Best Cell Phone Plans for Seniors

The Best Cell Phone Plans for Seniors: AT&T vs. Verizon vs. T-Mobile

Calling All Seniors

  • AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, and T-Mobile all offer deals on cell phone plans for seniors, and some smaller carriers provide special services and more ways to save.
  • T-Mobile's three senior cell phone plans offer the biggest savings among the big four carriers, with prices starting as low as $40 per month for a single line.
  • Consumer Cellular is best in class for senior-friendly customer service, customizable plans, and low prices, including 5% off for AARP members.

Unlimited Talk, Text & Data Plans Cell Phone Plans for Seniors

Listed prices are the lowest available with a monthly/30-day plan, may require autopay enrollment, and do not include taxes and fees unless otherwise indicated. Savings are based on the closest comparable plan offered to the general public. Prices and availability are subject to change.

Key Details
AT&T Unlimited 55+$60 for 1 line
$80 for 2 lines

- FL residents only.
Unlimited Elite (AARP discount)
$75 for 1 line
$130 for 2 lines

- HD streaming & HBO.
Essentials Unlimited 55
$40 for 1 line
$55 for 2 lines
Magenta Unlimited 55
$50 for 1 line
$70 for 2 lines

- Taxes & fees incl.
- Gogo in-flight access.
Magenta Plus Unlimited 55
$90 for 2 lines

- 2 lines req'd.
- Taxes & fees incl.
- HD streaming & Netflix.
Sprint Unlimited 55+$50 for 1 line
$70 for 2 lines
Verizon 55+ Unlimited$60 for 1 line
$80 for 2 lines

- FL residents only.

Limited Talk, Text & Data Plans for Seniors

Key Details
AT&T Senior Nation$29.99

- Must be 65+.
- Basic phones only (restricted talk time).
Consumer Cellular$15 for 250 mins. & up

- 5% off with AARP.
- Customize talk, text & data.
GreatCall Wireless$14.99 for 250
mins. & up

- Customize talk, text & data.

What Is the Cheapest Cell Phone Plan for Seniors?

Among the many discounts offered to "seniors," there are significant savings to be had on monthly cell phone bills. Every major carrier — AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, and T-Mobile — offers special deals for older subscribers, and some are better than others. Providers like Consumer Cellular and GreatCall are also worth a look for their senior-friendly phone selections and customizable plans (not everyone needs unlimited everything). 

The best plan for you may not be the least expensive cell phone plan for seniors overall, but it may offer the biggest savings on the minutes, texts, data, and extra services you need. It's worth noting, also, that discounted service for seniors may not include a few of the perks offered with standard plans — like free Netflix, Hulu, or music streaming, for example.

The Best Unlimited Cell Phone Data Plans for Seniors
For smartphone users with heavy data requirements, T-Mobile offers the most unlimited plan options for seniors. There are three in all, and the prices are the lowest among the big-name providers. T-Mobile's cheapest senior cell phone plan starts at just $40 per month (with autopay) and is open to consumers 55 and older, with no special eligibility restrictions. Seniors shopping for a discounted unlimited plan from Verizon Wireless or AT&T (each offers just one) can expect to pay about $20 more per month for a single line. And there's a pretty big catch: Both of these providers offer unlimited senior cell phone plans only to Florida residents. Seniors outside of the Sunshine State need not apply, and current customers who decide to move to colder climes will have to switch plans once their billing address crosses state lines. 

To its credit, AT&T also offers an AARP discount on "eligible plans," but that applies only to top-of-the-line AT&T Unlimited Elite service. To be sure, this plan has a lot to offer — unlimited talk, text, and data (100GB at top speed), 30GB of mobile hotspot data, and HBO thrown into the mix — but at $85 per month for a single line and $150 for two, the $10-per-line discount that AARP membership would afford seems like, well, not a lot. And it takes a remarkable amount of fine-print reading and complicated calculation to even begin to understand how the company arrived at the advertised price it tells subscribers they should expect to pay once all discounts have finally kicked in, which may take as long as two months.

As for Sprint, at $50 per month for the first line, its Unlimited 55+ senior phone plan does offer savings of more than 15% (and 30% for two lines). Like T-Mobile, Sprint extends its discounted service to consumers beyond Florida's borders. It's also a particularly good deal for seniors planning international travel, with free basic roaming in more than 200 destinations. But, with a merger between Sprint and T-Mobile officially in the works, there's no telling how long that plan will last. Our advice: Cut out the middleman and go straight to T-Mobile. For the same price as the Sprint Unlimited 55+ plan, you can sign up for T-Mobile's Magenta Unlimited 55 service, which offers better perks, and, ultimately, lower cell phone bills — taxes and fees are included with Magenta plans.

The Best Cell Phone Plans for Seniors Who Don't Need a Lot of Data
While AT&T, Verizon Wireless, Sprint, and T-Mobile tend to focus their senior discounts on cell phone plans with unlimited everything, if you don't need all the bells and whistles, you can get a cell phone plan without data included at all. AT&T offers one cheap senior plan designed with basic phone users in mind. The company's Senior Nation plan is custom-made for non-smartphone adopters over 65 who don't require any data and need only limited talk time. At just $29.99 per month, it's the cheapest senior cell phone plan available from any of the big four providers. But it's still not the best basic phone plan from a major carrier: For a penny more, Verizon's 500MB Basic Phone Plan provides unlimited talk and unlimited texts, with a bit of data thrown in on the side for downloading ringtones and the like. That plan is available to anyone of any age (with good enough credit, of course). 

Seniors who sign up for Consumer Cellular service don't get any special savings unless they're AARP members, but the brand's low-cost, senior-friendly plans are very affordable even without discounts. An unlimited talk and text plan — hold the data — costs as little as $20 per month (just $19 with a 5% AARP credit). That's as much as 37% cheaper than AT&T's "cut-rate" Senior Nation plan and Verizon's "even-better" basic phone plan, and you never have to think twice about exceeding your talk time. 

For subscribers who want to make sure they aren't paying for any more than they need, Consumer Cellular has a 250-minute option for just $15 per month. Upgrading to a Connect plan provides unlimited text messages and a choice of data package starting at $5 a month for 500MB, with incremental increases up to 25GB for $40 per month. (Customers who exceed the threshold are automatically bumped up to the next price level for that month.) And did we mention that the company's AARP discounts are good for any plan? It's understandable why Consumer Cellular's straightforward, hassle-free, customer-centric approach has made it a favorite with consumers both young and old: The carrier ranked highest in the American Customer Satisfaction Index's 2018-2019 report on wireless phone service providers.

Special Senior Service Plans
GreatCall is singled out for praise by users and reviewers for its medical alert services, accessed via select cell phones and wearables, to assist with elder care. But its reasonably priced wireless service plans in and of themselves should appeal to frugal seniors. Unlimited talk, text, and data plans are available for $59.99, which is in line with unlimited senior plan prices at AT&T and Verizon Wireless, and GreatCall offers discounted rates with its "Health & Safety Packages." Like Consumer Cellular, the company also allows users to customize plans to suit their individual usage (which means international service and other perks cost extra). 

If you opt to take advantage of GreatCall's health and safety services, the price for an unlimited talk, text, and data plan drops to $40. The 33% savings is just enough to offset the cost of a Basic Health & Safety Package ($19.99), which includes 24/7 access to 5Star urgent response agents should you or an aged family member require immediate medical assistance. Preferred ($24.99) and Ultimate ($34.99) packages add the option of phone consultations and prescription refills from medical professionals as well as connection to GreatLink app services, which allow family members to receive medical alerts, monitor appointment schedules and activities, and track subscribers' locations, among other useful amenities.

Other Ways to Save on Cell Phone Bills
Seniors who are really trying to keep monthly payments to a bare minimum might want to consider switching to a prepaid cell phone plan. Our research revealed that prepaid plans — which are available even from the major carriers — can reduce bills significantly, with monthly costs sometimes coming in 30% (or more) cheaper than standard postpaid plans. For example, a no-contract unlimited plan from AT&T Prepaid can be had for as little as $45 a month with autopay enrollment. That's $20 less than the cheapest traditional plan AT&T offers, and $15 (or 25%) less than AT&T's Unlimited 55+ plan with a single line. And there's no minimum age — or Florida residency — required.

Consumers willing to branch out beyond the big names will find even greater savings with smaller prepaid providers. Unlimited talk and data plans can be had for as little as $40 per month from companies such as US Mobile and Visible. For customers who don't require any data at all, unlimited talk and text service starts as low as $10 a month. With US Mobile, build-your-own plans start at a rock-bottom price of $2 for 75 minutes of talk. 

If you're shopping specifically for an aging relative, adding them to a family plan can be a particularly economical way to provide cell phone service at a low cost. While all the dedicated senior cell phone plans we compared allow a maximum of two lines, most carriers offer deals on multi-line family plans, which provide ever deeper discounts the more family members are brought into the fold. For example, Sprint has offered a deal on its Unlimited Basic plan where subscribers adding five lines of service pay just $100 per month (with autopay). 

Finally, people who are on a low fixed income, qualify for Medicaid, or participate in the Veterans Pension and Survivors Benefit program (among other federal assistance programs) may be able to sign up for government-subsidized cell phone plans. Check the Federal Communications Commission-supported Lifeline website to see eligibility requirements and further details. Some Lifeline service companies provide free phones for seniors who qualify as well as free cell phone service.

What to Consider When Choosing a Cell Phone Plan 

Aside from simple dollars and cents, there are other factors, like coverage areas, customer service, extra features, and convenience, to take into account when deciding what senior cell phone plan is best for you. We've answered a few of the frequently asked questions about senior cell phone plans below.

Which cell phone company has the best coverage? 

For seniors, in particular, being able to count on staying connected with loved ones, especially should an emergency arise, is often paramount. It may be worth paying more for what experts agree is Verizon's best-in-class, nationwide coverage, although it depends on your particular area. About 70% of the country has 4G coverage from Verizon. Perhaps not surprisingly, GreatCall, which touts health and medical-alert services to seniors along with its cell phone plans, uses Verizon's network. 

AT&T and T-Mobile have extended their 4G service to nearly 60% of the contiguous United States, and AT&T's 3G network is said to cover 70% of the country. Consumer Cellular uses both the AT&T and T-Mobile networks.

How much data do you need? 

Some seniors will never give up their flip phones and insist they want nothing to do with data. Still, a smartphone can help seniors keep in touch with grandkids and loved ones through video chat, share pictures, use GPS when out and about, manage smart-home services like alarm systems and door locks, and access beneficial health-monitoring and brain-boosting apps. 

To unlock all the options that the latest phones have to offer when you can't connect to Wi-Fi, you need cellular data. It's generally estimated that about 2GB of data should satisfy smartphone owners who fall toward the lower end of the usage spectrum. If you're not planning to upload a lot of videos, stream music all day, or post a constant stream of photos on Facebook, 2GB of data will probably do. Of course, if you opt for an unlimited data plan, the sky's the limit — heck, you can "attend" a grandkid's birthday party across the country via FaceTime while relaxing on a beach near home.

Can you buy a phone without a plan? 

The short answer is yes. If you're interested in shopping around for the very best prices on cell phones, or there's a specific make and model of senior-friendly cell phone that particularly suits your fancy, most carriers will allow you to bring your own device (BYOD) with you when you sign on for a service plan. Some will even reward you for arriving already fully equipped: An online deal from Verizon, for example, offers $250 and waived activation fees for new users who bring their smartphones over to the service. The exception to the BYOD rule is GreatCall, which requires users to purchase one of two Jitterbug phones specially outfitted to work with the company's emergency services. 

That said, it always pays to check which phones your preferred service provider might have on sale. Phones are often sold for a song to customers activating new lines of service; some even come free of charge.

What if you need help setting up your phone? 

A few of the senior plans we looked at require in-store signups, which does somewhat increase the hassle factor and may make arranging cell phone service for a senior parent a bit more difficult (we'd recommend doing a quick search of stores in the area before choosing a carrier that may have limited locations nearby). At the same time, this allows seniors the opportunity to ask any questions that they have about device setup in person. 

A point in AT&T's favor is that the carrier provides Ready to Go service for select devices purchased online: The company will send an expert to your home to activate the phone for you and set it up exactly as you'd like it. This same-day service is free of charge. 

Consumer Cellular subscribers will find a variety of helpful videos and manuals on the company's website that walk cell phone users through many of the basics, from setting up voicemail to storing contacts. If any technical difficulties should arise that Consumer Cellular's representatives can't solve over the phone, customers can take advantage of in-store technical assistance at Target retail locations where Consumer Cellular phones are sold.

Can you use your cell phone in a different country? 

Many seniors like to spend their golden years trotting off to sunnier locales or traveling around the globe. If you're one of the lucky ones, you'll want to be sure to choose a cell phone plan that will allow you to keep in touch with family and friends back home and keep you connected in case of emergencies while abroad. 

T-Mobile is known for very good deals on international coverage. Its Unlimited Magenta plans include free data and texting while abroad in more than 200 destinations. Soon-to-be-merged Sprint offers a similar deal to seniors. Both Verizon and AT&T's 55+ plans, as well as the much pricier AT&T Unlimited Elite plan, have subscribers covered in Mexico and Canada, but if you're traveling farther afield you'll need to purchase international add-on packages, like AT&T's $10-per-day International Day Pass. 

With GreatCall, international roaming and calling abroad from the U.S. always incurs fees. Consumer Cellular also charges extra for all international services, and support articles (and at least one user review) suggest that service may not always be available when traveling. If you venture into the land of prepaid calling plans, pay extra attention to international options and costs. Some providers, like US Mobile and Republic Wireless, offer no international coverage at all.

Plan Details

1. T-Mobile 

Best Cell Phone Plans for Seniors Overall

T-Mobile Essentials Unlimited 55

Price$40 for 1 line
$55 for 2 lines
Eligibility & Restrictions- 55 or older.
- In store or by phone only.
- Add $5 per line without autopay.
Includes- Unlimited talk, text, and data.
- Service in Mexico and Canada (2G data).
- Unlimited international texting.
- Non-HD streaming.
- 3G mobile hotspot.
DiscountSavings vs. T-Mobile Essentials

33% for 1 line ($60)
39% for 2 lines ($90)
Price$50* for 1 line
$70* for 2 lines

*Incl. taxes & fees
Eligibility & Restrictions- 55 or older.
- In store or by phone only.
- Add $5 per line without autopay.
Includes- Unlimited talk, text, and data.
- Service in Mexico and Canada (5GB of 4G data).
- Unlimited international texting and 2G data.
- Non-HD streaming.
- 3GB 4G mobile hotspot.
- 1 hour Gogo in-flight data and unlimited texting.
DiscountSavings vs. T-Mobile Magenta*
29% for 1 line ($70)
42% for 2 lines ($120)

*Incl. Netflix
Price$90* for 2 lines

*Incl. taxes & fees
Eligibility & Restrictions- 55 or older.
- In store or by phone only.
- 2 lines required.
- Add $5 per line without autopay.
Includes- Unlimited talk, text, and data.
- Service in Mexico and Canada (5GB of 4G data).
- Unlimited international texting and up to 256kbps data.
- HD streaming and Netflix.
- 20GB 4G mobile hotspot.
- Name ID.
- Voicemail to text.
DiscountSavings vs. T-Mobile Magenta Plus
36% ($140 for 2 lines)

2. AT&T

Lots of Ways to Save (Just Not That Much)

AT&T Senior Nation

Eligibility & Restrictions- 65 or older.
- In store, by phone, or online chat.
Includes- 200 anytime minutes.
- 500 night and weekend minutes.
- Unlimited AT&T mobile-to-mobile.
DiscountNo similar plan.
Price$60 for 1 line
$80 for 2 lines
Eligibility & Restrictions- Florida residents only.
- 55 or older.
- In store only.
- Add $10 per line without autopay.
Includes- Unlimited talk, text, and data in U.S., Mexico, and Canada.
- Free texting to 120+ countries.
- Non-HD streaming.
- Automatic fraud blocking and spam risk alerts.
DiscountSavings vs. AT&T Unlimited Starter
8% for 1 line ($65)
33% for 2 lines ($120)
Price$75 for 1 line
$130 for 2 lines

(10 lines max.)
Eligibility & Restrictions- AARP members only.
- Add $10 per line without autopay.
Includes- Unlimited talk and text and 100GB of data in U.S., Mexico, and Canada (5G access).
- Free texting to 120+ countries.
- HD streaming and HBO.
- 30GB mobile hotspot per line.
DiscountSavings vs. AT&T Unlimited Elite
$10 per line AARP discount (first 5 lines)
15% AARP discount on accessories
$45 waived activation upgrade fees

3. Sprint 

Good for Seniors on the Go but Merging With T-Mobile 

Sprint Unlimited 55+

Price$50 for 1 line
$70 for 2 lines
Eligibility & Restrictions- 55 or older.
- In store only.
- E-billing required.
- Add $5 per line without autopay.
Includes- Unlimited talk, text, and data.
- International texting and basic roaming.
- Non-HD streaming.
- 3G mobile hotspot.
DiscountSavings vs. Sprint Unlimited Basic*

17% for 1 line ($60)
30% for 2 lines ($100)

*Incl. Hulu

4. Verizon 

Decent Savings for Floridians Only, and Fewer Perks 

Verizon 55+ Unlimited

$60 for 1 line
$80 for 2 lines
Eligibility & Restrictions- Florida residents only.
- 55 or older.
- In store only.
- Autopay and e-billing only.
Includes- Unlimited talk, text, and data in U.S., Mexico, and Canada.
- Non-HD streaming.
- Unlimited mobile hotspot (600 Kbps).
DiscountSavings vs. Verizon Start Unlimited*
14% for 1 line ($70)
33% for 2 lines ($120)

*Incl. free international texting and data

5. Consumer Cellular 

Best for Customer Satisfaction and Customized Plans 

Consumer Cellular Plans

Price$15 for 250 minutes
$20 for unlimited talk
$5-$40 for unlimited text and 500MB to 25GB of data
Eligibility & RestrictionsN/A
Discount- 5% AARP discount off monthly plans.
- 30% for accessories.
- Extended 45-day risk-free guarantee.

6. GreatCall 

Best for Health & Safety Services 

GreatCall Plans

Price$14.99 for 250 minutes (cheapest talk plan)*
$39.99 for unlimited talk and text
$59.99 for unlimited talk, text, and data
Eligibility & RestrictionsJitterbug Flip or Jitterbug Smart2 phone required.
DiscountUp to 50% with purchase of Basic Health & Safety Package ($19.99)

*Talk, text, and data can be purchased a la carte. Prices vary.

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