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10+ ways get a free smartphone (and discounts for low-income families) in 2022

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If you can’t afford a cell phone or wireless service, there are programs that can help.

The Lifeline Assistance Program is the main program that provides free smart phones and free or reduced-price wireless cell phone plans to low-income people. Lifeline is a federal program available in every state, territory, and on Tribal lands. 

Lifeline gives recipients up to $9.25 per month toward your cell phone bill. If you live on Tribal land, you can get up to $34.25 per month. This benefit applies to already discounted, low-income plans. In some cases, there is zero cost to Lifeline subscribers, as outlined through the different programs listed below.

You are eligible for the Lifeline Assistance Program if:

  • Your income is at or below 135% of the federal poverty guidelines based on your household size.
  • You receive Tribal assistance.
  • You receive assistance such as SNAP, Medicaid, or SSI.

Below is a list of wireless providers that are Lifeline subcontractors. 

To get help from Lifeline:

Apply online through the Lifeline National Verifier or download, print, and mail the form. You have 45 days to complete the application once you start. Once approved, you have 90 days to sign up with your preferred, participating Lifeline wireless provider. If you already have service, ask your current provider to apply your new Lifeline benefit to your bill. 

Once you are approved for Lifeline, you are good to go for one year. Just use it at least once a month to keep it active. After a year, you must reapply to keep the service.

You can use your Lifeline benefit for one service per address and you can’t transfer your benefit to someone else.

If you qualify for Lifeline, you might also be eligible for the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP), a Federal Communications Commission program that recently replaced the Emergency Broadband Benefit (EBB), a federal temporary assistance program providing free or discounted internet service to qualified applicants.

The ACP offers a monthly discount of up to $30 for eligible subscribers (up to $75 for households on Tribal lands) and a one-time discount of up to $100 to buy a laptop. You can also use ACP for cell phone bills. 

If you qualify for Lifeline and ACP, you can apply both benefits to one service or use them separately. So, you could use one benefit on wireless service and one on your home internet bill.

Apply for the ACP online or call the National Verifier at 1 (833) 511-0311.  

There is one ACP per household. There is also one Lifeline benefit per household.

Here are some of the programs that work with the federal Lifeline Assistance Program to provide free government smartphones and wireless service:

American Assistance: Free cell phone and plan

American Assistance provides qualified applicants with a free government touch-screen smart phones with a new monthly plan. The Lifeline/ACP program covers subscribers in 20 states and Puerto Rico. The ACP-only program covers 27 states and Puerto Rico. 

American Assistance also works with California Premium Lifeline, a state-based cell phone assistance program that offers free unlimited voice, text and 6GB of data monthly. 

Apply to American Assistance to check availability and benefits.

Assurance Wireless: Free cell phone and plan 

Assurance Wireless (now part of T-Mobile) offers new Lifeline and/or ACP Assurance Wireless customers a free Android smartphone. 

The Assurance Wireless Lifeline/ACP plan gives you free data, and unlimited text messages and minutes. The Lifeline-only plan hooks you up with unlimited data, texts, 1,000 minutes, and 4.5GB of data.

Assurance Wireless serves low-income residents in 42 states. Apply to Assurance Wireless by entering your zip code.

Cintex Wireless: Free smartphone and plan

Cintex Wireless will give you a free Android or Apple smartphone of your choice with a $0/month plan with 15GB of data and unlimited talk, text, and picture messaging if you qualify for Lifeline and ACP.

Cintex Wireless only offers these plans in Arkansas, Maryland, Maine, Rhode Island, and West Virginia.

Another benefit for Lifeline and ACP-eligible customers: unlimited calling to Canada, Mexico, Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Guadeloupe, Paraguay, Peru, and Venezuela.

Separate Lifeline-only and ACP-only plans are still free, but have different features:

  • Lifeline customers can bring their own device and get a free SIM card. The free plan provides 4.5GB of data each month, plus 1,000 talk minutes and unlimited texting. 
  • If you are only eligible for ACP, you’ll get 8GB of data plus unlimited talk and text.  

Apply now at Cintex Wireless with your zip code to view plan options.

enTouch Wireless: Free smartphone and plan

If you qualify for Lifeline and ACP, enTouch Wireless offers a free Android smartphone with options for free unlimited data, talk, and text, or limited data plans with 100MB-11GB of data. 

enTouch Wireless is available in 34 states and on Tribal lands. You can view eligibility requirements on the state list.

In some states, if you only qualify for Lifeline, enTouch offers a free SIM card for unlocked phones. The features of these $0/month plans and data limits vary by state.

This provider also offers free international calling from the United States to Canada, Mexico, the United Kingdom, India, China, Vietnam, and South Korea.

Visit enTouch Wireless and click enroll now to choose your state to see available plans.

Life Wireless: Free cell phone and plan

If you qualify for Lifeline and ACP, you may be eligible for a free touchscreen government phone and a free or discounted monthly plan. Life Wireless is offered in 32 states and Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands.

Lifeline plans vary, but most give you 500 minutes per month or unlimited talk and text. If you have ACP, you can free unlimited talk, text, data, and up to 5GB of hotspot data use. Sign up for Life Wireless to see what benefits are available to you.

SafeLink Wireless works with Lifeline and ACP and is one of the largest low-income cell phone service providers in the nation, operating in most states and territories.

As a new eligible customer, you can get a Safelink free phone and unlimited phone calls, texting, 25GB of high-speed data, and up to 5GB of hotspot data. If you already have a phone you like, you can transfer your number to SafeLink Wireless and still get free service.

Plans differ depending on where you live, so apply for SafeLink Wireless with your zip code to see what’s available.

SafetyNet Wireless: Free cell phone and plan 

SafetyNet Wireless offers prepaid, free, and discounted smartphone plans. This company provides cell phones to low-income to low-income people through its participation with Lifeline, ACP, and California Lifeline. 

SafetyNet Wireless is available in California, Colorado, Georgia, Kentucky, Michigan, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. 

California Lifeline plans costs range from $0 to $25 per month and offer unlimited talk and text and up to 12 GB of data. In other states, the price ranges from free to $15 per month and up to 100MB of data. Apply now at SafetyNet Wireless. 

StandUp Wireless: Free smartphone and plan 

StandUp Wireless works with Lifeline and ACP to offer a free or discounted government smartphone by mail you can self-activate with unlimited talk and text, unlimited extra data, and 10 GB of high-speed data each month.

StandUp Wireless offers 5G/4G LTE nationwide coverage and allows you to bring your compatible phone. Use your zip code to see if it is available in your area. Apply now to get connected with StandUp Wireless.

TAG Mobile: Free cell phone and plan

TAG Mobile participates with Lifeline and ACP and leverages Verizon wireless and T-Mobile networks. It’s available in 19 states and 11 cities in California.

In California, you can get a free smartphone with unlimited talk and text and up to 8GB of data each month. In other states, TAG Mobile provides a free monthly plan with unlimited voice, text, and 8.5GB of data. 

The program allows participants to bring your own compatible phone, transfer your number, choose prepaid or monthly plans, and shop for phones all online. Enroll with TAG Mobile and get your benefits.

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TruConnect: Free smartphone and plan

With TruConnect, you can get a free Android phone, unlimited talk and text, up to 14 GB of monthly data, and free international calling to some countries.

TruConnect serves 36 states, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

TruConnect offers cell phone plans, broadband service, and hotspots. Compared with other programs, TruConnect offers a greater choice of Android or iPhone government phones at steep discounts. Apply to TruConnect with your zip code to get started.

More discounts for cell phones and low income cell phone plans

Here are additional programs and providers who offer discounted or free cell phones or service to low-income households.

Access Wireless free cell phone plan

Lifeline's Access Wireless is a legit service offers free cell phone service for qualified Lifeline recipients. Buy a discounted cell phone for as low as $50 or bring your own device. Apply to Access Wireless to get free service.

AT&T free phone and discounts through the Lifeline program

Access from AT&T is the carrier's low-cost internet service that costs $10 per month or less. Available in 21 states, AT&T's low-income program is available to those who receive SNAP or SSI benefits,. No contract or deposit. Free installation. Check availability and apply for Access from AT&T.

Mint Mobile 

Mint Mobile offers an introductory 3-month phone plan for as low as $15/month on the T-Mobile 5G network. After that three-month period, customers can choose between 3-, 6-, and 12-month plans starting at $15/month. 

Mint Mobile allows its customers to keep their current phone, phone number, and contacts as long as the device is unlocked and compatible with T-Mobile service. You can also buy a new phone starting at $270. When you buy a new phone and commit to a 6-month phone plan, you get six months of free service. 

You can upgrade your Mint Mobile plan at any time if you need more data, and you can switch to a smaller plan when it’s time to renew.

Red Pocket

You can buy a Red Pocket prepaid plan starting at $2.50 per month through eBay and keep your old phone, number, and contacts. These plans include a high-speed SIM card and activation code to connect with one of Red Pocket’s three networks, which include AT&T and Sprint coverage.

Red Pocket also offers monthly plans starting at $10/month for AT&T compatible and most unlocked phones. New phones through Red Pocket start at $99.

Get a 1GB plan with 1,000 minutes and unlimited texts per month with Red Pocket >>

Tempo Wireless free cell phone plan (low-income)

Low-income people who qualify for the Lifeline program can get for  free minutes, texting, data, and nationwide calling every month with Tempo Wireless. Tempo Wireless covers 21 states. Prepaid plans are available. Sign up with Tempo Wireless using your zip code.

TerraCom Wireless free cell phone plan

TerraCom Wireless offers a free smartphone and free monthly cell phone service to those who qualify for Lifeline in 21 states. You can bring over your phone if you prefer to keep it. Broadband plans are also available. Sign up with TerraCom Wireless.

T-Mobile discounts through the Lifeline program

T-Mobile offers cell phone plan discounts to Lifeline eligible subscribers in Florida, Kentucky, Minnesota, Mississippi, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Washington, and Puerto Rico. Fill out and submit the T-Mobile form for Lifeline discounts.

Q Link offers Lifeline/ACP unlimited, free monthly cell phone service including data, minutes and text and picture messaging. Q Link offers nationwide coverage. Affordable prepaid wireless is also available. Apply to Q Link now to see your offers. 

Verizon Wireless discounts through the Lifeline program

Verizon Wireless offers Lifeline-discounted free government smartphone and home phone (voice) service in Iowa, New York, North Dakota, and Wisconsin. Plans are $19.99 per month for voice and $25 per month for wireless. Verizon also offers Lifeline plans for home phone and Fios internet in 11 other states. Learn more about Verizon Lifeline discounts.

Infiniti Mobile free wireless and broadband

Infiniti Mobile provides free mobile and broadband internet service for customers in Oklahoma eligible for Lifeline and ACP. If qualified, you can get unlimited talk, text, and data on your own device or get a free phone with service. Sign up with Infiniti Mobile.

FAQs about free phones and discount plans for low-income families

How can I get a free government phone?

Apply with the Lifeline National Verifier. You will need to show proof of income and any government or Tribal assistance you receive.

Once accepted, you can apply directly with a participating wireless provider of your choice to receive a free phone or a discounted cell phone and/or service. 

Can I get a free government iPhone?

While there are thousands of people each month who want to know if they can get a free government iPhone, the answer is likely no, unless your provider offers free iPhones as part of its Lifeline Assistance program, available in 36 states, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

However, qualifying individuals can get a free Android phone or a discounted iPhone through the FCC’s Tru Connect program, which includes 14 GB of monthly data. Customers who qualify for Lifeline Assistance also receive unlimited talk, text, and free international calling to select countries.

What is the best free government phone company?

The best free government phone company is the one that meets your specific needs for communication. 

That said, SafeLink Wireless is one of the best free wireless and smartphone providers. SafeLink has an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau, serves a wide coverage areas, and has a useful  an app to help manage your account.

What cell phone companies offer free phones?

These wireless providers offer free phones. In some cases you might have to switch your current provider and bring your number to the new wireless carrier to get the free phone deal:

Bottom line: How can I get a new phone for free?

If you struggle to pay for a phone or phone plan, apply for the federal Lifeline Assistance Program using the Lifeline National Verifier

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How can I get a free government phone?

Apply with the Lifeline National Verifier. You will need to show proof of income and any government or Tribal assistance you receive. Once accepted, you can apply directly with a participating wireless provider of your choice to receive a free phone or a discounted cell phone and/or service.

Can I get a free government iPhone?

While there are thousands of people each month who want to know if they can get a free government iPhone, the answer is likely no, unless your provider offers free iPhones as part of its Lifeline Assistance program, available in 36 states, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

What is the best free government phone company?

The best free government phone company is the one that meets your specific needs for communication. That said, SafeLink Wireless is one of the best free wireless and smartphone providers. SafeLink has an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau, serves a wide coverage areas, and has a useful  an app to help manage your account.

What cell phone companies offer free phones?

These wireless providers, among others, offer free phones: American Assistance, Assurance Wireless, SafeLink, and more.

How can I get a new phone for free?

If you struggle to pay for a phone or phone plan, apply for the federal Lifeline Assistance Program using the Lifeline National Verifier.

Robyn Evans is an award-winning writer, inspirational author, and occasional songstress (especially in the shower). Born and raised in Baltimore, she focused on helping women make healthy choices for body, mind and soul. She’s a grateful bonus mom to a photographer son and activist daughter and works with young writers through a nonprofit called the Youth Writers Challenge. Robyn writes for corporate clients, is a former feature writer for The Carroll County Times, has written for The Baltimore Sun and is the author of three books.
Robyn's website | Robyn's LinkedIn profile

One Comment

Such a great effort to gather all that information in one place, too bad that single moms outside the US are not eligible.
You guessed it, I found your article trying to find a way to a new free working phone, as there is no way to fix my old one or get a new one :)

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