A look at a range of cellular plan options to fit seniors’ needs
There is much to consider when looking at the best cell phone plans for seniors. Most importantly is that all seniors are different. There are some who only turn on their phones when they need to make an emergency call from the road and require basic service. But of the 85% of seniors who own a cell phone, 46% of them own a smartphone which means many seniors require a more comprehensive plan.
Geography will also play a large role in which plans are best suited for which senior. Some deals are location specific, and some providers don’t even service certain areas. Paired with misleading marketing and confusing terms and conditions, it can be hard to navigate the marketplace to select the right plan for the right time of your life.
The list we’ve compiled below will focus on a wide spread of plans from different service providers to cover a range of senior priorities and a range of coverage maps available to help make finding the right plan a little easier.
Things to consider before picking a plan
Ask local friends and family how they find the customer service and the cell service of their providers. There is no point in choosing a plan with all the right features at the right price when you’ll have a poor connection or won’t be able to get ahold of anyone helpful when you have questions. No-one local to give advice? Most providers’ websites have coverage maps you can look at, or you can read reviews online.
The other consideration before you strike out on your own is a family plan. See if anyone in your family has one active because often times you can hop on for a small monthly fee while retaining the benefits of the original plan. This can be a huge money saving exercise for families who don’t mind sharing.
Types of plans
Yes, you read that right. The cheapest plan out there is the free plan from Freedompop. This plan is not too good to be true, but it does come with its terms and conditions. You have 200 minutes and 500 texts with 500MB data each month.
Keep in mind that this company makes its money on overage charges, so keep an eye on your usage. You have the option of adding an overage credit bank to your account, from which your overage will be deducted at cost, or you will be charged a minimum, $20 fee automatically for going over if you don’t have an overage bank.
You can bring your own Sprint device with you, or unlocked GTE AT&T or Tmobile device. You also have the option to purchase a phone through them, with their lowest-cost phone at $49.99. You can’t lease a phone through them, however, so you do pay upfront for all phone costs.
There are no contracts, you can cancel or change any time. This makes Freedompop a potential risk-free option, as long as you keep an eye on your usage. They do have some well-priced prepaid plans if their free plan is too restrictive or you are worried about the overage charges.
Pay as you go
This can be a game-changer for seniors who know they won’t get much use out of their phone. With the T-Mobile Pay as you Go, prices start at $3 a month! This includes any combination of 30 minutes of talk or 30 text messages up to 30 total, with a flat rate of 10 cents per minute/message after that. You can upgrade to a package with unlimited data for $10 a week with 2GB LTE.
You can purchase a device through T-Mobile or bring your own compatible device, which would be an unlocked GSM phone. If you are new to T-Mobile, you will need to purchase a SIM card to activate as well. If you bring your own phone, there are no contracts or commitments with the prepaid plan and you can change or cancel any time.
As with all plans, there are a few finer details to note. This price does not include all taxes and fees and may vary depending on your location. Also remember that if you go over your 30 minutes/texts, the low flat fee for overages will add up quickly if you don’t keep track of your usage.
Worried about keeping track of your 30 minutes/messages? There is an unlimited pay as you go plan with T Mobile starting at $40 a month to keep it simple.
Consumer Cellular is a company that specifically markets its product to seniors. There are mixed reviews about their signal strength, but there’s no denying their flexible plan options are fantastic for discerning seniors.
On their website, their plan page has easily customizable options where you only pay for what you need. The basic package is just for calls, starting at $15 a month for 250 minutes, but you can add on more minutes and add data if you need. You can even add a second line. Their transparent pricing updates as you select your needs from their options. AARP members also get a 5% discount on their plan. This is also a contract-free plan you can cancel or change any time.
You can bring your own phone with this plan and the SIM card is free! Compatible phones are any that were previously used with T-Mobile and AT&T or any unlocked GSM phone. You can also purchase a phone through Consumer Cellular, starting at $30 for a basic flip phone.
If you’re not happy during the free trial payment, you can cancel and pay nothing. You don’t even pay postage to send back your phone! This makes trying out this company a risk-free option for seniors interested in giving it a try.
The AT&T Senior Nation plan is a great option for the budget-conscious senior who wants a straight forward plan with no frills. This plan is for customers 65 and over and includes 200 anytime minutes, unlimited mobile to mobile minutes, 500 night and weekend minutes, and no roaming or long distance charges for $29.99 per month. Keep in mind, overtime minutes are charged at 45 cents per minute.
To lock in this deal, seniors have to go to an AT&T store and show ID to prove date of birth and must be the primary account holder. There is the option to purchase a phone or bring your own device, but make sure the device is compatible. Only basic phones work with this plan, so no tablets or smartphones.
Sometimes, more is better. Especially if you are a high-phone user or you just want simplicity. Boost Mobile has unlimited data, talk, and text plan for $50 a month. Unlimited means you can reach for your phone for all your phone calls, texts, and data needs and never have to worry about overage costs. Keep in mind that international calls are often not included in international plans, so if that’s something you need be sure to ask about fees before signing up.
Unlimited does come at a cost, but this plan’s cost is one of the most reasonable in the market. First of all, $50 a month does include all monthly taxes and fees so you should see the same amount on your bill each month regardless of your domestic minutes or data used. They also allow 12 gigs of hotspot use, which means you can power your tablet or laptop as well!
You can bring in your own phone or buy one through Boost. Bring your unlocked phone into Boost for assistance, or use their website to check your phone’s compatibility. You will need to purchase a Boost SIM card to switch to the plan unless you were previously with Sprint which sometimes works already on the Boost network. If you go to a Boost store, you’ll pay a $15-$25 fee for activation, but if you buy a SIM from a local Walmart/Walgreens etc. for around $9.99, Boost customer service will activate for free over the phone.
Buying a new phone through them starts at $69.99, but they occasionally run deals in-store. For example, if you bring your number from a different provider they’ll give you a free phone with no commitment or contract required. If you want an upgrade, they also have an option to lease a phone on an 18-month contract once you’ve been with the company for 2 months. This allows you to get a fancy new phone without paying up front. Otherwise, this is a prepaid service which means no contracts and no fees for changing or canceling.
Discounts for seniors
ALWAYS ASK. AARP members and veterans are offered discounts through numerous providers. There are also several companies that offer senior-specific plans. There can be a lot of fussy terms and conditions, especially around customer location, but these can be a great option when looking at the more mainstream providers who offer pristine service coverage at a cost normally prohibitive to some seniors. Business Insider has a great list of seniors-only plans as well. Remember, this information is always changing so it never hurts to ask if you qualify for a discount when enquiring with a new company.