Culture

55 or Older? Here's How to Save Big on Your Phone Plan

Cellular plans are much like the weather. If you don’t like what you have, wait a little bit and it may change. Still, most of us are reluctant to shift carriers because it can be a hassle. There’s the unknown of another carrier’s reception, you need to transfer your phone number, and you’ll likely want to move several phones over if you have a family plan. Fortunately, it’s getting easier and most of the popular new smartphones work on all networks.

But even if you don’t want to change carriers, you owe it to your wallet to keep up with your own carrier’s changes that seem to be occurring more often, thanks to competition. As a case in point, T-Mobile’s charismatic CEO and President John Legere recently announced the T-Mobile One Unlimited 55+ plan. It’s one of the best deals to come along for those who qualify. It provides anyone age 55 and over with two lines of T-Mobile One for just $60, taxes and fees included. It requires you set up autopay for paperless billing and it’s limited to two lines. If you want additional lines you can set up another account.

The plan comes with unlimited talk, text and 4G LTE data, free international data, and allows tethering. That’s a huge discount for what normally costs $100 plus taxes for two lines. Only the main account holder needs to be 55 or older. I have a two-line plan I share with my daughter, and a call to T-Mobile resulted in the huge reduction. But you do need to call. Check out the details here and see all the fine print at the bottom of the page.

Why is T-Mobile doing this? While they have 18 percent of the market share in the U.S. compared to Verizon and AT&T collectively controlling nearly 81 percent of the postpaid wireless, they have just eight percent of the over 55 group, so it’s an opportunity for them to find new customers.

I’ve been using T-Mobile along with Verizon for several years — yes I carry two phones — and find both companies’ cellular and data reception to be similar. In some fringe areas, Verizon or AT&T may be better, but the differences are getting fewer, and I much prefer T-Mobile’s competitive plans and their consumer-friendly attitude. If it were not for T-Mobile our rates would be higher, regardless of the carrier we uses.

T-Mobile’s free data while traveling internationally is a huge benefit. I just returned from a trip to Japan, and as anyone who travels internationally realizes, you really need a phone to access Google maps, the web, and travel sites. T-Mobile is the only carrier that provides data for free in most countries, while Verizon charges $10 per 24-hour period per phone that starts as soon as you use your first bit of data.

Lastly, there’s the issue of robocalls, those annoying recorded calls from Rachel of Credit Card Services and her many friends. They’re getting worse because they’re impossible for us to detect. The caller ID often displays a local phone number similar to our own number to try to get us to answer.

The carriers are finally doing something about it. AT&T and T-Mobile now have technology that can detect most of these calls using falsified numbers to prevent them from getting through. It’s not foolproof,  but it’s a big improvement. Verizon also is also now able to do much the same, but it’s an optional service that costs subscribers $2.99 per month per phone!

If you wonder why so many despise their carriers, this is a good example. Verizon likes to tout their superior service, but if you ask customers what their biggest issues are, robocalling is high on the list. But kudos to AT&T and T-Mobile for doing it for no cost. I’d use the Nomorobo at $1.99/month before paying Verizon.

To better keep up with the latest changes, specials and discounts, check out the website WhistleOut, which lists the latest plans available on a weekly basis. It’s much like checking out the lowest airline fares, as changes occur in response to the competition and when new phones are introduced. The site makes it easy to compare carriers for all types of plans, from a single line to a 5-phone family plan, along with data prices.