5 Ways to Get Low-Cost & Free Cell Phones for Seniors

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Wondering about the different ways seniors can get free cell phones? Here are the most reliable ways you can get free cell phones.

Having a phone these days is a necessity especially when you need to make emergency calls. This is especially true for seniors, some of whom might be financially challenged and not able to afford the cost of a phone or its upkeep. The good news is that obtaining free cell phones for seniors is available for those who qualify.

There are many ways a senior can get a free smartphone but the most reliable is through the Lifeline program, a government federal program that provides mobile phones to low earning citizens with a view of availing telecommunication services to all Americans so as to improve access to education, jobs, and other opportunities.

Even though this program is not specifically targeted at providing seniors with free phones, many senior citizens can qualify for it and get free smartphones. Let’s learn about more ways that seniors can get free cell phones.

1. Lifeline Program for Low-Income Consumers

Since 1985, the Lifeline program has provided a discount on phone service for qualifying low-income consumers to ensure that all Americans have the opportunities and security that phone service brings, including being able to connect to jobs, family and emergency services.

The criteria to qualify may differ from state to state but you qaulify if you are on a fixed household income that is at or below 135% of the federal poverty line or a part of the following programs:

  • Medicaid
  • Food Stamps (SNAP or EBT)
  • Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
  • Federal Public Housing Assistance (Section 8)
  • Veterans Pension Benefits
  • Low Income

This Lifeline program can also be accessed for citizens who live on recognized tribal lands or participate in a tribal assistance program.

The Lifeline program is administered by the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC). USAC is responsible for data collection and maintenance, support calculation, and disbursement for the low-income program. USAC’s website provides information regarding administrative aspects of the low-income program, as well as program requirements.

2. Get Free Cellular Coverage

Don’t qualify for the Lifeline program? Don’t worry just yet. You should know that there other options out there for you.

If you are tired of overpaying every month, consider using a mobile phone service called FreedomPop that is disrupting the smartphone game by providing free cell phone service. Seniors can start saving hundreds of dollars a year on phone service if they are not covered under the Lifeline program.

In fact, data has shown people who ditch their expensive smartphone giants save about $1,400 annually. So what is FreedomPop?

FreedomPop is a mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) that relies on towers from big players like AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile to ensure reliable nationwide coverage and offers it for free.

With Sprint service, people are paying $60 per month for unlimited service. With the same nationwide coverage as Sprint, people are saving big when switching over to FreedomPop’s $19.99 per month, unlimited talk, text, and 1GB data plan.

Disrupting the mobile phone space means more than cutting the cost of service. There are also no lengthy contracts, generous 90-day warranties, and a completely free monthly service for people who prefer smaller plans. This is one of the most generous plans for people who are looking to access the internet legally for free.

Other cheap cell phone providers include Tello Mobile, Virgin Mobile, Republic Wireless, Credo Mobile, Boost Mobile, and Ting.

3. Phone Plans Designed for Seniors

The good news is that you can also consider using cell phone plans made specifically for seniors.

At the time of these writing, these are the most frugal plans plans that still allow seniors to stream shows, FaceTime grandkids, and search the web:

ProviderBest ForOur Plan PickPrice
Consumer CellularValueUnlimited Talk & Text + 2 GB Data Plan$30/mo
VerizonFamily plansUnlimited Plan for 55+$80/mo
TracFonePrepaid plansUnlimited Talk, Text & 1 GB Data Smartphone Plan$20/mo
GreatCallSenior-friendlinessUnlimited Talk & Text Plan for Jitterbug Smart$50/mo

You can also shop around for other deals or call up your current cell phone provider and see if they offer any deals for seniors.

4. Switching Service Providers

If you are on the quest for a free cell phone then you can also consider switching service providers.

Many cell phone companies are popular for offering free cell phones like the latest iPhone 12 or the Samsung Galaxy S21 (during promotions) for making the switch.

Currently, Metro by T-Mobile, Cricket Wireless and Text Now are all offering free phone deals with eligible plans.

The phones include the LG Stylo 4, the Samsung Galaxy J7 and J3 Prime, the Motorola E5 Play/Cruise, and a number of other Samsung and LG cell phones.

To take advantage of these deals you’ll need to sign up for an eligible plan.

5. Call and Texting Apps

When all else fails you can simply use calling and texting apps to keep in contact with your loved ones.

Many apps simply require an internet connection and you are all set to reach out to anyone using Skype, Viber, Google Hangouts, Facebook Messenger, and WhatsApp.

These apps also allow voice and video calls — and you can even get your own phone number by using Skype.

More Seniors on Smartphones

In conclusion, you’ll want to go through all of these steps to see what options are best in order for you to get a free cell phone.

I would suggest seeing if you qualify for the Lifeline program and then go from there.

To summarize the Lifeline process, you can qualify for Lifeline through a government assistance program or your income.

Next, you’ll have to choose a company that offers it. Use this tool to find a company in your area that offers Lifeline. Ask if your company for a Lifeline application.

You will need the following information to apply:

  • Full legal name
  • Date of birth
  • Last 4 digits of your Social Security number (or Tribal identification number)
  • Address

You should also show at least one of these items:

  • Unexpired ID such as a Driver’s License
  • Social security card
  • Medicaid card
  • Prior year’s tax return
  • Other documents that prove your identity

Your company will process your application and may ask you to fill out additional forms.

Lastly, you’ll just sign up. If approved, you will receive your Lifeline discount toward your bill. Your company can also apply your discount to an existing service.

About the author

Brian Meiggs
Brian Meiggs is a personal finance expert, and the founder of My Millennial Guide, a personal finance site helping you put more money in your pocket. He helps millennials follow the smart money in order to increase their earning potential and start building wealth for the future. He regularly writes about side hustles, investing, and general personal finance topics aimed to help anyone earn more, pay off debt, and reach financial freedom. He has been quoted as a top personal finance blogger in major publications including Yahoo! Finance, NASDAQ, Discover, MSN Money and more.
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