As you read the reader comments at the end of any FreeGovernmentCellPhones.net article, you realize that many customers are unhappy with the Lifeline Assistance provider. Many of them are so unhappy that their most important question is, “How to I switch from one free government cell phone company to another?”
Keep in mind that there are a lot of reasons free government cell phone customers may want or need to switch service providers. Many of those customers are completely satisfied with their current provider, but need to switch because they moved to a service area not covered by their current Lifeline Assistance company. Others want to switch because they’ve found another service provider that offers more free minutes and texts.
No matter why you want to switch service providers, there are some simple steps you must follow in order to stay on the right side of the law and make sure your free government cell phone service isn’t interrupted.
If you want to switch from one company to another
Assurance Wireless, the second largest company competing in the free government cell phone arena, answers the question very simply and clearly on its website:
Can I switch to Assurance Wireless from another Lifeline service?
Yes you can. Switching is easy. And if you’re approved you can even keep your current phone number. You can apply online or call 1-888-898-4888 to apply. If you switch to Assurance Wireless your Lifeline discount will be applied to Assurance Wireless instead of your current provider.
Anything else I need to know about switching companies?
Yes, indeed, there is.
The LifeLine Assistance program is national in scope, and although each state has slightly different rules and regulations, the switching process is the same no matter where you live.
In case you didn’t see this series of comments on our California page, it’s worth repeating here because it addresses the issue of timing. That is, how often are you allowed to switch carriers.
Michael Sanders says
February 1, 2015 at 1:49 pm
Can i switch from one lifeline service to an other service.
We responded like this:
February 2, 2015 at 7:03 am
After you’ve been with a service for 60 days, you can switch.
FreeGovernmentCellPhones.net is the gold standard, the most widely-read website covering the Lifeline Assistance program. If you click around our site, you’ll see lots of comments left by agents representing the cell phone companies. One reader, who identified himself (or herself) as a Lifeline distributor added this helpful comment:
Lifeline distributor says
March 13, 2015 at 11:54 pm
Yes, but you can only have one Lifeline program at a time. If you switch, your old phone will get cancelled. Don’t let any lifeline provider convince you that you can keep two free phones (you can’t and the state with notice and cancel both phones….then you have to pay $39 to reactivate your phone)
As with so many other areas of endeavor, California is the leader in the Lifeline Assistance program. The state was late to the game, but leapfrogged past the other 49 states by offering Lifeline customers unlimited talk and unlimited text. So we visited the California Lifeline website to see if it could shed any more light on the subject of switching from one company to another.
Sure enough, it did:
If I change home or cell phone companies, can I still get the California LifeLine discounts?
Yes, you can remain on California LifeLine and keep getting the discounts even if you change your home or cell phone companies. You have 30 days from when you disconnect your phone service from your existing phone company to let your new preferred home or cell phone company know that you would like to keep your California LifeLine discounts. The California LifeLine Administrator will simply transfer your California LifeLine discount to the new home or cell phone company.
Please make sure that you actually cancel your home or cell phone service with your existing home or cell phone company.
If you do not inform your new home or cell phone company that you have been receiving the California LifeLine discount within the 30-day timeframe, you will have to submit a new application.
How to sign up with a new free government cell phone company if you were de-enrolled for having more than one account.
So far we’ve been discussing how to switch your account from one free government cell phone company to another. A closely related question we’re often asked is, “I just got busted for having more than one free government cell phone account. How do I cancel one of them?”
Yes, the government is actively searching or individuals who have more than one free government cell phone account. The USAC, the organization that governs the Lifeline Assistance program, is currently cross-checking enrollment lists of every company that participates in the program.
Please take our word for it: If you have more than one phone, you will eventually be caught up in the government crackdown. When that happens you will receive a letter. Here’s how the USAC website describes what happens next:
Once a subscriber receives the letter from USAC, he/she has 35 days from the date of the letter to select a single Lifeline Program carrier. During this 35-day period, NLAD does not allow changes to be made to the subscriber’s information. Significantly, subscribers may not be de-enrolled from his/her Lifeline Program benefit by any service provider from NLAD.
Our advice? Be proactive. If you have more than one account — whether innocently or due to fraud — get the extra account or accounts cancelled immediately. It doesn’t matter if one person has more than one account or if multiple people in one household have single accounts, you will eventually receive “the letter” and need to take immediately action to rectify the problem.
Here’s how LifelineSupport.org explains the steps you need to take:
If you received a letter from USAC notifying you that you have a discounted service on more than one phone, you may call the toll-free number listed on the letter within 35 days of the date of the letter to select which account you would like to keep. If you do not call during the selection period, you will retain the discount on the account randomly selected by USAC, and lose the discount on your other phone. Once this 35-day notice process concludes, one of your accounts will be discontinued. (emphasis ours)
The previous paragraph is so important that a portion of it bears repeating: “If you do not call during the selection period, you will retain the discount on the account randomly selected by the USAC and lose the discount on your other phone.”
Please understand the significance of that statement. Just imagine that you have two free government cell phones, one of which may have been lost long ago. Now imagine the problems that you’ll face if the government randomly kills the account you use on a daily basis but keeps your lost phone active.
You’ll lose all your contacts, lose all your text history, and no one will be able to contact you. It’s just not worth the hassle.
Follow the rules and cancel any extra accounts ASAP.
How to re-enroll after you lose your discount
The good news is that all is not lost even if you’re busted by the government and had your discount taken away. There are relatively simple ways to reapply and get that discount back again.
The California Lifeline website explains it:
How to Sign Up After De-Enrollment
If you lost your discount either because you did not respond to the annual re-certification process, you did not use your phone for a period of time, or someone else in your household was receiving a discount as well, you can re-enroll in the Lifeline Program but you must go through the process as a new subscriber. This means you must demonstrate that you are eligible and attest under penalty of perjury that no one else in your household is receiving a discount on their telephone service.
So there you have it. Switching your account from one free government cell phone company to another is a relatively simply process.
Just follow the advice given above and you’ll avoid problems and keep on talking.
For more information, see our FAQ: How do I Switch Lifeline Companies?