One of the questions asked most often by our readers is about international Lifeline and Affordable Connectivity Program cell phone and internet service phone calls. They want to know which companies offer it, and which ones don’t. Here’s an email that’s typical of many we receive every week:
“Something I would like to see you review, if possible, is which companies offer calling to Canada or Mexico, or other international locations. QLink says they offer international calling, but there are no other details. I have family in Canada that I need to stay in touch with (I live on the border, everyone here has family on both sides, it didn’t used to be a big deal, but now we have to get passports to see one another). There are probably people with relatives in Mexico, too (and they’re not all here illegally — I know people who are 3rd-4th generation Americans, still in touch with cousins down in Mexico; they have tight families).”
It’s an important question to many of our readers. A large percentage of Lifeline Assistance customers are immigrants or children of immigrants and still need to stay in touch with friends and relatives in their home countries.
So we put on our researcher hats and set out to find the international call policy of each Lifeline Assistance company.
List of Lifeline/ACP Free Cell Phone Companies and their policies on international calling
Here’s the international service summary our readers requested — complete details on all the leading Lifeline Assistance service providers and Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) internet service. Keep in mind that each company’s offerings are a little different than everyone else’s, so check out all the providers closely and select your favorite one carefully.
Now let’s run through the leading Lifeline/ACP companies and their international call programs in alphabetical order:
Access Wireless – Currently offers the Lifeline Assistance and Affordable Connectivity Program in Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, New Hampshire, Nevada, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin and West Virginia.
Here’s what the Access website has to say about international calling:
International calling is not included as part of the monthly plan, but may be purchased using funds available in the account balance or with an international calling card. 411 calls and international texting are free with all plans.
The Access website also says:
Customers must have a balance in order to use the following services:
Domestic and International Long Distance allow you to call anywhere in the U.S. and anywhere in the world. In the event you place an International Long Distance call from your Phone, your account will be debited an amount equal to the cost of such call, and the cost shall be calculated based upon the International Long Distance rates currently in effect multiplied by the number of minutes used. Rates and country codes are available at accesswireless.com.
Calls to Directory Assistance (411) are one dollar fifty cents ($1.50) each plus local per-minute charges. Rates are subject to change.
International Long Distance calls are additional charges: as such, the airtime minutes used are included and the minutes used will not be debited against your minute balance.
Finally, the Access website adds this international calling tidbit:
Messaging (text, picture, video, email and IM): Domestic and international rates are subject to change. Standard message rates are charged when a message is sent or received, whether read or unread, viewed or unviewed, solicited or unsolicited. International: International calls are charged at the per-minute rate for the country being called plus your standard airtime rate. International long-distance rates vary & are subject to change without notice. (Visit krogeriwireless.com for current rate information.)
AirTalk Wireless – offers government Lifeline and ACP benefits to California, Kentucky, Michigan, Mississippi, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina and Wisconsin.
Don’t get your hopes up. The page that is supposed to address international calling says simply, “Coming soon.”
American Assistance – The Lifeline Assistance and Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) is available to eligible customers in Colorado, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nevada, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Utah, West Virginia and Wisconsin.
The American Assistance website clearly and concisely explains its international calling plan (or, more precisely, it’s lack of an international calling plan):
5.2. International Calling and Messaging
American Assistance wireless talk and text allotments can only be used for domestic calls and text messages, except that California customers can use talk allotments to call certain areas of Mexico and Canada. All other customers and all other international calls and text messages are not included with our Service Plans or “Top Up” Plans
5.3. Wireless Coverage
The availability of American Assistance wireless Services is subject to the geographic coverage area of our Underlying Carrier and its roaming partners. Only domestic U.S. coverage is available; we do not offer international coverage.
Arctic Slope Telephone Association Cooperative – ASTAC serves towns and villages along Alaska’s North Slope coast and down the state’s west coast as far south as Kotzebue, Noorvik, and Selawik.
Unfortunately, despite a considerable amount of time spent searching the ASTAC website, we were unable to find any information about international calling.
Assist Wireless – This Lifeline cell phone provider and ACP internet provider offers plans in Arkansas, Maryland, Minnesota, Missouri and Oklahoma.
We could find no information about international calling on the Assist website.
Assurance Wireless – Now makes Lifeline and ACP plans available in Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Utah, West Virginia, and Wisconsin. It also offers ACP-only plans in Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.
Unlike many Lifeline companies that bury information in their Terms & Conditions, we credit Assurance for calling out its international call rules and regulations in its Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs).
International Calling & Texting
Can I purchase an International plan to make international calls and texts on my Assurance Wireless phone?
With the International+ Plans, you can make unlimited domestic calls (except TX and CA), unlimited worldwide text messaging and unlimited calls to landlines in the following countries: American Samoa, Andorra, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Belgium, Bermuda, Brazil, Brunei, Bulgaria, Chile, China, Canada, Colombia, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, France, French Guiana, Gibraltar, Georgia (Tbilisi), Germany, Greece, Guadeloupe, Hong Kong, Hungary, Iceland, India, Indonesia, Iran, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Kazakhstan, Korea (South), Latvia (Riga), Lithuania, Luxembourg, Macau, Malaysia, Martinique, Mexico, Mongolia, Morocco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Singapore, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, Thailand, Turkey, United Kingdom, Uruguay (Montevideo), Uzbekistan (Tashkent) and Venezuela. Plus, you get 200 minutes to select mobiles in 50+ countries and reduced per minute rates to over 200 destinations.
*Excludes Northern Territories, area code 867.
Or you can make international calls and send international texts without purchasing a monthly plan. You will pay the standard per-minute and per-message rates.
Click on the link below to find the right plan and rate for you.
- For customers in all states except CA/TX
- For customers in CA/TX
Need more help? Dial 611 from your Assurance Wireless phone or call Customer Care at 1-888-321-5880.
Cintex Wireless – This regional Lifeline provider offers Lifeline cell phone plans and Affordable Connectivity internet plans n Arkansas, Maine, Maryland, Rhode Island or West Virginia.
Like AirTalk Wireless, its sister company, Cintex offers only the same “Coming Soon” message when you click on the “International” button at the bottom of the home page.
Easy Wireless – Lifeline and ACP plans now available in Oklahoma, Kentucky, or Missouri. Unfortunately, our ace research team found zero information on the Easy website about those plans.
enTouch Wireless – Now offering Lifeline free government cell phone plans and Affordable Connectivity Program plans available in 33 states: Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Floria, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, New York, Nevada, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming.
Here’s information about international calling taken directly from the enTouch website:
Can I make an international call on this phone?
International Long Distance
enTouch Wireless subscribers are permitted to make International Long Distance (“ILD”) calls from the United States to Canada, Mexico, the United Kingdom, India, China, Vietnam, and South Korea. The list of destination countries may change from time-to-time and we will update these Terms & Conditions when that occurs. Voice minutes for international calls are deducted at the same rate as for domestic calls. To place an international call, you will need to dial the ILD access number and follow the instructions. When placing international calls, you may experience connection failures more frequently than during calls made within the United States. enTouch Wireless will not credit minutes for incomplete or dropped calls. International calling may not be available until the next business day after you initiate service with enTouch Wireless or change your phone number.
For all other destinations, international calling is not available with any enTouch Wireless service plan. International dialing to these destinations will be blocked during account setup, but there is no guarantee that all international calling can be blocked from your handset. If you attempt to make an unpermitted international call and are successful, we may suspend all your voice services for the remainder of the billing cycle, except for emergency calls where available.Subscribers may purchase airtime during this suspension for placing international calls.
GCI – Offers Lifeline free government cell phones and Affordable Connectivity Program plans in Alaska only.
The way we interpret information on the GCI website, it appears that you can make international calls to a very wide variety of countries, but only by paying exorbitant fees for every minute you talk. For example, you can call Afghanistan for $3.08 per minute, Canada for $.19 per minute, Mexico for $.70 per minute, and Venezuela for $.41 per minute. If, for some reason, you need to call Antarctica, it will set you back $4.70 per minute.
Sort of destroys the concept of the free government cell phone program, doesn’t it?
Infiniti Mobile – A small provider that offers Lifeline and ACP plans in just seven states — Georgia, Maryland, Nevada, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Vermont and Wisconsin. Here’s how GCI’s website explains its international calling policy:
We may block access to certain categories of numbers (e.g. 976, 900 and international destinations) in our sole discretion. Your plan may include the ability to make and/or receive calls while roaming internationally. Certain eligibility restrictions apply which may be based on factors such as service tenure and/or payment history and Infiniti Mobile, in its sole discretion, may block your ability to use your phone while roaming internationally until eligibility criteria are met. International roaming rates, which vary by country, will apply for all calls placed or received while outside the U.S., Puerto Rico and USVI. Compatible international-capable device required. If you want to block the ability to make and/or receive calls or use data functions while roaming internationally dial 611 for instructions. When outside the U.S., Puerto Rico and USVI, you will be charged normal international roaming airtime when incoming calls are routed to voicemail, even if no message is left.
Life Wireless – Lifeline free cell phone and ACP provider in Arkansas, Arizona, California, Colorado, Georgia, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Mississippi, North Dakota, Nebraska, New Jersey, Nevada, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virgin Islands, Vermont, Washington, Wisconsin, West Virginia, plus Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.
Here’s how the Life Wireless website describes its international calling policy:
You will not have access to our network outside of our coverage areas. Your plan does not include the ability to make and/or receive calls while roaming internationally. WE DO NOT GUARANTEE THE AVAILABILITY OF THE WIRELESS NETWORK AND/OR COVERAGE.
We found another copy block that explains the international calling policy in a little more detail:
We may block access to certain categories of numbers (e.g., 976, 900, and international destinations) in our sole discretion. We may, but do not have the obligation to, refuse to transmit any information through the service and may screen and delete information prior to delivery of that information to you.
NewPhone Wireless – Lifeline and ACP discounts are available only to residents of Arkansas, Maine, Maryland, Rhode Island and West Virginia.
The company’s entire website is labelled “Under construction” and “Coming soon.”
Q Link Wireless – Offers Lifeline and Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) discounts Arkansas, Arizona, California, Colorado, Georgia, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nevada, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, South Carolina, Vermont, Washington, West Virginia and Wisconsin.
Here is detailed information regarding the company’s international calling policies:
Will I be able to make international phone calls?
Yes! Q Link Wireless now offers affordable International Calling options for all its customers.
These include the following benefits:
- No PIN Required
- No Internet Connection Needed
- No Contract
- Call landlines and cell phones worldwide
- Auto-Refill Options
Q Link currently offers two different types of International Calling options: Global Connect Unlimited and World Link.
Global Connect Unlimited allows for unlimited calling to select countries for $5 every 30 days. Depending on the country, you may or may not be able to call cell phones in addition to landlines. Check out our complete list of countries that you can call!
World Link lets you call any country in the world at affordable rates. Pick from $3, $5, and $10 plans and call whoever you want, wherever they are.
And don’t forget, staying global is easier with our auto-refill option! Never worry about remembering to add international minutes.
If you’d like to know how to use country codes to make international calls, check out our list of country codes.
Whatever plan you choose, Q Link International Calling makes sure you’re heard, no matter the distance.
Q Link also offers an addition layer of information not offered by any other service provider. That is it has a dedicated international calling blog.
Safelink Wireless – This is the largest, oldest and best known of the companies that offer Lifeline free government cell phones and Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) internet plans. Currently available in Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, California, Connecticut, DC, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia and Wisconsin.
Safelink’s international calling info is buried in its Terms & Conditions, but we cannot help but give them credit for thoroughness. The conditions are harsh but at least they are spelled out clearly.
4. Text Messaging
SafeLink does not allow international text messages. Attempting to send international messages could result in service deactivation and de-enrollment from the SafeLink Program…
5. International Calling
SafeLink offers its customers international long distance service (“ILD Service”) as an additional feature. These additional terms and conditions apply to customers who purchase and/or use a SafeLink $10 Global Calling Card.
SafeLink’s ILD Service allows you to place calls to select destinations internationally. To determine if your destination of choice is available, please check our website at safelink.com. These destinations are subject to change at any time, without prior notice. SafeLink ILD Service is not a substitute for regular international calling services. It will not allow you to place calls to all destinations or to all countries. SafeLink ILD Service excludes calls to certain high-cost wireless, landline, non-geographic and premium numbers.
SafeLink $10 Global International Calling Card.
SafeLink offers a $10 Global Calling Card that must be used with another SafeLink Service Plan in order for it to work. You may add or refill your ILD Service balance in $10 increments by purchasing a $10 Global Calling Card from SafeLink directly by calling Customer Care or visiting our website. Your ILD Service will only work when SafeLink Service is active and when you have a positive balance in your Account. If you have purchased a $10 Global Calling Card, you will not be limited in the number of destination numbers you may call. However, the SafeLink phone number you provide when purchasing a $10 Global Calling Card will be the only number that is permitted to dial internationally. You will not be able to transfer your ILD Service to another phone number.
The applicable rates to specific countries, regions or cities for customers who have purchased a $10 Global Calling Card are available online at safelink.com. All rates are subject to change at any time, without prior notice. Calls are billed in one-minute increments. Per call charges are rounded up to the next whole penny. You will be charged for calls based upon the rates that are effective as of the date and time you place the call. You are responsible for safeguarding your ILD Service and Account information. SafeLink’s $10 Global Calling Card expires 180 days after last use, or thirty (30) days after your SafeLink Service is suspended…
SafetyNet Wireless – Lifeline and ACP plans now available in California, Colorado, Georgia, Kentucky, Michigan, Missouri, New York, Oklahoma and Pennsylvania.
This is the only reference to international service found on the SafetyNet Wireless website:
SafetyNet Wireless does not allow international text messages. Attempting to send international messages could result in service deactivation and de-enrollment from the SafetyNet Wireless Program.
StandUp Wireless – Lifeline free government cell phone provider and Affordable Connectivity (ACP) service provider in the states of Arkansas, Arizona, California, Colorado, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Mississippi, Nebraska, Nevada, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, West Virginia and Wisconsin plus Puerto Rico.
Here’s the succinct way StandUp lets you down when it comes to the subject of international calling:
DOES STANDUP WIRELESS SUPPORT COLLECT CALLING?
We do not support collect calling at this time. We recommend the use of a prepaid calling card.
Tag Mobile – Serves Arkansas, Arizona, California, Colorado, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nevada, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas, West Virginia and Wisconsin.
Unfortunately, our research team was unable to ferret out any information regarding international calling on the Tag Mobile website.
Tempo Communications – Offers Lifeline free government cell phones and ACP free internet plans to low-income residents of Colorado, Georgia, Hawaii, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, North Dakota, Ohio, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Utah, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.
The only international calling reference found on the Tempo website is sure to disappoint:
4. INTERNATIONAL CALLS
Tempo does not currently offer International Calling from Tempo handsets.
Terracom Wireless – Low-income residents of Arkansas, Arizona, Colorado, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, Oklahoma (non-tribal), Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Texas, Washington (not-tribal), West Virginia, and Wisconsin, can get their Lifeline free government cell phones and ACP internet plans from TerraCom.
Our research team tracked down this disappointing information about international calling on the TerraCom Wireless website:
Can I dial international numbers?
No. International calling is not allowed on any TerraCom Wireless plan available. International dialing is blocked, but, there are no guarantees that all international calling can be blocked if a subscriber attempts an international call. If a subscriber completes an international call your account will be blocked from making any additional calls for the remainder of the billing cycle except for emergency calls where available. Subscribers may buy additional airtime during this period while their account has been suspended for placing international calls. TerraCom Wireless strictly prohibits international calling.
TruConnect – Serves Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and makes Lifeline free government cell phones and ACP free internet plans available to low-income residents of those states.
TruConnect offers a robust international calling plan and spells out all the details on its website:
FREE Android™ Phone + Wireless Service + Unlimited talk and texts, up to 14GB monthly, plus free international calling.
TruConnect’s free wireless plans are here to keep you connected wherever you go. Apply today and if eligible, receive all the following for FREE:
Unlimited Talk & Text Plus Data Monthly Plan
All of our Unlimited Pay As You Go phone plans include Unlimited Talk & Global Text on our nationwide network with no annual service contracts so you’ll be connected when it matters most.
Get Unlimited* Global Texting in 80+ countries and destinations around the world. See below for which countries are covered or call Customer Service at 1.800.430.0443 for additional countries. Global texting does not include audio, picture or video messaging.
*”Unlimited” does not mean unreasonable use, such as streaming, telemarketing, autodialed calls, “spam,”, or any other uses that, in TruConnect’s sole discretion, violates our policy of providing “unlimited” services for non-commercial use. Full details can be found in the Terms and Conditions of Service at www.truconnect.com.
TruConnect’s website lists dozens of countries in alphabetical order — everything from Afghanistan to Uruguay — that are included.
Finally, it ends with this note on texting:
18. TEXTING AND PICTURE MESSAGING. Text messages are limited to 160 characters per message. Text and picture messages can be sent and received to domestic and certain international destinations. Premium text messaging is not available. All messages, including text and picture messages are charged when sent or received, regardless of whether they are read or unsolicited. TruConnect is not responsible for any of the data activity sent or received to your Device, regardless of who initiates the activity. For messages delivered to your Device in multiple parts, you will be charged for each part of the message received. When a single message is delivered from your Device to multiple recipients, you will be charged for one message per each recipient. TruConnect reserves the right to limit picture message size at any time. In order to protect our network and Services, TruConnect may issue separate charges, limit the amount of data transfer, or otherwise limit or terminate Services. Memory limitations on your Device may prevent some data or content from being stored. TruConnect is not responsible for the failure to store data or content nor the deletion of such data or content. Picture and video messaging consume data and are only available on handsets programmed for data.
True Wireless – This five state service provider offers Lifeline free government cell phone and Affordable Connectivity Program plans in Arkansas, Maryland, Oklahoma, Rhode Island and Texas. Its website makes it clear that international calling is NOT permitted.
7. International Calling: All phone plans include calls made in the 50 United States and do not include international calls. The placement of calls outside the domestic US may result in the termination of service at the sole discretion of True.
And that’s that. Some service providers are happy to offer international calling. Others treat international calls like Covid.
If international calling is a service you cannot live without, make sure you enroll with one of the companies that offers it. If you are already enrolled with a company that does NOT offer it, maybe its time for you to switch to a company that does.
Switching service providers is easy. Here’s how you do it.
Skype: One final note on international calling
If none of the plans discussed above work for you, you should also consider Skype.com. Maybe you should consider it even if you do qualify for one of the international phone services shown above.
International calls are routed through the internet and are free (or virtually free). You can make normal audio calls or full-on video calls in which you can see your callers and they can see you.
For example, we have friends who moved to Australia last year. We loaded $10 on our Skype account back when they moved and now after making many long calls to the Land Down Under for a period of months, we still have $6.97 left on our account.
All you need to do is download the app, load some minimal amount of money to your account, and your international video and audio calls will be free (or almost free).
It just doesn’t get much better than that.