Consumer Cellular Phone Plan Review

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5% AARP Discount
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With eight-in-ten adults ages 65 and older owning a cell phone today1, seniors have jumped feet first into the world of technology. Just like the rest of us, older adults are looking for ways to stay connected with friends and family, and maybe even watch a funny cat video from time to time.  According to Kaiser Health News2, 43 percent of older Americans experience loneliness. However, it has been shown that consistent communication and companionship help alleviate these feelings of isolation. So, as you can imagine, the modern cell phone can do wonders for seniors who may live alone with their family many miles away.

Back in 1995, Consumer Cellular—once just a tiny Pacific Northwest startup—understood the need for older adults to stay connected and experience a better quality of life. Based on that mission and belief, a simple, economical cell phone service providing older Americans with flexibility, technology and customer service was born. The company blossomed and is still 100 percent U.S.-based and privately owned. Consumer Cellular was one of the first no-contract cell phone companies, which we're a big fan of. Read on to see what we have to say about Consumer Cellular's most popular phones and plans, as well as a closer look at the GrandPad tablet, an easy-to-use tablet designed specifically for older adults.

What We Like About Consumer Cellular

  • No Contracts – We said it and we'll say it again, no contracts are key. If you're unhappy with your plan or need to cancel it for any reason, you simply get a prorated charge for the amount of minutes/data you used that month, and that's it!
  • Use Your Own Phone – It's nice to know that you can use your old phone (as long as it's unlocked and compatible), one you might already love and be used to. You simply get a free SIM card in the mail from Consumer Cellular. Then follow the online instructions for easy setup.
  • Additional AARP Discount – Consumer Cellular already offers low rates, so that extra five percent discount on monthly plans from AARP is the cherry on top. You also get 30 percent off select accessories, which can come in very handy if you need some new gadgets or a case to protect your phone. And an extended 45-day risk-free guarantee. (Their standard guarantee is 30 days.

Things to Keep in Mind About Consumer Cellular

  • Coverage May Be Spotty – For users in populated, urban areas, Consumer Cellular should do just fine. If you live in or frequent a rural area, you may not have the best service, especially if you're wanting to use data.3

More Tips From the Pros: To compare Consumer Cellular to other carriers, check out our review of the best cell phones for seniors.

Building the Right Phone Plan

Consumer Cellular Plans Feature

  • Consumer Cellular Plans Feature
  • Versatility to change your plan month to month
  • The ability to service up to three lines
  • AARP member discounts
  • No contracts or activations fees
  • No overage fees

Consumer Cellular makes it easy to build the best plan for your needs. No hunting for information or wondering what hidden fees may be looming! You simply go online, pick how many lines you want, whether you want 250 minutes or unlimited talk time, and the amount of text and data you think you'll use. From there, you can sign up to receive a free SIM card if you already have your own unlocked/compatible cell phone, or you can purchase a new one (more on phone options below).

The best part? No matter which plan you choose, you can change it at any time without an extra charge. Let's say you're a senior who moves away from his or her family and friends and needs more talk time, you can make that change to your plan without any penalties. And, if you accidentally go over the minutes or data on your plan, Consumer Cellular will automatically upgrade you to the next highest plan. So, you're still getting the best deal without unexpected overage charges. Honestly, it's easy to see that compared to other plans out there with long-term contracts, hidden fees, and overage charges, Consumer Cellular is all about creating useful options, not pulling wool over your eyes!

FYI: None of the Consumer Cellular phones come with an extra activation fee unlike most of its competitors.

Plan Options

There is no designated “senior plan” from Consumer Cellular since every plan is designed to benefit older adults. After all, the most basic unlimited talk plan is $15 per month, which is about half the cost of AT&T's comparable Senior Nation Plan option. Plus, AARP members qualify for a 5 percent discount4 on any Consumer Cellular plan, and they can also save 30 percent on select accessories. I don't know about you, but I'm a sucker for a good discount.

Consumer Cellular allows you to add up to three lines to your plan. Each line is an additional $15 per month. For example, let's say you're paying $25 per month for an Unlimited Talk & Text plan and 500 MB of data. If you'd like to add your spouse to your plan, your next monthly bill will be $40. If you add a third line down the road, your bill would be upped to $55 a month. If you expect to have two or three lines on your plan with high data usage, keep in mind you'll be sharing the data. This is where a larger data or unlimited data plan may be beneficial.

Plan Type Number of lines Cost per month Minutes Data Text
Talk Only 1 $15 250
Talk Only 1 $20 Unlimited
250 Minutes Talk & Unlimited Text 1 $20 250 500 MB Unlimited
250 Minutes Talk & Unlimited Text 1 $25 250 3 GB Unlimited
250 Minutes Talk & Unlimited Text 1 $35 250 10 GB Unlimited
250 Minutes Talk & Unlimited Text 1 $45 250 15 GB Unlimited
250 Minutes Talk & Unlimited Text 1 $55 250 Unlimited Unlimited
Unlimited Talk and Text 1 $25 Unlimited 500 MB Unlimited
Unlimited Talk and Text 1 $30 Unlimited 3 GB Unlimited
Unlimited Talk and Text 1 $40 Unlimited 10 GB Unlimited
Unlimited Talk and Text 1 $50 Unlimited 15 GB Unlimited
Unlimited Talk and Text 1 $60 Unlimited Unlimited Unlimited

FYI: AARP members save five percent on plans and 30 percent on select accessories.

Plan Contracts

As I mentioned before, Consumer Cellular ditches all contracts to offer customers the best in flexibility and reassurance. They also give users a 30-day, risk-free, money-back guarantee in case they want to return anything. Most of the big guns, like AT&T and Verizon impose contracts for up to two years in length. When you’re selecting a Consumer Cellular plan, you can breathe a sigh of relief knowing you won't be locked into a long-term contract.

Consumer Cellular Phone Options

With about 20 choices of phones, ranging from flip phones to the latest smartphones, and low monthly fees in addition to one-time fees, it's hard to go wrong with a device from Consumer Cellular. In addition to buying online, you can visit your local Target store to learn more and purchase in-store. Here are a couple of phones, and a tablet, that stand out as top contenders.

Link II Flip Phone- $35

If you've researched Lively’s Flip, you've probably come across the well-priced Link II. Why? Because it's one of the basic, senior-focused, phones that’s offered by Consumer Cellular. The flip phone's large keys are easy for texting and dialing, it's hearing aid compatible, and has a well-lit display. These features are tailored to the needs of older users without the bells and whistles, so it's a great option if you're looking for simplicity and value.

Consumer Cellular Link

Consumer Cellular Link II

Samsung Galaxy Note 20 – $800 ($65 per month)

The Note offers versatility and quality for users interested in a smartphone. With elevated camera quality, a super-bright screen, and an easy-to-operate S pen (ideal for note taking, hence the name), the smartphone surpasses others with lots of memory and a longer battery life which means less charging and worry. It, too, is hearing-aid compatible and just the right size for older hands to grasp with ease.

Galaxy Note20

Galaxy Note20

GrandPad – $250 (or $10 per month)

Though not a phone, we still think the Grandpad is worth mentioning. Notable publications and reviews often mention just how helpful the GrandPad can be for older5adults[/citation ] who might struggle with sight and the hassle of complicated tablets, but wish to stay in touch via technology. Thanks to a high-definition display and dual speakers, the intuitive 8” smart tablet can keep families connected with syncing and real-time updates. The 5MP camera-equipped device also does a great job with video calling and entertainment. Compared to an Apple iPad, which usually starts around $300, the price tag on the GrandPad makes it even more enticing.

Consumer Cellular GrandPad

Consumer Cellular GrandPad

Smartphone or Flip Phone: How Do I Choose?

While it's great that Consumer Cellular offers so many different phones to choose from, you may be wondering how to pick the one that's best for your needs. If you're not a fan of fancy features like mobile apps and touchscreens, a flip phone like the Link II is a solid option without any fuss. You can still make calls and texts, but it's a lot less complicated than a smartphone. If you have arthritis and struggle with grip or pressing small buttons, or if you have hearing loss, the Link II will make your life a lot easier.

As for aging adults who happily embrace every new form of technology that comes their way, a smartphone like an iPhone or a Samsung Galaxy may be an excellent choice. The screens tend to be brighter and clearer, and, if you love to take a million pictures of those precious grandbabies, the camera quality is typically better on a smartphone than on a flip phone. Smartphones also give you access to extra features like video chatting and mobile apps, so the user can catch up with friends on Facebook, FaceTime family, or watch a movie straight from their phone.

Flip Phones Are Ideal For Seniors Who

  • Appreciate simple technology
  • Just plan to use their phone for calling and sending an occasional text message
  • Looking for an affordable phone

Smartphones Are Ideal for Seniors Who

  • Are open to learning new technology
  • Want an excellent camera to take photos and video chat
  • Enjoy spending time on social apps and playing games on their phone

Customer Service 

After finding out that Consumer Cellular was awarded ‘Outstanding Customer Service' in the Non-Contract Wireless Providers category eight times in a row, I was excited to call in and experience the greatness for myself. Consumer Cellular employees go through an intense, month-long boot camp-style training course to really drill down the best ways to provide customer support to seniors who might be totally new to cell phones6. Whew, just reading about that training had me sweating.

When I called, I waited for about two minutes, before Angel in Phoenix came on the line. She was very willing to answer all of my questions without probing me for any personal information. After providing me with important details, she did update me on some promotions but kept it short. All in all, I was pleased and didn't feel like I was being pushed into anything, but instead given the right tools to make an informed decision.

Extra Protection: For just $3 a month per line, you can add Roadside Assistance to your monthly plan. Partnering with Allstate Roadside Services, Consumer Cellular offers subscribers with assistance if they get locked out of their car, need a jump or tow, run out of gas, or have a flat tire.

The Bottom Line 

There is no doubt Consumer Cellular heavily values customer satisfaction. The proof is in its longstanding no-contract plans, affordable monthly rates, and money-back policies. Another area where they really shine is customer service. From personal experience, I found a friendly, patient voice on the other end of line.

With the average age of Consumer Cellular's customers in their mid 60s, their representatives are trained to guide and teach, instead of just to robotically sell. The buying and user experience will be relatively painless, even for those who may be uncomfortable with technology or taking on a smartphone for the first time. Seniors can keep their independence and have fun with it, knowing that Consumer Cellular is there to help along the way.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What if you go over on your minutes or data?

    If you do surpass your data or minute cap, you won’t face overage fees. Consumer Cellular will simply bump you up to the next tier on their plan for that month. If you’d like to bump back down the month following your overage, make sure you contact Consumer Cellular and let them know you want to switch back to your previous plan.

  • What is the ZTE?

    The ZTE is a portable wireless home phone base that you can use to turn your landline into a cell phone. You can even take it with you on travels and plug it into a hotel phone to avoid costly long distance fees and more.

  • What carriers are actually used for service and how are they determined?

    Based on your location, you’ll either get assigned to an AT&T or a T-Mobile tower. Then, you’ll get a free sim card mailed to you to activate your designated service.

  • What if I damage my newly purchased phone by accident?

    If you do purchase a Consumer Cellular phone, you can buy a protection plan for incidents like these. It’s $2 per month for a basic flip model, and then goes up to $6.25 for a smartphone. A Verizon phone will likely cost you around $17 to protect, so this is a great add on at a fraction of the cost of big-name competitors.

Citations
  1. Pew Research Center. (2017.) Technology use among seniors.  

  2. KHN. (2019). Understanding Loneliness In Older Adults — And Tailoring A Solution.

  3. Consumer Cellular. (2021). Wireless Coverage Map.

  4. AARP. (2021). Consumer Cellular Discount, an AARP Benefit.

  5. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. (2020). 6 ways for seniors to keep in touch with family.

  6. Oregon Business. (2018). Old Money.