There's no one perfect cell phone service option that fits everybody, and senior cell phone plans are no different.
Whether you're in your golden years or have a loved one who is, no doubt you've found your way here because you're trying to figure out exactly which device and plan will work best for the mature person's specific needs. Consider this: 78% of adults ages 65 and over are cell phone owners, so it's a decision we're all bound to face!
Don't worry - there are plenty of senior mobile options ranging from ultra-basic to the most advanced. Maybe you want the latest smartphone, or just a pay-as-you-go phone with a simple call plan so you can get help quickly in emergencies.
The bottom line is that the best cell phone plans for seniors come in all shapes, sizes, and budgets. In the following guide, I'll outline the range of available options and where to get them.
What Are the Best Cell Phone Plans for Seniors? - In This Guide
Key Considerations When Choosing a Senior Phone Plan
Now: let's get down to the basics - what factors are most important when choosing a mobile phone plan for an older individual?
According to the NCOA (National Council on Aging), a third of senior households have no expendable income left at the end of the month, or are even further in debt. For many senior citizens, finding the cheapest cell phone plan is crucial. Later in this guide, I will detail various low-cost cell phone plans for seniors, and even how you may be able to get a free phone.
One of the main concerns of many older Americans and their families is that they need access to help if something should happen, such as a fall. On the other hand, some seniors use their cell phones to keep up with news and email. The level of service you need will depend on the range of tasks you perform with your phone.
Even the best senior phone plans aren't helpful if you or your loved one doesn't have the right device. Features to look for include a bright, easy to read display, a voice command option, a senior-friendly keyboard, and emergency number presets. You may also want to consider a phone with a one-touch SOS button so that it's even easier and faster to call for assistance.
One of the easiest ways to keep mobile service costs under control is with a prepaid, or pay-as-you-go, cell phone plan.
A mobile phone is a personalized choice at any age. Use these tips as a guideline to choose the right one for you or your family member.
Pay-as-You-Go Phone Plans
One of the easiest ways to keep mobile service costs under control is with prepay phone service or a pay-as-you-go phone plan. This option is ideal for the low-use elderly person who simply needs a way to communicate with family and friends as well as call for help in an emergency. The major carriers offer solid pay-as-you-go options that are ideal for older adults.
When it comes to the cheapest pay-as-you-go phone plans for seniors, T-Mobile is at the top of the list. For $3 per month, you get 30 minutes to use as you please, in the form of talk or text messages. This is a great way to avoid overage charges. You can bring your own device, or choose from a selection of phones starting at $40.
If you end up needing more minutes than you planned, no problem. Buy additional texts or talk minutes for .10 each. If you're a smartphone user, you can prepay phone data as well. The only downside is that if you want a flip phone, as many seniors do, you'll need to purchase that somewhere else as T-Mobile does not offer them.
If you use your phone to talk for longer periods of time, AT&T's GoPhone Daily plans are a great choice for you. You pay $2 a day, but only on the days you use your phone. On days that you use your device you'll enjoy unlimited talk time as well as text, picture, and video messages. Not only do you get unlimited text messages within the U.S. but to over 100 countries worldwide as well.
As far as devices, you can use your own compatible device by purchasing a SIM card for about $5. Or you can buy a phone from AT&T, starting under $20. There is a flip phone option for those who prefer not to use a touchscreen, and there are no activation fees. If you want internet access on your phone you can purchase data separately for $1 per 100 MB.
Read More: Prepaid Cell Phone Plans are great for seniors and budgeters.
Republic Wireless, which sports some incredibly affordable plans, operates on a unique concept called Adaptive Coverage™. What it means is that your service switches between WiFi and cellular depending upon whether WiFi is available.
Due to this technology, Republic Wireless is able to offer some of the cheapest cell phone plans for seniors on the market. Rates start at $15 per month for unlimited talk and text, plus data while on WiFi, and go up to $60 with 6 GB of cell data included. You can bring your own compatible phone, or buy one from Republic starting at about $180.
Cricket Wireless offers an affordable prepaid plan at $30 for unlimited talk, text, and data, including 1 GB of high-speed access. You can bring your own device, or buy one starting at $30 for a basic flip phone.
Boost Mobile also has a great deal on its prepaid services. For $35 a month Boost Mobile gives you unlimited everything, including 2 GB of high-speed data. This service provider also carries a flip phone, with device prices starting at $20 (or bring your own).
Consumer Cellular offers no-contract plans with monthly fees ranging between $10 (pay-as-you-go phone plan) and $30 (unlimited call plan). It gets even better: not only does Consumer Cellular have great rates, this wireless service provider also has the Doro PhoneEasy 626. This senior-friendly flip phone features large buttons, including an emergency call button. The Doro PhoneEasy is easy on your budget too, at just $50.
Pro Tip: If you're an AARP member, Consumer Cellular has even more to offer you. AARP members get a five percent discount on their monthly wireless plan, plus other special offers.
If you (or your elderly relative) live alone and are concerned about having a quick and easy way to call for help in the event of an emergency, there are phone plans for seniors which have added safety nets for just this purpose.
As the creator of the Jitterbug phone for senior citizens, GreatCall offers not only affordable cell phone plans for seniors but also the added peace of mind of emergency services access.
As the creator of the Jitterbug cell phone for senior citizens, GreatCall offers not only affordable cell phone plans for seniors but also the added peace of mind of emergency services access. The way GreatCall works is simple. There are two phones available directly from GreatCall, both of which are available with a range of no-contract plan options to fit your needs and budget.
- Jitterbug Flip: This is the basic Jitterbug cell phone with a bright, easy to read display, flashlight and reading magnifier, camera, large buttons, and 5Star button for accessing help quickly. The phone retails for about $100 plus activation fee. Plans range from $15/month for 200 minutes to $50 for unlimited talk and text.
- Jitterbug Smart: The Jitterbug smartphone option comes with a bright 5.5" HD display, front and rear cameras, voice typing capability, and the 5Star emergency app. It retails for $150 plus activation fee. Monthly plans cost between $15 for 200 minutes and $50 for unlimited talk and text plus 100 MB data. You can also purchase additional data separately.
GreatCall offers optional health and safety packages for monthly fees between $20 and $35. Choose from features like 24/7 access to medical professionals, daily health tips, medication reminders, and even a personal operator for help with daily tasks. It gets better: if you choose a health and safety package you get a discount on your cellular service as well.
There are other devices available through retailers like Amazon, like the Jitterbug J cell phone. The Jitterbug J cell phone is another basic flip model ideal for the elderly person who just wants a basic device.
Read More: We have a more in-depth analysis of GreatCall Wireless' services here.
This company provides wireless plans encompassing choices from basic affordable phone service to a comprehensive health package. Prices start at just $5 per month for 50 minutes of any combo of talk, text, and data, up to $39 per month for unlimited everything.
The feature that makes this one of the best senior cell phone plans is the option to add a health package. The Seniors Wireless wellness plan includes virtual doctor visits with board-certified physicians who can assess, refer, and even prescribe medication in the event of a health problem. You'll pay $30/month for unlimited access for a single person, $40 per couple, or $48 for access plus unlimited follow-up.
The SpareOne phone is a truly standout product in terms of cell phone plans for senior citizens. It's an emergency phone that operates on standard AA batteries. This means that if the power goes out, you or your loved one still has access to emergency services, or the ability to simply call to let someone know you're okay.
The SpareOne has no display, and the phone features a button that will call 911. In addition, if you call someone for help, they can log onto the internet and get your exact location. The phone is available for purchase separately or from providers like AT&T which sells the SpareOne for just $9.99. In order to make calls other than 911, you'll need a plan hooked up to your phone.
Plans for the Tech Savvy Senior
Not all senior citizens are interested in just a basic phone. According to the Pew Research Center, 30% of adults age 65 and over, use a smartphone. A higher tech option gives seniors access to emergency help as well as a way to keep up with news and more without the expense of cable TV.
If you or your elderly relative are more about technology than the average senior, there are some affordable options for you as well.
With this option, you pay $30 per month for 100 minutes of talk, unlimited text messages, and 5 GB of high-speed data. No more pesky overage charges you might incur on a contract plan. You can bring your own compatible device or purchase a phone at retail. You can get the basic monthly plan on T-Mobile's website or at Walmart stores.
Virgin Mobile's new Data Love plan is one of the best options for senior cell phone plans for the tech-savvy older adult. For $35 per month, you get unlimited talk, text, and music streaming, plus 5 GB of high-speed data and unlimited data at slower speeds. Even on contract plans, unlimited data plans are hard to come by at this price point, making Virgin Mobile a great choice for the budget-conscious senior.
Low-Income Phone Plans
The best cell phone plan for seniors who are living on a low income is the Lifeline Assistance program offered by the federal government. This program was started in the 1980s to provide landline service to more vulnerable citizens, and now it's been extended to include cell phone service as well.
Participation in the following programs automatically qualifies you for a free basic cell phone and 500 minutes of service through the Lifeline Assistance program:
- SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program)
- SSI (Supplemental Security Income)
- LIHEAP (Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program)
- Veterans Pension and Survivors Benefits Programs
The Lifeline program offers free phones through two companies, SafeLink Wireless, Assurance Wireless. The SafeLink program provides TracFone service, while Assurance runs on Virgin Mobile. To find out more, you can call SafeLink Wireless customer service at 1-800-SafeLink. The toll-free number for Assurance Wireless customer service is 1-888-321-5880.
There are other state criteria which may qualify you for the Lifeline program. Check with your local Department of Health and Human Services to find out if you're eligible.
Read More: We have a guide that shows you how you can obtain free cellular service.
Senior Cell Phone Plans Recap
There's no reason for older adults to be left behind as technology marches on. Whether you're looking for cheap cell phone plans with no frills or a full-service high-speed data package, there's plenty to choose from. Most importantly, there are useful features that allow you to call for help quickly, just in case.
If you prefer to keep costs down by putting everyone on the same account, don't forget to check out the best family cell phone plans as well. It's yet another great way to save money on senior cell phone plans. While the budget is an important aspect of finding the right plan, peace of mind is even more vital. All of the providers I've included in this guide operate on the four major carriers' reliable nationwide networks so that you can be sure you'll have service right when you need it.