Know Your Rights

Free Government Phones: Plans, Equipment, and Application

Written by Jason
November 25, 2022
3 Mins Read

Did you know you might be eligible for a free government phone through the Lifeline Program? It’s not a widely known program, but it can be a massive help to those on lower incomes.

In this article, we’ll explain what the Lifeline Program is and how to check your eligibility. Then, we’ll look at whether there are any alternatives if you don’t meet the selection criteria.

What is the Government’s Lifeline Program?

The government’s Lifeline Program is a form of social assistance. It allows those on low income to access phone services. When it was introduced in 1985, it obviously focuses solely on landlines. However, it now also includes cellphones and carriers, as this is what most of us use.

Its purpose is to ensure lower-income consumers aren’t cut off from essential things, such as job applications and emergency services. After all, pretty much all job applications are online now, and require you to have a cellphone number and email address. With the Lifeline Program, you can access these necessities.

As of 2022, Life Wireless provides unlimited SMS messages and talk minutes and 5GB of data. Although Life Wireless is free, the Lifeline Program provides up to $9.25 discount on cellphone services, but this increases to $34.25 a month for those living on Tribal Lands.

Depending on the phone and plan you choose, you could pay as little as $10 a month for essential services. This includes wireless internet, call minutes and SMS messages. Most don’t include MMS messages, but you can always send those using an internet-based app!

Do I Meet the Lifeline Program’s Requirements?

One of the easiest ways to check whether you’re eligible for a free government phone is to see whether you’re on one of the following programs:

  • Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
  • Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
  • Medicaid
  • Federal Public Housing Assistance
  • Tribal-specific programs

If you’re not enrolled on one of these programs, you’ll need to show your income. The figure for eligibility is 135% of the Federal Poverty Guideline income. As of 2022, the figure for a single-person household is $13,590, meaning you’d have to prove your income is $18,346 or less.

However, this figure increases by $4,720 for every other person in your household. In short, this means it’s easier to qualify for a free government phone if there are more people in your home.

There are various documents you can use to prove your household income, including:

  • 1040 federal or state tax return
  • Wage slips or tax statements
  • Self-employment documentation
  • Social security benefits letter
  • Unemployment benefits letter

You simply submit any of these documents as part of your application to the Lifeline Program. Provided the documents are valid and show your income is below the threshold, you should be eligible.

Free Phone Carriers Lookup

Along with knowing your eligibility, it’s worth doing a phone carrier lookup to see what’s available in your area. You can do this using your ZIP code, as some providers only operate in specific states. A few examples of the providers you’ll find on your phone carrier lookup include:

  • Assist Wireless
  • Assurance Wireless
  • Cintex Wireless
  • Easy Wireless
  • FeelSafe Wireless
  • GCI
  • Infiniti Mobile
  • Life Wireless
  • Sprocket Wireless
  • StandUp Wireless
  • Tag Mobile
  • Terracom Wireless
  • TruConnect

As mentioned, the easiest thing to do is use your ZIP code to do a phone carrier lookup. From there, you can see which providers operate in your state and the deals they offer.

Which Free Government Phones You Can Get

It probably comes as no surprise, but you won’t be getting the latest phones on a Lifeline Program. That said, they’re usually good quality and can be new or refurbished; they just won’t be the latest models.

Most are Android, but you can still get iPhones on some plans. This is mainly because there are more phones that run the Android OS, many of which are made to be budget-friendly. For example, the Samsung Galaxy AO3s is an affordable smartphone that has good hardware.

Some carriers offer deals that include tablets, too. For example, QLink Wireless has a tablet, smartphone and SIM card deal for less than $30. This is a single, upfront payment – the SIM card included free data and talk minutes.

Other plans might have a small monthly cost (such as $10 a month) with an upfront cost for the hardware. Alternatively, you can buy the hardware outright (at a discount) and get a SIM card with free minutes and data. It’s worth looking at the different carriers in your state to see what kind of best deal cell phones you can get.

Again, the specific model and price will vary depending on the carrier you’re using, but you can often get the best deal cell phones on most Lifeline Program networks. But if you have a phone (and number), you can almost always carry these across onto a Lifeline Program plan. You might need to unlock your phone first, but check with the specific carrier to find out whether this is the case.

Alternatives: Textr Go Provides Phone Services for Free

If you don’t qualify for the Lifeline Program, a great alternative is Textr Go. It offers a phone service for free using VoIP technology. Provided you can access an internet connection, the Textr Go app offers permanent free calling and texting services.

Textr Go lets you set up a free phone number for CA, USA or UK within the app. Importantly, this means you don’t need an active cellphone number or plan to use it, and that you can call or text in different countries.

You can make unlimited, high-quality audio calls and send SMS messages for free. This makes it ideal for freelancers, self-employed workers and socializers. Plus, you can set up several numbers, meaning you can separate work and private messages for even more convenience.

On top of that, Textr Go offers cheap international rates for calls and texts if you do need to do business in other countries.

So, download the Textr Go app today on iOS, Android and for web browsers.

About the Writer

Written by Jason

B2B marketing specialist with expertise in lead generation through text messaging. Unlock your business potential with his proven strategies.