Consumer Cellular vs. Straight Talk

taylor shuman Taylor Shuman Senior Tech Expert & Editor

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Older adults are integrating cell phones into their lives more than ever before. In fact, cell phone usage among people 65 and older has more than doubled in the past decade!1 A reliable phone and plan can improve older adults’ quality of life, increasing safety when they’re out and about by keeping loved ones and emergency services just a phone call away. Using cell phones makes it easier to keep in touch, and some research even suggests using a cell phone seems to improve memory among adults of all ages.2

With a growing number of cell phone companies eager to tap into the senior market, researching the best cell phone plans can be a challenge. But we can help! We spent hours researching the phones and plans Consumer Cellular and Straight Talk have to offer. We compared both carriers in terms of price, technology, ease of use, and customer service to help you determine which one is the best choice for you. Keep reading to learn more about the best Consumer Cellular and Straight Talk phone plans for older adults.

A Side-by-Side Look at Consumer Cellular vs. Straight Talk

Our favorite is Consumer Cellular
  Consumer Cellular Straight Talk
Starting price $20 to $50 per month if enrolled in autopay $30 to $65 per month
Activation fees None None
Data speeds 5G where available 5G where available
Long-term contracts No No
Bring your own phone Yes Yes
Discounts for multiple lines Yes Yes (with plans of $45+/mo.)
Website

Phone Plans and Prices

Consumer Cellular Plans

Plan Cost* Data Speed Talk and text International Multiline discount
Unlimited Talk and Text + 1 GB of data $20 per month 1 GB 5G depending on area and with compatible device Unlimited Canada and Mexico included Yes
Unlimited Talk and Text + 5 GB of data $25 per month 5 GB 5G depending on area and with compatible device Unlimited Canada and Mexico included Yes
Unlimited Talk and Text + 10 GB of data $35 per month 10 GB 5G depending on area and with compatible device Unlimited Canada and Mexico included Yes
Unlimited Talk and Text + Unlimited data $50 per month Unlimited** 5G depending on area and with compatible device Unlimited Canada and Mexico included Yes

*Prices include a $5 autopay discount

**If usage exceeds 50 GB, you’ll experience slower data speeds through the remainder of that billing cycle.

Consumer Cellular’s phone plans are some of the least expensive cell phone plans around and start at $20 per month. You can purchase up to three additional phone lines online. If you want more than four lines, we discovered that you’ll need to call Consumer Cellular. Each additional phone line adds an extra $15 per month to your bill.

We appreciate the sliding bar on Consumer Cellular’s website that makes figuring out monthly costs easy. It shows how much it’ll cost to add additional lines to your plan. Keep in mind that each phone line shares the plan’s data, which can add up quickly with multiple lines. With no overage fees, though, this won’t be a big deal for many people. If you go over your limit, Consumer Cellular will automatically bump you up to the next plan. While it’s a plus not having to pay overage fees, some online reviewers have mentioned that they don’t like being upgraded automatically. This is something to keep in mind if you’re trying to keep cell phone costs down.

We like that Consumer Cellular offers a good amount of data at low monthly rates. If you opt for autopay, you’ll pay just $20 a month for 1 GB of data, compared with Straight Talk’s 100 MB (which is 0.1 GB) of data for $30 a month.

>> You Might Like: A guide to getting the best deal with Consumer Cellular.

We found that Consumer Cellular offers flexible, affordable, and reliable plans designed with seniors in mind. None of their plans have contracts or overage and activation fees. And if you’re not satisfied with your service in the first 30 days, Consumer Cellular will refund your money.

AARP members get an even longer money-back period: 45 days. Members can also score 5 percent off their monthly bills and a $20 bonus for referring friends to Consumer Cellular.

Consumer Cellular also offers some intriguing perks for older adults. If you’re in the market for a medical alert system, you can bundle one with your cell phone service. The company offers an emergency response system called Ally with GPS location tracking and fall detection for $119 upfront and $25 per month. We also found a deal to add Signature Motor Club by Allstate Roadside Services to your plan for $3 per month or $36 per year. That’s cheaper than AAA, which currently costs $65 or more per year.

The external display on Consumer Cellular's IRIS Flip

The external display on Consumer Cellular’s IRIS Flip

Although Consumer Cellular offers reliable basic cell phone service, older adults with high cell phone data needs might prefer faster speeds and more data than Consumer Cellular’s basic plans offer. Straight Talk has some very high data plans and plans with cloud storage as well.

Consumer Cellular also charges 5 cents per international text sent and 10 cents a minute for roaming, so it’s not the best choice for seniors who want to stay in frequent touch with loved ones outside the U.S. However, Consumer Cellular may be a better choice than Straight Talk for older adults who like to travel abroad, because Straight Talk doesn’t offer phone service if you’re traveling outside the U.S. You can make unlimited calls from the U.S. to other countries with a Straight Talk Global Calling Card, which costs $10. (More on this later.)

Pro Tip:

Pro Tip: Got the travel bug? Read our tips for senior travel to make the most of your next vacation.

Consumer Cellular, on the other hand, does let you use its service while traveling internationally. But the company recommends contacting them a couple weeks before you leave the country to see if international roaming is even possible where you’re traveling. And you’ll be responsible for international roaming fees as well. If you’re only interested in calling Canada and Mexico, however, Consumer Cellular is still a great choice!

Straight Talk Plans

Straight Talk offers many different prepaid phone plans. Below are the ones we think cover older adults’ needs.

Plan Cost Data Speed Talk and text International Multiline discount
Basic (for flip phones only!) $30 100 MB 5G depending on area 1,500 minutes, unlimited texting No No
Bronze Unlimited $35 ($34 with auto refill) 10 GB + up to 5 GB mobile hot spot 5G depending on area Unlimited International calls to Canada and Mexico No
Silver Unlimited $45 ($42.50 with 3 months of auto refill) Unlimited +10 GB of hot spot data 5G depending on area Unlimited International calls to Canada and Mexico Yes
Gold Unlimited $55 ($50 for 3 months with auto refill) Unlimited +15 GB hot spot and 100 GB cloud storage 5G depending on area Unlimited International calls to Canada and Mexico Yes
Platinum Unlimited $65 ($60 for 3 months with auto refill) Unlimited + 20 GB mobile hot spot and 100 GB cloud storage 5G depending on area Unlimited International calls to Canada, Mexico, and 60 other countries Yes

Although monthly rates are a little higher, Straight Talk offers a wider variety of plans than Consumer Cellular. With Straight Talk, you can prepay for one month, six months, or a year of service. Straight Talk’s basic $30 plan gives you 1,500 minutes for calls, unlimited texts, and 100 MB of data. This basic plan comes with a very small amount of data. That means it’s best for those who have access to Wi-Fi most of the time and don’t need a lot of data. (If you’re not connected to Wi-Fi, watching videos, emailing, using GPS, or downloading large photos on your phone can use up a lot of data.)

Straight Talk’s Silver Unlimited plan ($45 a month) is an especially good deal if you want to add extra phone lines or stay in touch with people in Canada or Mexico. With this plan, you get unlimited talk, text, and data. With auto refill for three months, you’ll only pay $42.50 a month for the first phone line. Adding a second line adds another $30 a month, and you can add a third for $15 per month. Plus, you’ll get 10 GB of hot-spot data to use when you’re out and about.

>> Learn More: Best cell phone plans for seniors

We appreciate how Straight Talk spells out plan details, including data speeds, taxes in your area, any fees, and discounts or add-ons available. And we like that, similar to Consumer Cellular, Straight Talk gives you a bit of a break on monthly costs with autopay, which the company calls “auto refill.” While auto refill only saves $1 a month with some plans, Straight Talk’s Gold Unlimited and Platinum Unlimited plans offer $5 monthly discounts for auto refill, just like Consumer Cellular does.

Neither Straight Talk nor Consumer Cellular charge data-overage fees, but the carriers deal with data overages differently. If you run out of data with Straight Talk, you won’t be able to use the internet on your phone for the rest of the billing period. Consumer Cellular, however, bumps you up to a higher data plan when you run out of data.

During periods of high demand, data speeds might slow, which is common among cell phone carriers — even for plans with “unlimited” data. If your plan comes with a fixed amount of high-speed data (like the Bronze Plan), your data speeds may drop to 2G for the remainder of your service period after you’ve reached your high-speed data limit.

Also be aware that Straight Talk expects to implement some changes to their network late in 2024, so phones that aren’t capable of 4G service might be affected. Find more information about these network changes on their website and check to see if you’re eligible for a phone upgrade.

Straight Talk phones can’t be used when you travel outside the U.S., so they might not be the best choice for older adults with wanderlust. Staying in touch with loved ones overseas, on the other hand, is pretty straightforward: Buying the Straight Talk $10 Global Calling Card gives you unlimited international long distance calling when you call from the U.S. Your unused balance for international calls will roll over to the next service month. Alternatively, you can opt for Straight Talk’s Unlimited International Plan for $60 a month ($59 with auto refill), which lets you call China, India, Canada, and Mexico.

It’s also simple to add data to your plan: You can purchase an additional 1 GB for $5 and 2 GB for $10. (Note: Data add-ons can’t be used for hot spots.) Unused data carries over to the next service month, too.

Online reviewers have expressed frustration with Straight Talk customer service over the phone. Some wrote that they were hung up on and that the agents were difficult to understand. Reviewers have also posted complaints about connectivity issues and difficulty receiving promised refunds.

>> Learn About: A guide to cell phones for seniors

However, we experienced prompt and courteous service when we contacted Straight Talk with questions. At times, some of the information we received was confusing and needed clarification. There was some confusion, for example, about whether Straight Talk’s Bronze Plan included calls to Canada and Mexico. But after asking for clarification, we were satisfied we got the information we were looking for. Consumer Cellular only offers help via chat if you enter your name and email address first, while Straight Talk agents answered questions via chat quickly without asking for an email address. They didn’t push us to purchase upgrades or add-ons, which we appreciated.

Positive Straight Talk reviews mention that customers were happy with the service and data speeds, and that they like being able to buy Straight Talk products while shopping at Walmart. Many Straight Talk customers mention that they love the Walmart+ membership that’s included if you choose the Gold Unlimited plan ($55) or Platinum Unlimited plan ($65). Walmart+ members get special pricing on fuel and don’t have to pay shipping or delivery fees at Walmart.

Overall, Straight Talk offers several plans at prices comparable to other carriers. It’s a good option for people who would like higher data speeds and have loved ones living in other countries. Straight Talk’s $55 plan is comparable to Consumer Cellular’s unlimited plan, but you get more hot-spot data, plus 100 GB of cloud storage. Straight Talk might be the better carrier for someone who uses a lot of data and phone storage.

Nationwide Coverage

Consumer Cellular

Unless you live in a rural, remote area, you’ll likely have excellent network coverage with Consumer Cellular. Consumer Cellular operates on AT&T and T-Mobile networks and partners with international carriers to provide 5G coverage where available. RootMetrics, a mobile analytics firm, rated T-Mobile the best carrier in terms of 5G availability and speed in its 2023 analysis.3

Some areas of the U.S. might only have 4G LTE coverage, which is a little slower than 5G. Still, 4G LTE is fast enough to watch videos, make calls, and browse the internet with ease. If the network is very busy, your phone might be slower at times. In our experience, this reduced speed wasn’t very noticeable.

Keep in mind that some phones might not be compatible with 5G service. For example, when we tested Consumer Cellular’s IRIS Flip phone, we noticed we could only get 4G coverage. We had no problem talking on the phone and texting with the IRIS Flip’s 4G coverage and found service to be reliable.

Straight Talk

As a subsidiary of Verizon, Straight Talk uses Verizon’s powerful network, which won J.D. Power’s 2024 award for wireless network quality for the 32nd time in a row.4 Like Consumer Cellular, Straight Talk offers 5G network coverage in most areas of the U.S. Also like Consumer Cellular, data speeds might slow enough to affect streaming quality if the network is very busy. This shouldn’t happen very often, though!

Consumer Cellular vs. Straight Talk Phones

Consumer Cellular

Consumer Cellular lets you bring your own phone when you sign up for service. You have the option to keep your phone number, too. One drawback is that if you do want to bring your own phone, you’ll have to call Consumer Cellular; you won’t be able to complete your plan purchase online without adding a new phone.

If you’re in the market for a new phone, Consumer Cellular offers more than 30 different devices, from simple flip phones to iPhones (and several Apple Watches), along with Samsung, Motorola, and Nokia phones. For older adults who want a durable, easy-to-use phone without many bells and whistles, Consumer Cellular’s IRIS Flip is a great option. This flip phone is lightweight and hearing-aid compatible. It has large, textured buttons that are clearly labeled, so it’s a good fit for people with vision loss or arthritis.

>> Further Reading: Best cell phones for seniors in 2024 

We especially like the red “favorite contacts” button that’s front and center on the bottom of the keyboard. This button makes finding important numbers quick and easy. And we love the IRIS Flip’s calendar app, which keeps track of your events and schedule. The IRIS Flip’s photo quality isn’t the best, as it only has a 5 MP camera. Although a bit grainy looking, the photo quality is comparable to other flip phones we’ve tried.

Consumer Cellular's IRIS Flip has a large screen and keypad for easy viewing.

Consumer Cellular’s IRIS Flip has a large screen and keypad for easy viewing.

We’ve noticed that Consumer Cellular consistently offers great sales on cell phones and monthly payment plans. That means older adults on a budget don’t have to forgo the phone they want if they can’t pay for it up front.

Straight Talk

With more than 70 different phones to choose from, Straight Talk offers twice as many choices as Consumer Cellular, although Consumer Cellular offers Apple Watches and Straight Talk doesn’t. Straight Talk offers a choice of three flip phones, each for just $30.

Like Consumer Cellular, Straight Talk lets you bring your own phone and frequently offers discounts on many of their own. It could take a week to activate your phone after transferring from another carrier, though.

You can also pay for phones as you go. Right now, you can get a new Samsung Galaxy A14 5G for free, or a Samsung Galaxy A15 5G for a little over $6 a month for 24 months, with the Silver Unlimited Plan or higher.

Samsung Galaxy A14 5G

Samsung Galaxy A14 5G

Our Final Thoughts on Consumer Cellular vs. Straight Talk

Consumer Cellular and Straight Talk both have reliable 5G networks and easy to understand phone plans with no contracts. Neither carrier operates stand-alone retail stores. But if you want to try out the phones in person and ask questions, you can pop into a Target to check out Consumer Cellular, and Walmart to learn more about Straight Talk. Both companies can be a bit of a pain if you want to bring your own phone from another carrier, but that’s not terribly unusual across the industry. Both companies also slow (or throttle) speeds when data usage reaches a certain point.

Overall, Consumer Cellular might be the best option for older adults who want a simple phone for basic talk and text. We also like Consumer Cellular’s senior-friendly perks, such as AARP member discounts, a medical alert system (Ally), and roadside auto-service options. These features can offer some added peace of mind.

Straight Talk is a great option for those who use a lot of data or want a customizable phone plan tailored to their needs. And while Consumer Cellular offers affordable options, Straight Talk’s plans are comparable, as we pointed out. Straight Talk is also a good option for people who would like higher data speeds or have loved ones in other countries. Straight Talk is a great choice for frequent Walmart shoppers, particularly if they choose a plan that includes a free Walmart+ membership.

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