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Consumer Cellular vs. AT&T

Comparing Consumer Cellular and AT&T Plans for Seniors in 2024

Ana Durrani Ana Durrani Journalist and Contributor
Taylor Shuman Taylor Shuman Senior Tech Expert & Editor

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Many of us have a memory of using two cups and a string to play “Telephone.” Real phones have come a long way since then and are a part of our daily lives. Today, some 92 percent of Americans own a smartphone.1

Phones aren’t just for talking anymore, either; you can do a lot more with your cell phone. But to enjoy all of their added features, you need a solid phone plan. In this guide, we’ll compare Consumer Cellular and AT&T plans for seniors. Our tech experts have reviewed and tested both of these carriers. In fact, they both made our list of the best phone plans for seniors! So, how do they compare?

AT&T is one of America’s oldest and largest telecommunications carriers. Consumer Cellular is a mobile virtual network operator (MVNO), which uses a larger carrier’s network to sell affordable and flexible phone services. Both have plans that can be a great value to older adults. Let’s take a closer look.

A Side-by-Side Look at Consumer Cellular vs. AT&T

When you are looking for the best senior phone plans, it’s a good idea to compare prices and features. Consumer Cellular and AT&T offer a variety of phone plans. Here’s a quick summary.

Our favorite is Consumer Cellular
  Consumer Cellular AT&T Logo
Starting price $20 per month $25 to $85.99 per month
Activation fees None Yes
Data speeds 4G LTE in most of the U.S.; 5G and 5G+ in dozens of states and many densely populated cities 5G coverage
Long-term contracts No Requires contracts
Bring your own phone Yes, if unlocked and compatible. Call carrier to sign up. Yes, if unlocked
Discounts for multiple lines Yes, can add up to three lines when ordering online (each extra line is $15 per month) The more lines you add, the more you save
Website
FYI:

FYI: What’s the difference between cell phones and smartphones? Cell phones are more basic, and you can use them to make calls and text. Smartphones have more advanced features such as digital assistants like Siri, or they can be used to play games or use various apps.

Phone Plans and Prices

Consumer Cellular Plans

Consumer Cellular runs on AT&T’s network (previously T-Mobile’s too). Consumer Cellular doesn’t have a devoted “senior plan,” but the carrier is designed specifically for older adults. That means you can speak with a customer service team that understands you. You can reach customer service by phone or live chat (6 a.m. to 5 p.m. PT).

Here is a brief guide to Consumer Cellular pricing to get you started:

Plan Data *Cost for a Single Line Minutes Text
Unlimited Talk and Text 1 GB $20 per month Unlimited Unlimited
Unlimited Talk and Text 5 GB $25 per month Unlimited Unlimited
Unlimited Talk and Text 10 GB $35 per month Unlimited Unlimited
Unlimited Talk and Text Unlimited data $50 per month Unlimited Unlimited

*Taxes and fees are not reflected in costs.

Pricing for Consumer Cellular’s four plans run between $20 and $50 per month. They range in data from 1 GB to unlimited. Customers get free activation, and there are no contracts or hidden fees to deal with.

All plans have unlimited talk and text, 5G and 4G nationwide coverage, and mobile hotspot data. It’s worth noting that if you want a $5 monthly credit (and why would you not?), just choose automatic bill payment and paperless billing.

» Learn About: Best unlimited phone plans for seniors

You don’t have to worry about overage fees because there are none! If you go over your monthly usage, you will automatically be placed on the next highest plan. If you reach 50 GB on the unlimited data plan (not likely), your speeds will drop a bit. However, 50 GB is plenty for most users, so you likely won’t run into this issue unless you have several lines on your plan.

The external screen on Consumer Cellular's Verve Snap

The external screen on Consumer Cellular's Verve Snap

The option to add multiple lines is great for families or large households. You can add up to seven lines, and each additional line costs $15 per month. The best part is the more lines you add, the lower the price per line will be. Need to change plans? There’s no fee for making changes at any time.

Some customers may prefer to “bring your own phone” (BYOP), and Consumer Cellular is OK with that. We tried adding our own phone online during checkout, but quickly realized we needed to call customer service to do that. Luckily, the representative we spoke with was kind and walked us through the process.

Fun Fact:

Fun Fact: The first-ever call on a real mobile phone took place over 50 years ago on April 3, 1973.2

Wondering about senior discounts? Consumer Cellular offers some discounts through a partnership with AARP. AARP members can get two lines of unlimited talk, text, and data for $55 per month. That’s a solid deal in our book. And, AARP members have 45 days to make up their minds or get their money back; that number drops to 30 days for those who aren’t members. Members also receive a 5 percent discount on their monthly service. We could easily access this discount at checkout.

»  Related Reading: Guide to AARP membership

Don’t think you need unlimited data? We’re big fans of the 10 GB plan for $35 per month. It’s an affordable plan with a good amount of data.

FYI:

FYI: Consumer Cellular has a referral program. You’ll receive a $20 credit for each referral who signs up.

All in all, Consumer Cellular has inexpensive, basic, month-to-month plans designed for older adults. The carrier’s AARP discounts are a good value for those who want more than one line. And, the extensive money-back guarantee gives you enough time to decide on your service plan.

Visit our 2024 Consumer Cellular review to learn more about this carrier.

AT&T Plans

AT&T is recognized for its reliable service, fast speeds, and customer service. It also has a variety of plans and phones to choose from. Customers can visit in-store locations or purchase online. It’s important to note that some AT&T plans require contracts and have activation fees, unlike Consumer Cellular.

AT&T offers many plans, but the ones below are some of our top picks for older adults.

AT&T Offerings Cost Per Line Features Restrictions
AT&T Lifeline Discount varies Not a plan; low-income discount on wireless phone Qualify based on income, Medicaid, and Supplemental Security Income
AT&T Unlimited 55+ $60 per month for one line; $80 per month for two lines Unlimited talk, text, and data in U.S., Canada, and Mexico;

free texting in 200+ countries;

compatible with smartphones and basic phones;

SD streaming

Must be 55+; no more than two lines (not for wearables and hotspots); must reside in Florida
AT&T Unlimited Starter SL Plan $65.99 per month for one line Unlimited talk, text, and data;

compatible with smartphones and basic phones;

SD streaming

Multiple phone lines get you the best price

While we appreciate that AT&T offers a plan specifically for older adults, there is an important caveat: The Unlimited 55+ plan is only available to Florida residents. With this plan, older Floridian adults can get one line for $60 or two lines for $80 per month.

Subscribers to the Unlimited 55+ plan get:

  • Unlimited talk, text, and data in the U.S, Mexico, and Canada
  • AT&T ActiveArmorSM mobile security, including a free app with spam call blocking and more
  • 5G speeds
  • Unlimited text from the U.S. to 200+ countries

This plan offers a few additional ways to save. Florida residents can save up to $50 on activation and upgrade fees, and receive 15 percent off select accessories if they are AARP members. Veterans and active military can get 25 percent off AT&T’s unlimited wireless plan. As you can see, Florida residents get quite the list of perks!

What if you’re not a Floridian? AT&T has plenty of pre- and postpaid plans to choose from, whether you just want a few gigs of data or an unlimited plan. One of our favorites is AT&T’s Unlimited Starter SL plan, which costs $65.99 per month. That’s just $6 more than the 55+ plan, and the more lines you add, the more money you’ll save per line. That makes this plan excellent for larger families. For example, the Unlimited Starter SL plan costs just $35.99 per month per line when you have four lines. Plus, AARP members can save $10 per month.

» Dive Deeper: AT&T phone plan review

AT&T’s plans are good for older adults with wiggle room in their budgets who want more data, features, and services. While AT&T’s plans tend to be on the pricier side compared to Consumer Cellular, remember that there are discounts for AARP members on select plans.

AT&T is known for its award-winning customer service. In our experience, AT&T customer service is excellent with friendly and helpful agents. Whether visiting a store in person or speaking with a representative on the phone, we’ve always had pleasant experiences.

Overall, AT&T’s enduring reputation in the industry, reliable service, fast speeds, and customer service make this service provider worth a look.

Nationwide Coverage

Consumer Cellular

As mentioned, Consumer Cellular uses AT&T’s 4G and 5G networks, but there are some differences in service. AT&T prioritizes its own customers above MVNOs that use its network, such as Consumer Cellular. That means Consumer Cellular customers may experience slower speeds during peak traffic times. So if reliable, fast speeds are your top priority, you may want to consider AT&T. On the other hand, if you’re looking for a simple, affordable plan, Consumer Cellular is a great choice.

AT&T

AT&T has one of the fastest and most reliable 5G networks in the nation. Customers can access 5G and 4G LTE services nationwide, along with 4G coverage in parts of Canada and Mexico. This is great for those who enjoy traveling in the continental U.S.

If the network is busy, AT&T may throttle data speeds. This is common with most carriers. When we tested out AT&T, we experienced great coverage. On occasion, we had spotty service in rural areas where other carriers like Verizon had better coverage.

Consumer Cellular vs. AT&T Phones

Consumer Cellular

Consumer Cellular has some great cell phones for seniors. The carrier sells devices from several brands, including Apple, Android, and their own line of flip phones and smartphones. We’re big fans of Consumer Cellular’s phones. When testing the IRIS Connect smartphone and a flip phone called the IRIS Flip, we found that Consumer Cellular’s phones are very easy to use. They’re great for those who want something simple without many bells and whistles.

Testing out Consumer Cellular's IRIS Flip

Testing out Consumer Cellular's IRIS Flip

Like its competitors, Consumer Cellular offers discounts and promotions on certain phone models. Most discounts are geared toward AARP members, but they do have occasional limited-time promotions. If you prefer to bring your own phone, you can get your service up and running in no time; you’ll just need to give Consumer Cellular a call.

AT&T

AT&T offers some of the best cell phones for seniors. The carrier has a large selection of the latest 5G phones. Consumer Cellular and AT&T have many of the same flip phones and smartphones, but AT&T sells far more models.

FYI:

FYI: Got an old device? AT&T lets customers turn in their old wireless phones and other devices for credit or promotional perks.

AT&T has a tab on their website just for all their deals, and there are a lot! Some of the brands they sell include Apple, Motorola, Google, Samsung, and Sonim. AT&T provides free shipping on most devices and customers get 14 days to return or exchange. Of course, you also have the option to bring your own unlocked phone.

Using Apple's iPhone 15 on AT&T's service

Using an iPhone on AT&T's service

Our Final Thoughts on Consumer Cellular vs. AT&T

By now you probably have a better idea of which cell phone plan you are leaning toward. Or, at the very least, you probably know what you want or don’t want in a plan.

Depending on your budget and needs, you may just want to bring your own phone and have a simple plan that allows you to stay connected. Or maybe you are looking for a little something extra and prefer the latest device, more data, and features.

Whatever your preference, it’s important to get a plan that offers the features you need. Customers looking for a provider with higher data usage options on a reliable network may like AT&T. Those who want a more basic plan with multi-line and AARP discounts may want a Consumer Cellular plan. Both companies have experience working with older adults and offer solid plans that are worth considering!

Written By:
Ana Durrani
Journalist and Contributor
Ana has covered a wide range of topics in her 20-plus-year career as a journalist, contributing to numerous international and domestic publications. For several years she served as a regular contributor to Realtor.com. Some of the publications she’s written for… Learn More About Ana Durrani
Reviewed By:
Taylor Shuman
Senior Tech Expert & Editor
As SeniorLiving.org’s tech expert and editor, Taylor has years of experience reviewing products and services for seniors. She is passionate about breaking down stigmas related to seniors and technology. She loves finding innovative ways to teach seniors about products and… Learn More About Taylor Shuman