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.
Compare Now: Cheap senior cell phone plans starting at $10
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!
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Why Low-cost Carriers are Ideal 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.
What are the Best Cell Phone Plans for Seniors?
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).
TextNow's plans will give you the most bang for your buck. They offer data plans ranging from WiFi only to unlimited data all for about half the price of the big guys. And, they even have a free plan option that includes a phone number, talk, text, and voicemail. The catch? It has ads.
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.
Read More: Take a look at the buyer's guide to cheap smartphones for seniors for low-cost mobile phones suited for seniors.
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.
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.
Read More: Check out our guide on how to get free cell phone service.
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.
Compare Now: Cheap senior cell phone plans starting at $10
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.