UPDATED: March 01, 2022

You need a new phone. Unfortunately, you don’t have the budget. How can you get a free phone with no money? 

We live in a modern, tech-dependent society that relies on smartphones for communication. These devices perform various functions, from phone calls to video chats, so it’s no exaggeration to say that they’ve become a necessity.

Unfortunately, owning a smartphone comes with a steep price. Statistics show the average American spends around $500 on smartphones, plus an extra $114 per month on phone bills.

If you don’t have a working smartphone but aren’t in a position to purchase one, keep reading. This article shows the quickest ways to get free phones.

We looked at various sources to gather information on organizations that provide free or discounted smartphones. See if you qualify for the government and non-government programs listed below.

Smartphones are a must, but you don’t have to waste thousands to secure one, especially if you have a tight budget.

Read until the end. That way, you can spend your money on other essential expenses, like groceries, school, and rent.

Otherwise, you might end up going over your budget. You don’t have to compromise your finances and monthly cash flow to buy a new smartphone.

Let’s get started!

How To Get Free Cell Phone Service From the Government

What is the best free government phone company? The most widely known and trusted free cell phone government program is the Lifeline Assistance.

It provides free cell phones and phone lines to low-income applicants. However, don’t feel intimidated upon application because experts suggest that 35% of Americans at least qualify for the program’s discounted smartphones.

What Is the Lifeline Assistance Program?

The original Lifeline Assistance program dates back to 1984. The program significantly grew when former US President Barack Obama was head of the state. About 20 million Americans have benefited from the program since the first free Obama phone.

The program no longer provides free cell phones themselves. However, you’ll find that many top Lifeline providers still give out free phone and SIM kits to qualified applicants, including the following carriers:

Also, the program still focuses on cheap, discounted devices. Most applicants get significant discounts on their preferred phones, but lower-income individuals might not have to pay a single penny.

Who Qualifies for Free Phones and Free Cell Phone Service?

You can qualify for Lifeline Assistance in three easy steps:

Step 1: Pass the Initial Screening

The Lifeline Assistance programs typically cater to low-income applicants with a household income equivalent to 135% of or less than the federal poverty threshold

If not, you should at least be in any government grant or program, such as:

  • Bureau of Indian Affairs General Assistance
  • Federal Public Housing Assistance
  • Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations (FDPIR)
  • Head Start
  • Medicaid
  • Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
  • Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
  • Tribally-Administered Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TTANF)
  • Veterans and Survivors Pension Benefit

If you meet any of the requirements listed above, head over to their site and fill out their application form.

Step 2: Choose a Phone Carrier

Does AT&T offer free government phones? Yes! Carriers like T-Mobile and AT&T accommodate Lifeline Assistance applicants.

Note: You have 90 days after qualification to choose a phone carrier. 

Step 3: Finalize the Application

Once you have chosen your carrier, the Lifeline Assistance team will explain the cell phones and phone lines that you can get. 

What Documents Do You Need When Applying for a Lifeline Phone?

Lifeline Assistance requires applicants to submit supporting documents proving their identity, age, and income, such as:

  • Government-issued ID card
  • Proof of residential address
  • Household worksheet
  • Proof of emancipated minor
  • Proof of program eligibility (government grant recipients)
  • Proof of life

Note: Submit all required paperwork as soon as you can. Lifeline Assistance only gives applicants 45 days to accomplish their application forms.

Other Free Cell Phone Plans From the US Government

If you meet the requirements for the Lifeline Assistance program, you’ll likely qualify for the Affordable Connectivity Program, too. They provide discounted devices and internet connectivity.

Most eligible households receive $30 to $75 for monthly internet bills and one-time $100 discounts on their preferred laptops, tablets, or desktops. However, the program might require you to contribute $10 to $50 for your device.

To qualify for the Affordable Connectivity Program, you must meet any of the following requirements:

  • Household income less than or equal to 200% of the federal poverty threshold
  • Qualify for Medicaid, SNAP, Lifeline, WIC, SSI, or Housing Assistance
  • Take part in Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations, Tribal TANF, Bureau of Indian Affairs General Assistance, or any other Tribal-focused program
  • Receive school lunch program benefits
  • Currently a Federal Pell Grant awardee

What Kind of Free or Discounted Phones Can You Get?

Lifeline Assistance Program applicants only find out which phones they qualify for after the screening process. The program matches you with a suitable device and discount.

However, no matter what your situation is, don’t expect to get the newer iPhone and Samsung phones for free—or even at discounted rates. Of course, you’ll still receive a reliable, fully functioning Android phone.

The program offers an extensive cell phone lineup of smartphones and tactile phones, which include:

  • Coolpad Haylo
  • Kyocera JAX S1360
  • Moxee™ m2160
  • Unimax U683CL
  • ZTE PrestigeTM 2

Are the Free Phones and Free Cell Phone Service Plans Any Good?

Most misconceptions about government-backed cell phone assistance programs stem from baseless expectations. Applicants expect either too much or too little.

Before applying for Lifeline Assistance or Affordable Connectivity Program, manage your expectations by reviewing the cell phones that qualified applicants typically receive.

You wouldn’t get a new iPhone or Samsung phone, but you also wouldn’t receive a damaged device. Generally, the program will provide you with a reliable Android phone that can make calls, send texts, and surf the internet.

What Are the Alternatives To Free Government Phones?

If your Lifeline Assistance application pushed through, but you still want to try out other government-backed programs—don’t worry. You can still explore alternative cell phone assistance programs, such as:

If you qualify for Lifeline Assistance but don’t want to wait months for application processing, turn to Safelink Wireless. This cell phone assistance program accommodates all qualified Lifeline Assistance applicants.

Depending on your application, you could get unlimited calls and texts, 25GB of high-speed data, 5GB of hotspot data, plus your free smartphone.

American Assistance

American Assistance is another Lifeline-backed program that provides free cell phones and home phones. Qualified households can only choose one.

Depending on your application, you could secure a free smartphone, unlimited texts, unlimited nationwide wireless voice service, and free data. Also, American Assistance doesn’t limit clients to long-term, non-negotiable contracts.

TAG Mobile

TAG Mobile provides Lifeline-backed cell phone assistance to low-income households in 19 different states, including:

  • Arkansas
  • Arizona
  • California
  • Colorado
  • Iowa
  • Kentucky
  • Louisiana
  • Maryland
  • Maine
  • Michigan
  • Minnesota
  • Missouri
  • Nevada
  • Oklahoma
  • Pennsylvania
  • South Carolina
  • Texas
  • Wisconsin
  • West Virginia

Clients praise TAG Mobile for its versatility. You have the option to bring your own device, get a free Android phone, prioritize low-cost prepaid plans, or apply for Lifeline top-ups.

FeelSafe Wireless Lifeline Service in Michigan

The FeelSafe Wireless program provides Lifeline benefits to low-income households in Michigan. Qualified applicants get a monthly allowance of 4.5GB of data, 500 text messages, and 1,000 voice messages.

To qualify, your household income should at least be equal to or less than 135% of the federal poverty threshold.

911 Cell Phone Bank in Nevada

911 Cell Phone Bank provides Lifeline benefits to victims of domestic violence and sex trafficking in Nevada. It primarily solicits devices from donors.

The group wants victims to use donated phones to call for assistance, especially if they’re held against their will or on the run from their abusers. After all, most sexual abuse victims are stripped of their belongings.

Online Marketplace & Social Media

If you don’t qualify for the programs listed above, turn to third-party donations on social media. You might not come across many programs. However, you’ll definitely spot at least one or two opportunities to score free or discounted smartphones.

Craigslist

Look for local yard sales on Craigslist. You might spot a few super-cheap phones since most people hosting yard sales want to dispose of clutter quickly.

However, keep in mind that these phones might be damaged. If you can’t perform basic repairs and parts replacements, you’ll have to hire an experienced smartphone technician.

On the upside, damages leave room for haggling. Enumerate all the issues you spot, compute the projected repair cost, then negotiate for a lower, more reasonable price.

If you’re lucky, you might encounter sellers who are willing to give away their damaged phones as freebies or package deals for their other items for sale.

OfferUp

OfferUp is an eCommerce platform similar to Craigslist. However, instead of searching for yard sales, you’ll have better luck scouring online product listings.

Note that most people on OfferUp want to sell their phones. Don’t get discouraged if you come out empty-handed on the first few days of your search.

To increase your chances of securing free phones, sort your listings by date and price. Prioritize the cheapest, oldest listings. You might convince the seller to give you their phone for just a couple of bucks if they’ve had no luck selling it.

Facebook Marketplace

Although you’ll come across one or two phones up for grabs on Facebook Marketplace, you’ll yield better results by looking at phone plans. Look for agents offering discounted plans and cheap phones.

As we mentioned above, most Americans spend over a hundred dollars on phone bills. However, you can minimize the costs by turning to carriers providing industry-low rates, such as Tello, RedPocket, and U.S. Mobile.

These three carriers have standard plans starting at $10. You can get even better deals if you wait for promotions where they provide new accounts with free Android phones. 

Buy Nothing Groups

The Buy Nothing Project focuses on creating holistic, community-based groups where locals can give unused items. 

Just look for people disposing of their old smartphones. Most devices will come with a few damages, so prepare a few bucks for repairs.

Also, high-value goods like smartphones are given on a first-come, first-served basis. Don’t feel bad if you don’t get a listed item.

Note: Although not required, help broaden the group by gifting items. The Buy Nothing Project will only achieve long-term growth if everyone gives back to the community.

Avoid the Premium Fees of Buying and Owning a Phone

Set realistic expectations when hunting for free phones. Although several government agencies and private institutions support low-income individuals without working phones, you can’t demand thousand-dollar iPhones for free.

You’ll likely receive a low-end Android device. However, you can look into programs that donate used smartphones if you want a newer model.

Also, don’t solely focus on getting a free phone. Maintaining a phone line would set you back by $100+ per month, so also look for ways to minimize or eliminate these fees.

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