How to Get a Free Phone from the US Government

The US government offers a program called Lifeline Assistance that can give you a free cell phone and access to an inexpensive cell phone plan if you qualify. To qualify for Lifeline Assistance, you either have to have an income at or below 135% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines, or be currently enrolled in any of the following government programs:

  • Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
  • Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
  • Medicaid
  • Federal Public Housing Assistance
  • Tribal-specific programs: Bureau of Indian Affairs General Assistance, Tribally-Administered Temporary
  • Assistance for Needy Families (TTANF), Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations (FDPIR), Head Start
  • Veterans Pension and Survivors Benefit Programs

If any of the above relates to you, then you deserve a free cell phone and a cheap cell phone plan to go with it.

How do I apply for Lifeline Assistance?

You can apply for Lifeline Assistance here. Enter your state or territory and the qualification process will start.

Qualify for Lifeline

Free cell phone plans from the US government

You won’t find any major cell phone providers or new iPhone devices eligible for the Lifeline Assistance program, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get a decent phone on a reliable network.

These are the carriers that currently are eligible with the Lifeline Assistance program:

  • Assurance Wireless
  • Cintex Wireless
  • Copper Valley Wireless
  • Easy Wireless
  • enTouch Wireless
  • FeelSafe Wireless
  • GCI
  • Infiniti Mobile
  • Life Wireless
  • NewPhone Wireless
  • Q Link
  • Safelink Wireless
  • SafetyNet Wireless
  • Sprocket Wireless
  • StandUp Wireless
  • Tag Mobile
  • Tempo Communications
  • Terracom Wireless
  • TruConnect
  • True Wireless

You can find out what carriers specifically cater to your area by entering your zip code here.

What kind of phones can I get?

You usually won’t know what kind of phone you can get until you go through the approval process, though most of the Lifeline Assistance-eligible carriers do a decent job offering a variety of phones. Sadly, you likely won’t find the iPhone 11, iPhone SE, or a new Android phone with these carriers, but there are still plenty of smartphones out there that you can get for super cheap or even free.

To give you an idea of what to expect, Assurance Wireless has its cell phone lineup public. You can find phones like Coolpad Illumina and Coolpad Legacy.

You can also find other smartphones like the Alcatel Dawn, Kyocera Hydro Reach, and ZTE Prestige 2.

Alternatives to free government phones

If you don’t qualify for any free phones from the government, you’ve still got some cheap cell phone options and cheap cell phone plans to choose from.

Tello Economy plan

The cheapest cell phone plan we’ve come across that includes unlimited data, unlimited text, and at least 1 GB of data is Tello’s Economy plan for $10 a month. The network coverage isn’t the best, but the price is dirt cheap.

US Mobile Unlimited Talk and Text plan

The only way to bring your bill lower than $10 a month is to throw out your data plan altogether. If you know you don’t want to pay for any wireless data, the US Mobile Unlimited Talk and Text plan at $7 a month is your best bet. Bonus, US Mobile operates on both T-Mobile and Verizon networks, which offer excellent coverage.

Now that you know about free government cell phones and how to apply, here's your next steps:

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