Free Cell Phones For Seniors | How To Get One Today

Elderly Woman Using Cellphone

Seniors living on their own need a reliable form of communication, especially in the event of an emergency. Unfortunately, many cell phone plans for seniors are simply too expensive for them to afford. Since many seniors live solely on Social Security benefits, they just don’t have enough money each month to pay for a cell phone bill.

Thankfully, the Lifeline program provides free cell phones and monthly plans to thousands of seniors. In addition, you might be able to qualify if you receive disability benefits or payments from certain government assistance programs for low-income individuals. If you need more details about free cell phones for seniors, just keep reading. We will tell you everything you need to know, including how to qualify for a free phone and plan, how to sign up for service, and which government cell phone service providers are the best.


Qualifying For Free Cell Phones For Seniors

Senior using a mobile phone in their kitchen.

So, how can seniors qualify for a free cell phone? The eligibility requirements vary slightly from state to state. This variance is due to the fact that each state has a role in administering the free cell phone program. Therefore, each state can set its own rules when it comes to eligibility requirements. Since the program is designed to help low-income senior citizens gain access to a phone, there is one eligibility requirement that is basically the same across all states. If your income is 135% or less than the federal poverty guidelines, you will qualify for free phone service.

In addition to the income guidelines above, you might also qualify if you participate in one of several government assistance programs. If you receive benefits from any of the following benefit programs, there is a good chance that you will qualify for a free phone.


  • Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
  • Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
  • Food stamps
  • Medicaid
  • Federal Public Housing Assistance (FPHA Section 8)
  • Low-income Home Energy Assistance Program
  • Veterans Pension or Survivors Pension
  • Temporary Assistance to Needy Families

In addition to the federal government programs above, you might also qualify if you receive assistance from any state programs. Each state has its own rules about which benefit programs will qualify you for the Lifeline assistance program.

In addition to qualifying for a free smartphone, you can likely also qualify for free monthly service. Once you qualify for a free cell phone, there are some rules that must be met for you to continue to receive free service. For instance, you can only receive one free phone per household. Similarly, you can qualify for a free cell phone or a free home phone, but not both. The details of each monthly cell phone plan vary by provider, and those will be discussed in more detail later in this article.


Qualifying For Free Cell Phones For Disabled On Social Security

Not only can senior citizens take advantage of this benefit, but you might also qualify if you receive Social Security disability benefits. For a disabled person to qualify for free cell phone service, the requirements are essentially the same as those for seniors. The program is designed to help low-income households gain access to reliable communication, so you can qualify as long as you meet the income requirements. For most, the income requirement is that your income is at or below 135% of the Federal poverty guidelines. Some states have slightly higher requirements, so you should check with your state program office to be sure.

For those on disability, you can typically qualify for a free cell phone automatically if you receive SSI benefits. Those receiving SSDI benefits will need to qualify either through the income requirements or through participation in another government assistance program. Participation in Medicare is usually not sufficient, although you can qualify if you receive Medicaid benefits.

Similarly, you can likely qualify for a free phone if you receive food stamps, SNAP benefits, free school lunches, or federal housing assistance. Some tribal assistance programs can also qualify you for a free phone. Since each state determines which assistance programs will qualify you for a free phone, you will need to check the details in your state to confirm whether you are eligible. For example, in California, you can qualify for a free phone through either program participation or your household income.


How To Check To See If You Qualify For A Free Cell Phone

If you think you might qualify for a free cell phone, you should dig into the process to check your eligibility. So, how can you find out for sure whether you qualify?

First, you can visit the Lifeline support website to learn more about the eligibility criteria in your area. You can also find a list of local providers in your area. You should know that many of the national wireless providers, such as AT&T, Verizon, or T-Mobile, do not offer free phones through the Lifeline program. Most Lifeline providers are smaller, regional carriers who do not operate across the entire country. Once you find a provider in your area, you should start the signup process with them.

In most cases, you can provide your contact information and ZIP code to the provider. They will typically email you a response within a few minutes. Most allow you to complete the application process online, and you will get an answer on your eligibility quickly. Even if you are not sure whether you qualify, go ahead and submit your application. You might find that you can get approved for a free phone even if you aren’t sure about your eligibility.


Signing Up For A Free Cell Phone Through Social Security

Once you have determined that you likely qualify for a free government cell phone, how do you get signed up? The process of signing up for a Lifeline phone is pretty straightforward. Here is what you need to do.

  • First, find a cell phone provider in your area that offers free Lifeline phones. The enrollment process is not that different from any other new customer who might sign up with the company. You will need to provide the company with your basic information, such as your name, address, and other identifying information. You will also need to provide evidence of your eligibility to the provider. Each provider has different rules on what type of documentation is required, so you should contact the provider directly to determine what you will need. If you sign up online, the provider’s website will generally walk you through exactly what you need to provide.
  • In some cases, you might be asked to provide a benefits award letter, Medicaid card, or documentation of food stamps. If you receive SSI benefits, you might not need to provide any additional documentation. Most Lifeline providers can verify SSI enrollment directly with the Social Security Administration. This makes the signup process for a Lifeline phone extremely quick and easy. Once you get enrolled, you will be assigned a phone number, and your phone will usually arrive in the mail within a few days. It should include all the instructions for activating your new service so that you can begin to use your new phone.

If you already have a Lifeline phone and wish to switch providers, you can do that as well. Simply contact the new provider that you wish to use, and they can tell you exactly what you need to do to switch services. You may or may not receive a new phone as part of that process. Remember that most free phones come with a certain number of minutes each month, as well as limited text messages. We will discuss Lifeline plan details later in this article.


Best Free Cell Phone Service Providers For Seniors

Cellphone Communication Tower In Forest

So, which carrier has the best wireless service for free senior cell phones? There are several phone companies that participate in the Lifeline program, although they might not all operate in your area. You will need to confirm with each company whether or not you can qualify for a free phone in the area in which you live, but here are some of the best providers.


— Assurance Wireless

Assurance Wireless is consistently ranked as one of the top cell phone providers for Lifeline participants. Although Assurance does not own its own network, it operates on the T-Mobile network, which covers about 99% of Americans. In addition to great network coverage, Assurance also provides great plans for those in the Lifeline program. If you qualify for the program, you can get a free smartphone plus monthly talk, text, and data. You might even be able to get unlimited talk, unlimited text, and unlimited data included with your plan.

Most of the time, the free phone will be an Android device, as iPhones are not usually available as a free device. However, it’s still better than an old flip phone! If you need more minutes, text messages, or data than what is provided for free, you can purchase those from Assurance.

— Verizon Wireless

Although Verizon Wireless might not participate in the Lifeline service program directly, you can still get some benefits when you use this provider. Verizon has one of the largest 4G LTE networks in America, and they offer some excellent free smartphones for new customers — particularly some of the new Samsung Android devices. Here is the catch to using Verizon for the Lifeline program. You are not going to get completely free service each month since Verizon is not a Lifeline service provider. However, if you qualify for Lifeline, you will be able to get a discount on your Verizon service. You can likely get a plan that includes unlimited talk, text, and data, and you won’t need to pay full price for it. If a small batch of monthly minutes is an issue, then you might consider using Verizon if you can afford to pay a little each month for your service.

— T-Mobile

T-Mobile is listed as one of the best carriers because you may be able to get a free Apple iPhone with this carrier. Similar to Verizon, T-Mobile is not a Lifeline service provider. So, that means that you can qualify for a discount on your bill, but your monthly service will not be entirely free. T-Mobile offers many plans that include unlimited talk, text, and data, and they even offer plans that include mobile hotspot functionality. T-Mobile operates a large network that covers about 99% of the country, so you should have good service almost anywhere you are located. In addition, they have the largest 5G network of any of the major carriers, so your internet speeds will be fast enough to handle almost anything you need to do. You should also know that Sprint customers can now roam on the T-Mobile network, so you should also see good service if you sign up with Sprint.

— Safelink Wireless

Safelink Wireless is one of the top Lifeline service providers in the country. Through the Lifeline program and the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP), eligible people can receive a free smartphone, unlimited talk & text, and up to 25GB of data each month. Safelink partners with over 30 major carriers, and their traffic is allowed on the towers of these partner carriers. This means that you will receive great coverage throughout the United States, and calls to Mexico and Canada are included with most plans. If you need a plan from a Lifeline provider at no cost each month, Safelink Wireless is a great way to go.


Cell Phone Plan Details For The Lifeline Program

So, what do the Lifeline plans look like? How many minutes and text messages will you receive each month? The answer depends on your specific carrier. Some carriers provide a bucket of minutes and text messages each month, and you can purchase additional services, like data or extra minutes, for an additional cost each month. Other providers include unlimited talk and text messages along with a bucket of data and mobile hotspot capabilities. Here are some examples of plans offered by some of the best Lifeline providers. The plan details below show the Lifeline plan combined with the ACP Program.

Access Wireless
Minutes/Month – Unlimited
Texts/Month – Unlimited
Data – Unlimited
Free Phone – Yes
Mobile Hotspot Data – 5 GB

Assurance Wireless
Minutes/Month – Unlimited
Texts/Month – Unlimited
Data – Unlimited
Free Phone – Yes
Mobile Hotspot Data – 10 GB

Safelink Wireless
Minutes/Month – Unlimited
Texts/Month – Unlimited
Data – 25 GB
Free Phone – Yes
Mobile Hotspot Data – 5 GB

Minutes/Month – Unlimited
Texts/Month – Unlimited
Data – Unlimited
Free Phone – Yes
Mobile Hotspot Data – None

Q Link Wireless
Minutes/Month – Unlimited
Texts/Month – Unlimited
Data – Unlimited
Free Phone – No (Free tablet in some cases)
Mobile Hotspot Data – None

Easy Wireless
Minutes/Month – Unlimited
Texts/Month – Unlimited
Data – Unlimited
Free Phone – Yes
Mobile Hotspot Data – Unlimited


Best Lifeline Providers
Provider Minutes/




Data Free Phone (Y/N) Mobile Hotspot Data
Access Wireless Unlimited Unlimited Unlimited Y 5 GB
Assurance Wireless Unlimited Unlimited Unlimited Y 10 GB
Safelink Wireless Unlimited Unlimited 25 GB Y 5 GB
DartPhone Unlimited Unlimited Unlimited Y None
Q Link Wireless Unlimited Unlimited Unlimited N (free tablet in

some cases)

Easy Wireless Unlimited Unlimited Unlimited Y Unlimited

Free Home Phones For Seniors On Social Security

Not only can seniors qualify for a free cell phone through Social Security, but they might also qualify for a free home phone! There is an exception to this program, though. You should know that you cannot qualify for both a free cell phone and a free home phone. You must choose one or the other. Qualifying for a free home phone follows the same basic process as qualifying for a free cell phone. You must either meet the income requirements or the program-based eligibility requirements. So, your income must be below your state’s threshold, or you must participate in one of the qualifying government assistance programs.

Through the Lifeline program and the Emergency Broadband Benefit (EBB) program, you might be able to qualify for free internet service as well. In addition to free service, there are many internet service providers that offer reduced rates for seniors. You should contact your provider to determine whether you might be eligible for cheaper service. You can also visit the FCC’s website to learn more about qualifying for the EBB program.


The Bottom Line

For seniors to qualify for a free cell phone, they must meet certain eligibility criteria. In most states, this means having an income below 135% of the Federal poverty guidelines or participating in a qualifying government assistance program. You will need to choose a service provider that participates in the Lifeline program to get free service, but you can also get discounted service from most of the major carriers instead. Many people who cannot qualify often turn to prepaid plans to help keep their costs down. In addition to seniors, those on disability and other low-income families can also qualify for free cell phones through the Lifeline program. Contact a Lifeline provider in your area today to confirm your eligibility!


Frequently Asked Questions

Can you get a free phone if you’re on Social Security?

You may be able to qualify for a free phone if you receive Social Security. However, there are income requirements that must be met. In general, your income must be less than 135% of the Federal poverty guidelines. You can also qualify by participating in certain low-income government programs, such as SSI, SNAP, food stamps, or free school lunches. Even though you might receive Social Security retirement benefits, this does not mean that you will automatically qualify for a free cell phone. Remember how Social Security works — you receive retirement benefits based on your lifetime earnings record and not because you have a low income.

What is the best free government phone program?

The Lifeline program is the government’s free phone program. There are not multiple programs from which to choose. When it comes to phone service providers who participate in Lifeline, you might have more than one option in your area. Assurance Wireless and Safelink Wireless are two of the most popular Lifeline providers. These providers have great monthly plans and offer free cell phones to enrollees. If either of these is available in your area, that is likely your best choice for a free phone.

What is the best free phone for seniors?

The best free phone depends on which phones are available for free. Apple products are usually not offered for free, but the Apple iPhone is generally considered one of the best phones for seniors. These phones are easy to use, provide plenty of computing power, allow for the download of many apps, and have great cameras. The Samsung Android devices, such as the Galaxy phone, are also great choices. While Android devices are not quite as easy for seniors to use as the iPhone, they offer the ability to call, text, browse the web, and download apps.

Why are free phones for seniors important?

Free phones for seniors are important because they allow them to have a reliable method of communication with them at all times. Many seniors cannot afford a monthly cell phone bill. However, they need to be able to get in touch with family or emergency services should the need arise. Seniors who are still able to drive also need a form of communication when on the road in case of an emergency. The free phone program provides them with peace of mind by allowing them to have a working phone wherever they go. This can also provide peace of mind to family members who may worry about a loved one living on their own.