9+ ways get a free smartphone (and discounts for low-income families)

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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. 

So how much is the Lifeline benefit? You can get 

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 Emergency Broadband Benefit (EBB), a temporary assistance program that offers a monthly benefit of up to $50 per month for broadband internet service (up to $75 for Tribal lands). You can also use EBB for cell phone bills. 

If you qualify for Lifeline and EBB, 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.

FYI: EBB will be replaced in early 2022 by the Affordable Connectivity Program, a long-term program to help you stay connected for work, education, healthcare and anything else you need without worrying about paying a bill. Apply for EBB to get help now.

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

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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 program covers subscribers in 21 states and Puerto Rico. 

American Assistance also works with California Premium Lifeline, a state-based cell phone assistance program with plans as low as $14.95 per month. 

Apply to American Assistance to check availability and benefits.

Assurance Wireless: Free cell phone and plan 

New Lifeline and/or EBB Assurance Wireless customers can get a free Android smartphone. 

The Assurance Wireless Lifeline plan gives you free data, unlimited texts, and 1,000 monthly minutes. The EBB Assurance Wireless Unlimited plan hooks you up with unlimited data, texts, minutes, and 10 GB of hotspot data.

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

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FeelSafe Wireless: Free smartphone and plan 

FeelSafe Wireless will give you a free government touch-screen smartphone and free monthly cell phone service if you qualify for Lifeline and/or EBB.

FeelSafe Wireless is available in California, Kentucky, Michigan, Mississippi, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, and Wisconsin. You can call anyone in the United States, Puerto Rico, and the US Virgin Islands. 

Voice, text, and data amounts vary by state. To see available plans, apply to FeelSafe Wireless by choosing your state under Apply Now.

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Life Wireless: Free cell phone and plan

If you qualify for Lifeline, 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.

Plans vary, but most give you 500 minutes per month or unlimited talk and text. If you have EBB, you can get up to 30 GB of data a month with unlimited talk and text. Sign up for Life Wireless to see what benefits are available to you.

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

As a new customer, you might be able to get a Safelink free phone and unlimited phone calls, texting, and 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, EBB and California Lifeline. 

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

California Lifeline plans cost to the customer 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. Apply now at SafetyNet Wireless. 

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StandUp Wireless: Free smartphone and plan 

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

StandUp Wireless offers 5G 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.

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TAG Mobile: Free cell phone and plan

TAG Mobile participates with Lifeline and EBB 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 8 GB of data each month. In other states TAG Mobile provides  can get a free monthly plan with unlimited text, 1,000 minutes, and 4.5 GB 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 12.5 GB of monthly data, and free international calling to some countries.

TruConnect serves 33 states andPuerto Rico and 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 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.

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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  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 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.

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. 

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:

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

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.

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.

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 organization. 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. Learn more about Robyn here.

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