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Best Cell Phone Plans for Seniors

Nov. 16, 2018
Cell Phones, Utilities
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Unlimited high-speed data, video streaming and mobile hot spot are now standard for most cell phone plans. But those features don’t always meet the needs of senior citizens, who may not need — or want to pay for — all the extras.

Take heart: There are cell phone plans designed to help seniors stay connected without committing large chunks of their monthly incomes.

We’ve highlighted several low-cost options. Note that if you’re on Medicaid, food stamps/SNAP, Supplemental Security Income or other government programs, you may qualify for free or subsidized plans from some of these companies via the federal Lifeline Program.

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Best pay-as-you-go plans for seniors

These plans from T-Mobile and AT&T are perfect for people who don’t really want a cell phone, but would like the peace of mind that comes with knowing they can reach family or a medical professional in an emergency.

  • Plan name: T-Mobile Pay As You Go
  • Price (monthly): $3
  • Plan at a glance: Includes any combination of 30 minutes or texts; additional usage costs 10 cents per minute/message
  • Why we like it: This plan is as basic as it gets — it’s also as cheap as it gets
Get started at T-Mobile's site
  • Plan name: AT&T GoPhone Daily
  • Price: $2 per day of use
  • Plan at a glance: Includes unlimited minutes and text messages
  • Why we like it: You only pay on days you use your phone — and on those days, you can talk and text to your heart’s content
Get started at AT&T's site

 

THINGS TO KNOW:

For just $3 per month, you can use any combination of 30 minutes or 30 text messages. Phone prices start at around $60, but if you have a compatible device, you can use it rather than buying a new one. You will, however, need to pay for a $20 SIM Starter Kit fee, whether you bring your own phone or buy a new one.
AT&T charges the $2 fee only if you place or receive a call or send a text on that day. That fee is deducted from the prepaid balance on your account. Unused balances may expire if you don’t refill your account, so be mindful about topping up.

 

» MORE: Best cell phone plans

Best flexible plans for seniors

These flexible, build-your-own plans are a great alternative to traditional pay-as-you-go service. You pay a set monthly service fee each month, but usage is billed in tiers. If you use a lot of texts one month but none the next, your bill will reflect that. The same goes for minutes and data.

  • Price: Base price is $6 per month, with minutes, data and texts billed separately
  • At a glance: Usage is divided into levels, and you pay only for the level you reach

Get started at Ting's site

  • Price: Base price is $4 per month, with minutes, data and texts billed separately
  • At a glance: Usage is divided into levels, and you pay only for the level you reach

Get started at US Mobile's site

 

Things to know:

The $6 per month assumes you don’t use your phone at all. Any usage is billed in addition to that, and minutes, texts and data levels are assessed separately. Tiers start at $3 for 100 minutes, $3 for 100 texts and $3 for 100MB of data. Ting contracts with Sprint and T-Mobile, so you’d use one of those networks.
The $4 per month doesn’t include usage. Minutes, texts and data have additional fees and billed separately. Tiers start at $2.50 for 40 minutes, $1.50 for 40 texts and $2 for 100MB of data. US Mobile runs on Verizon’s and T-Mobile’s network.

 

Best cell phone plans for mobile-savvy seniors

If you were tech-savvy at age 64, you’ll still be tech-savvy at 65; no need to turn in your iPhone when you officially become a senior. These options let you stay connected without overpaying for a bloated plan.

  • Plan name: Boost Mobile Unlimited
  • Price (monthly): $50
  • At a glance: Unlimited talk, text and high-speed data
  • Why we like it: An unlimited plan with none of the commitments
Get started at Boost's site
  • Plan name: T-Mobile Unlimited 55+
  • Price (monthly): Two lines for $80 per month; $75 with autopay discount
  • At a glance: Unlimited talk, text and data
  • Why we like it: A bargain of an unlimited plan that doesn’t skimp on extras like mobile hot spot access and international text and data roaming.
Get started at T-Mobile's site

 

THINGS TO KNOW:

Video streaming is limited to standard definition. You can upgrade to HD streaming for $10 per month. The plan includes 12GB of high-speed mobile hot spot data. You’ll pay full price to purchase a new phone, but if you have a phone through Sprint, you might be able to activate it with Boost.
T-Mobile’s Unlimited 55+ plan includes mobile hot spot access, video streaming (in standard definition), unlimited talk, text and 5GB of high-speed data to use in Canada and Mexico, free text and data roaming in more than 200 other countries. Taxes and fees are included in the price, but add-ons such as insurance or device payments are still assessed.

 

» MORE: Best family cell phone plans

Best emergency cell phone plan for seniors

GreatCall’s cell phone plans are specifically for seniors. The Jitterbug, GreatCall’s signature phone, features big buttons, a loud speaker and a bright screen with large display text. The prepaid carrier also allows you to add health services to your plan, such as weekly or daily wellness calls; a personal operator to help you make phone calls or add appointments to your calendar; and 5Star Urgent Response, which connects you to a 911 operator at the push of a button.

GreatCall logo
  • Plan name: GreatCall WeTalk 200
  • Price (monthly): $14.99
  • Plan at a glance: 200 minutes, no text or data included
  • Why we like it: It’s affordable and simple; it comes with the user-friendly Jitterbug phone; and it has optional health services
Get started at GreatCall's site

 

THINGS TO KNOW:

You have two phone options: the Jitterbug Flip and the Jitterbug Smart. You can also buy a GreatCall phone or plan at select Best Buy, Walmart, Rite Aid and Sears stores. Optional heath services carry an additional cost and can be purchased as a bundle — the basic package costs $19.99 per month — or a la carte in some cases, starting at $4 per month. GreatCall’s service runs on Verizon’s network.

 

Best cell phone plans for seniors: summary

CarrierPlanBest forCostGet started
AT&T GoPhone DailyPeople who want a pay-as-you-go plan$2 per day of use
Get started at AT&T's site
T-Mobile Pay As You GoPeople who want a pay-as-you-go plan$3 a month
Get started at T-Mobile's site
TingPeople who want a flexible planBase price is $6 per month; minutes, texts and data billed separately
Get started at Ting's site
US MobilePeople who want a flexible planBase price is $4 per month; minutes, texts and data billed separately
Get started at US Mobile's site
Boost Mobile UnlimitedPeople who are mobile-savvy$50 a month
Get started at Boost Mobile's site
T-Mobile Unlimited 55+People who are mobile-savvyTwo lines for $80 per month; $70 with autopay
Get started at T-Mobile's site
GreatCall WeTalk 200People who want an easy-to-use emergency phone$14.99 a month
Get started at GreatCall's site

 

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Methodology

We evaluated more than 200 cell phone plans offered by the following carriers: AT&T, Boost Mobile, Consumer Cellular, Cricket, GreatCall, Google’s Project Fi, MetroPCS, Net10, Republic Wireless, Sprint, Straight Talk, T-Mobile, Tracfone, Verizon Wireless and Virgin Mobile.

To determine the best plans, we looked at the monthly plan price before taxes and fees, as well as features such as health services and plan flexibility. We only considered national carriers, which ruled out regional providers like U.S. Cellular. For pay-as-you-go plans, we prioritized low monthly price over large minute or data packages. For mobile-savvy users, we looked at plans that included at least 1GB, but had no more than 5GB. Lower monthly price was favored over a lower price per GB.

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