Consumer Cellular vs. TracFone

Comparing Consumer Cellular and TracFone Plans for Seniors in 2024

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

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You may be happy with the phone plan you have now, but it doesn’t hurt to look at other plans and make sure you’re getting the best deal. Any comparison shopping should include looking at all the best phone plans for seniors, including those offered by mobile virtual network operators (MVNO). MVNOs are carriers that piggyback on the networks of major carriers. They typically offer some of the cheapest plans out there.

Two MVNO providers you may have heard of are Consumer Cellular and TracFone. In this guide, we’ll compare Consumer Cellular and TracFone using our tech experts’ personal experience testing both carriers. Both brands offer several plans that can be a good fit for older adults. Let’s dive right in!

A Side-by-Side Look at Consumer Cellular vs. TracFone

Here’s a look at Consumer Cellular and TracFone:

Our favorite is Consumer Cellular
  Consumer Cellular Tracfone Logo
Starting price $20 per month $9.99 per month
Activation fees None None
Data speeds 4G LTE in most of the U.S.; 5G and 5G+ in dozens of states and many densely populated cities 5G and 4G LTE coverage
Long-term contracts No No
Bring your own phone Yes, if unlocked and compatible. Call carrier to sign up. Yes, if it’s an unlocked 4G LTE smartphone
Discounts for multiple lines Yes, can add up to three lines when ordering online (each extra line is $15 per month) No
Website

Phone Plans and Prices

Consumer Cellular Plans

Consumer Cellular has several great cell phone plans designed for seniors, even though they aren’t labeled as “senior plans.” Consumer Cellular pricing ranges from $20 to $50 per month. There are no contracts or hidden fees, and plans qualify for free activation.

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.

The above four plans range in data from 1 GB to unlimited and have something for every budget. All four plans have unlimited talk and text. Here are some more features the plans come with:

  • 5G access
  • Cellular data
  • Mobile hot spots
  • Premium nationwide coverage
  • No overage charges
  • No fee for changing plans at any time

Customers that go over their monthly usage will be automatically upgraded to the next plan. If you reach 50 GB on the unlimited data plan in a given month, your speeds may be reduced. However, we’ve found that 50 GB is typically enough for most customers. In comparison, TracFone will shut down your service if you surpass your plan’s allowance, unless you prepay.

Testing out Consumer Cellular's IRIS Connect

Testing out Consumer Cellular’s IRIS Connect

Consumer Cellular offers multiline plans, which is a bonus for families. You can add up to seven lines that share the plan’s data, and each additional line costs $15 per month. Plus, adding more lines brings down your plan’s cost per line (TracFone doesn’t offer discounts on multiple lines).

While shopping for a Consumer Cellular plan, we learned that if you have an AARP membership, you can score a discount at checkout. Members can get two lines of unlimited talk, text, and data for $55 per month, or a 5 percent discount on any plan. You’ll also get a 45-day money-back guarantee. That’s 15 days longer than the guarantee for non-AARP members. Not an AARP member? Visit our AARP guide to learn more.

If you own a phone you can’t part with, don’t fret! Consumer Cellular has a “bring your own phone” (BYOP) policy. During testing, we realized that you can’t bring your own phone if you sign up for service online. You’ll have to call customer service to BYOP, and they’ll happily guide you through the process. Customer service can be reached by phone, and there’s also a live chat feature.

FYI:

FYI: Who doesn’t love a good discount? You can get a $5 monthly credit with Consumer Cellular by selecting automatic bill payment and paperless billing. 

Consumer Cellular’s 10 GB plan is one of our favorite options for older adults. It costs $35 per month, which we think is a good buy. It’s great for customers who want a cost-effective plan with a nice amount of data. Or, if you don’t use a lot of data, you can choose one of Consumer Cellular’s cheaper plans. On the flip side, if you want to add a lot of lines or you’re a big data user, you can choose the unlimited plan for $50 per month.

» Related Reading: Best unlimited phone plans for seniors

All in all, if you want a simple month-to-month plan with unlimited data or multiple lines, Consumer Cellular is a great choice. The company’s plans are designed for older adults, and they have staff accustomed to working with seniors. Plus, their AARP discounts can up your savings. And, unlike TracFone, their plans and service have a great money-back guarantee.

You can visit our 2024 Consumer Cellular review to learn more about our experience with this carrier.

TracFone Plans

TracFone has several plans available, but the ones listed below are our top picks for older adults. None of the plans have contracts or activation fees. All plans come with unlimited carry-over minutes, too. Customers should know that plans and services are nonrefundable. Here’s a breakdown of TracFone’s best plans for older adults:

Plans Cost per service period Auto-refill price Service period Includes Other features
Basic $19.99 plan $19.99 $17.99 90 days 60 minutes talk, text, and web Basic international calls
Basic $29.99 plan $29.99 $26.99 90 days 120 minutes talk, text, and web Basic international calls
Smartphone $20 plan $20 $15 30 days Unlimited talk and text and 1 GB of data N/A
Smartphone $40 plan $40 $35 30 days Unlimited talk and text and 8 GB of data IDnotify (identity theft protection service),

Hot spot capabilities

TracFone has 5G nationwide coverage and sells prepaid and pay-as-you-go phone plans. Customers have the option of using auto-refill or paying upfront and refilling as needed. This means that unlike Consumer Cellular, where customers pay on a monthly basis, TracFone customers must prepay in 30-day, 60-day, or 90-day increments (whatever your plan’s service period is). Some plans even have a 365-day service period.

Just keep in mind, if you choose a 60-day or 90-day plan, the amount of talk, text, and data that comes with your plan will need to last you for that period of time. This is unusual, as carriers typically offer monthly allotments. Still, it offers a great way to save on a basic plan.

Unlike Consumer Cellular, TracFone doesn’t offer unlimited data and there are no multiline discounts. Customers must pay for minutes on some plans, but minutes do carry over.

You can bring your own phone, but only if it’s an unlocked 4G LTE smartphone. Otherwise, you’ll have the option to buy a compatible phone. You can use TracFone’s compatibility tool to check if your phone is compatible with the network.

Want to avoid overage fees? If you need more minutes or monthly data, TracFone sells top-up add-ons (adding 1 GB of data is $10). But be careful — while plans may start out cheap, the more data you add, the more expensive the plan becomes.

We liked the Smartphone $20 plan, which is about $15 per month with auto-refill. Keeping your plan on auto-refill is an easy way to save on any TracFone plan. This plan gets you unlimited talk and text, 1 GB of data each month, and unlimited carry-over minutes. It’s comparable to Consumer Cellular’s $20 plan.

We visited TracFone’s website to select a plan. First we went to the “Shop” tab up top and chose “Service Plans” from the drop-down menu. We selected the Smartphone $20 plan, clicked on “I am a new customer,” and added it to the cart. Next, the prompt asked whether we were buying a new phone or bringing one. We chose BYOP. It then asked for our location, and we added a SIM card to our cart. Other than paying for taxes, shipping was free. It was a simple enough process!

TracFone has multiple plans that are geared toward customers of all ages. We were disappointed to see they don’t offer any senior discounts. But they do have a 25 percent off coupon if you sign up to receive TracFone marketing emails, which we think is worth the extra savings!

Overall, TracFone offers many affordable plans to keep older adults connected. For example, their $19.99 90-day plan, which is approximately $6.66 per month (or $5.99 with auto-refill), features 60 minutes of talk time and is a very cost-effective basic option for emergencies. It doesn’t get much cheaper than that!

Visit our TracFone Review to learn more.

FYI:

FYI: TracFone has a rewards program that gives members exclusive offers, local discounts, and points that can be used toward free service, more high-speed data, and more. To join, customers just need to activate their membership by entering their TracFone phone number on the rewards page.

Nationwide Coverage

Consumer Cellular

Like TracFone, Consumer Cellular uses a larger provider’s networks. Consumer Cellular uses AT&T’s networks and has nationwide 5G data speeds and 4G data speeds in most areas. Based on our experience, Consumer Cellular offers reliable, fast service. Just remember that you’ll need a 5G-compatible phone to experience 5G speeds.

» Learn About: Best 5G phones for seniors

TracFone

TracFone uses the nation’s three biggest networks: AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon. TracFone customers get 4G LTE and 5G coverage, but this can vary based on where you are and what phone you have.

Did You Know?

Did You Know? The modern smartphone was born in 1992 but wasn’t available for consumers to buy until two years later. When it was first available, it cost $1,100!1

Consumer Cellular vs. TracFone Phones

Consumer Cellular

Customers have the option to bring their own phones or buy a new one. Consumer Cellular sells cell phones for seniors and has several flip phones and smartphones to choose from. Some of the phone brands they sell include Apple, Nokia, Samsung, and Motorola. Consumer Cellular even offers its own line of phones, including the IRIS Connect and IRIS Flip. We’ve tested out both phones and found them to be very simple and senior-friendly.

The external display on Consumer Cellular's IRIS Flip

The external display on Consumer Cellular’s IRIS Flip

Consumer Cellular offers discounts on their website. These promotions can vary and may have limitations or require certain qualifications. And of course, they offer great AARP discounts to members.

TracFone

Similar to Consumer Cellular, you can BYOP or buy a new one with TracFone. Finding the best cell phones for seniors can be tough since there are so many to choose from, and TracFone sells dozens. These include new and reconditioned smartphones and flip phones. Some of the brands they sell are Samsung, Motorola, Apple, Nokia, Google, and more. TracFone offers a 30-day period to return phones for a full refund.

» Related Reading: Best smartphones for seniors

TracFone doesn’t have any physical store locations, but phones and airtime cards can be bought at Walmart and Best Buy. Just know that SIM cards and airtime are nonrefundable.

Our Final Thoughts on Consumer Cellular vs. TracFone

Consumer Cellular and TracFone both offer affordable, basic plans. The advantages of Consumer Cellular’s plans are that they’re tailored to older adults and offer unlimited data — unlike TracFone. But on the other hand, TracFone has some of the cheapest plans around, with good basic features that may work better for those on a fixed income.

One important caveat about both carriers: because Consumer Cellular and TracFone are MVNOs that piggyback off other carrier’s networks, you may experience slower speeds during high-traffic times; the larger carriers prioritize their own customers before the MVNOs that use their networks. Still, there are many benefits to MVNO plans, as they often provide more of a bargain, have no contracts, and offer more perks and flexibility. The savings alone are worth it!

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