Where Can I Get A Free Government Cell Phone? Top 10 Best Companies

Many of us cannot imagine working without a mobile phone. While we might fail to appreciate that we can communicate with our loved ones and even access emergency services, it’s a different case for low-income families. Mobile phones and cell phone services are usually out of reach because of their high cost. But thanks to the Lifeline Assistance program, you can now get a free government cell phone along with cell phone plans, if you cannot afford them. The Federal Lifeline program supports disadvantaged individuals and households by subsidizing phone services. Both Link-UP and Lifeline are programs of the Federal Government that assist with free phones for low income citizens.

The FCC through the government has been providing impoverished people with discount landline services for years. Today, however, cellphones are the primary means of communication. Transformations in the program mean less fortunate Americans can now sign up for free phone services, government free cell phones, or both. Even though most citizens call them Obamaphones, it is a misleading term because the routine dates back to George W. Bush administration. Regardless, the initiative is still active, and you can apply for a government phone if you meet the eligibility criteria. There are plenty of free phone food stamps beneficiaries, for example, who qualify for a free government cell phone through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or SNAP.

The first thing in establishing your qualification for government free cell phones is to find out if there is a Link-Up service provider in your region. The participating Lifeline Assistance wireless companies aren’t available in all areas, with total coverage of forty states. If you are in the Lone Star State, for instance, you can sign up for the program with three of the large US carriers, providing service in about 36 states, or one of these free government cell phones in Texas. We are going to cover everything you need to know on how to get free phones from the government. We’ll show you how to apply, how the program works, who qualifies and even mention some of the best Link-Up companies.

Free Government Cell Phone: Everything You Need To Know

The Federal Communications Commission has been running Lifeline Assistance program since 1985. The initiative design aims at ensuring equal access to phone service for all citizens. It explicitly caters to the needs of disadvantaged persons and households who are unable to afford a cellphone or mobile plan. The project provides up to $9.25 every month to each qualifying candidate for wireless services. Lifeline also offers internet service to eligible Americans at the same monthly rates. You can qualify for the free government phone financially, or be a beneficiary to other government-led initiatives like Medicaid or SNAP.

Only a select group of wireless carriers, such as Safelink and Qlink Wireless provide low-cost service and free phones via Lifeline, hence the name Link-Up companies. Besides, most Lifelinks are regional wireless providers, save for the major mobile Telcoms that are available in almost thirty-six states.

Free Government Cell Phone

Before you apply for a free government phone, it’s advisable to know which participating Lifeline company offers services in your state. Should you qualify for a free phone from the government, the company will not ask you to pay monthly service charges, connection fees, down payment, or sign an annual agreement. However, you must observe the program’s yearly certification arrangement to maintain your service. Furthermore, some of Lifeline Link-Up operators offer free smartphones.

Note that it is not mandatory for these companies to provide smartphones. While it’s a wise move to keep up to date with the latest tech, each provider determines the kind of phone to give a beneficiary. Some carriers offer inexpensive older handsets when you apply for a free phone. Moreover, other LifeLink providers have android smartphones and iPhones, along with BYOP options.

How The Lifeline Assistance Program Works

Every qualifying person will get a free government cell phone or smartphone with free talk-time, data, text messages, and hot spot data. Nevertheless, the offer varies depending on the company and your state. Therefore, you’ll want to find a phone provider with the best benefits. It is also advisable to look for a Link-Up operator with an excellent customer service record. Like regular cell phone companies, Lifeline wireless services have varying levels of customer support, playing a significant role in a customer’s overall experience.

The Universal Service Fund finances the program so that you don’t have to worry about making payments once you qualify. You are likely to be eligible if you receive government help or participate in one of the government poverty initiatives. Interested citizens can receive a free government cell phone through the following steps:

  1. Find a participating Lifeline Assistance wireless company in your state.
  2. Complete the providers application form on the internet or via mail
  3. Attach your proof of identity
  4. Provide evidence of your income through payroll stubs o submit an endorsement letter from a government agency.
  5. Wait for the company to approve your application.
  6. Receive your free government mobile phone via mail

You’ll find it easy to apply for the service if you meet the program income qualifications. All you have to do is include your payslips or tax forms in your application. You can scan the documents for attaching to your online application. Those who qualify through receiving government aid must have a letter from the relevant agency. However, you should expect to find some variations according to your state. Lifeline Assistance has these rules in place to prevent abuse and fraud within its service. Note that you must recertify your eligibility for the program annually to keep your plan active.

How To Qualify For A Free Government Cell Phone

You must first determine if you are eligible for a free government cell phone through the United States Poverty Guidelines before signing up. You are probably asking, “What is the poverty guideline and where does it feature in receiving a free cellphone?” Well, Lifeline Assistance is a government initiative that establishes one of the eligibility criteria via a household’s gross family income.

The program considers persons living in the same dwelling to be a household. It means you do not have to be family members to qualify as a household. The total household income should not exceed the federal financial requirements by 135% to be eligible for the plan. Note that your state and household size may also determine your eligibility. If you plan to qualify for this scheme financially, you must provide income evidence.

Here’s a breakdown of FCC income guidelines:

  • $14,702 per year per individual
  • $19,859 per year for a two-member household
  • $25,016 per year for a three-member household
  • $30,173 per year for a four-member household

Note that the gross family income increases by $5,157 for each additional household member. For example, a five member household should not have an annual income of more than $35,330 to qualify for this program. Furthermore, you will need to show proof of residence in the United States before getting Lifeline approval for a free government cell phone with free monthly service.

Along with income based qualification, Lifeline Assistance is also open to citizens who take advantage of these government aid programs:

  • The home energy assistance initiative for low-income families or LIHEAP
  • TANF or Temporary Assistance to Needy Families
  • Supplementary Nutritional Assistance Program or Food stamps
  • SSI or the Supplemental Security Income
  • Section eight of the public assistance housing program
  • NSLP or National School Lunch Program
  • Medical Aid or Medicaid

In the above instances, you will have to provide supporting documents to show that you receive help from the relevant government aid program. It is also vital to know the initiative rules. For instance, not every family member will get a free government cell phone. Lifeline Assistance limits offer to one free device for each household. Besides, the phones are not necessarily smartphones, although beneficiaries will get up-to-date models.

The application process varies from one state to the next. In some regions, consumers get to sign up by phoning their local Link-Up providers while other states let third parties, like community based organizers to assist with the paperwork. In addition, other states allow the FCC to take care of the paperwork. The Lifeline Assistance project is nothing short of wonderful for those who join it. It is particularly helpful to subscribers suffering from various illnesses as it offers a security blanket, allowing them to call for assistance during emergencies.

Top 10 Best Free Government Cell Phone Companies

The free government cell phone program is available in nearly all US territories. When finding a provider, it’s best to confirm if they offer services in your states before you proceed to sign up on their website. Most Lifelink companies provide multiple ways for consumers to register, including regular mail, online, and through email. Remember to show proof of income or financial status as you apply.

The following wireless carriers all provide free devices with cellphone plans under the Lifeline program. Nevertheless, some of the companies are more prominent than others, with QLink, Assurance, and Safelink Wireless being the most popular Link-Up operators.

Here are details for the ten best Telecom companies that work with Lifeline Assistance to offer free cellphones and increase free monthly talk-time.

1. Assist Wireless

The Lifeline operator currently offers free government phones to applicants in Oklahoma. Maryland, Minnesota, Arkansas, and Missouri.

Oklahoma Free Link-Up Plan

  • Unlimited monthly minutes
  • Unlimited messages every month
  • 5-Gig free monthly data

Non Oklahoma Free Link-Up Plan

  • 1,000 free monthly minutes or,
  • 1,000 texts every month
  • 1-Gig free monthly data

Other Benefits

  • Voicemail services
  • Three-way calling
  • Caller ID
  • Call waiting and forwarding feature
  • A free government cell phone

2. Assurance Wireless

Assurance offers its services to almost every state in the US, with consumers benefiting from great Android devices.

California Free Link-Up Plan

  • Unlimited monthly minutes
  • Unlimited messages every month
  • 3-Gig high-speed free monthly data
  • 500 MB of free monthly internet

Non California Free Link-Up Plan

  • Between 350 and 1,000 free monthly minutes
  • Unlimited messages every month
  • 2-Gig high-speed free monthly data

Other Benefits

  • Voicemail and Caller ID
  • Three-way calling
  • Free access to mobile hotspot
  • Free access to 211 and 911 services
  • Affordable international calls
  • A free government smartphone

3. Easy Wireless

The provider offers free Lifelink services in Oklahoma, Missouri, and Kentucky, as follows:

Oklahoma Free Link-Up Plan

  • Unlimited monthly minutes, SMS, and 2-Gig internet
  • Unlimited monthly minutes, SMS, and the internet, with the initial 2-Gig data on LTE for $1 a month
  • Unlimited monthly minutes, SMS, and the internet, with the initial 5-Gig data on LTE for $15 a month

Missouri Kentucky Oklahoma Link-Up Plan

  • Free 750 nationwide talk-time minutes, unlimited text and talk, with 25 MB of data
  • 750 nationwide talk-time minutes, unlimited text and talk, with 250 MB of data for $1 a month
  • Unlimited nationwide talk-time and text with 1-Gig internet for $15 a month
  • Unlimited nationwide talk-time and text with 2-Gig internet for $25 a month
  • Unlimited nationwide talk-time and text with 2-Gig high-speed internet for $26 a month
  • Unlimited internet, SMS, and minutes with initial 5-Gig data on LTE for $40 a month

Other Benefits

  • Nationwide calling
  • Voicemail services
  • Three-way calling
  • Caller ID
  • Call waiting and forwarding feature
  • A free government cell phone

4. StandUp Wireless

The company replaced Blue Jay Wireless in the Lifeline program to provide services for consumers in Colorado, Kentucky, Missouri, Oklahoma, Puerto Rico, South Carolina, Wisconsin, Arizona, Hawaii, Minnesota, Nevada, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Texas, and Utah.

Free Link-Up Plan

  • 500 free monthly minutes
  • Unlimited SMS
  • 500 MB monthly data

Other Benefits

  • Voicemail services
  • Caller ID
  • Call waiting
  • A free government smartphone

5. enTouch Wireless

enTouch is among the leading Lifeline phone companies that serves twenty states, such as Kentucky, Michigan, North Dakota, Washington, Arkansas, Indiana, and West Virginia, among others.

Free Link-Up Plan

  • Unlimited monthly minutes
  • Unlimited texts every month
  • Unlimited monthly data

Other Benefits

  • Nationwide calling
  • Voicemail services
  • Three-way calling
  • Caller ID
  • Call waiting
  • A free government cell phone

6. FeelSafe Wireless

The Lifelink operator is available in California, Michigan, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Kentucky, Mississippi, and Wisconsin.

Free Link-Up Plans

  • Unlimited talk-time, MMS, SMS, and 2-Gig internet with 100 international SMS for California subscribers.
  • 1,000 minutes, 500 texts, with 500 MBs internet for Kentucky subscribers.
  • 1,000 minutes, 500 texts, with 500 MBs internet for beneficiaries in Michigan.
  • 1,000 minutes, 500 texts, with 500 MBs internet for consumers in Mississippi.
  • Unlimited minutes, MMS and texts for tribal Oklahoma residents.
  • 1,000 minutes, 500 texts, with 500 MBs for non-tribal subscribers in Oklahoma.
  • 1,000 minutes, 500 texts, with 500 MBs internet for Pennsylvania consumers.
  • 1,000 minutes, 500 texts, with 500 MBs internet for residents in South Carolina.
  • 1,000 minutes, 500 texts, with 500 MBs internet for Wisconsin subscribers.

Other Benefits

  • Free 911 function
  • Voicemail services
  • Three-way calling
  • Caller ID
  • Call waiting and forwarding feature
  • A free government cell phone

7. Life Wireless

Life Wireless offers free cell phones and plans in ten states of Georgia, Louisiana, Minnesota, Puerto Rico, West Virginia, Arkansas, Illinois, Maryland, Missouri, and Rhode Island.

Free Link-Up Plan

  • Between 1,250 to unlimited monthly minutes
  • Unlimited texts every month
  • Between 250 and 500 MB monthly data

Other Benefits

  • Nationwide calling
  • Voicemail services
  • Three-way calling
  • Caller ID
  • Call waiting
  • A free government cell phone

8. Q Link Wireless

Q Link Wireless is one of the most prominent Lifeline companies providing services in nearly all the states in America.

Free Link-Up Plan

  • 1,000 monthly talk-time
  • Unlimited texts every month
  • 1-Gig free monthly data

Other Benefits

  • Nationwide calling
  • BYOP with free SIM card
  • Free 911 services
  • Voicemail services
  • Three-way calling
  • Get 100 free voice minutes for each referral
  • Caller ID
  • Call waiting
  • A free government smartphone with a free SIM card

9. Safelink Wireless

Safelink is among the three most popular Link-Up providers in the US with incredible phones and plan offers for its subscribers.

Free Link-Up Plan

  • 500 voice minutes for the initial three months
  • 5 GB data for the initial three months
  • 1,000 monthly talk-time
  • Unlimited texts every month
  • 1-Gig free monthly data

Other Benefits

  • Nationwide calling
  • BYOP with free SIM card
  • Free 911 services
  • Voicemail services
  • Three-way calling
  • Caller ID
  • Call waiting
  • A free government smartphone with a free SIM card

10. Tempo Wireless

Little known Tempo Wireless makes a difference by connecting isolated consumers in twenty-one states to the Lifeline program.

Free Link-Up Plan

  • Unlimited voice minutes
  • Unlimited months texts
  • 3-Gig monthly data

Other Benefits

  • Voicemail services
  • Three-way calling
  • Caller ID
  • Call waiting
  • A free government smartphone

The above selection is only a handful of companies providing free government cell phone. You can find more providers in your state by searching the FCC site.

How To Change Lifeline Companies

All Lifeline providers are not the same. You may want to switch providers because you do not like the current service, you need a phone upgrade, you want more voice minutes and text messages, or your Lifelink operator may have left the Lifeline Assistance initiative. Link-Up services don’t lock subscribers into yearly contracts. If you are getting poor customer service, the first thing you can do is to launch a complaint with the FCC. And if the situation doesn’t improve, then you can even change your cell phone provider.

Most customers believe that they must first end their service with the current operator before joining a new carrier. But the Universal Service Administrative Company has a different approach to a “Benefit Transfer” or switching Lifeline providers. The USAC allows you to change cell phone companies if you have been on the service for a minimum of 60 days. The best thing is to ensure you cancel your previous provider to avoid being on multiple Lifeline services as it might lead to termination of your benefits.

Here is what you can do to switch Lifeline wireless providers:

  • Contact your current operator to ask for a transfer of service by filling out a request for change form.
  • The company will confirm receipt of your request.
  • Get in touch with the new company to express interest in moving to their platform.
  • Fill out the application form, providing proof of qualification for the Lifeline program.
  • Sign in to the National Lifeline Accountability Database site and select “Transfer NLAD Benefit”.
  • Fill in the details and transfer your benefits.
  • You must confirm that you intend to move phone services to a new Lifeline provider.
  • Services from your initial operator will stop after the transfer is complete.

Note that the FCC provisions don’t allow you to benefit from more than one Lifeline company simultaneously. Therefore, you must consent to not having service with multiple providers.

How To Replace A Lost Lifeline Company

You can lose or damage your free government cell phone shortly after getting it. The best thing is that you can replace it or even get an upgrade. If you lost your device, the provider would replace it at a fee. It’s vital always to keep an emergency copy of your provider’s name, your phone number, and the serial number of the device. You are going to need it if you want to replace a lost or damaged handset.

Here are the steps you can use to replace your free government cell phone:

  • Contact the mobile carrier immediately you realize you lost the device so they can turn off the service to protect your phone balance.
  • The provider may ask you for the events that led to you losing the cellphone.
  • Pick a new cell phone.
  • Pay the replacement fee.
  • Wait to receive the new handset via regular mail.

Frequently Asked Questions

Who has the best free government phones?

Safelink and Q Link wireless have the best free government phones, which include the latest Android devices.

How do I get a free Obama phone?

You must first confirm whether you qualify for a free Obama phone through income-based guidelines or as a beneficiary to a government aid program like SNAP. If you are eligible, the next step is to find the Lifeline Wireless companies providing free government cell phones in your state. Choose a company that has the best Lifelink services and fill out the application form. After that, wait to receive your cell phone through regular mail.

Does SafeLink give free smartphones?

Yes. SafeLink is one of the free government cell phone companies that offer smartphones. The provider also gives free SIM cards with their free cellphone and plans.

Does AT&T offer free government phones?

Yes and No. AT&T does not provide free handsets but offers monthly discounts of up to $7.25 per month to qualifying customers. However, eligible tribal clients can get another $25 monthly discount on their bills.

Does Verizon have free government phones?

Yes. Verizon offers a decent selection of free government phones and cell phone plans. Eligible Verizon Wireless customers will also receive at least $9.25 monthly discount on their bills. The company only offers one discount for each qualifying household.

The Bottom Line

Lifeline Assistance is a federal initiative that gives discounted cellphone services to qualifying low-income families and individuals. The program aims to provide affordable communication services to its beneficiaries. You can qualify for a free government cell phone if you already receive aid from a government-run assistance program like Medicaid, SNAP, TANF, and SSI, among others. You may also be eligible through income profiles that meet the US Poverty Guidelines.

Those who qualify stand to receive a free cell phone along with monthly phone services without paying. You could also get a free government smartphone depending on the Lifeline provider and availability of devices. However, Link-Up companies have the right to decide the kind of phone you’ll receive. Once you qualify, you must recertify your participation in the program to continue enjoying its benefits.

Subscribers can also change their cell phone providers when looking to upgrade to a smartphone, require more text, talk, and data allocation, or because they are dissatisfied with the current service. It is important to cancel your service with the existing Lifeline provider before you switch companies to avoid losing your Lifeline Assistance program benefits. Furthermore, the initiative allows customers to replace damaged or lost phones with their issuer, although at a fee.