Being without a cell phone is unthinkable nowadays. Not only is a cell phone the most efficient way to contact your loved ones and friends but it is also a crucial way to contact your doctor in case you need medical assistance, or for an employer to reach you in case you are applying for work. Because of this, the government has authorized cell phone companies to provide free mobile phones for people who simply cannot afford to have one. Even the financially disadvantaged need to have the ability to own and use a cellphone. Keep reading to find out which carriers offer the best free government cell phone plans.
If you’re having trouble paying for a mobile phone plan or outright can’t afford a cell phone, the following government-backed program may be able to help you out. LifeLine Assistance, an FCC-mandated, government-sponsored program provides free cell phones to financially disadvantaged people. Many of the plans that fall under this program offer anywhere from 250 minutes to unlimited talk and text free, every month.
Around 12 to 15 million Americans are now enjoying free government cell phones and with the economy still falling behind, it is estimated that more and more people will qualify for the program. There are 58 LifeLine Assistance cell phone companies that offer free units and these companies vary in availability and services. The two largest providers of free cell phones are Safelink Wireless and Assurance Wireless which are available in more states than other providers. Find out which company offers free government-funded cell phones in your area and if their plans meet your needs. Here are a few of the top free government cellphone providers
Best Free Government Cell Phones 2018
This LifeLine Assistance provider can provide you with a free cell phone, up to 750 minutes of free calls each month, unlimited texts and up to 200MB data. Access Wireless offers free cell phone units and services for people who live in Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, New Hampshire, Nevada, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin and West Virginia.
If you live in any of these states and you are eligible, you get a free phone with free minutes so you can local or domestic numbers. You can also text domestic numbers as well. If you live in California you get a better plan that includes free 1,000 call minutes or texts and free data up to 200MB. Access Wireless official website
You can get up to 500 free voice minutes and 500 free texts per month with American Assistance. This LifeLine Assistance company is also called American Broadband & Telecommunications and although it offers only half of the call minutes and texts provided by other companies, it makes up by offering free features. American Assistance subscribers get free caller ID, call waiting, three-way calling and voice mail. It is available in Colorado, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nevada, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Utah, West Virginia and Wisconsin. It does not offer free data services which might be a disadvantage for people who need to use the internet even on the go. American Assistance official website
Arctic Slope Telephone Association Cooperative or ASTAC
If you live in the remote places along Alaska’s North Slope coast then it’s hard to get free cell phone service from traditional LifeLine Assistance companies. The Arctic Slope Telephone Association Cooperative or the ASTAC offers free cell phone and services to people who live in this area and even as far as Alaska’s west coast or as far south as Kotzebue, Selavik and Noorvik. You need ASTAC to be able to contact your loved ones or your work mates if you live in this remote area. But the downside is that it only offers local unlimited minutes and unlimited texting within the North Slope area. If you want to call long distance, you may need to pay a $200 deposit. Roaming calls are not available and you will be charger $.25 per minute for 411 calls. ASTAC official website
Operating in Maryland, Arkansas, Missouri, and offering deals for both tribal and non-tribal residents of Oklahoma, Assist Wireless carries several plans starting at $0/month. Accompanied by these plans, this carrier also accepts applications for free phones with contract sign up, and also has a deal going allowing customers to bring over an old phone. This deal gives customers a $15 credit to their account and 1GB of free data. As an added bonus, Assist Wireless offers pre-paid plans for those looking to avoid any surprises on their bill.
You get a free smartphone, 350 minutes of free calls, unlimited free texts and up to 500MB of free data when you use Assurance Wireless. California residents get unlimited talk and texts plus 500MB of data for free. Assurance is from Spring/Nextel and is available in Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia and Wisconsin. It will soon be available in other states that were not mentioned. With Assurance Wireless, you will get a free Android smartphone and not just an old phone model. And if 350 minutes is not enough for you, you can top it off for a low fee using Virgin Mobile Top-Up cards. Here is the complete Guide for subscribe Assurance Wireless Phone and Upgrade
Blue Jay Wireless
You will get a free cell phone packed with 250 to 500 minutes plus free unlimited texting. If you live in California, you get unlimited free talk and text. However, there are no free data plans with Blue Jay Wireless. If you want to use the web then you must pay $26 a month for additional 5GB data if you live in California and $3.60 a month for additional 500MB data if you live outside California. This Lifeline Assistance provider serves Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nevada, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas, Utah and Wisconsin. It also serves Puerto Rico which is uncommon for most providers. Blue Jay Wireless official website
You get free enTouch/Boomerang cell phones with free 500 minutes and 100 texts free per month with enTouch Wireless. This service is available in 20 different states such as Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming and is expanding to cover more states. For free data, California non-tribal residents get 500MB data per month on top of their unlimited talk and text. Tribal residents get free unli calls and texts plus 2.4 GB data per month. For all states the 500 minute and 100 texts per month plan gets 10MB data. The 500MB plan gets 100 talk and text units with 500 MB data per month. For tribal, non-California residents, a 750 MB plan comes with unlimited texts.
Feelsafe Wireless provides qualified low-income customers with free government assisted cell phones and free monthly phone service. Residents of California, Kentucky, Michigan, Mississippi, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, and Wisconsin can be eligible through this carrier. One of the biggest draws of this carrier is its impressive coverage area. A quick glance at the map below shows roughly 90% of the lower 48 states covered and even some parts of Alaska.
GCI, General Communications Inc. formerly Alaska DigiTel
You get a free cell phone, unlimited network-wide and nationwide texting, 500 minutes of nationwide long distance calls and 1GB of data for just a dollar a month if you live in Alaska. Technically this is not a free service but who can get all these for $1 a month? You can avail of this LifeLine Assistance program if you have any of the following: Supplemental Security Income (SSI), food stamps, Medicaid, Federal Public Housing Assistance, Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program, Alaska Temporary Assistance Program, Alaska State Housing Corporation Programs, Veterans Administration Disability Pension and BIA (Bureau of Indian Affairs) General Assistance among others. If your income falls under 135% of the Federal Poverty Guideline for Alaska then you may also qualify for CGI free phone program. General Communications Inc. GCI official website
When you use Infiniti Mobile free government cell phone program, you get free cell phones, unlimited talk and texts and 2.5 GB data for only a dollar a month. However, you need to be in Oklahoma to enjoy this LifeLine Assistance program. You can choose from two kinds of plans: the Oklahoma LifeLine 1000 Plus Plan where you will get 1500 minutes for calls and 1700 texts plus 500 MB data every month for $1 plus fees and taxes or the Oklahoma LifeLine Unlimited Plan for unlimited voice minutes and text and 2.5 GB data every month for only $1 plus fees and taxes. Infinity Mobile official website
Q Link Wireless
You won’t just get a free cell phone with 500 call minutes and unlimited texts every month with Q Link Wireless, you can also avail of a plan that will let you roll over unused minutes each month. This great deal is available depending on the state where you live and you will only know if you qualify when you check your zip code from their official website. Q Link Wireless serves the states of Arkansas, Arizona, Colorado, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nevada, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Washington, West Virginia and Wisconsin. Another good thing about this company is that you can qualify for their Q Link Bonus program just by referring your friends. You earn 100 free bonus minutes for every friend that you refer and receive a phone from Q Link Wireless. Read more about Qlink Wireless Phone Replacement Complete Guideline.
You will get a free phone with 350 minutes and unlimited texts plus 500 MB data with SafeLink Wireless. If you live in California, you get a free Android phone with unlimited minutes and texts plus 500 MB of data. SafeLink is the oldest and the most trusted in 40 states including the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. For states other than California, there are two kinds of programs: one program requires you to bring your own compatible phone to get a free SIM card with 350 free minutes and unlimited texts per month plus free data for three months and 500 MB for the succeeding months. Another plan is the free phone plan where you get a free smartphone with 350 minutes and unlimited free texts plus 500 MB of free data every month. Safelink Wireless official website
There is hope If you live in the rural areas of Oklahoma. You can get a free phone with unlimited minutes and texting for only $1 with Sprocket Wireless. If you are located in the areas in and around Stigler, Checotah, Eufaula, Canadian, Crowder, Savannah, Muskogee, McAlester, Idabel, Hugo, Broken Bow, Pawhuska, Fairfax, Henryetta, Okemah, Dustin, Indianola and Seminole areas then you can qualify for this free phone program. As you can see, this is not actually a free phone offer but you need to pay $1 a month just like all other LifeLine Assistance programs in Oklahoma. Sprocket Wireless official website
A proponent of their self-termed “StandUp Way”, StandUp Wireless prides itself on excellent customer service. Instead of pushy, high pressure sales, StandUp representatives do their best to find a great fit for their customers at great prices. Moreover, they claim to be understanding on late payments and offer a “float” period in which customers won’t be penalized in the event of a missed payment. Unlike most of the other carriers on this list, StandUp doesn’t outright list which states it services. However, they do enable you to enter your zip code to determine eligibility. Also important to note, at this time StandUp doesn’t allow outside phones to be used on their service, but they will give you a free new phone if you qualify. This service is absolutely worth checking out from the customer service standpoint alone.
If you live in Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Indiana, Iowa, Louisiana, Maryland, Minnesota, Nebraska, Nevada, Oklahoma, Texas, West Virginia or Wisconsin then TerraCom Wireless is the provider for you. You get a free phone that comes with unlimited texting and up to 1,000 minutes call time. And if you live in Oklahoma, you get free 500 MB data every month. TerraCom Wireless official website
TruConnect offers Lifeline service in 24 states + Puerto Rico:
Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nevada, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.
- Unlimited Talk & Text
- 2 GB of data (3 GB if you bring your own phone)
- We offer free 5” smartphones to customers in CA
- Includes Unlimited Calling to Mexico, China, & Canada, and unlimited global texting
All Other States
- 1,000 Minutes
- Unlimited Text
- 2 GB of data
- Includes Unlimited Calling to Mexico, China, & Canada, and unlimited global texting
LifeLine Assistance discounted rates for cell phones
If for some reason you are not satisfied with the free cell phone offer available in your area or a fee government cellphone program is not available where you are located then you may avail of LifeLine discounts on cell phones and services. Just some of the companies that offer discounted plans and phones are ATT Mobility, Centennial de Puerto Rico, Claro de Puerto Rico, Cordova Wireless Communications, SouthernLINC Wireless, Element Mobile, T-Mobile, Total Call Mobile, U.S. Connect , Verizon Wireless and Viaero Wireless to name a few. Each of these companies offer different kinds of plans and phone units and are offered in different states. Before availing of any discounted phone program, check the pros and cons of the service to find out if it fits your needs to get the best value for your money.
Cell phone companies that are part of the Lifeline Assistance program offer plans of varying features and products. A free government cell phone plan in one state may be completely different from the other and this is mostly because of FTC regulations as well as the geographical features of the area. There may also be a number of cell phone companies that offer fee cell phone services in one area, while some may have two or three. As a smart consumer, you must weigh the pros and cons of the providers in your state or area to find the right government-backed plan that’s right for your needs.
Discounts for government employees
Still haven’t found quite what you’re looking for? Or, maybe you still want to keep your plan with a major carrier? Click here for Verizon discounts for government employees. Or Click Here for T-Mobile government discounts!
***Article originally written, July 2018. Updated March 2019***