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How to Get a Free Phone from the US Government
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The US government offers a program called Lifeline Assistance that can reduce the cost of phone and internet services, if you qualify.
Sadly, Lifeline Assistance no longer provides free cell phones alongside their discounted services. But you may find that some of the wireless providers offering free plans through the Lifeline program still offer a free cell phone or free SIM kit. Scroll down to see a list of those providers below.
Most cell phone providers participating in the Lifeline program also participate in the Affordable Connectivity Program, which can get you a cell phone or tablet at a discounted price of about $11.
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)
- Federal Public Housing Assistance (FPHA)
- Tribal-specific programs: Bureau of Indian Affairs General Assistance, Tribal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (Tribal TANF), Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations
- Assistance for Needy Families (TTANF), Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations (FDPIR), Head Start
- Veterans and Survivors Pension Benefit
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.
You can apply for Lifeline Assistance here. Enter your state or territory and the qualification process will start.
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. Some of these cell phone providers also offer free phones or free SIM kits as well. (Or you may be asked to pay a small $10 co-pay.)
These are the carriers that currently are eligible with the Lifeline Assistance program:
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. Yup, that’s right: a potential free smartphone.
To give you an idea of what to expect, Assurance Wireless has its cell phone lineup public. You can find smartphones like the Alcatel Dawn and the Kyocera Hydro REACH.
You can also find other smartphones like the Coolpad Haylo, REVVL 4, 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.
And you can check out the FreedomPop Free plan, which offers 10 minutes of talk, 10 text messages, and 25 MB of data every 30 days. All you need to pay is $10 for the SIM kit—that's it.
Tello Economy plan
The cheapest cell phone plan we've come across that includes unlimited minutes, unlimited texting, and at least 1 GB of data is Tello's Unlimited Text, Talk, and 1GB 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 $3 a month (for the first six months) is your best bet. Bonus, US Mobile operates on both T-Mobile and Verizon networks, which offer excellent coverage.
Spectrum Mobile By the Gig plan
Another way to downsize your phone bill is to pay for data as you go. Spectrum Mobile's By the Gig plan is great for those who need less than 3 GB of data a month. Spectrum Mobile is only available to current Spectrum Internet users, but it's worth considering the switch. A Spectrum Internet and Mobile bundle could save you even more on your internet and phone bill. Take a peek at our Spectrum Mobile review to learn more.