There's no one perfect cell phone service option that fits everybody, and senior cell phone plans are no different.
Consider this: 78% of adults aged 65 and over are cell phone owners, according to the Pew Research Center. Many will be very light users, but it's also very significant that the same Center report that 30% of this age group own a smartphone and 67% go online regularly.
It's obvious from this that the needs and expectations of cellphone users vary widely among seniors.
The good news is that there is a whole group of cell phone carriers out there lined up to meet their needs with plans in all shapes, sizes and, budgets!
These flexible low-cost carriers are the best-kept secret in the cell phone industry. They are called MVNOs (Mobile Virtual Operator Networks) and they are perfect for seniors!
Big network coverage without the big prices - Most people are with one of the big four carriers - Verizon, AT&T, Sprint or T-Mobile. They provide excellent coverage, each through a nationwide network of towers which they own. The MVNOs buy network space in bulk from the big guys and sell it on to us at lower prices. How can they do it? Because their costs are much lower, they don't have massive overheads with stores, armies of staff or huge advertising budgets.
Customised plans - Only pay for what you use. This is key for seniors. The big four carriers' main offerings are based on unlimited everything - talk time, texts and data usage. It sounds attractive, but it comes with a big price tag! In fact, most seniors use much less data, usually between 500MB and 1GB. So why pay for a huge plan when you are a light user? Most savvy seniors know that using their smartphones on their home wi-fi signal for internet access reduces cellular data usage.
No contracts or credit checks - All low-cost carriers offer prepaid plans. If you're unhappy you can leave anytime you want. You won't have to go through a credit check or get roped into a two-year commitment.
Keep your phone and your number - You can keep your phone, too. MVNOs welcome - and often require - bringing your own device. Those payment plans for the newest smartphone are tempting but they add $10 - $30 to your monthly bill.
For the senior with a basic non-smartphone Twigby is the best choice. Just like Tello, you can build any sort of plan you want, and their dashboard allows you to choose your monthly minutes and data allowance.
They even offer no-data plans which can save you hundreds of dollars a year (and keep you on your trusted Sprint or Verizon network).
Tello, similar to US Mobile, allows you to truly customize your plan to meet your needs. Being able to choose how many minutes, texts, and data you need are sure to please your lifestyle and your wallet.
All of their plans are no contract and prepaid, so there's no commitment to Tello if you're unsatisfied with their service. As a low-cost MVNO carrier, you can expect no hidden fees, no activation fees, and no early termination fees, which is a breath of fresh air compared to the Big Four.
For the senior who doesn't use a cell phone often, we recommend Tello's $20 plan, which you can see below. It's perfect for those who talk and text sparingly and comes with enough data for light Internet usage.
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 with added safety nets for just this purpose.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
How do I switch to a senior cell phone plan with another carrier?
Switching to an MVNO is smart, quick and simple. You don't have to buy a new device, since you can bring your own phone to the new carrier and you can keep your old number. All you need to do is order a prepaid SIM card and once you have that, you can switch your phone service in as little as 2-3 minutes.
Do these senior cell phone plans have network coverage in my area?
All MVNO's are powered by at least one of the big 4's networks. In our comparison list of senior cell phone plan we display the network options available with each plan. For example, if the plan says 'powered by Verizon', it means the carrier operates on the Verizon network and you'll receive exactly the same nationwide 4G LTE coverage that you would if you bought a plan from Verizon directly.
Can I keep my phone number when I switch to a new senior cell phone plan?
Yes! It's easy to port your existing phone number to another carrier during the activation process.
Will a senior cell phone plan with any carrier work with my phone?
Yes! Most unlocked smartphones that have a SIM card slot will work with your new senior cell phone plan. If your phone is locked to a carrier you will need to contact your existing carrier to get it unlocked.
How do I check if my device is compatible with the senior cell phone plan I want?
You can check your devices compatibility on the carriers website before you signup for a new senior cell phone plan.
Is there a contract or credit check?
No. MVNO's work on a prepaid month-to-month basis, meaning there is no credit check or commitment, so you can switch to a new senior cell phone plan whenever you like.
How does billing work these senior cell phone plans?
All plans are prepaid with no contract. This means that you pay for 30 days when your plan starts, not afterwards. Most MVNO's allow AutoPay which ensures you'll automatically renew your plan every 30 days.
Can I share my senior cell phone plan across multiple devices?
No. Each senior cell phone plan is for one line and every device needs it's own line.
Do senior cell phone plans allow tethering?
Yes, most senior cell phone plan allow tethering but it will depend on the carrier and plan you select. Check the carrier site before signing up.
Do senior cell phone plans offer international calling?
Yes, most MVNO's include calls to international countries. Be sure to check the carriers website for more details before you sign up.
Do MVNO's have a refund policy?
Most MVNO's offer a refund within 7 days if you are not satisfied with the senior cell phone plan you selected. Check the carriers website for full details before you sign up.
Who should switch to a senior cell phone plan?
MVNO's are perfect for anyone that is looking to save money on a senior cell phone plan, without compromising on coverage, there's a customized plan suitable for everyone.
The Best Prices on the Best Networks
All low-cost carriers are powered by the major US networks
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