How to get a free government cell phone

The government’s Lifeline Assistance Program gives out free cell phones and monthly service to Americans in need of financial help.

It’s 2013, five years since the great recession, and times are still tough. Among all your other expenses, you might be faced with choosing whether or not you can continue paying for your mobile phone, if you even have one. Cell phones have become a necessary part of your day-to-day survival, and to be without one is unthinkable. But there is help. Did you know that the government has authorized phone companies to provide free cell phones and service to tens of millions Americans at no charge? Yes, it’s true.

Just how much would one of these free government cell phones change your life?

  • An employer can more easily reach you with a job offer if you have a free government cell phone.
  • You can you stay in touch with your doctor and other emergency medical professionals more easily with a free government cell phone.
  • A free government cell phone can help you keep in touch with family and other loved ones.

The government will pay for your free cell phone and service

Thanks to the FCC-mandated, government-sponsored program, called LifeLine Assistance, the financially disadvantaged can receive a free government cell phone and up to 250 free minutes and texts every month, although some programs in some states provide even more (a few less). An estimated 15 million other Americans already participate, and tens of millions more qualify to enroll. With the economy falling further and further behind, more and more Americans are finding themselves eligible for the Lifeline phone service program.

In the 90′s, the federal government set up the Lifeline phone service program via a mandate by the FCC. This program, funded by Universal Service Fund fees on telephone bills, provides qualified consumers with discounted (often free) monthly telephone service. It began as just a landline program and a few years ago made it’s debut with cell phones. It’s been commonly called the “Obama phone” but that’s an urban legend as free cell phones were added under the Bush Administration.

A short three years later there are an estimated 15 million active owners of free government phones with service provided through this government mandated program, provided mostly by three major mobile phone companies who are backed by large telecommunications companies like Sprint/Nextel, for example. (And the FCC is helping Americans with cheap internet too!)

Here’s what you get with your free cell phone

A free government phone isn’t a cheap wireless phone or a discounted model. These are recent model, fully featured cell phones, backed by prominent mobile phone companies. You won’t get an iPhone, Android or Blackberry, but you’ll get a basic, modern phone.

In addition to the phone, which comes with voice mail, call waiting and caller ID, you will typically get up to 250 minutes of airtime per month. It’s not a lot of airtime, but anyone complaining should remember that service is made available to you for free, and is indirectly paid for by other Americans. In addition, most companies offer the ability to send and receive text messages.

Who do you get the free cell phone from?

While a number of companies participate in this program, three of them dominate the market. While you may not know the names of the companies, you’ll surely recognize the big name companies behind their Lifeline divisions. Safelink Wireless is the largest of the providers, backed by prepaid wireless company Tracfone. Assurance Wireless is the fastest growing, and is a company of Nextel/Sprint’s Virgin Wireless. ReachOut Wireless, backed by Nexus Communications, is hot on their tails. One of them undoubtedly has a plan that will work for you. And if these three major companies can’t help, we list other Lifeline cell phone companies as well.

Since this is a federal government-mandated program, the features of each company’s plan is reasonably close to the others, and the qualifications to obtain the phone are uniform from company to company and state to state. You can see how easy it is to qualify for a government phone, either by current participation in a public assistance program, or by your low-income.

So no matter why you need a mobile phone: to look for a job, to keep in touch with your kids, or have for an emergency,­ you can get one at no out of pocket expense.

We invite you to explore this site and learn more about the companies, the plans and how you can get your own free cell phone. Follow the link below to learn more on how to qualify.

NEXT STEP: Now, see how you qualify for a free phone

Comments Now Open for Testimonials

For this page, we accept comments that are testimonials of the free government cell phone program. All other pages have comments available where you can comment on specific subjects. Thank you.



  1. James says

    Thanks for the free phone! I don’t know how people can live without a phone. I’ve been unemployed for four years, and thank goodness for public programs like this, or I would not have a home, food or spending money. I worked hard for almost 5 years and then the economy wrecked, so it’s only fair that I get help now from the government. My only complaint is the time limit of 250 minutes a month. I use that in just over a week, and then I have to sell some of my SNAP debit cards to buy tracphone minutes at the store. We need more minutes. Appreciate all that you do.

  2. Grateful says

    I appreciate the minutes and the cell phone! I have reported car accidents and individuals that I have seen commit theft. I am truly grateful for the minutes! This is an excellent program for individuals as myself and others that are “not” trying to beat the system, but seek help from the system. Thank you!

  3. maddie says

    this phone is alot better than i thought i dident think that was going to work but it did thankl ypu for giving me this phone

  4. Franz Heich says

    I have relied on these phones for my family for many years. I simply can not afford a real phone since I live in section 8 housing and it’s hard to get.

  5. T-Asia says

    Thank you for this governemnt phone. I lost my job and wasn’t able to keep my old phone. I wish they gave out iphones so I could still be on internet.

  6. Darellena says

    This government phones are a life saver and it benefits to have employers reach you, how ever I think it should have internet accesss it would help research jobs efficently because libraries only give you limited timing, Some copanies have cheap phone card so it would be costly to have this feature. Thanks again

  7. Jason says

    I Too am Great full of this government phone AND THE 250 Minutes! Thanks to the Americans & Government that make this possible.

  8. C. Cohen says

    Thanks for writing this article! I had heard of these free cell phone programs but didn’t know where to go to find one.

    It turns out that a local business has them – it’s Postal Center USA in Randolph, Mass. (they are right across the street from the high school – next to the supermarket).

    I went to to see them and had a free phone in a few minutes. It’s a good phone too!

    Thanks Again,


  9. Maria says

    My husband had a heart attack while driving, by some miracle he was able to pull over and dial 911 with the free phone you supplied us with. If it wasn’t for that phone my husband would have died!
    Thanks to you I still have my husband and my two daughters ( age 5 & 7 ) still have their father!
    We can’t thank you enough!!!!!!!!!
    God Bless!

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TESTIMONIALS ONLY: For this page, we accept comments that are testimonials of the cheap internet programs. All the other pages have comments available where you can comment on specific subjects. Thank you.