Can I use my current phone with my free government cell phone service?

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“Can I use my current phone with my free government cell phone service?” is the one of the most frequently asked question we get here at And no wonder: Millions of Americans have spent hundreds of dollars to purchase their own cell phones and really want to hear that they are compatible with the free government cell phone program.

With that in mind, we put our team of ace research assistants to work gathering the official policies from each and every company that participates in the Lifeline Assistance cell phone program.

There are five major companies whose business is nearly national in scope, plus another dozen or so smaller, regional companies that are substantial enough to include in this compendium. Let’s start with the national companies:

Safelink Wireless – Safelink, the oldest and best known of the companies that offer Lifeline Assistance free government cell phones, has millions of customers in 38 states plus Washington, DC and Puerto Rico. The company spells out its policy very clearly and succinctly:

No, you cannot. Upon qualification, customers will receive a free SafeLink Wireless phone enabled for use with this program.

Assurance Wireless – Assurance Wireless is a division of global giant Virgin Mobile. It’s a major competitor that serves 40 states and the District of Columbia. Its policy regarding using your own cell phone is complex, but clearly presented:

Can I use a Virgin Mobile PayLo phone with an Assurance Wireless account?
Selected Virgin Mobile phones other than the primary handset, the Assurance Wireless Jax by Kyocera, may be used with an Assurance Wireless account. However, for the best customer experience, we encourage you to use the handset sent to you by Assurance Wireless. From time to time, a different model phone may be provided to new Assurance Wireless customers due to availability.

Can I use any Virgin Mobile phone with my Assurance Wireless account?
Selected Virgin Mobile phones may be used with an Assurance Wireless account excluding the Party Animal, Super Model, Blackberry® and Android™ models. However, for the best customer experience we encourage you to use the handset sent to you by Assurance Wireless.

Can I use a Blackberry with an Assurance Wireless account?
No, the Blackberry data platform cannot be used with an Assurance Wireless account.

Can I use an Android™ phone with an Assurance Wireless account?
No, an Android™-powered phone cannot be used with an Assurance Wireless account

Can I use an iPhone® with an Assurance Wireless account?
No, the iPhone® data platform cannot be used with Assurance Wireless account.

ReachOut Wireless – ReachOut now offers free government cell phone service in Arkansas, California, Colorado, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, New Jersey, Ohio, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, Texas, West Virginia and Wisconsin. Here’s the text of the company’s policy on using your own cell phone:

You are also able to use a different phone model with Reachout Wireless™ service. There are restrictions on the type of phone you can use. Phones must be a CDMA type phones. These phones are very common and inexpensive. They are available at almost all retail wireless locations in your area. Inform the retailer that you would like to purchase a CDMA phone and that you DO NOT want it activated. Inform the retailer that you have active service, and would like to purchase just the phone equipment. You may contact us online or over the phone prior to purchase to verify if the phone equipment is compatible. You may also choose to purchase a compatible phone from us. ReachOut Wireless™ provides phones starting from as low as $15 up to $189, depending on the make and model you desire (including shipping).

Budget Mobile – Budget currently offers free government cell phone plans in 30 states and have already announced expansion plans into 17 more states and Puerto Rico. Here is the company’s bring-your-own-phone policy:

Unfortunately, we are unable to transfer your mobile number to another phone you already have.

Life Wireless – Life Wireless does business in 25 states plus Puerto Rico. Its bring-your-own-phone policy says:

Customers may also use their existing unlocked GSM phone by ordering a Life Wireless SIM card. This free SIM card can be inserted into the customer’s handset and activated for immediate use.

The Big Five may have the bulk of the nation’s free government cell phone customers, but scores of small, regional companies give them plenty of stiff competition. Let’s take a look at the policies some of the larger ones have instituted:

Assist Wireless – Assist Wireless already competes for your Lifeline Assistance business in three states (Arkansas, Maryland and Oklahoma) and expects to soon expand into ten additional states (California, Illinois, Kansas, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, North Dakota, Pennsylvania and Texas). Unfortunately, they do not allow you to use your own phone.

Cintex Wireless – This smaller free government cell phone company offers Lifeline Assistance plans in Arkansas, Maine, Maryland, Rhode Island and West Virginia. The company’s website suggests that for all their Lifeline and paid plans, they don’t send you a phone, but instead send you a SIM card that will work in any GSM phone that you have. If you already have a SIM card in your phone, you can activate it on their website.

StandUp Wireless – StandUp Wireless is a Lifeline Assistance vendor in eleven states (Arizona, Arkansas, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Missouri, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas, West Virginia and Wisconsin). They do not allow you to bring your own phone, and must use the one they give you.

Can I use my own phone with StandUP Wireless?

No. You can only use your StandUP Wireless provided phone with our service

Wireless for Hope – Wireless operates in just two states — Arkansas and Louisiana — and also does business under the Easy Wireless name. The company’s bring-your-own-phone is spelled out on the Easy website:

Easy Wireless is diligently working on a “Bring Your Own Device” option for our customers. At this time, any phone programmed on the Easy Wireless service is limited to phones from the company only. Phones have to be researched to make sure they are CDMA ready and PLBL approved. This process can take a few days to confirm. For the convenience of the customer, Easy is not yet offering the Bring Your Own Device option. However, once this process is allowed, there is still a limit to the type of phone that can be programmed for Easy Wireless service. For instance, some Blackberry®, Android™ -powered phones, and i-Phone™ models cannot be used on Easy Wireless’ platform. For the best customer experience we encourage you to use the handset sent to you by Easy Wireless.

Tag Mobile – Tag Mobile serves up free Lifeline cell phones in Arkansas, Colorado, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Missouri, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas, West Virginia and Wisconsin. There’s nothing on their website that addresses the issue, but we called their customer service department and were told that you must use the phone they provide.

Care Wireless – Care concentrates its business in Illinois. Despite that limited service area, the company’s website answers the “Can I use my own cell phone?” question very clearly:

I have an old cell phone, can I use that instead of the one I get for free?
No. Care Wireless provides you with a free cell phone. Our service only works on phones that have been set up to work on the Lifeline service.

Alaska Wireless – Alaska Wireless, as you might guess, offers Lifeline service in Alaska. Their website does not say their policy, but customer service wrote us the following:

You may switch your services to Lifeline as long as the phone you use is a basic device and not a smart phone.

FreedomPop – FreedomPop is not an official Lifeline phone provider, but we include it on because they offer a terrific deal that provides free service on a high-end phone. But they’ve recently added a “Bring Your Own Phone” program and, just as it sounds, you can bring your own phone. There may be some restrictions on which types of phones.

And the others – In addition, a handful of the smaller, regional free government cell phone companies also neglect to include their bring-your-own-phone policies on their websites and have not responded to our requests for information. Despite our best efforts, we were unable to determine the policies of True Wireless (Arkansas, Maryland, Oklahoma, Rhode Island and Texas), Yourtel Wireless (Kansas, Illinois, Missouri, Maine, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Washington, Rhode Island and Washington), Terracom Wireless (Arkansas, Indiana, Iowa, Maryland, Nevada, Oklahoma, Texas, West Virginia or Wisconsin), and i-Wireless (Ohio and Kentucky).

Our advice? If you already have a cell phone and want to find out if you can use it as your free government cell phone, here’s what you should do:

Visit our States page and note which companies compete in your state. Then come back to this page and note which ones will allow you to bring your own phone.

That could tip the balance and help you decide to which free government cell phone company is right for you.



  1. A.L. says

    My original safelink phone was destroyed in a house fire. You are allowed to purchase ANY tracfone and safelink will allow you to activate it with your account. This is what a representative told me when I called to ask about replacing the phone that was destroyed in the fire. I purchased a phone on amazon and had it activated as my safelink phone just this week. Hope this helps someone else who has this question. :)

  2. Roger Shingleton says

    My kyrcera cell phone broke over a month ago and yall said you were going to send me another one at no cost. I did my re register for the year and it came back O.K. but still haven’t received any phone. Can you please send me another obama kyrcera phone as I had a heart attack 6 weeks ago and can’t tell who had called me nor get back to them . It rings but will not store any names as to the people who have called you nor their numbers. Anyway, please send me another phone ASAP and I really need it in emergency situations like now~
    Roger *******
    *** Redmon Rd.
    Elm City, N.C. 27822

    S.S. # ***-**-**** Private pass code pin number: “******”
    Phone Number: 252-***-****
    Please help me out ASAP and give me your name and I will send your company a real good report as to the way to handled this situation….The others have been real , real slow and crappy…Thanks you much~ Hope to hear from you soon my friend““” P/S…I want to keep the same phone number”

    • Free Government Cell Phones says

      First of all, DO NOT ever put your private information on public forums, especially your SS# and PIN. Luckily our comments are moderated so no one saw them.

      As for what you need, we are not the phone company, you need to contact them.

  3. Marsha Dentzan says

    As for the SAFELINK phone u can use a tracfone with SAFELINK cuz My Dad usto have safelink an when he passed I took his cell which is an smart tracfone an I use that one now with my SAFELINK free monthly minutes u will need to call 1800-SAFELINK an they will do all the work with you. Hope this helped

  4. Ruth Werner says

    I would like to print out my contact list but my LG40G Safelink phone can only go to Bluetooth witch is not compatible with my printer. I’d like to upgrade but don’t know what make phone I can buy? Any ideas?

  5. Sandra says

    I have trouble seeing such a small screen. I need a larger phone, nothing fancy, just larger. Am I allowed to get a larger phone for this reason? Even with a larger screen , I still need my glasses. I have bifocal eyes and early stage of cateracts. Please answer, thanks.

    • Free Government Cell Phones says

      You’d have to contact each vendor to see if they have such a phone, however they probably do not.

      • Marsha Dentzan says

        Call Consumer Wireless or tracfone they both carry Great phones what ever ur need might be … ( large buttons ) my fav is TRACFONE the service Center with HELP is AMAZING…an No I do not work or get paid to say this, Hope this helps you. Have a Great Day an Good Luck,

      • Bob says

        assurance wireless has a flip phone that has bigger numbers and such. They have a free phone but that one is really small so I paid $15 dollars and got a flip one. It is great with a great camera and other good features. Assurance wireless has a program where you have 3 month’s @ 250 minutes/ texts then after that it is free unlimited both , great deal and works great wherever I am at plus it only takes them 2-3 days and you have a phone with a free replacement.

  6. Clay W says

    Budget Mobile states in their Terms & Conditions under Activation… “You may not select a number to be assigned to your BUDGET MOBILE phone, however you may port an existing telephone number from another provider.” But then they say they don’t do it? What’s up with that?

  7. Melinda Been says

    hello, I sure would like to have new options, can you do that plz in the near future I love yahoo on internet exployer, some how it has disappeared

  8. Melinda Been says

    I feel assurance wireless should let us use any phone we have, people do give there old phones away, I have several I can,t use, why do you assuance wireless want us to use poor people phone? are you all prejudice? Don’t you want us to have the finer things in life? The Bible says God wants us to have the best in life, the best of everything!!

    • Free Government Cell Phones says

      It’s not that simple Melinda, there are technical issues involved. And we aren’t sure that God really said anything about getting free cell phones.

      • GemzEnvy says

        Seriously!! Sad how people don’t appreciate what is given. They have expectations and try to manipulate to benefit even more. Makes me mad when there are those of us who TRULY can’t afford a smart phone. These programs are for those in need of an emergency type phone, for basic needs. Stop taking advantage of the charity given to those WHO TRULY NEED IT.

    • Keith A. Nelal says

      I used a phone from another wireless provider.
      It was a plane phone, no touch screen or any of the frills on phones today.
      I had no trouble with Assurance in the transfer and keeping the same number.
      Call there toll free number and they can tell you how to do it, and if the phone can be used with them.
      Hope this helps.

    • Ibrahem Imasahm says

      Um, Melinda Been, “why do you assuance wireless want us to use poor people phone?” I believe a REQUIREMENT to obtain a FREE government phone (provided to you at the expense of the WORKING TAXPAYER) is that you be POOR, yes?

  9. Amor says

    You can use an unlocked T-Mobile phone on Care Wireless, and they’ll send you a free SIM card. I lost my phone and when I called customer service, I received this information. It’s because they do not send you another phone if something happens to your original phone.

  10. Roro says

    Please inform me what phones I can use I already have a Cricket and a TMobile and Verizon. I’m pretty sure one of those should work no?

  11. doe says

    i also would like to know about the LG optimus V and how you activate it.All i know is you can purchase a go-lo phone.please do tell

  12. ralph bertolucci says

    being on SSi I do qualify. I have a basic AT&T flip phone, I need not the frills, just the camera (in case). AllI do is make or receive calls I want my same phone and ringtone with free 411 calls. Is this possible?

  13. franciscorojas says

    to my corcen almost two I requet for replace mi phone some one sai in tree o four days i still waiting thank you

  14. sean says

    I was able to activate LG optimus V online 2 years ago for my assurance wireless account. Few days ago I bought LG optimus F3 to replace but no go.

    • Sherry says

      SEAN…regarding your post of Sept 26th saying you use an LG Optimus V with Assurance Wireless. Can you email me and let me know how you were able to do this? They keep telling me that smartphones aren’t allowed with the AW program at this time. Thanks in advance for your advice!

      • Marsha Dentzan says

        You cant tell them its a smart phone… just tell them u shattered ur phone or shut it off an call them an tell them u lost it . an they sent me a new one but my Dad was able to use a phone he had… which is now my phone .but u just let them know you live on a budget. Hope This Helped?

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