Dear SavvySenior: Can you direct me to some really cheap wireless smartphone plans for seniors who don’t use much data? I use my smartphone primarily for texting and talking but need some data for checking my email and a few other things when I’m away from Wi-Fi. Right now, I pay $30 per month but am looking for a better deal. — Senior Scrimper
Dear Scrimper: There are several super-cheap wireless providers I can recommend for older smartphone users who are looking to save money by paring down their cellphone plan. Here are three of the cheapest options available that you can switch to without sacrificing the quality of your service.
For extremely light smartphone data users, the most inexpensive wireless plan available today is through Tello (tello.com), which lets you build your own plan based on your needs or budget. For as little as $6 per month you can get unlimited texting, 100 minutes of talk time and 500 megabytes of high-speed data. Increases in talk time or data can be added in $1 increments.
Tello uses the T-Mobile network and gives you the option to bring your existing phone or purchase a new device, while keeping your same phone number if you wish. If you want to keep your phone, it must be unlocked. Just enter your phone’s ID (press *#06# on your keypad to get it) on Tello’s website to make sure that it’s compatible with the network.
Another super-cheap plan to consider is the annual prepaid plan offered through Boost Mobile (BoostMobile.com). For only $100 per year (or $8.33 per month) this plan provides unlimited talk, text and 1 gigabyte of 5G or 4G data each month. If you need more data, their $150 annual plan (or $12.50/month) gets you 5 GB.
Boost Mobile uses the T-Mobile and AT&T networks, and lets you use your existing phone (if compatible) or buy a new one.
And a third option to look into is Mint Mobile (MintMobile.com), which is recommended by Consumer Reports and has one of the best values for a cheap plan. Mint offers a $15 per month plan (plus taxes & fees) that provides unlimited talk and text, and 4 GB of 5G/4G data each month. They too use the T-Mobile network and will let you use your existing phone (if compatible) or buy a new one.
If your income is low enough, another option you should check into is the Lifeline Assistance Program. This is a federal program that provides a $9.25 monthly subsidy that could go toward your phone or internet service.
To qualify, you’ll need to show that you’re receiving certain types of government benefits such as Medicaid, SNAP (food stamps), SSI, public housing assistance, veterans’ pension and survivors’ benefit, or live on federally recognized Native American lands. Or, if your annual household income is at or below 135% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines — $17,388 for one person, or $23,517 for two — you’re also eligible.
To check your eligibility or to apply, visit Lifeline Support.org. If you do qualify, contact a wireless provider in your area that participates in the Lifeline program and sign up for service with them. You can also ask your current company to apply your Lifeline benefit to a service you are already getting, if it offers the benefit.
Jim Miller is a contributor to NBC-TV’s “Today” program and author of “The Savvy Senior.” Send your questions to Savvy Senior, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070; or visit savvysenior.org.