Unlimited high-speed data, video streaming and mobile hot spot are now standard for most cell phone plans. But that doesn’t offer the best deal for senior citizens who don’t need — or want to pay for — all the extras.
There are cell phone plans designed with seniors in mind, though. They’re typically prepaid and include fewer minutes and frills than standard plans. This can 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:
- T-Mobile: 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: The company 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.
How Others Compare:
|Talk plan: $15 per month for 250 minutes, no texts or data included|
|$15 per month for unlimited minutes and texts|
|$9.99 per month for 30 minutes/texts|
» 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.
Things to know:
- Ting: 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: 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.
How others compare
$15 for 250 minutes, no texts
$14.99 per month for 200 minutes, $3 for 300 texts
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. But you may want to re-evaluate to ensure you’re not overpaying for a bloated plan. These options give you enough data to stay connected without charging a lot of fees.
THINGS TO KNOW:
- Cricket: Cricket is owned by AT&T and uses its network. New customers might pay a $25 in-store activation fee. Cricket allows customers to bring their own phone, if it’s compatible.
- Boost: Video streaming is limited to standard definition. You can upgrade to HD streaming for $10 per month. The plan includes 8GB 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.
WHAT OTHER CARRIERS OFFER:
|Unlimited for $50.|
|Unlimited for $50.|
|Prepaid: $50 for 7GB and unlimited talk and text.|
» 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:
- GreatCall: You have two phone options: the Jitterbug Flip ($99.99) and the Jitterbug Smart ($149.99). 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
|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 Pay As You Go||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|
|Cricket Wireless Basic 5GB||People who are mobile-savvy||$40; $35 with autopay discount|
|Boost Mobile Unlimited||People who are mobile-savvy||$50 a month|
|GreatCall WeTalk 200||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.