By Jim Miller
Dear Savvy Senior,
A few months ago, I read a column you wrote on extremely cheap smartphone plans for budget-conscious seniors. Can you do a similar column for those of us who still use basic flip phones? My old 3G flip phone is about to become obsolete, so I’m looking for the cheapest possible replacement. I only need a simple cell phone (no data) for emergency calls when I’m away from home.
— Penny Pincher
For many seniors, like yourself, who only want a simple basic cell phone for emergency purposes and occasional calls, there are a number of super cheap plans available from small wireless providers you may have never heard of. Here are some of the best deals available right now.
Cheapest Basic Plans: For extremely light cell phone users, the cheapest wireless plan available is through US Mobile (USMobile.com), which has a “build your own plan” that starts at only $2 per month for 75 minutes of talk time. If you want text messaging capabilities, an extra $1.50/month will buy you 50 texts per month.
US Mobile runs on Verizon’s and T-Mobile’s networks and gives you the option to bring your existing phone (if compatible or unlocked) or purchase a new device, while keeping your same phone number if you wish.
If your flip phone is becoming obsolete, as you mentioned in your question, you’ll need to buy a new device, which you can do through US Mobile if you choose their plan. They offer the NUU F4L flip phone for $39 for new customers. Or you can purchase an unlocked phone through retail stores like Walmart or Best Buy or online. One of the best value flip phones right now is the (unlocked) Alcatel GO FLIP 4044 4G LTE, available at Amazon.com for $80.
Some other super cheap wireless plans worth a look are Ultra Mobile’s “PayGo” plan (UltraMobile.com/PayGo), which provides 100 talk minutes, 100 texts for only $3 per month. And Tello’s (Tello.com) “build your own plan” that starts at $5 per month for 100 talk minutes and unlimited texting.
Both Ultra Mobile PayGo and Tello also run on T-Mobile’s network and will let you use your existing phone (if compatible or unlocked) or buy a new one.
Senior-Targeted Providers: In addition to these super cheap plans, there are several other wireless companies that cater to older customers and offer low-cost basic plans and simple flip phones. One of the least expensive is through TracFone (Tracfone.com), which offers a 60-minute talk, text and web plan for $20 that lasts for 90 days. That averages out to $6.66 per month.
Three other providers that are popular among seniors are Snapfon (Snapfon.com), which offers a 100 minutes and unlimited texting plan for $10. Consumer Cellular (ConsumerCellular.com), which provides an unlimited talk plan for $15 per month. They also give 5% discounts to AARP members. And Lively (Lively.com), maker of the popular Jitterbug Flip2 senior-friendly flip phone. Their cheapest monthly plan is 300 minutes of talk and text for $15.
Subsidized Plans: You also need to know that if you’re on a government program such as Medicaid, Supplemental Security Income or food stamps/SNAP, or, if your annual household income is at or below 135 percent of the federal poverty guidelines – $18,347 for one person, or $24,719 for two – you might also qualify for free or subsidized wireless plans from various carriers via the federal Lifeline program. To find out if you’re eligibility or to apply, visit LifelineSupport.org.
Send your senior questions to: Savvy Senior, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070, or visit SavvySenior.org. Jim Miller is a contributor to the NBC Today show and author of “The Savvy Senior” book.