Phones are staple in today’s world. Cell phones in particular help individuals and their families to stay connected while also providing users with a sense of security.
Cell phones are vital in the case of an emergency situation and the ability to reach out quickly could possibly save a life, or even lives.
Cell phones are essential to everyday life, not only because of the safety they can provide, but modern cell phones have capabilities that are necessary to navigate today’s world.
But what happens when you can’t afford a phone or phone plan?
It’s possible to get free phone service without paying. If you have a felony conviction, you are also eligible to get a free cell phone.
Yes, you heard that right! You can get free cell phone service through the Lifeline Assistance Program. You can also get as-close-to-free-as-possible phones and services through other programs. But alas, you must read on to learn more.
What is the Lifeline Assistance Program?
The United States Government offers a program called Lifeline Assistance. This program allows for free cell phones and access to inexpensive cellphone plans to those who qualify.
Eligible customers will get up to $9.25 toward their bill. You can only use Lifeline for either phone or internet, but not both
What are the guidelines to qualify for a free government phone?
In order to qualify for Lifeline Assistance, your income must be at or below 135 percent of the Federal Poverty Guideline. The chart below summarizes the 2021 Poverty Guidelines as established by the Federal Government.
Or you must be enrolled in one of the following government programs:
Bureau of Indian Affairs General Assistance
Tribally Administered Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TTANF)
Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations (FDPIR)
How To Apply For A Free Phone
To apply for a free phone, you will need to submit pay stubs, a W-2 form, or a letter from the government agency that you are currently enrolled in, to provide you with your household income.
The process of applying for free cell phone service is not as difficult as one would think. You can simply go to the website of the cell phone company that participates in the program to get started.
If you are unable to qualify for a free cell phone from the government but are struggling to pay your phone bill, there are Bill Assistance Programs that can help you out.
What Companies Offer Free Government Cell Phones?
Certain cell phone providers are considered MVNO, which stands for Mobile Virtual Network Operators.
These providers do not own their own cell phone towers, instead, they rely on paid partnerships with the big providers like Verizon Wireless, AT&T, T-Mobile and Sprint to provide cell phone signal and service to their customers.
The following carriers are currently eligible with the Lifeline Assistance Program:
Copper Valley Wireless
There is also the Link Up Program. The Link up program is part of the LifeLine Program and is a form of assistance that helps qualified residents of Federally recognized Tribal lands to pay their activation fee, or instillation charge for Lifeline services.
Essentially, they are helped to pay for the connection of their phone service, while Lifeline helps to pay for monthly local phone bills. Link up benefits can be used only for one phone line per home.
If you reside on federally recognized Tribal Lands and satisfy the requirements’ of the LifeLine program, you automatically qualify for Link Up.
The following carriers are currently eligible with the Link Up Assistance Program.
Copper Valley Wireless
Please keep in mind that each carrier serves specific states. You can find which carriers work in your area by entering your zip code, here.
What Kind of Free Phone Can You Get?
The various carriers that participate in the Lifeline Assistance Program provide their customers with some great and affordable options, which are either cheap or at no cost.
The following cell phones are the kind of phones you can expect to receive if participating in this program.
As always, make sure you do your research. Some carriers are not as upfront with their phone lineups until after you go through the qualification process.
To be honest, this can end up being a benefit for you because, by going through this process, you are able to determine what kind of stipend you would be receiving for your free or cheap government phone.
How Can I Get Free Unlimited Minutes, Texts, and Data?
Q Link Wireless is one of the leading providers in the Lifeline Assistance Program. They offer a free government benefit program that offers free cell phone services to those who are eligible.
Qualifying customers will receive monthly data, minutes, and unlimited texting for free! To sign up, please select here.
Can I get a free Government Phone from Verizon Wireless?
In 2020, the United States Government launched an aid program that assists low-income families with obtaining a Verizon Wireless phone or a phone that is similar.
Only four states currently participate in the Verizon Wireless free government program: North Dakota, New York, Wisconsin, and Iowa.
The initiative’s goal is to help these families by eliminating the worry associated with another expensive monthly bill. While there are benefits, there are also restrictions.
Benefits: The basic service that is included with Verizon Wireless provides 250 minutes of call and text each month. If you participate in this program, you can also receive a discount on the lifeline plan.
Restrictions: Now to the not-so-great stuff… Only one member of the household can apply for the Verizon Wireless government free phone.
Your group is also not able to get carrying Lifeline Services at the same time. For example, you cannot receive a discount for BOTH wireless and home phone services.
The lifeline benefits are not transferrable. Meaning, you cannot legally give benefits that you are using or have used to another person.
Another restriction is that the home phone plans are limited to landlines. You are not able to add on extra services like DSL or cable Television.
Data service is also not included, nor is insurance. You can only use this program to make calls and texts in most states.
Proper identification is required for ALL candidates. Identification must be presented and certified according to the punishment of perjury, meaning, any false information and documentation will result in disqualification from the lifeline program. It is also possible you can face legal action.
These rules are not meant to be broken. It’s not worth the risk. If you break the rules you will be unenrolled. Simple as that.
To learn more about the availability of this program in your area and how to get a free Verizon wireless government phone, please call 1-800-417-3849.
Which is the best free phone: Assurance or SafeLink?
Assurance is one of the better plans available for those who need both a free phone and free minutes. With Assurance, you get a free phone from Virgin Mobile that operates on Virgin Mobile’s network.
Virgin Mobile is actually a part of AT&T, so it is technically operating on AT&T’s network. All in all, with Assurance you will get a free smartphone with great service and coverage that allows you to stay connected no matter where you go.
To be eligible, you must make less than 137 percent of the federal poverty guidelines for your state, and you will need to provide proof of your income.
Another option for qualifying is if you are already approved for a government program, such as, Medicaid or Supplemental Assistance Program (SNAP). You must provide proof of your participation in one or more of these programs.
Once you are approved, Assurance will send you a free phone. Unfortunately, you do not receive data, but you do get 500 minutes of talk time and unlimited texting per month.
SafeLink is the other option. The approval process is similar to that of Assurance’s. You need to provide proof of your income on your eligibility as well as your zip code. This must show that you are making less than 137 percent of the federal poverty guideline in the state within which you live.
Alternatively, you can provide proof of participation in programs like Medicaid or Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), or another program that proves your poverty.
While SafeLink has a similar admittance process, their offerings pale in comparison to Assurance’s plans.
With SafeLink you only get 68 minutes of free talk per month. They also do not mention texting capabilities, either. You can, however, upgrade to a smartphone for as little as $50. They do offer discounted features like talk, text, and 1GB of data for only $15 per month.
The winner is clear – Assurance all the way!
Assurance is the best value for a free government smartphone plan. If you can’t get approved for Assurance, your only option will be to apply for SafeLink. Beggars can’t be choosers, my friends. Something is better than nothing, especially in times when we are in need.
Cheap Alternatives To A Free Government Phone
There are cheap options both in the available phones and plans.
The Samsung Galaxy J3 is one of the most affordable smartphones available. For a third generation, the cost would be approximately 70 dollars for an unlocked phone. This phone is also touch screen and has both a rear and facing camera. The battery life is pretty strong, able to last a day with talking and 20 days if on standby (not being used).
While not as affordable as the Samsung Galaxy J3, the following are viable options for a more affordable cell phone: Go Flip 3 (Alcatel), DuraForce PRO2 (Kyocera Android), 1.3 (Nokia), 8.3 5G (Nokia Android), 3V (Nokia Android).
Each cell phone offers multiple plans. For example, the 1.3 Nokia has 34 plans available, starting at $10 per month and $99.99 upfront.
For more detailed information on each available phone, as well as a fuller, more comprehensive list, please select here.
There are three main cheap alternatives to a free government phone: Gen Mobile, Twigby, and US Mobile.
Gen Mobile is a small wireless carrier that runs on Sprint’s network. Cell phone plans with Gen Mobile start at 6 dollars a month and cost at most 25 dollars per month. The amount of talk, text, and data varies, but the cheapest plan will provide you with 300 minutes of talk, unlimited text, and 1GB of data for the lower cost of 6 dollars per month. To begin the plan, it is only one dollar upfront.
Twigby is a prepaid mobile virtual network that runs on Sprint’s network as well, but it also runs on Verizon’s network. You got that right; it runs on both! Twigby sells many cheap phones and their least expensive option is the Alcatel Cinch, costing 15 dollars.
If you are looking for a phone that has the same look as the smartphones of today, their phone Unimax Express costs 34 dollars.
Twigby’s pan is $8.50 per month for 6 months, no contract required. With this plan you will receive 1GB of full speed data and 500 minutes. While this plan is a little more expensive than Gen Mobile’s 6 follar plan, you receive an additional 200 minutes of talk per month.
US Mobile is a small wireless carrier that uses Verizon’s network exclusively. This plan is 12 dollars per month with no contract required. With this plan you receive 3.5GB of data. It is more expensive, but it is definitely more bang for your buck.
How to Get a Free Cell Phone When Switching Service Providers
If you want to get a free cell phone without the 18-to-30-month commitment with a carrier, Straight Talk may have the answers you are looking for.
Straight Talk is a no-contract specialist. They do require you to purchase a plan to receive one of their free offerings, but it’s not a long-term commitment. It can even be as short as a month.
Before you get too excited over there, there are some details about the cell phones themselves you should know. For one, they are reconditioned; meaning, they are used. With that in mind, the phones are usually older models, and they may not provide the same accommodations of the modern cell phones we have all become accustomed to.
To contact Straight Talk, you can access their website here. They provide contact phone numbers, mailing address, email, and chat box to provide help in real time. You can also text HELP to 611611 with any questions.
Looking for a cheap phone and not a free one can help you remain uncommitted to a cell phone provider.
Using a phone that is not new, rather, is a few generations older, you should be able to find a phone at very low costs and you most likely won’t be required to commit to the service providers.
Regardless of what you choose, make sure that you are buying an UNLOCKED PHONE. This way, you will be able to take it with you from carrier to carrier; you would only need a new SIM card. Make certain you know for absolute sure that you are buying an UNLOCKED phone.
The needs of each individual vary depending on their current circumstances. Whether a free phone or cheap phone is for you, the sources provided throughout this article can help guide you in finding the best option for you and your situation.
Be patient, do the research, ask questions, and don’t give up! We know that the process can be frustrating, and we want what we want now, but we assure you, as long as you take the necessary steps and meet the qualifications, you will be able to receive the phone option that most complements you.
About The Author
Joe is the founder of HireFelons.org. Having had friends and co-workers who have a felony conviction, Joe Hunter decided to use his expert knowledge in starting a successful business to launch HireFelons.org and teach as many former felons as possible how to earn a decent income, when finding a traditional job is simply not an option.