Best Cell-Phone Plans for Seniors
Consumer Reports explains how people 55 and older can save money using deals from Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon
Getting older has its benefits, especially if you’re looking to save some money on your wireless cell-phone service.
In early May, Sprint rolled out a new offer for people 55 and up, countering a deal unveiled last August by T-Mobile. Both provide two phone lines with unlimited talk, text, and data for $80 per month. That’s a savings of roughly $30 to $50.
Verizon has created a discount plan geared toward mature adults, too.
Why the sudden interest? Well, the market is clearly expanding. While smartphone use among seniors still lags behind that of the younger population, 42 percent of people older than 65 own a smartphone, up from 18 percent in 2013, according to a 2017 Pew Research study.
As reported above, if you’re 55 or older, T-Mobile will give you two lines with unlimited talk, text, and data for $80 per month, taxes and fees included. If you’re younger than 55, that same plan costs $130.
And although T-Mobile doesn’t heavily promote it, you can also get a one-line plan for $55, the company says. That’s a savings of $20.
And just like with the company’s standard plans, if you sign up for autopay, you will save an additional $5 per line per month.
But there are a couple of catches: You don’t get the free Netflix service that comes with T-Mobile’s regular packages, and you can’t have more than two lines. So if you have additional people or devices in your home, you’re going to need separate plans for them.
As always, the company reserves the right to slow down your data speeds if you use more than 50 gigabytes in a given month—monitoring Facebook, listening to Spotify, or watching YouTube videos out by the pool. But that’s a huge amount of data to go through, even for a large family, and a much higher throttling threshold than the other major carriers permit.
T-Mobile typically streams video at DVD quality, and if you want to use your phone as a hot spot to connect your laptop to WiFi, those YouTube videos will be capped at 3G speeds. Once again, that’s in keeping with the carrier’s standard retrictions—so all in all, it’s no big concession.
This deal looks very similar to T-Mobile’s offer but with a few key exceptions.
To start, it’s available only to new customers. If you’re eligible, you pay $80 per month for two lines of unlimited talk, text, and data. Sign up for autopay and you can drop your monthly bill to $70. Taxes and fees are not included in either price.
That’s still a bargain, though, given that Sprint regularly charges $110 per month (plus taxes and fees) for two lines before the autopay discount.
Need just one line? You can get that for $55 per month (vs. $65 for the regular plan). And like T-Mobile, Sprint caps video streaming at DVD quality and tethering at 3G speeds. However, the company also caps music streaming at 500 kilobits per second and, for those of you who enjoy Super Mario on the go, cloud-gaming streaming at 2 megabits per second.
If these speeds aren’t fast enough for you, you can pay an additional $10 per month per line to add 10GB of mobile hot spot data and HD video streaming and boost your music streaming speeds to a max of 1.5 Mbps and gaming speeds to as high as 8 Mbps.
These figures match the ones in the company’s regular plan. When you add that extra $10 per line, though, your monthly bill reaches $100, which means you save just $10 per billing cycle.
With this promotion, Sprint also reserves the right to slow down your data speeds when traffic gets busy. In a regular plan, it throttles you only after you’ve surpassed a monthly 23GB threshold.
To qualify for this deal, the Go Unlimited plan, you have to live in Florida (or at least have a Florida billing address).
You pay $65 per month for one line or $90 for two. Taxes and fees are extra. For Sunshine State residents younger than 55, the same plans cost $80 and $140, respectively.
Once again, the $5-per-line autopay discount applies.
All that gets you unlimited talk, text, and data, but the company reserves the right to slow your speeds when things get busy. Video usually streams at DVD quality, and, while hot spot usage is unlimited, the speed is capped at 600 Kbps.
If you want perks such as HD streaming, higher-speed tethering, and less throttling of your data, you have to sign up for Verizon’s Beyond Unlimited plan, which will cost you $90 for one line and $170 for two. There’s no 55-and-older discount for that.
AT&T and Others
The remaining carriers do not offer wireless plans specifically designed for seniors. But they often provide discounts to AARP members.
AT&T will grant you 10 percent off, for example. At Consumer Cellular, you can get a 5 percent discount. And, while Cricket Wireless won’t cut you a deal on your monthly bill, it will give you a $20 rebate if you buy a new smartphone or accessory via its website or one of its stores.
Not an AARP member? Assuming you’re at least 50 years old, it’s easy to sign up online, and members are entitled to host of other discounts.
And if your data use is modest, you should also explore plans offered by the low-cost carriers. You might be surprised by how much they can save you.