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.

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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.

Great choices:

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.

Asda Mobile is the second pick on our list for PAYG phone deals. Calls to UK landlines and mobiles are 4p per minute, texts 4p (up to 160 characters), data 4p per MB, and calls to your voicemail 4p.

3 Mobile Pay As You Go is slightly more expensive but won’t break the bank if you only use your mobile occasionally. Calls cost 10p per minute, 10p per text and 5p per MB of data. However, note that 3 Mobile Pay As You Go SIM cards only work on phones that are 3G compatible (at least).

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.

Great choices:

  • Lebara SIM only
  • SMARTY SIM only
  • 3 Mobile SIM only

Lebara’s SIM-only deal includes unlimited calls and texts and 3GB of data, all for £4.95 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.

SMARTY also offers a SIM-only plan. Get unlimited minutes and texts, alongside 2GB of data each month, for just £5 a month with no contract.

3 Mobile has a SIM-only plan that gives you unlimited calls and texts with 1GB of data for £5, but you need to sign up to a 12-month contract.

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.

Lebara’s £6.95 SIM-only plan includes unlimited calls and texts alongside 10GB of data. No contract is necessary for this SIM, meaning you can change or cancel your plan anytime.

If you feel you need a bigger data allowance each month, then giffgaff offers you 15GB data alongside unlimited calls for £10 per month. Again, there’s no contract so you can cancel your plan at any time. giffgaff has won many awards for its flexible service, and is a popular choice.

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. Until recently all the large network providers enabled you to call and text UK numbers and use the data from your allowance at no extra cost when in continental Europe.

Following the UK’s departure from the European Union, from 2022 most mobile network operators, including 3 Mobile, EE and Vodafone charge a daily fee to use their plan on the continent. To protect travellers from racking up huge data roaming bills, the UK government has set a limit on data roaming charges, capping it at £45 per monthly billing period. If you travel regularly, check if you can buy international calls, texts and data packs for usage abroad to avoid serious roaming bill shock.

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.

Great choices:

  • 3 Mobile Go Roam
  • O2 Travel Bolt On

3 Mobile’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 3 Mobile 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, 3 Mobile 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 3 Mobile 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 £4.99 a day for 120 minutes to make and receive calls, 120 texts per day and unlimited data, and it can be used in selected destinations outside Europe. As with 3 Mobile’s Go Roam tariff, you’ll only be charged when you turn data roaming on. You can browse the internet and make WhatsApp and FaceTime calls when you have access to Wifi.

Pay as you go tips

warning icon 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:

NetworkInactivity period before PAYG credit expires
Asda Mobile270 days (Your number will be deleted after 360 days.)
EE6 months (You then have 3 months to reactivate it before your number is deleted.)
giffgaff6 months
O26 months
Tesco Mobile6 months
3 Mobile180 days
Virgin Mobile6 months
Vodafone180 days (Your number will be disconnected after 180 days.)
1pMobile4 months
Co-op Mobile180 days
Delight Mobile90 days (Your number will be deleted after 120 days.)
iD Mobile90 days
Lebara Mobile90 days (Your number will be deleted after 120 days.)
Lycamobile90 days (Your number will be deleted after 120 days.)
OrangeN/A
T-MobileN/A
TPO MobileN/A
Vectone90 days
VOXISIM plans only, no PAYG

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.
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6 Responses

  1. Default Gravatar
    TomMay 20, 2019

    I am with 1P Mobile. I have £18 in credit and and being asked to top up with £10 every 120 days. I only use phone for emergencies and the odd call. Is there a service where I don’t have to keep topping up when in credit? It seems 1P Mobile are ripping me off.

    • Avatarfinder Customer Care
      JoshuaMay 20, 2019Staff

      Hi Tom,

      Thanks for getting in touch with Finder. I’m sorry to hear about your situation, Tom.

      Regarding your question, most telcos require their customers to top up regularly, usually every 120 days to ensure that your number stays active. All telcos set an expiration date on your regular credit as well.

      However, if you are not happy with 1P, you may want to check 3 Mobile and O2 Mobile. Both of these telcos also offer long-expiry credit. Please get in touch with them directly to learn more about their plans.

      I hope this helps. Should you have further questions, please don’t hesitate to reach us out again.

      Have a wonderful day!

      Cheers,
      Joshua

  2. Default Gravatar
    AlanNovember 18, 2018

    I want a sim only unlimited calls no data required. What is the best value for this?

    • Avatarfinder Customer Care
      JeniDecember 2, 2018Staff

      Hi Alan,

      Thank you for getting in touch with finder.

      Since you are looking for unlimited calls and text mobile plans, you may choose from SMARTY Multi SIM, Vodafone Multi SIM or giffgaff SIM. It is best to seek further assistance from these providers to check which mobile network works well in your area.

      I hope this helps.

      Please feel free to reach out to us if you have any other enquiries.

      Thank you and have a wonderful day!

      Cheers,
      Jeni

  3. Default Gravatar
    RobinMarch 18, 2018

    I want to use a3/4G mobile for taking photos and sending to Relations. Text minor role only. Advice please. Thanks, Robin//

    • Avatarfinder Customer Care
      JoshuaMarch 26, 2018Staff

      Hi Robin,

      Thanks for getting in touch with finder.

      Taking pictures and sending it to others means that you need data. If in case you don’t need much texting or calling, you can consider the pay as you go plan. You can simply top up your mobile with ‘credit’ at the beginning of each month and then you would pay for calls, texts, data on a usage basis. This gives you more freedom to your spending and ensure that you don’t go over your monthly budget.

      I hope this helps. Should you have further questions, please don’t hesitate to reach us out again.

      Have a wonderful day!

      Cheers,
      Joshua

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