A senior cell phone plan is a calling plan tailored to the specific needs of older folks. It will typically offer discounts for talk, text and data and may either be prepaid or by contract.
Senior cell phone plans tend to make the most sense for those who aren’t on their phone all the time. For those folks it’s easy to customize a plan to provide the service they need at a very affordable price.
There are a lot of senior cell phone plans on the market. In fact, all of the major (and most of the minor) cellular companies provide senior cell phone plans of one sort or another. Although some are definitely more affordable than others. To simplify things for you we’ve put together this list of the 10 best senior cell phone plans for 2020.
A lot of seniors have heard of or seen Jitterbug phones. They’re designed to serve older individuals who have difficulty seeing and/or hearing. Jitterbug phones are made by GreatCall. So it’s no surprise that the company that makes senior-specific phones would also offer senior-specific calling plans.
What we like: We like that you can essentially piece together your own calling plan. You can get 250 minutes for less than 15 bucks, toss in some data and a smattering of text messages and you’re all set.
Having both the phone and the calling plan originating from the same company also simplifies customer service. To an extent. You can also add various health services and one-touch urgent response.
Flaws: Not everyone is a fan of the look of the Jitterbug phones. Also, things add up quickly when you venture from the minimal services.
2. Verizon Mobile
Verizon has a pretty good deal to offer those over 55 who live in Florida. So what is this one state deal doing on our list? It’s here because more than 4.5 million Florida residents are 55 or older. So, if you are one of them you can avail yourself of their Go Unlimited Plan for just $65 a month. If you choose auto pay you can knock off another $5 per month. And for two people it’s just $90 a month.
What we like: Unlimited is good. $60 with the $5 auto pay discount is also good. Being able to use your phone anywhere in the country to do just about anything is good too. The network is also reliable and customer service is more than an afterthought.
Flaws: They may wind up slicing into your bandwidth during busy times. And tethering is capped at 600 Kbps.
3. Boost Mobile
Boost Mobile is a no-frills reseller offering unlimited talk, text and data for seniors on Sprint’s nationwide network for $50 a month. Watch streaming video, listen to music or take and post photos to social media with reliable speed. There’s also 12 GB of tethering if you want to run your laptop or other device through your phone.
What we like: We like the price. We like that they use Sprint’s nationwide network. We also like that taxes and fees are included in the cost.
Flaws: You have to supply your own phone and speed can fluctuate significantly during peak hours.
4. Republic Wireless
Republic Wireless offers unlimited talk and text for a low $15 a month or $150 per year. Add 1 GB of data for only $5 more per month or a total of $200 per year. There’s nothing fancy here and they don’t offer international service. Still, if what you want is a way to call the family on a regular basis without paying through the nose, here it is.
What we like: We really like that low, low price for unlimited talk and text. And we like that you have a choice of monthly or yearly plans. We also appreciate that they let you use your own phone and phone number.
Flaws: They reserve the right to charge you 50 cents a minute if you want to call a US territory like Puerto Rico or the US Virgin Islands.
5. AT&T Wireless
AT&T has a variety of calling plans that provide unlimited talk, text and data for as low as $40 a month throughout North America. That includes 5G access, SD streaming, 15 GB mobile hotspot and more. They also have a 65 and over plan that provides 200 ‘anytime’ minutes, 500 night and weekend minutes and unlimited calling to other AT&T phones all for $29 a month.
What we like: We appreciate the value of their standard calling plans. Those who spend less time on the phone however would probably be better served by the 65+ plan.
Flaws: The senior plan is cheap but it’s not available for smartphones or tablets. Only standard (ie old fashioned) mobile phones.
Sprint is a national carrier that offers an array of calling plans for seniors with a serious affinity for their cell phones. If you count yourself among them you’ll probably love their unlimited everything senior plan starting at $45 a month ($35 per line if you sign up for 2 lines). If you’re not satisfied with the speed of that plan pay an extra $10 and they’ll speed it up for you.
What we like: The unlimited everything plan is a great deal. And the company’s nationwide network makes it even more attractive. The ability to upgrade for $10 a month is a nice feature too. Customer service is also decent.
Flaws: We hate to be picky but the fact that your download speed may be cut back during peak hours isn’t great.
7. US Mobile
Like a lot of lesser known companies US Mobile is a cellular reseller that specializes in low cost plans for seniors and others. They’re not encumbered by multimillion dollar marketing budgets or network construction costs so they can offer things like 100 MB of data for 2 bucks a month. Or $7 a month for 4,000 texts. More high end options like international roaming are also available.
What we like: If you have the patience you can piece together a custom calling plan that will suit your specific needs for pretty short money. We also like that they offer a 30-day trial period. If you’re not satisfied you get your money back.
Flaws: Don’t expect robust customer service. And you’ll have to bring your own phone to the party.
T-Mobile offers several cellular plans for people 55 and up that provide unlimited voice, text and data as long as you stay on their network. And that’s fine because their network spans the entire country. They also offer various amounts of mobile hotspot data, data and texting abroad, HD streaming and more for very reasonable rates. If you’re a retiree you can also take advantage of 60 minutes of in-flight texting and data.
What we like: ’Unlimited’ talk and text on a nationwide network for less than 30 bucks a month is alright with us. We also like that you can cherry pick additional features. And the hour of in flight text and data is great for senior travelers.
Flaws: While they offer good plans for low baseline rates those rates creep up quickly when you start adding features. So, restraint is the word.
9. Consumer Cellular
Consumer Cellular is a reseller of cellular services that offers a pretty impressive array of calling plans for everyone in the house, including any seniors. For instance, you can get 250 MB of data with unlimited calls and texting for just $20 a month. Consumer Cellular also has a long running relationship with AARP that will net members a further 5% discount.
What we like: We like the sheer number and variety of plans. If you can’t find a plan for yourself here you’re probably just not looking carefully enough. We also like that they let you hop around from plan to plan based on your changing needs.
If those needs are fairly modest there may be no better place to find a senior calling plan than Consumer Cellular. And if you don’t have a phone they’ll supply one for you.
Flaws: Their cell phone options are much less impressive than the number and variety of their calling plans.
10. Prepaid Metro by T-Mobile
Those seniors looking for a simple, no frills way to obtain the cellular service they need should give serious consideration to the prepaid ‘Metro’ plan by T-Mobile. For a flat fee of $40 per month you get 10 GB of LTE (long term evolution) 4G data as well as unlimited talk and text.
What we like: We like the simplicity of the deal. You pay this you get that. No questions asked. We like the 10 GB limit which should be more than adequate for most seniors. And we appreciate the unlimited calls and texts.
There’s also Wi-Fi calling and a system they call Scam ID which filters out telemarketing calls. You also have a choice of buying your phone from them or supplying your own.
Flaws: Hard to find flaws with this except that those who love streaming content may burn through that 10 GB pretty quick.
What is a Senior Cell Phone Plan?
A senior cell phone plan is a calling plan that provides a discount and/or other services designed to address the specific needs of people 55 and up. Many of these plans start with a basic discount and add an array of other features to sweeten the pot. In some cases that may even mean a complementary cell phone if you sign up for X amount of time.
The reason most cell phone carriers have rolled out senior discount plans in recent years is simple: the population is getting older (1). As such, companies have a choice: adapt to the changing demographics or succumb to them. Many older folks are also reasonably tech savvy, want to stay in touch with their loved ones and need a dependable way to call for help should it be necessary. At the same time though they don’t spend as much time on social media as many younger people do. So the amount of time and data they’ll need in their plan is different.
How We Ranked
When it comes to senior calling plans we want to see a discount of course. But beyond that we’re judging by the same criteria we’d use on any other cell phone plan. That means we want reliable service, fair pricing, good coverage (2) and simple use. These things are critical because if the service is always dropping out then what good is the discount? Conversely, if the service is great but the price is exorbitant who needs it?
While seniors don’t typically spend time playing online games or posting an endless stream of pictures to their social media accounts they should still have the ability to do so if they want. So in our estimation 2 GB of monthly data is a good number. Many seniors won’t use that much every month. But it should be there anyway just in case. And a couple of gigs won’t increase the cost of the plan all that much. Or at least it shouldn’t.
Most importantly we want to see unlimited talk and text. These are the fundamental building blocks of contemporary digital communication and the calling plan shouldn’t skimp on them. Finally, any calling plan should be compatible with the latest technology. In fact, if our senior is willing to sign up for a couple of years of service they should get a phone on the house.
Senior cell phone plans allow for wide coverage at low prices. While smaller regional carriers might serve up some tempting senior cell phone plans you need to consider coverage. A lot of seniors travel on a regular basis. If you’re one of them you don’t want your calling planning slapping you with huge roaming fees every time you fly out of their coverage area. The big carriers – AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon – have their own nationwide network of cell towers. So if you’re intent on traveling you might want to look into a plan from one of those companies. If you’re more of a home-body then you have more flexibility in choosing a carrier.
Senior cell phone plans help seniors stay in touch.Older folks tend to become increasingly isolated as time goes by. Anything that can help arrest or even reverse that trend is a good thing. And a good senior cell phone plan can do just that. The person will have the ability to call and text whomever they choose. They’ll be able to take and quickly share photos and even play internet games (3) that help them stay mentally active (4). Some sites allow players to play against one another, which adds a social element they wouldn’t get sitting alone in their room.
Senior cell phone plans can be customized. Not all senior cell phone plans are set in stone. Some provide a high degree of flexibility when it comes to what you can keep and what you can discard. Sure, some plans from the big providers give you unlimited everything and there’s a lot to be said for that. But you’re also going to pay for that unlimited service. Before deciding on a plan you should carefully consider your needs and wants. Then, if necessary, find a plan you can customize to meet those needs.
Senior cell phone plans allow seniors to shop from home. That’s important because a lot of older folks suffer from arthritis (5) or have other mobility issues. It’s not that they don’t want to be out and about running errands and such. They simply aren’t able to sometimes. A good cell phone plan will enable these folks to order their own groceries, shop for clothes, shop for vitamins and whatever else their heart desires. At the same time seniors with mobility issues aren’t the only ones who could use access to online shopping. Internet shopping has decimated traditional brick and mortar retail in many areas. As such, even if a healthy and vital older individual wanted to go to the mall the mall may not be there any more (6).
Senior cell phone plans allow you to keep your current phone. That is, assuming you have a current phone of course. If you do, and you want to transition from your overpriced plan to one more suited to your needs and budget there is a good chance you’ll be able to retain your phone. This is not guaranteed mind you, especially if you received a locked phone (7) from a carrier as part of a calling plan. But in many cases carrying your existing phone over to the new plan is both allowed and easy to do.
Senior cell phone plans often have no credit check or contract. This can be a major plus because it allows you to migrate to a new provider at any time with no penalty. You won’t have to go through a credit check either. And that’s a positive because in many cases simply having someone run a credit check on you can negatively affect your overall credit score (8).
Senior cell phone plans enable you to keep doctor appointments. Another result of aging is that short term memory tends to suffer. As a result seniors often forget their medical appointments. An affordable senior cell phone plan can help ensure a person makes their important appointments. The joy of the cell phone is that even if they forgot and are out and about the doctor’s office can reach them before they miss the appointment and have to reschedule.
Senior cell phone plans expand entertainment possibilities. Whether you’re 8 or 80 life is not a non-stop fun fest. There are times when it’s downright boring. Seniors often experience a heightened sense of boredom when alone but a good senior calling plan can combat that. A senior cell phone plan with unlimited data enables the person to watch whatever videos they want, stream movies and TV shows, read e-books, watch sporting events and more. And not only that, they can do all this wherever they happen to be. Whether that’s at the beach, at the park or in their bed before going to sleep.
Senior cell phone plans can enable you to upgrade your phone for almost nothing. That’s because, unbeknownst to many, cellular carriers actually make their money off their services. That’s why they’re able to give away a cell phone if you’ll sign up to their service. They buy so many phones they get a very attractive per-unit price that is often recouped in the first month of the plan. So, if you have an older cell phone you may be able to upgrade to a significantly better, brand new phone essentially for free by simply signing up for a certain carrier’s calling plan.
Senior cell phone plans enable a better life. And at the end of the day this is what it’s really all about, isn’t it? This is what new technology is supposed to do; improve our quality of life. If it doesn’t then it’s not progress. It’s just change. Fortunately, the right senior cell phone plan that provides all the above-listed benefits will indeed help improve a person’s quality of life. They’ll be able to stay in touch, get to their appointments, stay mentally active, shop from home and more. And all for a very reasonable price. Heck, they may not even have to sign a contract.
Q: Will senior cell phone plans work with my existing cell phone?
A: It depends. If you have an unlocked cell phone then yes, almost all senior cell plans will work with your phone. However, sometimes a phone that comes from the service provider as part of the contract will be locked. That is, programmed to work only with their service. If that’s the case then you’ll either have to pay to have it unlocked (9) or you’ll have to get a new phone.
Q: Are there extra costs involved for texting?
A: If there is one general rule of thumb that should apply to all cell phone contracts it’s this: read the fine print. Some senior calling plans seem very affordable on the surface. But when you start playing videos or posting images or even texting you suddenly discover that’s extra. There are plenty of senior calling plans that include both unlimited calling and unlimited texting. Some of these are contract plans and some are prepaid.
Q: Do I need more than just a cell phone plan?
A: That depends on the current state of your health. If you have begun to have difficulty seeing or hearing your old cell phone may no longer fulfill your needs. Fortunately, there are senior-oriented cell phones available that come with larger buttons and which display large, easy-to-read text rather than the micro-text that is standard on most smartphones. These phones may also have more powerful speakers so you can hear what people are saying instead of constantly asking them to speak louder. If you like your phone to have leading edge characteristics but still need some help with fonts and sound levels try one of Samsung’s smartphones with ‘Easy Mode’ (10). This can be enabled with just a couple of clicks and transforms the size of images and texts displayed on the screen.
Q: What’s wrong with a prepaid calling plan?
A: Nothing really. In fact a lot of people, including seniors, prefer them over more traditional long term contracts. With a prepaid plan you pay for a month’s worth of service upfront. If, at the end of the month, you decide you don’t want the service any more, you can cancel. There’s no penalties or black marks on your credit history. Just cancel and go on your own way. This type of plan can be worthwhile if your financial situation is uncertain. Keep in mind too that if you think you might be keeping the prepaid account for a while you can arrange for automatic payments to be taken from your bank account or charged to your credit card. This will often earn you a further discount on the calling plan.
Q: Are there times when a standard cell phone plan is better for a senior?
A: It really depends on your needs. If you use your cell phone a lot, are active on social media and like to watch videos and stream movies and TV shows then a standard cell plan with unlimited everything is likely your best bet. But if you are more likely to just make a couple of calls a day and maybe send the occasional text and/or watch the occasional video then one of the senior cell phone plans profiled above is a smarter choice. You’ll save a lot of money and still get the services you want.
Q: Can I switch cell phone plans even if I missed payments on my last plan?
A: The good news is that cell providers typically don’t report your payment history to credit rating agencies (11) unless they are seriously delinquent. So even if you’ve missed a couple of payments and want to switch providers – and even if the new provider runs a credit check – it likely won’t impact your ability to sign up. But just because you’re able to cut and run from the old provider doesn’t mean you’re off the hook for the unpaid balance. They’re still going to expect you to pay. And if you don’t you’ll likely start hearing from collection agencies.
Q: Can I call the old country with my senior cell phone plan?
A: Nearly 14% of Americans are first generation (12). That means they came to the US from another country, settled here and became citizens. Many of them retain strong links to their countries of origin with many or most of their extended family members there. These folks want and need a senior cell phone plan that will enable them to stay in touch. Fortunately, most carriers will offer senior plans that include international calls. But you should not assume that yours does. Ask before signing onto any plan if international calls are important to you.
Q: I’m new to cell phones. Is there somewhere I can learn how to use them?
A: A large number of elderly people have little or no experience with mobile phones, especially smartphones. That shouldn’t really be a surprise since the smartphone as we know it didn’t hit the market until 2007 (13). That was but a scant 13 years ago. So if someone is 73 today the smartphone didn’t hit the market until they were already 60. And by that time they were likely considering retirement and keeping up on the latest tech had lost its urgency. Older folks have even less familiarity with the technology. Luckily, there are classes that provide seniors with a chance to learn how to use a smartphone. Some of these classes will charge a fee. Others are free (14). To find one near you check with AARP or call your local senior center or city hall.
Q: Can my current carrier refuse to unlock my cell phone?
A: Sometimes in order to switch carriers you will need to have your cell phone unlocked by the carrier who provided it. But while unlocking phones is more common today than just a few years ago it’s still the case that some companies will and some companies won’t unlock a phone. Some reasons why they may refuse to unlock a phone include an unpaid balance or the phone had previously been reported lost or stolen. In the case of prepaid phones you might have to wait a year before the company will unlock it. Make sure to ask about any possible restrictions on unlocking before agreeing to a plan that includes a phone.
Q: Are seniors better off just keeping their landline?
A: That’s entirely up to the individual. But only having a landline has some distinct disadvantages. The most important being that if you need to make a call when away from the house you’re out of luck. In the past you could duck into a phone booth. But with the rise of the cell phone came the death of the payphone (15). Cell phones too are not without their downside. For instance, during natural disasters cell towers routinely go out. If the battery dies and you’re not near a charging station the phone is useless. And of course you could easily walk or drive into an area with no cell coverage. So it’s up to you to decide whether you think a cell phone has something to offer you.
Q: Are there any alternatives for low-income seniors?
A: There are several ways low income seniors might still be able to obtain a phone and a calling plan. The US government offers a program called ‘Lifeline Assistance’ that offers calling plans at huge discounts to qualifying seniors (16). If you are currently receiving Medicaid assistance, SSI or are receiving a veterans pension you will automatically qualify for some type of help through the Lifeline Assistance program. Some individual states also run programs designed to help low-income seniors obtain cell service. Although on a limited basis to be sure. Contact your state’s office on aging for details.
The best senior cell phone plans are flexible, affordable and provide reliable service. They enable seniors to stay engaged with their family and friends both here and, in many cases, their country of origin as well. They allow seniors to access a multitude of entertainment resources, stay mentally sharp by playing online games, make new friends by enabling multiplayer online games and of course they ensure seniors can get the help they need 24/7.
Whether you are looking for a plan that includes a complementary smartphone or you’re just looking to keep your current phone and change your plan, one of the above-profiled plans can help. As we said earlier the most important thing when choosing a cellular service plan is to read the fine print and not sign up for more or less than you need. Also, keep an eye out for hidden charges and fees.
For cpoe.org’s #1 recommended senior cell phone plan, click here.