My First Year with Consumer Cellular

Last year I made the switch from AT&T Mobile to Consumer Cellular. I was paying for more service than I needed, and I recently went through my data usage records to see if it is still enough for me.

I signed up for 250 minutes of talk time, which I have only come close to once thanks to several times being stuck on hold. For me, 250 minutes is plenty of talk time. I also knew that in most cases 1 GB of data would suffice, and with the data plan comes unlimited texting, so texting has never been an issue.

Flexibility and Frugality

Consumer Cellular claims that the average user spends only $25/month for service. That’s what first got my attention.

Consumer Cellular has a very nice program where, if you go over your allotted minutes or data cap, you are automatically upgraded to the next service level. No huge penalty for an overage, which is a big plus in my book. On the minus side, if you want to go back to the lower data level, you need to go online and switch back yourself. It would be nice if Consumer Cellular did that if you only exceeded your data plan once in a great while.

You can get Consumer Cellular service for as little as $15 per month for a single line with 250 minutes of call time. For just $5 more, you can go to unlimited minutes. Best of all, Consumer Cellular recently bumped most of their data plans to provide twice as much data at the same cost. Here’s the rundown:

  • 250 MB, $5/month, unchanged
  • 2 GB, $10/month, was 1 GB
  • 5 GB, $20/month, was 3 GB
  • 10 GB, $30/month, was 5 GB
  • 20 GB, $40/month, was 10 GB

When I started with Consumer Cellular in September 2017, you could get 30 MB of data and 300 texts per month for $2.50. 200 MB plus 2,000 texts for $5, and unlimited text with all of the other data plans. Back then $10 got you 500 MB, $20 provided 1.5 GB, $30 let you use 3 GB, and the top-end plan was 5 GB for $40. Over the course of one year, the $10 and higher data plans have essentially quadrupled. That’s a lot of value!

Over 12 month, I only passed the 1 GB mark 3 times. One of those was 1.04 GB, and the highest was 2.02 GB. For the past 3 billing periods, during which I have been mostly at home job hunting while unemployed, I have average 200 MB per month, but I’m sticking with the 2 GB plan for the foreseeable future.

You can add more phone lines for $15 each, sharing minutes and data with everyone on your plan. Best advice is to switch to unlimited minutes if you have more than one user.

A 5% Discount

If you’re a member of AARP, you qualify for a 5% discount on your service.

iPhone Deals

I had the misfortune of buying an early production run of the iPhone 5, and Apple messed up the battery management on phones built for the first 5 months or so. They had a recall and repair for 3 years – but only to the original purchaser, and I bought mine used. A new battery didn’t help much at all.

Around January or February, Consumer Cellular was offering the iPhone SE for just $160. The SE is the same size as the iPhone 5 and 5S, but with the power of the iPhone 6S and a vastly improved camera. I had tried my sister’s iPhone 6 Plus, loved using it at home, but found it too large to take with me, so I decided to stick with the small iPhone 5/5S/SE form factor. It served me well.

I paid it off at $10 down (plus sales tax) and then $25 per month. A month or two after that was paid off, I ordered an iPhone 6S, which is slightly larger (4.7″ display vs. 4.0″ – but still a phone with relatively compact dimensions), for $300. That was $25 for the first month and will be paid off within a year at $25 per month.

For both of these iPhones, this was a substantial discount over what Apple was selling the exact same phone for – and now Consumer Cellular is offering the iPhone 6S for just $200!

I plan on using the iPhone 6S for a few years, so I will definitely get my money’s worth out of it. At that point, I will decide between an iPhone 8, the last model with a home button and without the silly notch, or one of the newer models.

Great Service

Consumer Cellular uses AT&T and T-Mobile for its phone and data service, and they will try to pick the one best suited for your location. For me, that means T-Mobile. They sent me an AT&T SIM, and it just wouldn’t connect reliably from the basement. Customer support was very helpful.

Over the past year, Consumer Cellular has also added mobile-over-Internet, so phone calls from the house can go over our Infinity broadband instead of mobile data. Nice touch!

Overall, I am very happy with the value of Consumer Cellular’s service and the great deals on their recently discontinued iPhones. If you’re trying to stretch your budget, it can be a really solid alternative to the Big 3 and the prepaid services being offered today.

Consumer Cellular also has a Refer a Friend program that provides a $10 credit to both users. If you choose to switch to CC, please use me as your Refer-A-Friend with the number 616-406-6663 (the number of my second phone, which I rarely use for calls). Thank you!

Keywords: #consumercellular

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