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 a free wireless phone 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 support the best free government cell phone plans.
If you’re having trouble paying for a wireless service or outright can’t afford one, let’s start by checking out the following government-backed programs that may be able to help you out. LifeLine Assistance, an FCC-mandated, government-sponsored program provides no cost cell phones to financially disadvantaged and low income people. Many of the plans that fall under this program offer anywhere from 250 minutes to unlimited talk and text, 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 may qualify for the program. There are 58 LifeLine Assistance companies that offer this program and these companies vary in availability and services. The two largest providers of free mobile phones are Safelink Wireless and Assurance Wireless which are available in more states than other providers. Find out which companies offer government-funded cell phones in your area and if you meet their eligibility requirements. Here are a few of the best free government cell phone providers that help those with below average household income.
Best Free Government Cell Phones 2020
This LifeLine program provider can provide you with a free cell phone, up to 750 min. of calls monthly, unlimited texts and up to 200MB. Access Wireless offers free 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 may qualify for a free phone and benefits so you can call local or domestic numbers. You can also text domestic numbers as well. If you live in California you can access a better plan that includes 1,000 call minutes or texts and data up to 200MB. Access Wireless official website
You can opt for up to 500 voice minutes and 500 texts per mo. with American Assistance. This LifeLine Assistance company is also called American Broadband & Telecommunications and although it offers only half of the call time and texts provided by other companies, it makes up by offering more features. American Assistance features include caller ID, call waiting, three-way calling and voice mail. It is accessible in Colorado, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nevada, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Utah, West Virginia and Wisconsin. It does not offer internet 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 areas based along Alaska’s North Slope coast then it’s hard to access service from traditional LifeLine Assistance companies. The Arctic Slope Telephone Association Cooperative or the ASTAC offers free cell 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 call time 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 applicable and you will be charged $.25 per minute for 411 calls. ASTAC official website
Based in Maryland, Arkansas, Missouri, and offering deals for all residents of Oklahoma, Assist Wireless carries several plans starting at $0/mo. 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 existing unit. This deal gives customers a $15 credit to their account and 1GB data. As an added bonus, Assist Wireless offers pre-paid plans for those looking to avoid any surprises on their bill.
You can qualify for a smartphone, 350 min. of calls, unlimited texts and up to 500MB of internet access when you use Assurance Wireless. California residents can upgrade to unlimited talk and texts in addition to 500MB of data. Assurance is from Spring/Nextel and is accessible 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’re issued an Android smartphone and not just an old model. And if 350 min. 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 receive a cell phone packed with 250 to 500 min. plus unlimited texting. If you live in California, you can access unlimited talk and text. However, there are no free internet plans with Blue Jay Wireless. If you want to use the web then you must pay $26/mo. for additional 5GB if you live in California and $3.60/mo. for additional 500MB if you live outside California. This Lifeline service provider serves low income customers in 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 mobile providers. Blue Jay Wireless official website
You can qualify for enTouch/Boomerang cell phones that start with 500 min. and 100 texts/mo. with enTouch Wireless. This lifeline mobile service is available for those who qualify 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 data, California non-tribal residents get 500MB per month on top of their unlimited talk and text. Tribal residents can step up to unlimited calls and texts, and 2.4 GB data per month. For all states the 500 minute and 100 texts/mo. plan gets 10MB data. The 500MB plan gets 100 talk and texts per month. For tribal, non-California residents, a 750 MB plan comes with unlimited texts.
Feelsafe Wireless provides qualified low-household income customers with government assisted cell phones and monthly 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
Those eligible get a cell phone, unlimited network-wide and nationwide texting, 500 min. 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/mo.? You can apply for this LifeLine 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 also may qualify for the GCI program. General Communications Inc. GCI official website
When you sign up for a Infiniti Mobile free government cell phone service account, you get free cell phones, unlimited text, talk, and 2.5 GB data for only a dollar a month. However, you need to be in the state of Oklahoma for eligibility in this LifeLine program. You can benefit from two kinds of plans: the Oklahoma LifeLine 1000 Plus Plan where you will get 1500 min. for calls, 1700 texts, and 500 MB data every month for $1 in addition to fees and taxes, or the Oklahoma LifeLine Unlimited Plan for unlimited voice minutes and text and 2.5 GB every month for only $1 and fees and taxes. Infinity Mobile official website
Q Link Wireless
You won’t just get a free government cell phone with 500 min. and unlimited texts every month with Q Link Wireless, you can also apply for a plan that will let you roll over unused time 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 one of the benefits 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 min. and unlimited texts in addition to 500 MB data with SafeLink Wireless. If you live in California, you get a free Android phone with unlimited call time and texts with 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 min. and unlimited texts per month and free internet access to the SafeLink network for three months and 500 MB for the succeeding months. Another plan is the free plan where you get a free smartphone with 350 min. and unlimited free texts with 500 MB of free data every month. For more information: Safelink Wireless official website
There is hope If you live in the rural areas of Oklahoma. You can get a free phone with unlimited call time 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/mo. just like all other LifeLine Assistance programs in the state of 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 purchasers 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 network, 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 min. of 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 (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
- 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 apply for 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 you apply to any discounted phone program, always 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 cell phone service in one area, while some may have two or three. As a general rule, most companies are limited to one per household so you must weigh the pros and cons of the providers in your state or area to find the government-backed plan that can help you and your specific needs.
Please be advised that some companies may require an application process requiring personal information and a credit check. As always, reach out to each of these companies to determine the most current programs, information, and support!
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 November 2020***