U.S. Cellular does business in 26 states, but only offers Lifeline programs in 15 of those states.
They are Iowa, Illinois, Kansas, Maine, Missouri, North Carolina, New Hampshire, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Oregon, Tennessee, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin, and West Virginia.
The discounts vary widely. You can get a $9.25 monthly discount in Iowa, Illinois, Kansas, Missouri, North Carolina, New Hampshire, Tennessee, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin.
You can get a $11.25 monthly discount in West Virginia.
You can get a $13.50 monthly discount in Maine, Nebraska and Oregon.
And you can get a $34.25 monthly discount in Oklahoma (but only if you live on current or former native lands).
Sounds great, right? Not so fast.
How do we put this nicely? Well, let’s just be blunt. U.S. Cellular isn’t serious about its Lifeline Assistance program. It’s price are high. It’s services are limited. And it’s add-ons are preposterously priced.
Other than that, we recommend U.S. Cellular highly.
Let us explain why we’re giving U.S. Cellular such a harsh review. What the company calls its Essential Lifeline Plan offers 300 minutes for a relatively high price of $29.99. If you want Wide Area Unlimited Incoming Call, they charge you another $6.00. If you want Wide Area Night & Weekend Minutes (Starting at 9:00 p.m.), that will be another $6.00. And if you exceed your monthly allotment of minutes, they will charge you an exorbitant $.49 per additional minute.
Features included are Voice Mail, Call Waiting, Caller ID, Call Forwarding, Three-Way Calling and Incoming Text Messages. Those features are free.
And then there’s this block of fine print down at the bottom of U.S. Cellular’s Lifeline web page:
PLEASE NOTE: Prospective customers must have a billing address within U.S. Cellular’s licensed markets to be eligible for service. A new agmt. with a 2-yr initial term (subject to a pro-rated $150 early termination fee) and credit approval required for all new lines. Use of service constitutes acceptance of our terms and conditions. $30 activation fee waived only when ordering online. $15 equipment change fee. Roaming charges, fees, surcharges, overage charges, and taxes apply. A Regulatory Cost Recovery Fee (“RCRF”) applies; this is not a tax or government required charge. The RCRF may be up to $2/line/month and is subject to change without notice. The RCRF is currently $1.40/line/month. Network coverage and reliability may vary. Usage rounded up to the next full minute. National rate plans: U.S. Cellular reserves the right to terminate your service if less than 50% of your overall minutes in each of three consecutive billing cycles are used in U.S. Cellular’s licensed markets. Family Plan: Limit 5 lines per account. Monthly charge of $10.00 per line applies to lines 3-5. Mobile-to-Mobile rate applies to calls you make or receive to and from other U.S. Cellular customers in your Mobile-to-Mobile calling area (see map for details). Roaming indicator on your phone must be off for Mobile-to-Mobile rates to apply. Unlimited incoming calls are not deducted from package minutes and are available only when receiving calls in your calling area. Calling area differs from national calling area. Night and Weekend Minutes valid Monday through Friday 7 p.m. to 6:59 a.m., or 9 p.m. to 5:59 a.m. (depending on calling plan) and all day Saturday and Sunday. Night and Weekend Minutes are available throughout your rate plan calling area. Mobile-to-Mobile rate applies to calls you make or receive to and from other U.S. Cellular customers in your Mobile-to-Mobile calling area (see map for details). Roaming indicator on your phone must be off for Mobile-to-Mobile rates to apply. Other restrictions apply.
Let us translate: “You may think you’re getting a deal because this program is called Lifeline Assistance, but we are going to nickel and dime you until we have extracted every last nickel and dime out of your pocket, purse and/or wallet.”
Hey, U.S. Cellular, have you forgotten that the Lifeline Assistance program is intended to help the nation’s neediest citizens? Have you forgotten the concept of public service?
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