What is Consumer Cellular, and is it worth It?

Consumer Cellular used to aim its wireless service at older customers who preferred low monthly cell phone bills to high data allotments. But over the years, the amount of data included in Consumer Cellular offerings has grown, explaining why it remains a favorite of anyone looking for the best cell phone plans for seniors.

With prices ranging from $20 to $50 a month, you can turn to Consumer Cellular if you're looking to lower your bill, regardless of your age. Just be prepared for less data and fewer perks when compared to other offering from the best phone carriers.

Here's what you need to know about Consumer Cellular and its wireless service.

What network does Consumer Cellular use?

Consumer Cellular piggybacks on two GSM-based networks: AT&T and T-Mobile. That gives the carrier nationwide reach and fairly dependable service, as both AT&T and T-Mobile get high marks from third-party testing firms. OpenSignal gives T-Mobile the nod for best overall experience and fastest 5G speeds — meaning Consumer Cellular customers with a 5G phone can benefit from that better performance. Rootmetrics has AT&T sharing honors for the best carrier performance overall heading into 2024.

Because Consumer Cellular is an MVNO, or mobile virtual network operator, it doesn't operate its own towers. Rather, it's borrowing space on those other networks, which also means that speeds can slow down if there's a lot of traffic.

What phones can you use with Consumer Cellular?

iPhone 15 Pro in Natural Titanium

(Image credit: Future)

Shop for a phone through Consumer Cellular and you can buy the latest iPhones and Galaxy S models, whether we're talking about the iPhone 15 Pro or Galaxy S24 Ultra. Cheaper options are also available among the dozen or so phones on sale right now, including flip phones. Consumer Cellular also offers interest-free financing where you pay off your phone in monthly installments over the course of two years.

If you're not impressed by the phones that Consumer Cellular offers, you can bring your own unlocked phone, as long as it's a GSM phone. Consumer Cellular doesn't charge you for a SIM card.

What are the best Consumer Cellular plans?

Consumer Cellular data plans

(Image credit: Consumer Cellular)

Consumer Cellular used to split its plans in two where you would bundle a talk plan with one covering data and texting. Things are simpler now, with each plan including unlimited talk and text, with customers only needing to settle on how much data to consumer each month.

Plans start at $20 per month for a single line with 1GB of data and ramp up to unlimited data for $50 a month. (There are also 5GB and 10GB tiers for $25 and $35, respectively.

If you need more than one line, Consumer Cellular charges $15 for each additional line. You can add up to three lines through the Consumer Cellular website, but if you need a fourth line, you'll have to contact the carrier directly.

Unlimited talk text and data: $50/month @ Consumer Cellular

Unlimited talk text and data: $50/month @ Consumer Cellular
A single line of unlimited data costs $50/month at Consumer Cellular with talk and text included. That's $10 cheaper than what AT&T and Verizon charge customers for their senior plans, which are also limited to customers in Florida. T-Mobile has no location limitations, and its cheapest plan for seniors costs $45/month.

If you use more than your allotted data in a given month, Consumer Cellular automatically bumps you up to the next tier of data. The policy avoids onerous overage fees, though we've heard from some Consumer Cellular customers who don't appreciate the automatic upgrade. Consumer Cellular does have a usage alert service that warns you if you're in danger of using too much data.

For seniors, the appeal of Consumer Cellular is an affiliation with AARP, where AARP members can save 5% on their monthly service. There's also a 30% discount on select accessories for AARP members. Using the 'AARP55' code, you can also get two lines of unlimited talk, text and data for $55/month, beating T-Mobile's cheapest offering.

How do Consumer Cellular's rates compare to other carriers?

Consumer Cellular's tiered data plans don't compare favorably to the competition. The 5GB plan that costs $25 month at Consumer Cellular is available for $15 through Mint Mobile's best phone plans, though Mint does require you to pay for a year in advance to get that rate. Peruse the best cheap cell phone plans, and you find a tiered data at more attractive prices than what Consumer Cellular charges.

It's unlimited data where Consumer Cellular now shines. While you can get a single line of data for less at Mint and Visible — and Visible doesn't require you to pay for a year of service for its lowest rate — Consumer Cellular compares very favorably to senior-specific plans. Two lines of unlimited data are much cheaper through Consumer Cellular than they are through AT&T and Verizon, and those two carriers only offer senior discounts to Florida residents. T-Mobile's cheapest offering for seniors is a little less expensive than Consumer Cellular's, but an AARP discount at Consumer Cellular puts those plans on par in terms of cost.

What do customers say about Consumer Cellular?

Consumer Cellular got an A rating from the Better Business Bureau, though customer reviews are less flattering. The reviews on Yelp are also critical, where the carrier has a 1.6-star rating out of 5.

In online reviews on those sites, users said they like Consumer Cellular's low rates, and they generally praised its customer service. However, some users complained about long hold times with customer service, and not everyone liked that the carrier upgraded them to a new tier when they reached their data limits.

Consumer Cellular bottom line

There's plenty to like about Consumer Cellular, starting with its use of two far-reaching GSM networks. The carrier has a good selection of phones, and its monthly payment option means you can still get a top-of-the-line phone while keeping your monthly costs in check. Special features, such as the ability to downgrade your plan or bump up to a different tier if your monthly needs change, can come in handy, too.

Still, other carriers offer cheaper plans with tiered data, and there are even some unlimited plans that are more attractively priced than what Consumer Cellular charges. The carrier does undercut senior pricing from well-established players like AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon, though. And that AARP discount can help lower your phone costs further at Consumer Cellular.

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Philip Michaels

Philip Michaels is a Managing Editor at Tom's Guide. He's been covering personal technology since 1999 and was in the building when Steve Jobs showed off the iPhone for the first time. He's been evaluating smartphones since that first iPhone debuted in 2007, and he's been following phone carriers and smartphone plans since 2015. He has strong opinions about Apple, the Oakland Athletics, old movies and proper butchery techniques. Follow him at @PhilipMichaels.