The vast majority of Americans, from tweens to seniors, have cell phones today. As a result, many people find it nearly impossible to navigate the challenges of modern life without a cell phone in their pocket. After all, these days, our cell phone keeps us connected to friends and family in real-time, especially with the power of the Internet. Yet, these cell phones and the connectivity they provide users with are not cheap, and these costs can put a crimp in many people’s regular budgets. So what are the best cell phone plans for seniors?
There are two factors that can make cell phones cost-prohibitive. First is the device’s purchase price, particularly if you are interested in a smartphone with all of the latest technological bells and whistles. The good news is that the market is currently flooded with cell phone options at every price point. It just takes careful shopping. The second factor driving up costs is the monthly cell phone usage or service plan.
See Also: 4 Best Smartphones for Seniors
These monthly cell phone plans can be staggeringly expensive, depending on how many lines you are connecting and the services that you are looking for on these lines. More services generally translate into a higher price. Another factor driving monthly bills is often the price of your device(s) (this happens because very few people buy their device upfront. Instead, the purchase price gets rolled into these monthly payments).
Below, we talk about some of the best cell phone plans that exist on the market, especially for older adults.
The first thing to know is that there are a plethora of plans available on the market at all price points. The vast majority of these plans are offered by the three largest cell phone providers on the domestic U.S. market: AT & T, Verizon, and T-Mobile (which has recently completed its successful merger with Sprint). They have cornered most of the domestic cell phone market, leaving other, smaller providers, such as Consumer Cellular, TracFone, and Jitterbug, to compete for a small sliver of the market. Most estimates seem to suggest that the Big Three controls upwards of 99 percent of all subscribers. This gives these companies the power to set pricing plans largely unchecked by market forces.
This is not the only thing that differentiates cell phone plans. Plans can be divided into two broad categories — contract plans and pay-as-you-go plans. The largest cell phone providers offer both options to their customers.
Under a contract plan, customers sign a contract with the cell phone provider that they have selected to receive cell phone services from the provider for a period of time (generally two years) at a fixed monthly price. The two main advantages of this contract approach is that it generally allows you to avoid paying for your device cost upfront. Instead, the purchase price merely gets rolled into your contract total, and you pay this cost every month as part of your monthly bill). This may be especially important if you are looking at a top-of-the-line device with a top-of-the-line sticker price. And, the second benefit of this contract plan is that it generally comes with unlimited talk/text/data. This may be essential for people who use their phones heavily.
Pay-as-you-go plans take a different approach. People who choose this option are not locked into a contract. Instead, they pay a fixed fee at the beginning of a month and can cancel at the start of the next month. This offers significant flexibility. These plans also tend to be lower priced. However, the downside is that they often tend to offer only a small number of minutes or limited data. And, prices can start skyrocketing if you go above this.
Now that we know a little more about the type of cell phone plans offered by providers, let us turn our attention to looking at plans that may be specifically geared towards older adults, a growing segment of cell phone users.
Perhaps surprisingly, given that experts recognize that older adults represent a booming share of the cell phone market, the Big Three cell phone providers have been slow to offer plan that are specifically geared towards older adults…But, of these large providers, T-Mobile has undoubtedly been at the forefront of reaching out to this frequently overlooked group.
T-Mobile recognizes that older adults rely on their cell phones in myriad ways each day. But, they also understand that these customers may be very price sensitive since many of them live on a fixed income. Because of this, T-Mobile has attempted to make these plans very price attractive.
T-Mobile has designed three very specific plans: The Essentials 55+, the Magenta 55+, and the Magenta Max 55+.
The Essentials 55+ costs $55 per month for two phone lines, provided that the account holder is over the age of 55. To appeal to the broadest range of potential users, it offers unlimited talk, text, and data. And, in areas where 5G is available, the user can connect to 5G services.
The Magenta 55+ checks in at slightly more per month, running $70 per month, again for two lines. The Magenta plan offers a few perks over the essentials, including that it offers unlimited data and texting if you are traveling abroad. It also gives you more capabilities to build out your own mobile hotspot. This may be particularly important for people who are frequently traveling and may not have easy Internet access, as well as for those living in more rural areas.
Finally, the Magenta Max 55+ costs $90 per month for two lines. This may be a great choice if you are working from home and heavily rely on data connections. You will always have access to the highest speed Internet connections, no matter how much data you have already used for the month. This may also be a great option for frequent flyers since it gives you unlimited WiFi while you are flying.
As an added perk, the two Magenta plans also give users free Netflix access. Increasingly, people are discovering that with Netflix, as well as with other streaming platforms, that they may be more willing to forego expensive monthly cable service. It is an economical choice given the ever-increasing costs associated with cable phone bills.
What is the but here? For many people, one of the T-Mobile plans highlighted above for the 55+ crowd may be perfect for them — allowing them to maintain connectivity at an attractive price point. But, it may not be the right answer for everyone.
The T-Mobile plans are most likely to appeal to someone who regularly uses their cell phones, not only to talk and text but also to browse the Internet. But, not all older adults use their cell phones like this. Some of them may only use their phones in the case of a car accident or medical emergency. And, many of these older adults frown at the smartphone concept. They do not want technology that has all the bells and whistles.
For this group, there is a wide range of plans at various price points that allow people to stay connected in the face of an emergency.
Although AT&T does not advertise its senior-dedicated calling plan options as widely as T-Mobile, it does not mean that the Company is not interested in tapping into this growing customer demographic.
The AT&T plan is most commonly known as the Senior Nation plan. This plan is reasonably priced at only $29.99 per user per month. And, for people who are not heavily reliant on their cell phones, it may be an appealing alternative. A frequent cell phone user may struggle to remain within their 200 free anytime minutes per cycle offer. As we all know, exceeding monthly minutes is likely to be a costly mistake for a cell phone user.
Perhaps the biggest downside of this plan is that there are strict limits on what phones or devices can take advantage of this plan. Unfortunately, it is not a choice for anyone with a smart phone or table.
Perhaps not surprisingly, Verizon has also looked for ways to tap into this appealing demographic and hopefully establish long-term brand loyalty with older Americans. Verizon offers the 55-plus unlimited plan. The most popular version of this plan provides a consumer with 2 lines for only $80 per month. This plan may be a great option for people who heavily rely on their cell phones, since it offers unlimited talk, text, and data.
The downside of this plan is that it is not available in all areas of the country. Therefore, it is important to talk to your Verizon representative and see which discounts, if any, you may qualify for.
One of the best and most affordable plans that exists on the market is for the Lively phones, which are available in either a smartphone or flip phone option.
These phones that are produced, marketed, and sold by Jitterbug represent a way to stay connected without breaking the bank. Lively offers a plan that provides you with unlimited talk and text for less than $20 per month.
But, Lively also has other more sophisticated and pricier options that its users can elect to sign onto. For example, every Lively product has what the Company refers to as a Lively Urgent Response button. When you press this button on your phone, Company headquarters is alerted to the fact that you are struggling, and you are able to speak directly with a well-trained Lively Response team member. This person is trained to assess what your needs are and then get you to help quickly, safely, and discreetly.
This additional service comes with an extra monthly processing or safety fee. But, the cost may be well worth it if it brings comfort and peace of mind to both an elderly individual and members of his/her family. These Lively plans are called the Lively Health & Safety Plan and they start as reasonably as $19.99 per month. But, if you want additional options, such as the Lively Link, that connects you to doctors and nurses from the comfort of your own home, you will be paying more. This add-on package costs either $24.99 or $34.99 per month.
Many seniors are extremely cost-conscious and do not want to overpay for a cell phone that they may only rarely use. These seniors may find it logical to check out a wide range of companies that offer low-cost cell phone plans to all consumers, regardless of their age.
Some of these low cost options are better than others, in terms of the services that they provide at a particular price point. But, as price goes up, some of the services that you receive may improve, and you may also get a better customer service experience if you ever run into any challenges.
One of these low-cost options is Tello. Tello’s biggest marketing point is that it only costs $10 per month for their Economy plan, but the first 6 months are just $7.50/month. Plus, because it uses T-Mobile’s infrastructure, the coverage for this carrier is generally good and you do not run a risk of constantly dropping important calls. You’ll also be glad to know that there are no contract, activation, or early termination fees because they provide a pre-paid service. An added perk, especially for people on the go during the summer months, is that Tello allows you to have a free mobile hotspot. With this hotspot, you will always be able to be in touch with your workplace, for example.
And, Tello also boasts unparalleled flexibility. It allows its users to build cell phone plans based on their own needs, in terms of data usage and talk minutes.
Another very economical choice is RedPocket. RedPocket has more flexibility than most of these small providers. You can choose which of the major network’s infrastructure that you want to tap into. This likely means that your voice calls and Internet browsing can happen without any hiccups. Red Pocket recognizes that increasingly people are using their phones to access the Internet, both for personal needs and for professional reasons. Because of this, Red Pocket has four different monthly plans priced at $20, $30, $40, and $50 per month. The more expensive plans give users more high speed data. At $40 per month, you get 22 GB of high speed data, and this jumps to 50 GB of high speed data at the $50 price point. On the other hand, the $20 option for 3 GB or the $30 choice for 10 GB may be okay options for less regular Internet users.
Even though Consumer Cellular’s plan that includes data currently checks in at $20 per month, it is still an attractive choice for many cost savvy older adults. And, the 5 percent discount offered to AARP members makes it even more appealing from a price perspective.
There are a variety of Consumer Cellular plan options for consumers to choose between. The two most reasonable options are talk only. These plans do not allow texting and they have no data package. This means that they are likely only appealing to a small group of users. For $15 per month per line you receive 250 minutes of talk time per month. For just a little bit more, $17.50 per month per line, you have unlimited talk.
Recognizing that most people use their cell phones for more than just talking, Consumer Cellular also offers plans that include texting and data options. These plans also include 250 minutes of talk time per month per line. They vary on how much data and texting capabilities they offer. The $17.50 plan offers only 500 MB of shared data each month, for only $2.50 more, it bounces up to 3 GB. For $25 per month, a user will get 10 GB of data. And, for $30 per month, the same user would get 15 GB of data. At the highest price point of $35 per month, a user will get unlimited data. For some people, this may be a huge selling point.
Cell phone plans and contracts are a mysterious black box for many Americans, even for highly educated ones. In the article above, we provided some of the basic ins and outs of cell phone plans to the reader. Hopefully, this information, coupled with other publicly available information, will make all of us more informed.