If you’ve seen the ads for Consumer Cellular on TV, you may be wondering if the wireless provider lives up to the hype. Team Clark spent 30 days testing the service to find out.
Although Consumer Cellular targets seniors with a 5% AARP discount, it’s available to people of all ages.
Is Consumer Cellular really worth it? Team Clark’s review
My overall experience with Consumer Cellular was positive, but I had some minor hiccups with customer service — and that’s actually one of Consumer Cellular’s top selling points.
In this review, I’ll lay out everything you need to know before you sign up…
Table of contents
- Network coverage
- Plans and pricing
- Activation process
- Phone selection
- Call and text performance
- Data speeds
- Customer service
1. Network coverage
Consumer Cellular is a mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) that partners with two networks to provide coverage: AT&T and T-Mobile.
Customers get access to one of those networks, not both. Consumer Cellular will decide whether AT&T or T-Mobile is best for you based on network coverage where you live.
Want to make sure you get a specific network? Skip the website and pick up a Consumer Cellular SIM card at a Target retail store.
2. Plans and pricing
For my 30-day test of Consumer Cellular, I paid $30 before taxes and fees for unlimited talk, text and 2GB of high-speed data.
Consumer Cellular doesn’t have the most straightforward plans compared to other low-cost providers, but you can customize them. Here’s how to choose a plan:
- LINES: Select one line or add a second line for $15/month; call (888) 345-5509 for additional lines
- TALK PLANS: Choose either 250 minutes for $15/month or unlimited minutes for $20/month
- CONNECT PLANS: Pick a text and data plan from 250MB ($5/month) to 20GB ($40/month); no unlimited data plan
For AARP members, Consumer Cellular offers a 5% discount off monthly fees and usage charges, a 30% discount off select accessories, and an extended 45-day money back guarantee.
For customers who don’t have an AARP membership, the risk-free guarantee is limited to 30 days.
If you go over the minutes or data allowed by your plan, Consumer Cellular will automatically upgrade you without charging overage fees. However, you will have to pay for the more expensive plan.
After you’re automatically upgraded, you’ll remain on the new plan unless you switch back.
Not a prepaid service
Another thing to keep in mind is that Consumer Cellular is a postpaid carrier, not prepaid. That just means that you get a bill in the mail at the end of your billing cycle and don’t pay in advance for the service.
There are no contracts. If you decide to cancel, Consumer Cellular will prorate your monthly service charges and minutes/data in your rate plan.
3. Activation process
I signed up for Consumer Cellular through the carrier’s website and my free SIM card arrived in the mail a few days later.
The SIM card came with step-by-step instructions on how to activate my service online, but I ended up having to call customer support to get my account fully up and running. With other carriers, I can usually do this 100% online.
After calling Consumer Cellular, it took about 15 minutes for a customer service representative to help me get started.
4. Phone selection
For my 30-day trial of Consumer Cellular’s service, I took advantage of the BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) program and used the same unlocked Moto G6 phone that I already had.
If you don’t want to bring a compatible device like I did, you can purchase a new phone from Consumer Cellular.
When I last checked Consumer Cellular’s website, there were 26 devices available for purchase — including high-end Apple iPhone and Samsung Galaxy phones. Several $100 phones were also for sale.
Customers can either pay full price for a phone or spread payments over time interest-free with EasyPay, pending credit approval.
5. Call and text performance
From my South Florida test location, Consumer Cellular’s call quality was clear, and I had no texts that were missing or delayed.
Call and text performance will vary depending on your location and which cell phone towers you get, AT&T or T-Mobile. You can check Consumer Cellular’s coverage map to learn more.
Then, enter your city on RootMetrics’ website to compare how all of the Big 4 networks perform in your neck of the woods.
6. Data speeds
A fast, reliable data download speed is necessary to surf the web and watch videos on your smartphone. Many people worry that low-cost carriers will slow down their data, but that was not my experience with Consumer Cellular.
Using the Speedtest by Ookla app, I regularly recorded download speeds of more than 25 Mbps. Here’s an example:
I’ve tested about a dozen affordable wireless service providers and Consumer Cellular’s data performance was among the best. I consider download speeds of 20 Mbps or higher to be above average.
Having said that, I generally have no problem streaming on my phone at speeds of around 10 Mbps.
7. Customer service
Established in 1995, Consumer Cellular provides 100% U.S. based customer service from its headquarters in Oregon. Not a lot of low-cost cell phone providers can say that!
The customer service representatives were always helpful, but wait times sometimes exceeded 30 minutes. You can request a callback to avoid staying on hold.
Consumer Cellular’s app and website are easy to navigate when you want to check your data usage or update payment information. However, it was a little frustrating that I had to call in to cancel my service.
The support agent indicated that canceling online may have been an option in the past, but not anymore.
Consumer Cellular’s prices certainly aren’t the lowest we’ve found, but it may be worth a closer look if U.S.-based customer support is something that you value.
Consider switching to Consumer Cellular if:
- You know that AT&T and/or T-Mobile provide good coverage in your area
- You don’t mind keeping track of your high-speed data (no unlimited plan)
- You have a compatible device or are willing to buy a new one
- You want to take advantage of the special AARP discounts
- You are someone who relies on phone-based customer support
If you want to learn about other low-cost cell phone service providers, there are cheaper options to consider from prepaid brands. We’re rounded them up in Clark’s guide to the best cell phone plans and deals!
More Clark.com stories you may like:
- 9 easy ways to lower your cell phone bill
- The #1 mistake people make when switching cell phone carriers
- Find a cheap cell phone plan with the best coverage