Consumer Cellular offers access to AT&T and T-Mobile’s networks for as low as $20 per month.
I tested Consumer Cellular to try out the service myself. I’ve also compared more than 70 different phone plans to see how Consumer Cellular holds up.
In this article, I’ll take a close look at Consumer Cellular’s plans and pricing, how to get started, and what to expect from Consumer Cellular’s service.
What To Know Before Signing Up for Consumer Cellular
Consumer Cellular is a mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) that partners with two networks, AT&T and T-Mobile, to provide coverage. When you sign up for service and enter your ZIP code, Consumer Cellular will determine which network will work best for you, and you’ll have access to that network’s towers. Prebuilt plans begin as low as $20 per month for unlimited talk and text plus 1GB of data.
In addition to affordable plans, Consumer Cellular is known for advertising its friendly customer service. In fact, this is one of the reasons it earned the award of best cell phone plan for seniors on Clark.com.
I tested out Consumer Cellular’s 1GB plan for 30 days to explore its coverage, call and text performance, customer service and more.
Table of Contents:
- Plans and Pricing
- Activation Process
- Call and Text Performance
- Data Speeds
- Customer Service
Below, you’ll find more information about Consumer Cellular including what plans are available, how reliable the service is and my thoughts on whether you should consider it for your next phone plan.
Plans and Pricing
Consumer Cellular offers six different prebuilt plans ranging from $20 to $50 per month, which includes the $5 autopay discount. All of the plans include unlimited talk and text.
Here are the plans you can choose from at Consumer Cellular with the total monthly prices for one line, two lines and three lines:
|Amount of Data||One Line||Two Lines||Three Lines|
|Unlimited (50GB high-speed)||$50||$65||$80|
As you can see, you can save at Consumer Cellular by adding multiple lines. In fact, having three lines on the unlimited data plan costs $80 per month, which is a savings of $23 per line per month over the price of a single line.
Unlimited access to 2G data speeds, once you hit your monthly limit, is available only with the $50 per month unlimited plan. If you exceed your data limit with any other plan, you’ll automatically be upgraded to the next plan.
In addition to the $5 autopay discount, AARP members are eligible for 5% off monthly service. You can enter your membership details once you select your plan to get the additional savings.
Selecting a phone plan and activating your service with Consumer Cellular is really easy to do. I recently signed up for Consumer Cellular myself to see exactly what the process looks like.
To get started, I visited Consumer Cellular’s website, chose the $20 plan and added it to my cart. Instead of choosing a new phone to buy, I scrolled over “Products & Services” and clicked “Bring Your Own Phone.” There, I was able to enter my phone’s IMEI number. And test my phone’s compatibility.
You can find your phone’s IMEI number by dialing *#06#. Also, make sure your phone is unlocked before buying a SIM card from Consumer Cellular.
Fortunately, my phone was compatible.
From there, you can choose whether you want to keep your existing number or get a new number. I chose to get a new number. You can also add optional roadside assistance.
If you plan to buy a new phone from Consumer Cellular, it makes the most sense to choose your plan and it to your cart first. Then, you’ll be prompted to choose a new device. If you’re bringing your own phone to Consumer Cellular, you can add the wireless plan and SIM card in any order.
If you order a SIM card, you will see a $10 authorization applied to your debit or credit card as a pending charge, but the funds will be released back to your account within 30 days.
I clicked “Review Order,” and there I was able to enter my billing and shipment information. You can choose to enroll in autopay or continue paying monthly with a check or card. You can also choose email billing or a paper invoice.
Since Consumer Cellular is a postpaid service, you will have to submit the last four digits of your social security number and authorize an industry-standard credit check. According to TransUnion, this kind of check is a soft inquiry that won’t affect your credit score.
Additionally, you’ll have to enroll in autopay to get the lowest rates. When I removed autopay, my bill went from $20 to $25. So I added it back. If you’re an AARP member, you can also add your membership information for additional discounts.
Because Consumer Cellular is a postpaid service, I didn’t owe anything at the time that I placed my order. Instead, I could see the total I would owe monthly moving forward: $20.
Consumer Cellular offers free priority shipping (3-5 business days) or express shipping (1-2 business days) for an additional $10. I chose free priority shipping and received my SIM card in three business days.
Consumer Cellular definitely came with the most detailed guide on how to activate and maintain your account. There were step-by-step instructions on how to test your service, how to check how much data you’ve used, a breakdown of your bill and more.
Once I inserted the SIM card into my phone and restarted it, I picked up service immediately and was able to place a test call.
I had to register my account with Consumer Cellular to track my data usage and manage payment options. To do this, I scrolled over “Log In” on Consumer Cellular’s website and clicked “Register My Account.” Then, I was able to enter my Consumer Cellular phone number, receive a temporary password and log in.
Call and Text Performance
Over the course of 30 days, I tried out Consumer Cellular’s service by making and receiving phone calls as well as sending and receiving text messages.
During the month that I tested out Consumer Cellular’s service, I didn’t travel to many places outside of town. Still, I had reliable, clear service the majority of the time with no dropped calls or undelivered text messages. However, service varies from one area to the next.
Consumer Cellular partners with two networks to provide coverage: AT&T and T-Mobile. To see if Consumer Cellular offers coverage in your area, check out its coverage map.
If you visit Consumer Cellular’s website, you can enter your address, state or ZIP code to see if you’ll have service in your area. You can also see a full list of available 5G venues.
Consumer Cellular offers access to AT&T and T-Mobile’s 4G LTE/5G networks. Based on my experience and examining the two wireless service providers’ coverage maps (AT&T, T-Mobile), it’s safe to say you’ll likely have reliable access to data with Consumer Cellular.
To make sure you’ll be covered before switching to Consumer Cellular, be sure to enter your address on its coverage map online. You can also look at AT&T’s coverage map and T-Mobile’s coverage map to get a better idea of service in your area since these are the towers Consumer Cellular operates on.
When I tried out Consumer Cellular myself, I checked the data speeds using Speedtest:
The download speed was usually around 35Mbps. The fastest download speed I saw was 50.62Mbps while the slowest download speed I saw was 17.27Mbps.
While Consumer Cellular plans do include 5G access, the device I tested the service with doesn’t support 5G. I did notice that my personal iPhone’s download speeds (on an AT&T postpaid plan) were typically two to three times faster on the 5G network compared to my Moto g’s LTE Consumer Cellular service.
Still, according to Consumer Reports, 18 Mbps is the minimum speed necessary for streaming 4K movies and TV shows. Netflix recommends a download speed of 25 Mbps for streaming 4K. Amazon says you’ll need a download speed of at least 8 Mbps for SD video and 40 Mbps for HD video on Prime.
Based on these numbers, Consumer Cellular’s high-speed data is fast enough to do most things online, including streaming standard video. Unfortunately, a mobile hotspot isn’t automatically available with Consumer Cellular plans; you’ll have to call and have your hotspot feature activated by a Consumer Cellular representative.
The plan I tried came with 1GB of high-speed data, but Consumer Cellular offers up to 50GB of high-speed data per month with its unlimited plan. After you’ve exceeded your high-speed data limit, you’ll automatically be upgraded to the next plan.
Consumer Cellular is well-known for its advertisements of friendly customer service. To test this out, I reached out to Consumer Cellular in both available ways: via phone and online chat.
To contact Consumer Cellular, you can visit the website to chat with an agent or call Consumer Cellular at (888) 345-5509 any day of the week between 9 a.m. and 8 p.m. EST.
When I tested Consumer Cellular, the 3G network shutdown was happening. Because of the network change, I was warned multiple times that wait times would be longer than normal.
When I joined the online chat, I was shocked to see that my queue position was 174. Still, I was more surprised by how quickly customer service representatives worked through the line. In fact, I waited only 43 minutes to talk to a customer service representative online despite having 173 people in front of me.
While I was waiting to connect with an online customer service representative, I also called Consumer Cellular. Again, I was warned about longer-than-usual wait times. My call was answered after a 48-minute wait, which was almost the same amount of time I waited for an online representative.
The representatives I talked to actually were really friendly. Both representatives were very kind, positive, patient and helpful.
Before I began testing phone plans, I highlighted the key factors that I would be exploring. This way, I would be able to accurately compare phone plans and get a full overview of what to expect from the service.
Here are the key factors I focused on while trying out each phone plan:
- Length of Time. I tested each phone plan for 30 days to observe the network’s reliability and gather feedback from friends and family regarding service.
- Signing Up. I signed up for each phone plan myself to document the process of getting started, testing phone compatibility or bringing your own device, how long it takes to receive the SIM card and the activation process.
- Reliability. I used my personal AT&T line as a base to see how often the tested phone plan had service and noted any dropped calls/undelivered text messages.
- Service. During the month, I made/received at least 15 calls and sent/received at least 15 text messages. I also tested the phone’s data speed and hotspot speed using speedtest.net.
- Customer Support. During my time testing out each phone service, I contacted customer support in all available ways to determine which method is best, how long it took to reach them and how helpful the experience was.
Ultimately, I had a great experience testing out Consumer Cellular. I had great service and coverage for the month that I tested it, and the data speeds were fast enough to stream video content. I didn’t experience any dropped calls or undelivered text messages, and contacting customer service was fast, easy and pleasant.
At Clark.com, we’ve awarded Consumer Cellular the best overall cell phone service for seniors. After testing out the service myself, I truly believe that it is.
The introductory packet included all of the information you’d need to get started, service is affordable and reliable and my experience with customer service was great. However, I do wish customer service was available 24/7. Still, I would absolutely recommend Consumer Cellular to the seniors in my life.
If you’re thinking about switching to Consumer Cellular, ask yourself these questions first:
- Are AT&T and T-Mobile networks strong in your area? You can check Consumer Cellular’s coverage map, AT&T’s coverage map and T-Mobile’s coverage map online to see if you’ll have service in your area.
- Can you get by with limited data? Consumer Cellular offers phone plans ranging from 1GB to 50GB of high-speed data per month with its unlimited data plan. While the unlimited plan includes unlimited 2G speeds, none of them include truly unlimited high-speed data.
- Is your current phone compatible with Consumer Cellular? You can check your phone’s compatibility online.
If you can answer “yes” to each of these questions, Consumer Cellular will likely be a great choice for you. Fortunately, you won’t have to sign a contract when you sign up and you can cancel at any time.
For more options, be sure to read our guide on the best cell phone plans and deals available now. Once you’ve decided on a new phone plan and you’re ready to make the switch, check out this guide that we put together to take you step-by-step through the process. To learn more about cheap cell phone plans like Consumer Cellular, check out our list of T-Mobile MVNOs and AT&T MVNOs for more.
Have you used Consumer Cellular? Share your experience in the Clark.com Community! There, you can also check out the latest conversation around cell phones.