Can You Fall in Love With a Phone Company?

Category: Mobile

Not long ago, I wrote an article that started with these words: “Everyone hates the phone company.” But every time I write on the topic of mobile phone service, the feedback from AskBob readers is loud and clear: “Consumer Cellular is awesome!” So finally, I decided to take a closer look and find out why. Read on to see what Consumer Cellular does that others do not…

Consumer Cellular Review

Consumer Cellular has taken the road less traveled, and it has led to great success for this mobile communications provider. Revenues reached $1 billion in 2016, and the company now employs over 1,000 people. Even more impressive is Consumer Cellular’s wall full of customer service awards from the like of Consumer Reports and J. D. Powers & Associates.

The company pioneered the no-contract business model, in which customers are free to change their plans or terminate service at any time without penalties. That meant Consumer Cellular had to keep customers by satisfying them, not by threatening them. From its founding, the company has focused on providing low-cost, high quality phone service and excellent personalized customer services.

Rather than compete for high-value business customers and others who use their phones constantly, Consumer Cellular tailors its offerings to casual users. It has plans that include voice service only, starting at $15/month for 250 minutes, or $20 for unlimited minutes. Its text-and-data add-ons start at an additional $5/month for 250 MB of data and unlimited texts, and range up to 10 GB for $40.

In love with your phone company?

It’s no accident that all Consumer Cellular customer service agents are based in the USA. The sound of a familiar voice speaking one’s native tongue builds trust immediately, and prevents many miscommunications that have frustrated customers who deal with foreign call centers.

Business really took off in 2008, when Consumer Cellular became the AARP’s preferred wireless service provider. AARP members get 5% off their monthly service bills and accessories. Today, more than 85% of Consumer Cellular’s customers are age 50 or older. The company had 2 million customers at the end of 2016.

Consumer Cellular is a reseller of mobile service from both AT&T and T-Mobile, which gives them excellent coverage and reliable high-speed LTE data in most areas.

What About the Phones?

Consumer Cellular may not be the right choice for everyone, especially if you have a family of data-hungry users. Check out my reviews of other low-cost and innovative cellular service providers: Ting, Project Fi, Net10 and Tracfone.

Flip phones with big pushbuttons are very popular among Consumer Cellular customers. But that doesn’t mean that all Consumer Cellular offers is “grandparent phones.” You can choose from a range of phones, from the $30 Consumer Cellular 101, to the latest iPhone X. The latter costs $1000, but you only need $400 down; the rest is spread over 24 months, interest-free. A credit check is required, payments are automatically charged to a credit/debit card, and if service is terminated early the balance due for the phone is charged to the card. Smartphones from Samsung, Motorola, Alcatel, ZTE, and Doro are also available.

Other hardware includes a wireless home phone base that works with standard wired phones, no wall jack required (but a power outlet is needed). This allows you to put a phone almost anywhere in the house, including the garage; you can even take your home phone on vacaction. A wireless hotspot device supports up to 10 connections. A small medical alert device features GPS location, water and impact resistance, fall detection, and a 36-hour battery.

I checked out Consumer Cellular's rating at the Better Business Bureau website, and at first I was surprised that only 12% of the reviews there were positive. But then I remembered that BBB is a place where unhappy customers go to complain and get satisfaction. The good news is that Consumer Cellular has earned an A+ rating with BBB after 22 years in business. That means that at least 97% of the time, the company was able to resolve customer issues in timely manner, or make a good faith effort to do so.

Consumer Cellular’s dominance of customer-satisfaction surveys is well establshed. The company has won Consumer Reports’ top rating among no-contract carriers in six of the past seven years. PC Magazine readers rated Consumer Cellular the best carrier in 2014, 2015, and 2016. J. D. Power surveys have rated Consumer Cellular first in customer satisfaction among cellular carriers for the past three years.

If you are unhappy in your relationship with your mobile service provider, maybe it's time to break up with them. You just might fall in love with Consumer Cellular. Your thoughts on this topic are welcome. Post your comment or question below...

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Most recent comments on "Can You Fall in Love With a Phone Company?"

(See all 34 comments for this article.)

Posted by:

John Silberman
23 Oct 2017

I hear other say there are better MVNOs. What are they? I would jump ship in a minute to dave a buck. I am always searching and cannot find a better deal for my type of usage. You save even more when you add lines as you only pay the additional line charge of $10/month. My wife and I average a total bill of $38/month for two lines. We typically use less than 500mb/month, over 1000minutes, and several hundred sms per month.

Posted by:

23 Oct 2017

Great service no drop calls excellent rep s American can communicate had em several yrs great folks geared toward seniors great for seniors

Posted by:

James E. Goss
23 Oct 2017

Bob, I have been with Consumer Cellular for countless years. I was grandfathered in when my provider was bought out the second or third time. I think the original one might have been Western Wireless. One time I was passed on, I was given a choice of a digital phone. (I chose a Samsung flip phone, which I HATE, but it's a tough little thing!) Consumer Cellular is something else. They are very tricky! If you exceed your allotted hours, you are AUTOMATICALLY moved up to the next bracket. And contacting them by phone is an arduous task! Right now, I am searching for something better. Jim Goss

Posted by:

Dave in Indy
23 Oct 2017

I use Total Wireless and have used Straight Talk, both from Tracfone. Total is great, $35/month for unlimited Talk and Texts and 5 GB of data, but if you buy your refill cards at Walmart you get 6 GB of data. Straight Talk is 8 GB for $45. Total uses only Verizon!

Posted by:

23 Oct 2017

I'm a member of AMAC (Association of Mature American Citizens) and their sponsored mobile phone is PureTalk USA on the AT&T network. I pay $27/mo for unlimited talk, text and 2 gig of data. More than enough for me. A galaxy S5 only cost me $185. I'm very satisfied with their US based (Atlanta) support.

Posted by:

23 Oct 2017

I had Straight Talk at one point. The service was fine (used AT&T towers, in my case.) MVNOs such as Straight Talk are extremely cut and dry in pricing. There is never a question about what the monthly cost will be. Now, customer service sucked (badly,) but, fortunately, I only needed it once or twice. I'm currently with T-Mobile. Their service is less expensive than Straight Talk by a couple of dollars for two lines, unlimited everything (outside of the possibility of prioritization after a pretty large amount of data usage. Of course, if I went over my much lower usage plan on Straight Talk, I'd have to buy a new month early.) T-Mobile's customer service is a lot better than Straight Talk's.

As far as I can tell, no telecommunications provider has stellar customer service. But, Consumer Cellular seems to do well targeting older folks by utilizing customer service and advertising techniques that are appealing to them. They also offer plans that are appealing to seniors (lower data plans, for example.) I suspect that over time, as the younger (not necessarily 'young') people who use more data enter senior status, the demand for lower data plans by seniors will decline. I don't see people changing their usage habits as they get older. These people will likely continue to consume data via wireless devices as they currently do.

Posted by:

23 Oct 2017

We switched from Credo (on Sprint network) a year ago to Consumer Cellular. The difference in price and positive reviews were the draw. I really, really, wanted them to be a good provider. However, in the first two months, both my wife and I experienced intermittent one-way audio: called party could not hear us. Tech support was easy to reach and very friendly, but couldn't manage to fix the problem. We finally sent our phones back within the allotted time for a refund. The next day, we got T-Mobile service and we haven't looked back. The price was more than CC, but less than Credo, and we get far better service (Detroit metro area) than on CC's AT&T network.

Posted by:

Quebec City
24 Oct 2017

I wish they came to Canada!

Posted by:

Lady Fitzgerald
24 Oct 2017

When I priced Consumer Cellular a while back, they were actually more expensive for my needs than the prepaid plan I'm using with Verizon. The fact that AARP endorses them would be reason enough for me to not use them.

Posted by:

Bertram Lowi
24 Oct 2017

Been a customer of CC for several years and have only good things to say. My significant other and I move up the food chain on smart phones as CC offers bargains on older models. Most important, CC piggybacks on the ATT system which is GSM. So if you are travelling overseas, you can use your phone and just buy a SIM card for local use.

Noted one commenter complained of CC bumping you up to the next bracket if you exceed your contracted amount. They are doing you a favor because the unit cost of extra minutes (or bytes) is much greater than the cost of changing brackets.

Posted by:

Darcetha Manning
24 Oct 2017

My mother and I switched from AT&T to Consumer Cellular over a year ago, and we are satisfied with the service. My mother only needs voice minutes, which AT&T did not provide.

Myself, I use my smartphone to check email. send texts, listen to music and surf the internet. My Consumer Cellular bill is lower than when I had AT&T.

Posted by:

24 Oct 2017

Bob, So a Filipino person who became a new US citizen will not get a job at CC if that person has a different accent

Posted by:

25 Oct 2017

When I finally got a smart phone, Moto Z Play (unlocked), I searched for the best deal for my usage (minimal minutes and bytes). Consumer Cellular won out. I made the change several months ago and have not been disappointed.

Posted by:

25 Oct 2017

Had AT&T for years, then decided to go with Cricket. It is doing me fine and is only $30 a month. Cricket uses AT&T towers, so it is GSM. I get both a text and an email to remind me when my monthly bill is due.

I haven't had any "dropped" calls and the sound on my phone is loud and clear. The only thing I have that is AT&T is my landline phone and my Internet Router. Please do not pick at me for having a landline phone.

I ask you this - If your spouse had 11 Coronary Stents in his heart - What would you prefer to have your home phone, when you need to make that a big 911 call? I want a landline - For the reason that you do not have to tell anyone what the address is! If I am out and about and Hubby had a good heart attack and was not able to answer questions right - 911 would find him. A landline phone can do this but not a cell phone or VOIP.

Posted by:

Phillip Reed
25 Oct 2017

Nope, sorry everyone. Republic Wireless is tops in my book. My cell phone charges are less than $18 a month (last month less than $15) for voice, text, and data for my needs. No contracts.

Posted by:

Jean Warren
26 Oct 2017

I was on my son's Sprint plan, but when they decided to change plans I signed up with "TELLO." There is no contract, I only pay for what I use, and I can call my daughter in Canada for no extra charge. I have had it for 3 months and have only paid $25 so far. I'm very happy!

Posted by:

27 Oct 2017

I suggest checking out T-Mobile's Senior Plan. Two lines, unlimited talk, text and LTE data at $60 per month auto pay, includes taxes, and fees.

Posted by:

Gordo Winslow
09 Nov 2017

I'm using 2 tin cans and a piece of wire. Works for me.

Posted by:

24 Jan 2018

1-24-2018...I ordered ConsumerCellular service & the Doro 626 phone on 1-6-2018. I have very poor hearing and was told that this phone was "for seniors," (meaning visual & aural support). Hearing is quite difficult for me with this phone. The phone does not hold a charge (only 25% right now after charging all night long.) When I called Con.Cell. earlier to request cancellation of the phone & service, I got a run-around from the rep. I'll look elsewhere. Glad others have good service from Con.Cell. Less than a month and problems! What would happen "down the road"? No thanks, Con.Cell.

Posted by:

17 Dec 2018

You do not talk about coverage. What network is providing their service? I live in Texas where coverage on some networks can be really spotty.

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Article information: AskBobRankin -- Can You Fall in Love With a Phone Company? (Posted: 23 Oct 2017)
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