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.
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.
THINGS TO KNOW:
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.
» 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: 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:
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: 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:
» 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.
THINGS TO KNOW:
Best cell phone plans for seniors: summary
|Carrier||Plan||Best for||Cost||Get started|
|AT&T GoPhone Daily||People 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|
|Ting||People who want a flexible plan||Base price is $6 per month; minutes, texts and data billed separately|
|US Mobile||People who want a flexible plan||Base price is $4 per month; minutes, texts and data billed separately|
|Boost Mobile Unlimited||People who are mobile-savvy||$50 a month|
|T-Mobile Essentials Unlimited 55||People who are mobile-savvy||Two lines for $65 per month; $55 with autopay|
|GreatCall||People who want an easy-to-use emergency phone||$14.99 a month|
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.