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Friday November 24, 2017

Savvy Living

Savvy Senior

Low-Cost Wireless Plans for Older Smartphone Users

My dad is interested in downsizing his smartphone wireless plan and is looking for the best low-cost options. He uses his phone primarily for talking and texting, but also wants to have some cellular data for checking email when he does not have WiFi access. Do you have any recommendations?

There are several great low-cost deals I can recommend for older smartphone users who are looking to save some money by paring down their cell phone plan. Here are three possible options to consider.

Republic Wireless


If your dad is an Android smartphone user, Republic Wireless (RepublicWireless.com) offers one of the cheapest deals available for light data users. Republic uses a mixture of Wi-Fi and cellular networks—Sprint and T-Mobile specifically—to transmit calls, texts and data. This patented technology automatically offloads as much as possible to WiFi networks when available, so he will consume less data than he would with traditional carriers.

Republic's no contract service plans start at $20 per month for unlimited talk, text and one gigabyte (GB) of data. If your dad needs more data, their $30 per month plan provides 2GB, and $45 per month buys 4GB.

How much data will your dad need? The best way to find out is to check his current phone bills. The average smartphone owner uses between 2GB to 3GB of data each month, but most seniors use less than 1GB.

To use Republic Wireless, he will need a compatible Android phone (iPhones are currently not compatible) or your dad can buy a new phone through the company. It currently offers eight Android phones with prices starting at $99.

Consumer Cellular


Another excellent low-cost option for lighter data users, and one that caters to older adults, is Consumer Cellular (ConsumerCellular.com). Rated the number one wireless service by Consumer Reports seven years running, Consumer Cellular offers a variety of "pay for what you need" talk and connect plans that will allow your dad to choose exactly what he wants.

Consumer Cellular's talk plans start at $10 per month plus 25 cents per minute, which may be an option if your dad is an infrequent caller. Otherwise they offer $15 per month for 250 minutes, $20 per month for 1,500 minutes or $30 per month for unlimited minutes.

Consumer Cellular also offers connect plans for text messages and cellular data. These plans cost $2.50 per month for 300 texts and 30 megabytes (MB) of data, $5 per month for 2,000 texts and 200MB data, $10 per month for unlimited texts and 500MB, $20 per month for unlimited texts and 1.5GB, $30 per month unlimited texts and 3GB or $40 per month for unlimited texts and 5GB of data.

Consumer Cellular, which offers 5% monthly fee discounts to AARP members, also allows customers to utilize their own smartphones by offering free SIM cards. Alternatively, customers can purchase a wide variety of Android and Apple iPhones or the senior-friendly Doro 824 SmartEasy.

Lifeline Program


If your dad's income is low enough, another option to check into is the Lifeline Assistance Program. This is a federal program that provides a $9.25 monthly subsidy that can go toward your father's smartphone service.

To qualify, your dad will need to show that his annual household income is at or below 135% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines (which is $16,281 for one person or $21,924 for two people) or that he is receiving a government benefit, such as Medicaid, food stamps, SSI, public housing assistance, veterans pension or survivor's pension benefits or that he lives on federally recognized tribal lands.

To apply, he can contact a wireless provider in his area that participates in the Lifeline program (see LifelineSupport.org or call 800-234-9473) and ask for an application form. He will want to check all wireless providers in his state because some offer better services than others.

Savvy Living is written by Jim Miller, a regular contributor to the NBC Today Show and author of "The Savvy Living” book. Any links in this article are offered as a service and there is no endorsement of any product. These articles are offered as a helpful and informative service to our friends and may not always reflect this organization’s official position on some topics. Jim invites you to send your senior questions to: Savvy Living, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070.

Published August 11, 2017

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