Consumer Cellular is a low-cost cell phone service provider that you may have first heard about through one of its TV commercials.
Those ads say the service can cut your cell phone bill in half, but is it worth the savings?
Everything to Know Before You Sign Up for Consumer Cellular
I first tested Consumer Cellular in 2019 and signed up again in late 2021 because there have been some big changes with the service.
In this article, I’ll explain the pros and cons that you need to know before you sign up.
Table of Contents:
- What Is Consumer Cellular?
- Is Consumer Cellular’s Coverage Any Good?
- How Much Does Consumer Cellular Cost?
- What Phone Options Are Available With Consumer Cellular?
- How Is Consumer Cellular’s Customer Service?
- Consumer Cellular Pros and Cons
What Is Consumer Cellular?
Consumer Cellular is what’s referred to in the wireless industry as a mobile virtual network operator, or MVNO for short.
I’ve tested more than a dozen MVNOs, so I can simplify it for you.
Unlike Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile, MVNOs don’t own cell phone towers. Instead, they partner with one or more of the major networks to provide coverage.
MVNOs like Consumer Cellular typically offer cheaper plans than the three major networks.
Consumer Cellular was founded back in October 1995. It currently targets the senior population, although it’s available to people of all ages. It has more than four million customers.
The company was sold to private equity firm GTCR in late 2020.
Is Consumer Cellular’s Coverage Any Good?
Consumer Cellular has two network partners: AT&T and T-Mobile. Customers can access one of those wireless networks, not both.
The network is chosen based on your location. Enter your ZIP code here to confirm coverage.
I tested Consumer Cellular using AT&T’s network. For my 30-day test, I had no issues with call and text performance from my location in Los Angeles, California.
For data needs, 5G speeds are available in many locations with a compatible device.
During my testing period, I conducted 10 data speed tests using the free Speedtest app, and the average 5G download speed was more than 70 Mbps.
That’s fast enough to stream video, browse the web and use apps without issues.
Data Speed Test Results
|Date and Time||Download Speed (Mbps)||Upload Speed (Mbps)|
|11/10/21, 8:08 AM||74.3||22.1|
|11/11/21, 8:21 AM||74.7||24.8|
|11/12/21, 6:13 AM||73.5||26.5|
|11/13/21, 6:01 AM||74.9||27.3|
|11/13/21, 8:51 PM||67.9||18.9|
|11/15/21, 7:13 PM||71.1||24|
|11/16/21, 6:30 AM||75.9||25|
|11/16/21, 3:42 PM||74.2||25.5|
|11/17/21, 3:53 PM||71.8||26.5|
|11/18/21, 5:08 PM||75.8||25.1|
If you currently have service on either the AT&T or T-Mobile network, you can expect a similar experience with Consumer Cellular.
But look elsewhere if you prefer Verizon’s network. I recommend Visible and US Mobile.
How Much Does Consumer Cellular Cost?
Consumer Cellular’s plans are a decent value for people who don’t use a lot of high-speed data throughout the month.
The plan that I tested offers unlimited domestic talk, text and 5GB of data for $25 a month.
Although there is an unlimited data plan option, it’s $50 a month for a single line of service. That’s not a significant savings compared to the major wireless networks.
Here’s a look at Consumer Cellular’s single-line plans that were updated in late 2022:
|Unlimited talk, text and 1GB of data||$20|
|Unlimited talk, text and 5GB of data||$25|
|Unlimited talk, text and 10GB of data||$35|
|Unlimited talk, text and 15GB of data||$40|
|Unlimited talk, text and 20GB of data||$45|
|Unlimited talk, text and data (reduced speeds after 50GB)||$50|
These prices include a $5 monthly discount for AutoPay and E-Billing. Taxes and fees are extra with all plans.
Learn more about Consumer Cellular’s plans here.
Consumer Cellular lets you share your plan with up to three people. You can add additional lines for $15 a month each.
With this option, all lines on the account will share the same bucket of data.
If you go over your data limit, Consumer Cellular will automatically upgrade you to a more expensive plan.
You should receive a usage alert when you’re approaching your limit.
Although there are no overage penalties, customers who are upgraded to another plan will have to pay more for the new plan.
Customers will stay on the upgraded plan unless they choose to downgrade.
If you’re not carefully monitoring your data usage through the Consumer Cellular app, you could easily end up paying more than you intended to.
I would like to see Consumer Cellular make the automatic upgrade an optional feature.
AARP and USAA Discounts
AARP members get a 5% discount on their monthly service. Consumer Cellular says this saves the average customer $24 a year.
In addition, AARP members get an extended 45-day risk-free guarantee.
If you don’t have AARP, the money-back guarantee is limited to 30 days. Learn more about the fine print of this offer here.
In addition to AARP, Consumer Cellular has partnered with USAA to offer members a 5% discount on their monthly service and 30% off all accessories.
Postpaid, Not Prepaid
Consumer Cellular is a postpaid service. The company will send you a bill for the previous month at the end of your cycle.
This is how Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile typically handle billing.
Most low-cost providers are prepaid. I prefer the simplicity of prepaid services that allow you to pay in advance and don’t require a credit check.
With prepaid services, there are zero surprises when it comes to billing.
What Phone Options Are Available With Consumer Cellular?
Consumer Cellular lets you bring your own phone or purchase a new one.
If you want to keep your existing device, visit Consumer Cellular’s website and confirm that it’s compatible. Your phone must be unlocked and compatible with GSM network technology.
If it’s compatible, you can order a free SIM card online. Once delivered, you’ll insert the SIM card into your phone and activate the service.
This is what I did. Simple step-by-step instructions are included with the SIM card.
(With the launch of Apple’s iPhone 14, Consumer Cellular has added support for eSIM.)
If you prefer to purchase a new device, Consumer Cellular’s website sells about two dozen Apple and Android phones, plus even a flip phone.
There are budget and high-end options, including the latest models. Most are sold at full price.
You can either pay for the device in full or apply for 0% financing spread over 24 months, with a down payment required.
If you prefer to shop in-store, Target sells some Consumer Cellular devices.
Whether you bring your own phone or purchase a new one, you can keep your existing number if you want to. Learn more about that process here.
How Is Consumer Cellular’s Customer Service?
Good customer service is difficult to find, but this is one area where Consumer Cellular has gained a lot of recognition over the years.
The company is consistently ranked #1 for customer service among wireless providers in J.D. Power’s rankings.
What’s the secret? U.S.-based customer service representatives.
I tested Consumer Cellular’s phone and chat support several times during my 30 days with the carrier. Agents were always helpful and answered my questions appropriately.
But every time I called customer support, the automated message said the company was “struggling with high call volume and staffing challenges.”
As a result, I waited between 8 and 15 minutes for a representative to join the call.
Customers can also reach out to support through chat. This may be a quicker way to get help during peak times.
If you prefer in-person customer support, there is an option for you. Consumer Cellular partners with Target to offer sales and support at select locations.
I visited my local Target to check out the Consumer Cellular display:
During my visit to Target, I noticed signage for Consumer Cellular and a number of other wireless providers. A store employee offered to help me choose a plan, but she wasn’t pushy.
Many low-cost cell phone service providers have limited customer support options, so I appreciate Consumer Cellular’s approach.
Consumer Cellular’s website also has a wealth of information, including a buying guide and tutorials with instructions to help you get started on many different devices.
All of this may ease fears for people overwhelmed by the process of switching providers.
Consumer Cellular Pros and Cons Summary
|Affordable plans, particularly for light data users||Automatic upgrade feature|
|AARP discount||Few phone deals|
|Top-ranked customer support|
Consumer Cellular does a great job of marketing its service to people over 50, but many seniors use their phones just like everyone else –- talk, text and data.
Consumer Cellular’s plans are the best value for light data users. The unlimited data option is less competitive.
Think about it this way:
- Visible, a Verizon-owned company, offers unlimited talk, text and data starting at $30 a month.
- Mint Mobile, a T-Mobile MVNO, offers an unlimited plan for $30 a month.
In other words, some wireless providers offer unlimited data plans for around the same price as Consumer Cellular’s 5GB plan.
But there are other differences to consider besides pricing, specifically customer service.
And for many who aren’t particularly tech-savvy, customer support alone makes Consumer Cellular a good option to consider.
17 thoughts on “Consumer Cellular Review: Is It Worth the Savings? (Pros and Cons)”
I am a long-term customer of Consumer Cellular who has been reasonably satisfied. That all changed. I have been receiving almost constant adult content spam to my Consumer Cellular number from a different email address each time. Found out it is also going to children. Someone in a similar situation told me her company was able to put a block on her number so she would not receive text messages from email address and it all stopped. I contacted Consumer Cellular and was told they can do NOTHING. If you expect your cellular provider to provide some basic protection options against this type of content being sent to your phone, do not choose Consumer Cellular.
I have been waiting to speak to someone, you can forget it. Very poor service. My friend wants texting removed from his plan but it is impossible to speak to anyone after 30 minutes of waiting. He is hard of hearing so am trying to help him.
Consumer Cellular, Inc.: You Will Pay for Their Mistakes
Read the reviews. Check with the Better Business Bureau.
My experience with them has been unfortunate. I ported my two mobile phone numbers to another carrier because of poor coverage, thereby cancelling my service with them. But Consumer Cellular continued to bill me for one of the two lines that was cancelled, because of a computer error. I called their customer disservice line (you cannot write to them; there is no published customer service email or address) and waited a very long time to be told that they would not correct that billing. They would continue to charge me for service that they knew was not provided.
This is how I learned Consumer Cellular is not trustworthy and that their customer service personnel are poorly trained and unhelpful. I will not call them again. Fool me twice…
Note, this was not an end-of-service proration issue. This was my being charged incorrectly for the last month (and again for the next month) of service on a line that was disconnected. And they were aware of that fact and intentionally refused to correct it at that time.
Well, I did not pay that bill. And you wouldn’t either. So, Consumer Cellular charged me a late fee.
A month later, the incorrect changes were mysteriously corrected and within 30-days of that correction, I paid them what I owed them which was the correct prorated charges for the last month of service.
But I did not pay the late charge (you wouldn’t either). Now every month I get an invoice with a late charge for not paying the previous month’s late charge, which was bogus to begin with. Is that even legal? These compounding late charges are beginning to add up. I expect there is no way to stop this extorsion other than to pay it.
They cheat me; they will cheat you.
I have been on hold with Customer service for 3 days now, trying to Activate new phone. Yesterday was 2 1/2 hours, today I decided to call again. I was on hold over an hour, and I signed in and opene, d chat. I was in open Chat in waiting, for about 40 minutes, and all of a Sudden it Timed out and closed. I think my husband should just stick with the Old Carrier. So Far I am NOT IMPRESSED.
On top of that. I got an Offer in the mail that new activation would receive $100 per line. When I signed up they put $25 per line, saying the other had ended. Then the following day got the $100 offer again……. BUYER BEWARE!!!!!!! Vickie Crisenberry, Rutherford, TN
They do not honor the $200 rebate, I just signed on and they refuse to apply this offer. I guess I made a bad decision switching to this carrier. I’t’s called greed !!
have you tried twigby or pure talk? any comments
I’ve tried both actually. It’s been a couple years. I liked Pure Talk better. It uses AT&T’s network. Twigby uses Verizon’s network now, and I think US Mobile and Visible are better options for that.
I am currently using Twigby (Verizon) after finally giving up on Republic. They where offering the 50 percent off for 6 months if you port your number. That’s hard to beat and the service has been great. After 6 months I will probably switch to Visible. My wife uses Visible and it may be the best bang for your buck if Verizon is strong in your area.
No one everanswers their customer service phone line-period! If you log in, and chat with them, they can correct your bill, but have zero decision making ability to correct equipment (theirs) failures. When AT&T went to 5G, consumer cellular didn’t coordinate, confirm, or follow up on making sure that AT&T transitioned consumer cellular into the new system. Tens of thousands of CC customers lost connectivity. But CC kept billing for full service, not telling any CC customer of the dropped service. CC blames AT&T, but since CCdidn’t coordinate with AT&T before, or during the transition, it’s on CC. No relief in sight, and CC is still not coordinating with, or pushing AT&T to fix it. If you call AT&T, they don’t wannaknow nuthin’ from nuthin’ about any reseller system dumps.
Consumer Cellular is NOT a company any Senior citizen should have to deal with! It is not easy to set up any phone they sell you-passwords for everything on the phone. What Senior citizen wants to waste time trying to set up a phone, figure out passwords, and deal with the customer service department? Their commercials make it seem so easy to deal with them, set up the smart phones, etc. It is NOT easy. What a waste of time and money. I would NOT recommend this company
for anything to do with a Senior!
well all i can tell you is that this is a company that just keeps on giving, after you cancel, after they cancel you after you send them the third final payment they just keep on giving you emails of delinquency and threats for collections, yes they are one of the most special companies i have had the displeasure of signing up with if you chose to get in with them you best just stick with them.
Consumer Cellular is the worst company I have ever dealt with for phone service. Ì had to purchase a brand new phone from them in order to get a plan with them. The phone stopped taking incoming calls after 3 months. I called to let them know about this and after troubleshooting with several people no one could help me figure out why my phone was blocking every call that came in. They would not exchange the faulty phone they sold me. So I was forced to go back to my last carrier. But to top it all off, they wouldn’t even release my phone number back to me. A phone number that I’d had for 8 years. I had to call or text everyone a new phone number that I still can barely remember. It wasn’t worth the $20 I was saving for those few months. Horrible service, horrible company!
I’m dealing with that consumer cellular garbage since late August through today where the calls & usage is not being reported every 24-48 hours since I’m on a minute plan. I spoke with one of their customer persons earlier this week & she said the cell tower problems should be fixed by now since its good ole AT&T Reseller; that is a big fat lie-calls & usage still not reported & she changed my plan to “unlimited” without consulting me the Customer & Consumer. Geez! I’m way over 50 years of age & do they falsely advertise. I would like to have a cell phone carrier company that is Equal all the way across the Customer & Consumer board; not really sure that is an Actuality for me or anyone else out there. Then there is the issue of their reprogramming cell towers or something & some functions on my 4G phone do not work, I’m told by Supervisor the only way to fix that is to Reset the phone & lose quite a bit without some other device card. Such technical aspects in their reprogramming Customer forced to fix their erroneous.
Consumer Cellular highjacked my phone, I was a long time customer of CC before I lost everything in 2019, including my CC line for non payment but I purchased the phone but they locked my phone anyway so I cannot put any other sim card in MY phone I paid for. My understanding is if I paid for the phone then the phone is mine and the number is theirs, am I wrong? They own the number, I could never use that number again. Consumer cellular is a horrible company inside and out, from customer service up to tech support. I am glad I am no longer a CC customer.
What ever happened to “unlimited” talk and data? Did Consumer get new management? Now, every other day I am receiving intimidating notices that they are going to ugrade my plan because my minutes are going over the limit. I HARDLY use the phone. Sounds like another racket to me!
I was with Verizon for 18 years, but I recently changed to Consumer Cellular for the customer service. Verizon was charging us $119 per month for two lines with unlimited talk and test with 3G of data. Verizon told me that that was with a Veteran’s discount, and it was the best they could do. my CC plan costs half of that with unlimited data. The most difficult part of changing our service provider was getting Verizon to release the number, and ensure our purchased phones were unlocked. We spent more than 3 hours, over three days accomplishing that. We have contacted CC customer 3 times, and each time the representative was friendly, polite, patient, and was easily understood. The only hiccup was my wife’s phone, a Motorola G7, was not compatible with CC. We were able to purchase a similar phone From CC at a modest cost. We switched for the customer service. So far we are happy. I wish we had switched years ago. Should that change, we change companies since we have no contract with CC.
I have had some good experiences in moving my parents over to Consumer. The first is that I have had two interactions over the phone and they were both handled by US-based support. Hold time was less than 10 minutes both times. The second time, I was on for a good half-hour plus with some fairly technical questions and I was with the same person the whole time. No transferring me to their manager or to another department.
On the downside, my Mom has an iPhone SE. I think it’s the 2020 version. And that particular phone is not supported for Visual Voicemail. Which means she has old-school voicemail, meaning 1) press a button to call your voice mail 2) enter your (SEVEN DIGIT!) PIN 3) listen to the prompts (press 2 to hear voice mail, press 7 to delete etc.). It’s a very 2005 voice mail experience for 2023.
Still they are saving a ton over using VZ.