for an extra $20 a month.
    Methodology: For all plans we added up the cost of two years of service and a 16BG iPhone 6 for each user (or a Samsung Galaxy S6 if the iPhone wasn’t offered). We looked at both 2-year service contracts and non-contract plans. Family plans are priced for four lines. Winners were chosen on the basis of price, plan features, and ratings for network quality, and customer satisfaction.
  • Best for Power Users

    Ryan Snook

    Best for individuals:
    Verizon More Everything 6GB with Verizon Edge

    Best for families:
    AT&T Mobile Share Value 20GB with AT&T Next 18

    Individual Plan: Verizon More Everything 6GB With Verizon Edge Family Plan: AT&T Mobile Share Value 20GB With AT&T Next 18
    Monthly service bill $85 $210
    Two-year cost with phones $2,690 $7,640
    Can you bring a phone? Yes No
    Data 6GB 20GB shared
    Data overage? $15 per GB $15 per GB
    Network Verizon 4G LTE AT&T 4G LTE
    Why it wins The RootMetrics mobile analytics firm ranks Verizon first in the nation in overall network performance, reliability, and speed. “Particularly when you talk about the
    advanced technology—4G, 4G LTE—their coverage tends to be broader,” says Parsons.
    AT&T invented “rollover” plans back when users were afraid of getting overage charges for talking too long. Now that data is capped, not talk, you can roll unused gigabytes over to the next month. That can come in handy if the kids decide they want a Star Wars marathon.
    You should also know … New subscribers receive a $100 bill credit for activating a smartphone on Edge. Should you get tired of your phone, you can upgrade it after 18 months.
    Runner-up A two-year contract with AT&T at $110 a month gets you 6GB of data. And AT&T is No. 1 in customer satisfaction, says J.D. Power. Don’t need rollover data? Verizon’s More Everything With Verizon Edge is just $200 a month for 20GB.
    Methodology: For all plans we added up the cost of two years of service and a 16BG iPhone 6 for each user (or a Samsung Galaxy S6 if the iPhone wasn’t offered). We looked at both 2-year service contracts and non-contract plans. Family plans are priced for four lines. Winners were chosen on the basis of price, plan features, and ratings for network quality, and customer satisfaction.
  • Best for Frequent Upgraders

    Ryan Snook

    Best for individuals:
    Sprint Family Share Pack 2GB with 12-Month Term Lease

    Sprint Family Share Pack 2GB With 12-Month Term Lease
    Monthly service bill $80 (includes phone lease)
    Two-year cost with phones $1,920
    Can you bring a phone? No
    Data 2GB
    Data overage? 1.5¢ per MB
    Network Sprint 4G LTE
    Why it wins An early upgrade plan “is not necessarily financially the best option for everyone,” says Tara Donnelly, U.S. editor at plan comparison site WhistleOut. “But if you like to update your phone regularly, it’s not a bad idea.” Sprint will lease you an iPhone 6 for $30 a month and upgrade you to a new model after a year, costing you 45% less than buying two new iPhones outright. To keep either phone, though, you’ll have to pay extra once its year is up.
    You should also know … Lease an iPhone 6 Plus for $35 a month.
    Runner-up Even if you choose half the data of Sprint’s plan, AT&T Next 12 is more expensive. But AT&T often has first dibs on the newest phones.
    Methodology: For all plans we added up the cost of two years of service and a 16BG iPhone 6 for each user (or a Samsung Galaxy S6 if the iPhone wasn’t offered). We looked at both 2-year service contracts and non-contract plans. Family plans are priced for four lines. Winners were chosen on the basis of price, plan features, and ratings for network quality, and customer satisfaction.
  • Best for Technology Recyclers

    Ryan Snook

    Best for individuals:
    Straight Talk Unlimited Bring Your Own Phone Promotion

    Straight Talk Unlimited Bring Your Own Phone Promotion
    Monthly service bill $45
    Two-year cost with phones $1,080
    Can you bring a phone? It’s required
    Data 5GB
    Data overage? Speed slows
    Network Multiple 4G LTE
    Why it wins Bring your own device to Straight Talk and get 5GB for $45 a month, or $41.25 if you pay for a year upfront—remarkably low prices. Just call your old carrier and ask it to “unlock” your phone from its network, and then go to straighttalkbyop.com to see if your phone is compatible. Straight Talk says phones from AT&T and T-Mobile should work, as should most Verizon and Sprint phones.
    You should also know … An activation kit or SIM card for getting started runs $5.
    Runner-up If you’ll never use close to 5GB of data and have an AT&T or a T-Mobile phone, move it to Cricket Basic and get 2.5GB of data for $40 a month.
    Methodology: For all plans we added up the cost of two years of service and a 16BG iPhone 6 for each user (or a Samsung Galaxy S6 if the iPhone wasn’t offered). We looked at both 2-year service contracts and non-contract plans. Family plans are priced for four lines. Winners were chosen on the basis of price, plan features, and ratings for network quality, and customer satisfaction.
  • Best for Data-Hungry Teens

    Ryan Snook

    Best for families:
    T-Mobile Simple Choice 1GB and 5GB Combined

    T-Mobile Simple Choice 1GB and 5GB Combined
    Monthly service bill $140
    Two-year cost with phones $5,960
    Can you bring a phone? Yes
    Data Two lines have 1GB; two have 5GB
    Data overage? Speed slows
    Network T-Mobile 4G LTE
    Why it wins Maybe this describes your family: Mom and Dad need less than a gigabyte, but the kids are sucking up way more data per month. With this plan, data allotments are segregated; if ­Junior’s goes over his allowance, his data is slowed, but no one else’s is. Plus, music streamed via Pandora, Spotify, and more than two dozen ­other services won’t count against your children’s data usage.
    You should also know … You can roll over unused data on the 5GB lines.
    Runner-up If 5GB still isn’t enough, give two kids unlimited lines for just $160 a month.
    Methodology: For all plans we added up the cost of two years of service and a 16BG iPhone 6 for each user (or a Samsung Galaxy S6 if the iPhone wasn’t offered). We looked at both 2-year service contracts and non-contract plans. Family plans are priced for four lines. Winners were chosen on the basis of price, plan features, and ratings for network quality, and customer satisfaction.
  • MONEY’s Plan Picking Tool

    Ryan Snook

    For a more personalized recommendation based on your specific plan needs, check out our Cellphone Plan Picking Tool.

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