Best mobile plans for seniors
If you're not sure which mobile plan best suits you in retirement, take a look at the choices below.
Whether you’re enjoying your retirement years at home or travelling the world as a digital nomad, we want to help you get the best value out of your mobile plan.
How to choose your plan
There is no “one plan to rule them all”, so it’s worth considering what you mainly want to use your phone for before you settle on a deal. Here are some aspects to consider before choosing a plan:
- Calls or data? If you’re a big talker, a plan with unlimited minutes could help keep your phone bills low. But if you just want to use the phone for emergencies, or for friends and family to contact you on, then you may be better suited to a pay-as-you-go plan. If you often use (or want to use) the Internet on your mobile while you’re out and about, then you might want to prioritise a plan with more data and fewer minutes of calls.
- Pay as you go. A pay-as-you-go (PAYG) plan may be useful if you aren’t planning on using your phone frequently. With these mobile plans, you top up your mobile with credit. Usually an initial top-up of £10 is required, and then you pay for calls, texts and data on a usage basis and top up when you’re running low.
- SIM only. A SIM-only plan (no phone handset is included in the deal) gives you a set allowance of calls, texts and data each month, and you pay for it monthly. If you often find yourself using your phone more than you’d anticipated, then SIM-only plans can be a useful way to prevent overspending. These plans come with different options, so you can make a choice based on what best suits your usage, whether that’s more data or more texts and minutes.
- Phone with SIM contract. If you’re looking for a new phone, you can buy both a phone and a SIM from a phone provider. These contracts have the same benefits as SIM-only plans, but you also receive a new phone and an upgrade service as part of the package. Phone and SIM contracts are useful if you need a new phone and can’t afford to pay for it all at once, as these plans normally require you to pay in monthly instalments over the course of around 24 months.
Best plans for just the basics
Don’t use your mobile often, but when you do it’s for the occasional catch-up or for an emergency? Then this is for you. Since you only use your phone’s most basic features, you don’t want to splash the cash on high-end mobile plans.
You need: a pay-as-you-go, low-cost plan for the essentials.
- iD Mobile
- Lebara Mobile
1pMobile’s pay-as-you-go (PAYG) SIM also offers the cheapest rates we could find, with all minutes, texts and data costing just 1p. Calls are just 1p per minute, texts are 1p per text and data is 1p per MB. If you only use your phone for emergencies or the odd phone call, this is a great money-saving choice. But, the catch is that you must remember to top up at least once every 4 months with at least £10 or you’ll be disconnected.
iD Mobile is the second pick on our list for PAYG phone deals. Calls to UK landlines and mobiles are 3p per minute, texts 2p (up to 480 characters), data 1p per MB. Just add a minimum of £10 every 2 months to avoid being cut off by the provider. You can only contact an adviser online via iD Mobile’s live chat services.
Lebara Mobile offers a slightly more expensive deal but won’t break the bank if you only use your mobile occasionally. Calls cost 25p per minute, 9p per text and 19p per MB of data.
PAY-AS-YOU-GO INACTIVITY PERIODS
If you rarely use your phone, don’t get caught out by pay-as-you-go inactivity periods. To keep your credit active, you must make a chargeable action at least once every few months.
For each brand’s inactivity period duration, see details in our mobile phone provider table.
Best plans for social butterfly seniors
If you’re always on the phone to your friends and relatives, those minutes can quickly add up. You need a plan that won’t hit you with a hefty bill at the end of the month.
You need: unlimited calls and texts.
- SMARTY SIM only
- Virgin Mobile SIM only
- giffgaff SIM only
With SMARTY’s cheapest SIM-only plan you get unlimited minutes and texts, alongside 4GB of data each month, for just £5 a month with no contract. This is a great choice if you wish to use your phone predominantly for calling and texting, and don’t want to spend a lot of money on your plan. Have in mind that SMARTY has a webchat only, so you won’t be able to call customer service directly.
Virgin Mobile also offers a SIM-only plan which will cost you £5 a month with no contract. It includes unlimited minutes and texts, alongside 3GB of data.
giffgaff’s SIM-only plan gives you unlimited calls and texts with 5GB of data for £8 a month with no contract. giffgaff has won many awards for its flexible service, and is a popular choice.
If you use Facebook and WhatsApp and like to use your mobile phone to browse the Internet, you should choose a plan with a larger data allowance, alongside unlimited calls and texts.
- giffgaff SIM-only with 15GB
- Asda Mobile SIM-only with 25GB
- iD Mobile SIM-only with 30GB of data
giffgaff offers you 15GB data alongside unlimited calls for £10 per month. There’s no contract, so you can cancel your plan at any time.
If you feel you need a bigger data allowance each month, then Asda Mobile’s £9 SIM-only plan includes unlimited calls and texts alongside 25GB of data. No contract is necessary for this SIM, meaning you can change or cancel your plan any time.
iD Mobile offers you 30GB data alongside unlimited calls for £8 per month. You can cancel your plan at any time as there’s no contract to this offer as well.
Best plans for grey nomads
If you love to travel, you’ll need a full-service phone plan, because your phone isn’t just a communication line; it’s a research tool, navigation device and camera all in one.
You need: a plan that includes international data.
Most mobile plans will allow you to use your phone overseas, but they’re likely to charge you international roaming fees, which can result in some eye-watering bills if you’re not careful.
Following the UK’s departure from the European Union, from 2022 most mobile network operators, including Three, EE and Vodafone charge a daily fee to use their plan in EU countries.
To see which phone providers still have free data roaming in Europe, see the table on our UK mobile phone plans page. This page will be updated regularly so keep an eye on it for the latest updates.
- Three Go Roam
- O2 Travel Bolt On
Three’s Go Roam plan is a great choice for international travellers. It lets you use your mobile to make calls, send messages and use data in 71 destinations worldwide. Upgrading Three customers, and new customers who signed up on or after 31 October 2021, have to pay a daily charge of £2 per day for Go Roam Europe and £5 per day for Go Roam Around the World.
We like this option as you can easily keep track of what you’re spending day by day. Remember, you only get charged when you turn on data roaming on your mobile. If you’re staying somewhere with free Wifi you can use that instead and only turn on roaming when you need to when you’re out and about.
Like many mobile networks, Three has fair use limits for data use abroad. Such limits mean your company puts a limit on how much data you can use when outside the UK. With Three you can use up to 12GB of data per month.
O2 has not yet announced additional tariffs for customers travelling in EU countries. This is great news for existing O2 customers as it means, for now at least, that they can use their monthly data allowance when travelling in Europe, with a fair usage limit up to 25GB per month.
If you’re going further afield and take out a pay monthly plan with O2, you can buy an O2 Travel Bolt On. It costs £6 a day with unlimited minutes to make and receive calls, unlimited texts to send within your travel destination and back to the UK. There’s no upper usage limit on data, but the speed might vary. O2 Travel Bolt On can be used in selected destinations outside Europe. As with Three’s Go Roam tariff, you’ll only be charged when you turn data roaming on.
Pay as you go tips
Caution: If you don’t use your phone often and are on a pay-as-you-go plan, make sure you don’t get caught out by your phone network’s inactivity policies.
If your phone is left inactive for too long and you are on a pay-as-you-go plan, your phone network provider may cancel your SIM card and delete your phone number. The “inactivity” period allowed by phone companies varies from around 3 to 6 months. You will need to send a text, make a call or top up your phone once during this period to reset it. Larger companies generally allow a longer period of inactivity. You can see what your provider’s policy is in the table below:
|Network||Inactivity period before PAYG credit expires|
|Asda Mobile||180 days (You have 90 days to reactivate it before your number is deleted.)|
|EE||180 days (You then have 3 months to reactivate it before your number is deleted.)|
|Tesco Mobile||6 months|
|Virgin Mobile||180 days|
|Co-op Mobile||180 days|
|iD Mobile||90 days (Your number will be deleted after 180 days.)|
|Lebara Mobile||90 days (After further 365 days your SIM will expire)|
|Lycamobile||90 days (Your number will be deleted after 120 days.)|
Don’t get caught out
- Pay-as-you-go credit expires only if you don’t use it within a set period (normally 6 months but see the table above). If you send a text or make a call then you can carry on using it. You DON’T need to keep topping up your phone if you send the occasional text.
- Set a reminder, or make a note in your calendar, to send a text at least once every few months (depending on your provider’s inactivity limit). If you care for a vulnerable person, you could actively text them asking to text you back.
- If you’re keeping a phone for emergencies only, make sure the battery is charged every few weeks or so. This will also help you notice if your line is about to be suspended, as after continuous inactivity, providers should send a warning text that the phone will be disconnected if not used.
- If someone you know is particularly vulnerable then a range of portable or fixed-position alarms and telecare systems can be installed.
Bottom line: No contract means more flexibility
In the UK, there’s no shortage of reasonably priced phone plans, plus you’ll often see promotions and discounts. And don’t assume you need to tie yourself into a long contract – you can choose PAYG and SIM-only deals, and switch to another provider if you find a better offer.
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