Jitterbug vs. Tracfone

Jitterbug phones are our top picks for medical alert monitoring and senior-friendly features, while Tracfone offers affordable, no-nonsense plans.

taylor shuman Taylor Shuman Senior Tech Expert & Editor

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Lively (the maker of the Jitterbug phones) and Tracfone are two solid carriers to consider if you’re shopping for a new phone plan. Lively’s plans and Jitterbug phones are designed specifically for older adults. In fact, the carrier offers some of the best cell phones for seniors we’ve tested. On the other hand, Tracfone doesn’t offer senior-designated plans. Still, Tracfone’s plans might be a great fit if you’re just looking for an inexpensive plan without frills.

Our tech experts have researched, tested, and compared plans from both carriers, and evaluated them for seniors’ needs and budgets. We considered cost, nationwide coverage, plans, extra perks, and more. Keep reading for an in-depth comparison of these carriers.

A Side-by-Side Look at Jitterbug vs. Tracfone

Our favorite is Jitterbug Flip2 from Lively
  Lively by Best Buy Logo 2023 Tracfone Logo
Plan prices $19.99 to $49.99 per month $10 to $40 for one month
Activation fee $35 None
Data speeds 4G LTE (for phones with internet capabilities) 4G, 5G
Long-term contract No No
Bring your own phone No Yes
Discount for multiple lines No No
Website

Phone Plans and Prices

Lively Plans

Plan Cost* Talk and text Data Speed Multiline discount
Basic $19.99 per month Unlimited Can add 1 GB for $5, 5 GB for $10, or unlimited for $30 4G LTE No
Preferred $39.99 per month Unlimited Can add 1 GB for $5, 5 GB for $10, or unlimited for $30 4G LTE No
Premium $49.99 per month Unlimited Can add 1 GB for $5, 5 GB for $10, or unlimited for $30 4G LTE No

* Prices include a $5 discount for paperless billing and don’t include taxes and fees.

Lively launched in 2006 to offer cell phones and plans designed specifically with seniors in mind. Lively’s Jitterbug phones are some of the best senior-friendly phones we’ve tested, with numerous health and safety features available. Plans are straightforward and come with unlimited talk and text. Another plus: There is no contract or cancellation fee.

Lively offers three different plans. To begin service with Lively, you’ll have to purchase a Jitterbug phone. You can’t bring your own device like you can with Tracfone. This is a bit of a drawback, but if you’re looking for a senior-friendly phone, a Jitterbug device could be right up your alley. You can choose between the Jitterbug Smart4, a smartphone with internet capabilities, and the Jitterbug Flip2, a flip phone that doesn’t connect to the internet. The plan pricing is the same for both phones. You’ll just have to purchase a data plan with the Jitterbug Smart4 as well.

» Learn About: Internet Service for Seniors 

Buying Experience

Like Tracfone, there are no stand-alone Lively stores where you can shop for phones and plans. But there are lots of retail outlets — including Best Buy, Rite Aid, and Walgreens — where you can buy Jitterbug phones in person. Those retailers won’t have Lively customer service representatives to help you, however, only store employees. For help with setting up your phone or troubleshooting, you’ll have to call Lively customer service. We found Lively’s agents to be friendly and knowledgeable when we called.

Data and Overages

If you purchase the Jitterbug Smart4, you’ll also need to purchase a data plan. You can customize your Lively service by choosing 1 GB of data for $5, 5 GB for $10, or unlimited data for $30 per month.

Even if you purchase unlimited data, it’s important to note that your phone’s speed will be reduced to 128 Kbps if you use over 20 GB of data in a billing cycle. As avid cell phone users, we hit that limit before the end of the month. Those who like to use lots of data for streaming, web surfing, and other activities will want to keep this in mind. Other cell phone carriers throttle speeds at higher data levels, sometimes 30 GB or 50 GB, so throttling at 20 GB is lower than most. If you’re sold on Lively, an easy way to conserve data is to always connect to WiFi when you can!

Cost

Older adults who just want a simple phone that’s easy to set up and use might love Lively’s Basic plan for $19.99 per month. Adding unlimited data raises the cost of each plan by $30. For example, adding unlimited data to the Basic plan would cost $49.99 per month, or $79.99 per month with the Premium plan. But $50 isn’t a bad monthly price for unlimited data and basic cell service. With the Premium plan, you also have access to Lively’s 24/7 health and safety features (more on those features below).

» Dive Deeper: Jitterbug Cell Phones and Plans 

Perks and Extras

Lively’s health and safety features are where this carrier truly stands out from the competition. Every Lively phone plan comes with the Ask Lively feature, which gives you access to Lively Care Advisors who can answer any questions you have about your phone, look up phone numbers for you, and schedule secure Lyft rides for you.

With the Lively Preferred Plan ($40 per month), you get all of the features mentioned above, along with:

  • Urgent Response: This is a medical alert feature that’s available 24/7. With this feature, we could press our Jitterbug phone’s Urgent Response button to connect with an agent at any time in under a minute. The agent could then send whatever help was needed during an emergency.
  • Lively Link: This is a mobile app for loved ones and caregivers that lets you track your Jitterbug phone and receive instant alerts in an emergency. During our testing, we could easily see where our phone was on a map at any time, along with the status of the device and an emergency call log.

» Related Reading: Best Medical Alert Systems in 2024

Lively’s Premium Plan ($50 per month) gets you all of the above features, plus:

  • Care Advocate: A health resource can answer questions and keep your health goals on track.
  • Nurse On-Call: This feature allows customers to get medical advice from nurses and doctors 24/7. This is a great feature for older adults with health challenges.

The features listed above are incredibly helpful for older adults who want added protection and peace of mind. Lively’s customer service representatives are also trained to provide patient and comprehensive assistance. Seniors experiencing health challenges who don’t mind paying a little more for a plan might appreciate the health and safety features of a Lively plan.

Lively isn’t the best choice for older adults who want to stay in frequent touch with loved ones in Canada or Mexico, as Lively phones can be used only domestically without incurring international fees.

Tracfone Plans

Tracfone offers more than 20 phone plans, but here is a look at a few of the offerings that might appeal to older adults.

Plan/time frame Cost Talk and Text Data Speed Multiline discount
500 minutes, 500 texts, 500 MB of data for 30 days $15 per month 500 minutes, 500 texts 500 MB 5G or 4G LTE No
Smartphone $15 plan for 30 days $15 Unlimited 0 N/A No
750 minutes, 1,500 texts, 2 GB of data for 90 days $50 ($16.67 per month) 750 minutes, 1,500 texts 2 GB 5G or 4G LTE No
Unlimited talk and text, 2 GB of data for 30 days $20 Unlimited 2 GB 5G or 4G LTE No
60 minutes for 90 days $19.99 ($6.66 per month) 60 minutes 60 MB 5G or 4G LTE No
Smartphone $25 plan for 30 days $25 Unlimited 3 GB of carryover data 5G or 4G LTE No

Tracfone offers prepaid phone plans offering service for anywhere from one month to 12 months, with no activation fee or long-term contract. This is a great option for older adults who want to pick and choose exactly what sort of service they want, in terms of minutes, data, and cost. But we did find that picking a Tracfone plan can be overwhelming due to the number of choices.

Buying Experience

You can buy Tracfone plans online, which is an easy process, in our experience. Tracfone does not operate stand-alone stores, but you also can purchase Tracfone and cards from numerous retailers, including Walgreens, 7-Eleven, Family Dollar, CVS, Best Buy, Walmart, and Rent-a-Center.

Depending on where you purchase a Tracfone plan, you might be able to activate your phone service right then and there. If not, it’s easy to activate service at home with a SIM card. You can always call customer service to walk you through the process. Customers can refill service on the Tracfone website or by texting BUY to 611611.

» Further Reading: Best Cell Phone Plans for Seniors in 2024

We asked a few questions via chat on the Tracfone website and had mixed experiences. Sometimes we were able to get simple questions answered quickly without any sales pitches, but with other agents, we felt a little pressured to make a purchase. We were able to get accurate and helpful information quickly, though.

Data and Overages

Unlike Lively, Tracfone does not offer unlimited data plans. Since you prepay with Tracfone plans, there are no overage fees (you just run out of data if you use it up). Some plans let data roll over. So, if you have a 3 GB plan and don’t use it all in the 30-day period you paid for, it will roll over when you pay for another service period.

You can choose a plan with anywhere from 500 MB to 10 GB of data. Make sure you have a good idea of how much data you typically need before buying a plan. You wouldn’t want to pay for a year of service and run out of data early!

Cost

Here are a few examples of Tracfone plan costs. Someone interested in bare-bones cell phone usage might want the $100 annual plan with 2 GB of data, which works out to a monthly cost of $8.25. It’s pretty cheap, but that’s also not a lot of data for an entire year!

» Learn More: Tracfone Plans and Pricing

For another example, you can buy a 60-day plan for $25, which breaks down to $12.50 per month. This plan offers 500 minutes, 1,000 texts, and 500 MB of data. If you’re looking for unlimited talk and text so you don’t have to worry about keeping track of your minutes, Tracfone has a $30 monthly plan with unlimited talk, text, and 5 GB of data, which is plenty for most cell phone users.

Perks and Extras

Tracfone does not offer the senior-friendly features or services that Lively does. But there are some discounts to be had! On the Tracfone website, you’ll notice a button on the lower left to sign up for promotional emails for 15 percent off your phone and plan purchase. It appears to be an ongoing deal. Most plans also offer auto-refill discounts and multimonth discounts. Tracfone’s $40 plan, for example — with unlimited talk, text, and 10 GB of carryover data — is $35 per month if you sign up for auto-refill..

All Tracfone plans have basic international calling, but you can also buy a global calling card for $10 to make other international calls with your Tracfone plan. Be aware that even with the calling card, those calls won’t be free, but they’re still inexpensive. For example, you can call Mexico and the United Kingdom for 2 cents a minute, Japan for 3 cents a minute, Bolivia for 10 cents a minute, and Honduras for 12 cents a minute.

Tracfone can be a great choice for older adults who don’t need a phone plan with unlimited data and just want affordable service. Plus, if you take advantage of Tracfone’s very affordable multimonth plans, you won’t have to worry about paying a cell phone bill for months. Tracfone also tends to be much cheaper than Lively if you want to make international calls.

Nationwide Coverage

Lively

Your Jitterbug phone from Lively will be powered by Verizon’s reliable 4G LTE network. While testing Lively’s Jitterbug phones, we were disappointed to see that the carrier doesn’t offer 5G service. Still, we had no issues with reception or speed when making calls on the 4G LTE network. You can check Lively’s coverage map here.

Tracfone

Tracfone is on Verizon’s 4G and 5G networks, so your coverage should be excellent if you are near Verizon cell phone towers. This is one area where Tracfone has a leg up on Lively, as it offers 5G coverage. You can check Tracfone’s coverage here.

Jitterbug vs. Tracfone Phones

Jitterbug

Older adults mostly interested in having a phone for talking and texting without bells and whistles might love the Jitterbug Flip2. It’s a simple, user-friendly phone that doesn’t have internet capabilities, but it’s one of the most user-friendly phones we’ve tested.

One of our writers testing out the Jitterbug Flip2

One of our writers testing out the Jitterbug Flip2

We liked the Jitterbug Flip2’s bright screen and large font, perfect for older eyes. The backlit keypad with big buttons made it easier to dial in low light. The phone also has a magnifier and flashlight, which make the Jitterbug Flip2 a good choice for adults with vision problems. Another plus is the voice assistant, so you can easily navigate the phone, send texts, and make calls with just your voice. We appreciate that this phone has a M4/T4 hearing aid-compatibility rating, the highest rating possible.

» Dive Deeper: Jitterbug Flip2 and Jitterbug Smart4 Review

For seniors who are a little more tech-savvy and want to connect to the internet on their phones, Lively offers the Jitterbug Smart4. We were impressed with this entry-level smartphone’s large touch screen, simple list-style menu, and voice assistant. We also appreciate that the Jitterbug Smart4 has an additional 15 hours of battery life (up to 37 hours of talk time) when compared with the Jitterbug Smart3. We found the phone can be kind of slow, however, and the camera doesn’t take pictures that are as sharp as those from other smartphones.

My grandma trying out the Jitterbug Smart4

My grandma trying out the Jitterbug Smart4

You can keep your phone number when you switch to Lively, but you can’t bring your own phone. You’ll have to choose between the Jitterbug Smart4 or Jitterbug Flip2 when you sign up. If you want to keep your number, you’ll need to call customer service. We found customer service to be helpful and efficient when we called.

Tracfone

If you’re in the market for a new phone, you have more than 40 options to choose from on the Tracfone website. If you buy a phone from Tracfone online, it ships for free.

When we shopped for a phone, we found new and reconditioned phones from Apple, Samsung, TCL, Nokia, and others. The company offers one flip phone, the TCL Flip 2 (currently $20). There were also a couple of reconditioned flip phones available for just $5 and $10. These are very inexpensive options for those who want a basic phone.

The TCL Flip 2 is a small phone with 16 MB of memory, a nine-hour battery life, and a 2 MP rear camera, which won’t take super-sharp photos but is handy in a pinch. It’s also hearing aid compatible and Bluetooth ready.

TCL Flip 2

TCL Flip 2

Older adults looking for a 5G smartphone might prefer the Samsung Galaxy A13, which has 40 hours of battery life with typical use. This phone has a triple-lens, 50 MP camera, which is considered ultra-high definition. It’s also hearing aid and Bluetooth compatible. Plus, it unlocks with a fingerprint, which is a nice feature for older adults who don’t want to enter a passcode all the time. It also has a voice assistant, so you can call and send texts by just talking to your phone.

Samsung Galaxy A13 5G

Samsung Galaxy A13

We also love the iPhone SE, one of the best iPhone models for seniors, which currently sells for under $200 on the Tracfone website. It’s 5G and hearing aid capable, with a 12 MP camera and 64 GB of memory. With this phone, you can FaceTime with loved ones and unlock it with your fingerprint. The iPhone SE is an excellent, affordable choice for seniors who are comfortable using a smartphone.

Testing out the iPhone SE

Testing out the iPhone SE

Our Final Thoughts on Jitterbug vs. Tracfone

Tracfone’s prepaid cell phone plans are hard to beat when it comes to price, with some plans costing less than $10 per month. If you want a bare-bones phone plan for emergencies and don’t need a lot of data, Tracfone is a solid option. You can also call many countries at pretty affordable rates on Tracfone plans. If you want unlimited data, however, you might prefer Lively.

In our experience with Lively’s Jitterbug phones, we found they can greatly benefit older adults, with large buttons, easy-to-read screens, and voice assistants. Lively’s plans are easy on the wallet too, starting at $19.99 per month. We’ve had great experiences with Lively’s customer service and health and safety features, which offer added protection and peace of mind.

Written By:
Taylor Shuman
Senior Tech Expert & Editor
Read About Our Panel of Experts
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