How to Get Free Cellphones With Service for Those With Government Assistance

By Lee Tea

Since 1985, the Lifeline Program has been providing phones to people who meet certain income criteria. In 2005, the program was extended to wireless phones in addition to landlines. Only specific phone companies offer Lifeline cellphone service, which provides the recipient with a basic cellphone and limited service that includes minutes to use throughout the month. Some options provide free text messages as well. In order to be eligible for service, you must meet certain income criteria or be enrolled in certain government assistance programs.

Things You'll Need

  • Computer or telephone

Step 1

Visit the Lifeline Support website to use the eligibility tool to see if you are eligible for Lifeline phone assistance. Eligibility criteria include enrollment in Medicaid, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (Food Stamps), Supplemental Social Security Income, federal housing assistance such as Section 8, the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF), the National School Lunch Program or Head Start. Only one Lifeline phone is allowed per household, so ensure that no one in your home is currently receiving LifeLine service. The person applying for LifeLine service does not have to be receiving any of the above benefits, but someone in the household must be.

Step 2

Visit the Lifeline Support site to find wireless company that services your area. Safelink Wireless, Verizon Wireless and Assurance Wireless are widely available choices.

Step 3

Visit the Lifeline cellphone company's website and input the necessary information when prompted to apply.

Step 4

Send in any required documentation, which may include pay stubs, Supplemental Social Security Income correspondence or other social program award letters to process your application if requested when applying.

Step 5

Wait for approval for your Lifeline cellphone service. If approved, you will receive a basic cellphone with activation instructions in the mail. The minutes will be credited each month you continue to be eligible for the program. You may be eligible for up to 250 free minutes per month through the Lifeline Program.

Step 6

Re-verify your eligibility for Lifeline cellphone service annually through the service provider's website. You will be notified by your Lifeline service provider when it is time to re-verify your eligibility.

Tips & Warnings

  • Only one cell phone per household.
  • If you don't have government assistance, you still may qualify by income level, so go ahead and apply!
  • Reporting false information or attempting to obtain more than one Lifeline cellphone per household can be punishable as a criminal or civil offense.