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Cell phones are one of the best ways for seniors to stay connected with their loved ones and the outside world. While landline phone services tend to be more affordable, these services are bound to be used only inside the home, and they often interfere with your home internet connection. Cell phones, however, can function just about anywhere, even in rural parts of the country.
According to studies, 92 percent of older adults ages 65 and up own a cell phone. However, many people might not be aware of the high costs associated with traditional cell phone carriers. In addition to charging overage fees and hidden fees, these providers often require users to commit to contracts.
Luckily, there’s a better option for those of us not looking for such a commitment, and that is a prepaid cell phone.
The main difference between prepaid and postpaid (that is, traditional cell phone plans) is the contracts. Postpaid plans from carriers such as Verizon and T-Mobile often lock you into a contract for at least one year. Should you exceed your monthly allowance of talk time or data, you’ll either be charged an overage fee or receive throttled data speeds, meaning your service will be slower.
Depending on the carrier, prepaid cellular plans allow you to choose your monthly allowance of talk time, messages, and data. Essentially, you pay only for what you need, making it an excellent option for older adults who don’t need an unlimited plan.
Here are some other key differences.
|Prepaid Cell Phone Plans||Postpaid Cell Phone Plans|
When it comes to prepaid cell phones, there are a lot of options. We had our work cut out for us to figure out which ones were best for seniors. Here’s what we looked for in our testing.
After weeks of testing devices and reading through the fine print of prepaid cellular plans, we’ve come up with a list of the five best prepaid options for seniors. Some of them provide a simple cellular experience, while others have advanced features like touchscreens and triple-camera arrangements. Regardless, there’s sure to be a device here to suit your needs, and it won’t require a long-term contract.
Here are our picks for the best prepaid phones for seniors.
Cost: $74.99 when purchased through Lively
Lively offers the Jitterbug Flip2, a modern flip phone that combines the functionality of a traditional phone with the advanced smart features of a medical alert system. You can choose from several Lively prepaid plans with no long-term contracts or cancellation fees.
Complete with large buttons set against a backlit keyboard, the Jitterbug Flip2 is easy to use for older adults with dexterity issues. It also has a 3.2-inch screen, powerful speaker, and emergency response capabilities to connect you to the Lively Response Team as quickly as possible. Due to its classic design, we also found that it was a breeze to pick up this handset and use it. In terms of call quality, this device impressed us with its powerful speaker, and it even worked with hearing aids, causing no excess noise in the process.
We also appreciated the red urgent response button located on the bottom of the phone. When we pressed this button, we were immediately connected with an IAED-certified response agent who assessed our situation and — in the event of an emergency — would have contacted proper help, be it a loved one or first responder.
Plans: Through Lively, you can build your own plan for the Jitterbug Flip2, with no long-term contracts or cancellation fees. If you’re looking for a basic talk and text plan, I’d recommend Value Talk & Text for $14.99 per month. This plan comes with 300 minutes, and text messages cost 10 cents each. If you enjoy talking and texting without limits, I’d recommend going for the Unlimited Talk & Text plan, which starts at $19.99 per month and features unlimited minutes and text messages.
Cost: $59 when purchased through Consumer Cellular
With flexible prepaid monthly plans, Consumer Cellular offers a variety of affordable flip phones for older adults such as the Consumer Cellular Link II. This cell phone costs just $59, before the cost of a monthly plan. Equipped with a long-lasting battery and a lightweight design, the 4.5-ounce phone fit right inside my pocket, unlike most wide and clunky smartphones.
First thing’s first. The call quality on this flip phone did not disappoint. In each of our test calls, the audio was sent and received with unparalleled clarity. Additionally, with this phone’s M3/T3 hearing aid compatibility rating, we were able to make calls while using hearing aids. I was particularly pleased with the classic 12-key keypad with large buttons that are comfortable to use.
For a traditional flip phone, it has a pretty good battery life because I was able to enjoy up to 14 hours of talk time without constantly having to recharge the battery. What’s more, I was able to take photos with the 2 MP front-facing camera and shoot video at up to 720p. Although the pictures weren’t as high resolution as those from more advanced smartphones, this flip phone still did a decent job.
Overall, Consumer Cellular Link II is a great prepaid cell phone if you don’t like being tied down by contracts or you don’t spend a great deal of time texting or calling loved ones. If you’re just looking for a lightweight flip phone with FM radio, Bluetooth compatibility, and physical buttons, then I’d recommend this phone.
Plan: Consumer Cellular offers a variety of prepaid plans that fit your budget, especially if you don’t text or call as often. Unlike with Lively’s Jitterbug Smart3, you don’t have to opt for a data plan with the Consumer Cellular Link II. If you do decide to get a data plan, you can choose from 1 GB of data to unlimited data for $20 per month to $55 per month, respectively. If you just want an Unlimited Talk Only Plan, you can get it for $15 per month with premium nationwide coverage.
To learn more about this phone, check out our Consumer Cellular review.
Cost: $112.49 when purchased through Lively
The Jitterbug Smart3 is Lively’s latest smartphone model, with impressive smart features and a long-lasting battery life that make it an affordable prepaid smartphone option for older adults.
With its large, 6.2-inch screen to view important messages and browse the internet, this smartphone does not disappoint. Compared to other smartphones, the screen size on this phone is much larger, giving visually impaired seniors the opportunity to see text clearly when reading or typing messages. What’s more, this prepaid smartphone also has speech-to-text capability, which can convert your spoken words into a text message.
In terms of other smart features, we also made clear video calls with this phone. When connected to Wi-Fi, our calls came through with crisp video and audio quality. We were also impressed by this phone’s high-quality built-in front-facing camera, which delivered photos that could rival a traditional digital camera. As a bonus, if you currently have the Lively Wearable2, it works as a great safety accessory and companion for your Jitterbug Smart3. When used together, they can detect a fall and connect you to an Urgent Response Agent.
Plan: With Lively, you can build your own plan for your Jitterbug Smart3 phone. With flexible and affordable plans with no contracts, you can get the recommended Unlimited Talk & Text plan for $19.99 per month. If you’re not much of a talker or texter, you can opt for the basic plan, which is the Value Talk & Text plan at $14.99 per month. It includes 300 minutes, but you will be charged 10 cents per text message.
One of the downsides of the Jitterbug Smart3 is that it requires a data plan, even if you don’t plan on using any data. However, there are several data options to choose from, with the cheapest plan costing $2.49 per month for 100 MB of data and the most expensive plan costing $30 per month for unlimited data usage.
To learn more about Lively, check out our rundown of Jitterbug phones for seniors.
Cost: $79 when purchased through Mint Mobile
The NUU F4L Flip Phone is a great option for older adults who are accustomed to flip phones and don’t want to upgrade to a smartphone. This flip phone has a ton of great features such as clear calls through its Voice over LTE (VoLTE) calling technology and faster speeds from 4G LTE connectivity. Other standout features include large buttons for easy dialing and a large 2.8-inch interior screen to help older adults with vision problems view important messages with confidence and ease.
I especially appreciated the easy-to-use side buttons to adjust volume for clearer calls. With plenty of built-in storage space and Bluetooth connectivity to stream music, this flip phone has basic features that are just as advanced as those of many smartphones. The NUU F4L Flip Phone is a great option for seniors who are looking for a basic flip phone on a budget. Overall, when it comes to deals and affordable prepaid plans, this basic flip phone is a good place to start.
Plan: With Mint Mobile, you can pick your own 12-month plan based on your preferred data usage (4 GB, 10 GB, 15 GB, or Unlimited). Plans will vary based on the data, so if you choose the 10 GB monthly prepaid plan for 12 months, you’d be looking at $190 for the cost of the plan in addition to $79 for the phone, which amounts to $269, which is a bargain compared to other prepaid plans.
For the best price, I’d recommend going for the 12-month Unlimited Plan on the NUU F4L Flip Phone, which is priced at $310 plus the cost of the phone, which totals $389. This is still a great bargain because other prepaid plans like AT&T can be as high as $65 per month for unlimited talk, text, and data, which is $780 annually, plus the cost of the phone.
Cost: $79.99 when purchased through Verizon
The Nokia 2720 V Flip offers some of the advanced features of a modern smartphone for older adults who are more familiar and comfortable with a classic flip phone.
Its well-spaced-out buttons provide an easy way to navigate and type out messages. In our tests, our calls came through loud and clear on both ends, and I was able to talk for over five hours straight without recharging the battery. For older adults who want answers to questions right away, this flip phone has a helpful Google Assistant feature for a better user experience. You can use your voice to get the weather forecast or make hands-free calls.
With tactile and larger buttons for easy navigation, this flip phone has a bright 2.8-inch LCD screen with a larger font size to see important messages. What’s more, this flip phone has advanced capabilities that can send an emergency text to five contacts by pressing the Emergency button. With medical alert system-like features, this flip phone gives you some smartphone features without compromising basic features that seniors are familiar with.
Plan: When purchasing Nokia 2720 V Flip through Verizon, you can choose from a variety of monthly plans. Their Talk & Text plan is intended for older adults who want talk, text, and light data usage; it starts at just $35 per month. The great thing about Verizon is that all their plans come with nationwide 5G service along with perks like a $5-per-month discount for using autopay.
When it comes to prepaid phones, there’s a whole world of options. When deciding on a device, be sure that it works with your provider of choice. In terms of no-contract providers, we recommend Lively and Consumer Cellular, as both of these companies are well-versed in the needs of older adults. Once you’ve decided on a provider, you can peruse a list of device options right on their web page.
Choosing a cell phone can be a complicated process, but if you go with a provider that doesn’t lock you into contracts, you’ll likely save yourself a good amount of money.
To learn more about phones and plans, be sure to check out our helpful guides:
Some of the benefits of a prepaid phone plan include the flexibility to upgrade or cancel your service at any time. Usually, a prepaid phone plan doesn’t tie you to a long-term contract or subject you to cancellation fees or other hidden fees.
In general, prepaid cell phone plans tend to be cheaper than traditional, postpaid cell phone plans. However, this varies from provider to provider.
Yes, you can purchase a new smartphone and look into a prepaid phone plan instead of a traditional plan. In some cases, you may be able to find affordable prepaid plans for as low as $25 per month.
Yes, Verizon offers prepaid phone plans starting at $25 per month.