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Best Cell Phone Plans for Seniors 2019

Oct. 2, 2019
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 PayGo (via Ultra Mobile)
  • 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
  • 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

 

THINGS TO KNOW:

Technically, T-Mobile’s PayGo plan is now offered via Ultra Mobile. But it still runs on T-Mobile’s network and is only available at select T-Mobile store.

The plan works the same, despite the new branding. Incoming snd outgoing texts and calls count toward your 30-minute maximum, including calls to check your voicemail. Any usage beyond that is billed at 10 cents per minute or text. You’ll need to top up your account every 90 days to keep your account and phone number active.

T-Mobile is hoping to merge with Sprint, but the agreement still has several hurdles to clear. Until then, it’s business as usual for T-Mobile customers.

On AT&T’s pay-as-you-go plan, you pay the $2 charge only if you use your phone that day. Checking your voicemail from your cell phone counts as usage. Your account balance will expire if you don’t add money regularly. The expiration date can range from 30 days to one year, depending on the amount added to your account.

 

» 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.

  • Plan name: Ting Single Line
  • 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
  • Why we like it: You only pay for what you use, even if that usage changes each month

  • Plan name: US Mobile Custom Plan
  • Price: Base price is $2 per month, plus selected tier of minutes, data and/or texts messages
  • At a glance: Usage is divided into levels, and you select the number of minutes, texts and data you want
  • Why we like it: Only want text messages? You can do that with US Mobile. You can also change your plan each month.

 

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.
US Mobile is a prepaid carrier, so you pay for your plan at the start of the month. You can build your own plan, selecting the amount of minutes, texts and data you want from the available tiers, which are set by the carrier. Tiers start at $2.50 for 40 minutes, $1.50 for 40 texts and $2 for 100MB of data. You can change your plan from month to month. 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
  • Plan name: T-Mobile Essentials Unlimited 55
  • Price (monthly): Two lines for $65 per month; $55 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.

 

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. Boost is owned by Sprint and uses its network. Sprint struck a deal to merge with T-Mobile that includes selling its prepaid service (including Boost Mobile and Virgin Mobile) to Dish Network, but the agreement still has several hurdles to clear before it is effective. Until then, it’s business as usual for Boost Mobile customers.
T-Mobile’s Essentials Unlimited 55 plan includes unlimited mobile hot spot data, but at 3G speeds, which is slightly slower than the 4G data speed you get on your smartphone. International features include unlimited texting while outside of the United States, plus talk, text and 2G data (read: slow) in Mexico and Canada. Unlike other T-Mobile plans, taxes and fees are not included in the price. T-Mobile is hoping to merge with Sprint, but the agreement still has several hurdles to clear. Until then, it’s business as usual for T-Mobile customers.

 

» 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: 250 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

 

THINGS TO KNOW:

Text messaging packages are available as an add-on and start at $3 for 500 texts. Data packages are available, too, but only if you have the Jitterbug Smart phone. You can buy a GreatCall phone or plan via the carrier’s website, over the phone, or 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.

 

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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
T-Mobile PayGo (via Ultra Mobile)People who want a pay-as-you-go plan$3 a month
TingPeople who want a flexible planBase price is $6 per month; minutes, texts and data billed separately
US MobilePeople who want a flexible planBase price is $4 per month; minutes, texts and data billed separately
Boost Mobile UnlimitedPeople who are mobile-savvy$50 a month
T-Mobile Essentials Unlimited 55People who are mobile-savvyTwo lines for $65 per month; $55 with autopay
GreatCallPeople who want an easy-to-use emergency phone$14.99 a month

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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