How Does a Senior Citizen Get a Free Phone?
This information is current as of June 25, 2022.
Are you a senior citizen, or do you know a senior citizen who could use a free phone? Juggling expenses during retirement can be overwhelming. Luckily, there are some ways you can access a free phone and phone service to take one thing off your plate.
So, how does a senior citizen get a free phone? Low-income senior citizens can access a free phone through the Lifeline program, an independent company’s 55+ plan, or a Mobile Virtual Network Operator (MVNO).
We’re here to help you navigate how to get your free phone, receive discounted or free service, and keep your benefits yearly. So keep reading until the end for our bonus section on more free things for senior citizens!
1. Choose Lifeline, an Independent Company, or an MVNO
There are three ways for senior citizens to acquire a free phone: through a government-funded program called Lifeline, an independent company, or an MVNO.
To get a free phone through Lifeline, you must meet specific requirements, apply, and get accepted. You’ll then sign up with a company that accepts Lifeline and offers a free phone.
Most independent companies and MVNOs will also require you to enroll, but not all of them will offer a free phone.
Lifeline for Seniors
Through the Lifeline program, senior citizens can get a free phone and a monthly discount of up to $9.25 on their phone bills. In addition, seniors living on Tribal Lands can receive up to $34.25 towards their monthly bills.
What Is Lifeline?
Lifeline is a government-funded program started in 1985 to help low-income Americans afford phone service. In addition, it hopes to keep every American connected to their work, family, and healthcare needs.
Lifeline provides a monthly discount on the telephone, broadband internet, or bundled packages, including both. You can also combine Lifeline with other benefit programs. For example, the Lifeline program partners with phone and internet providers to offer additional discounts and benefits, like a free phone.
How Does a Senior Citizen Get Lifeline?
For a senior citizen to get Lifeline, they first must qualify. There are two ways to qualify.
If your annual income is 135% or less than the federal poverty standards, or if someone in your household already participates in specific government assistance programs.
For this program, a household is considered a group of people who live together and share money, even if unrelated.
Once you know your household size, you can determine your income requirements. For example, a single person needs an annual income of $18,347 or less. On the other hand, a household of eight would need a yearly income of $62,951 or less. To see the full federal poverty guidelines chart, see here.
Another way for a senior citizen to get Lifeline is if they or someone in their household already participates in a federal assistance program. These programs include:
- Supplemental Nutrition Assitance Program (SNAP)
- Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
- Federal Public Housing Assistance (FPHA)
- Veterans Pension and Survivors Benefit
- Suppose you are a senior citizen living on Tribal lands. In that case, you can get Lifeline by qualifying for one of the above, or you can be eligible if you or someone in your household participates in:
- Bureau of Indian Affairs General Assistance
- Head Start
- Tribal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (Tribal TANF)
- Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations
To learn more about Tribal benefits, click here.
After making sure you are eligible for the Lifeline program, you must apply. We’ll talk about the Lifeline application process further below in this article.
Lifeline Free Phones
Lifeline partners with other phone and internet companies to offer low-income folks one free phone per household. You have the choice of either a wireless phone or a landline.
If you want a free cell phone, you must enroll in a phone company that partners with Lifeline. Companies that offer this incentive include StandUp Wireless, AirTalk Wireless, Assurance Wireless, Life Wireless, EnTouch Wireless, Safety Net Wireless, TruConnect, SafeLink Wireless, and American Wireless.
Each of these companies operates in different states and offers different types of smartphones. So it’s essential to ensure that the phone company is available in your area and provides the kind of smartphone you want. Some big-name phone brands these companies offer are iPhone, Samsung, Android, Motorola, OnePlus, and Google.
Many of these free phone plans also come with perks, such as hotspot data, free talk, and text, unlimited data, call waiting, three-way calling, voicemail, caller I.D. service, and 911 service. In addition, some include long-distance domestic calling, free international calling to certain countries, and free-roaming in specific locations.
If you are interested in a free landline phone through Lifeline, you can visit their website’s “Companies Near Me” tool to search providers by zip code, city, or state. To find a provider near you and check out a complete list of options, click “See the list of companies in your state” underneath the search results.
55+ Phone Plans for Seniors
If you don’t qualify for Lifeline, you can still find some great deals regarding phone plans for seniors. Seniors are those over 65; however, some low-income adults 55 and older can also access free or cheap phones and phone plans.
Many major and smaller phone companies offer discounted phone plans for seniors 55 or older. Some of these companies also offer free phones or phone financing, but you’ll need to call your local branch to verify this information.
- Prepaid phone plans for seniors through Mint Mobile will cost you only $15 monthly for 4 G.B. of data. There are also 10 G.B., 15 G.B., and unlimited data plans for a bit more money. The catch is you only get that discount for the first three months. Then you must renew your plan for either three, six, or 12 months. If you continue for a year, you can receive a prepaid data plan for only $12 monthly.
- If you don’t use your phone often, you can get a very cheap option for a pay-as-you-go plan through Ultra Mobile for only $3 a month, which gives you 100 minutes and texts and 100MB of data. Of course, you can always top up extra data for 3 cents per megabyte or a flat $5 for an additional 500 GB.
- T-Mobile offers an unlimited plan for 55+ for two lines at $55 a month, including data, texts, calls, a 3G hotspot, and you can access 5G.
- If you are over 55 and live in Florida, you can get a one-line unlimited plan for $60 monthly through Verizon. It offers unlimited calls, texts, a hotspot, and 4G data.
- Consumer Cellular offers AARP discounts with a 3 G.B. plan for only $25 a month, covering three lines and 5G coverage. In addition, AARP members get an extra 5% discount.
Switching Your Provider
Sometimes we get stuck with an expensive phone contract and realize we could find something cheaper. If this is your case, you will have to cancel your current plan and contact one of the companies above to enroll and switch your provider. You can do this either via the internet or by phone call.
Some companies may have rules when canceling a contract, so call your company first to ensure you won’t be penalized for switching over. You can also call the new company you want to sign up with and see if they cover any of the costs of switching providers.
Finding a Plan with a Free Phone
If you don’t qualify for Lifeline, you can still find some phone companies that offer free or almost-free phones when you sign up for one of their plans.
- Currently, T-Mobile is offering a free iPhone 13 if you buy a plan with them and trade in an eligible device on a Magenta MAX line. You’ll also receive 30 monthly bill credits and free Apple TV+ for a year.
- Cricket Wireless also has a free Samsung Galaxy A12 offer if you activate a $ 60-per-month plan. Cricket also offers no annual contracts, hidden fees, or credit checks.
- The free Motorola Moto G Pure phone from Verizon is known for its long battery life. Either active a new Verizon account, upgrade an existing line, or add a new line on an existing account to get this offer. For more information on each of these free phone offers, click here.
Mobile Virtual Network Operators (MVNOs) for Seniors
MVNO plans help remove unnecessary extra data and add-ons to simplify your phone plan. They only have options like talk, talk, and text, or talk, text, and data for affordable prices. Some MCVO plans start as low as $5 a month.
Popular MVNOs for Senior Citizens
Some popular MVNO plans to check out are:
2. Sign Up for the Service
Once you have decided if you want a free phone through Lifeline, another phone company, or an MVNO plan, it’s time to sign up. We break down each sign-up process below.
Signing Up for Lifeline
To sign up for Lifeline, click here and choose your state.
Then, click the “Get Started” button, fill out personal information, and verify your I.D. to begin your application. Be sure to have your I.D. ready.
During your application, you will need to provide proof of documentation. Proof documentation is any official paperwork (originals or copies) to prove that you qualify for Lifeline through income or program participation.
You must provide a W2 or three consecutive pay stubs to verify your income requirements. To confirm by a government program, you must provide an official letter.
If you aren’t a fan of online applications, you can also apply by mail by printing and filling out this form and sending it with your proof documentation (copies only) to:
USAC Lifeline Support Center
P.O. Box 7081
London, KY 40742
Switching Phone Company Providers
If you want to switch to another phone company, do not terminate your current service before opening a new account with another company.
You will need to contact the new company online or by phone and give them information first. This information includes:
- Your current phone number
- The account number on your bill
- Your password or pin, if applicable
- Your phone’s ESN/ IMEI number, located on the back or under the battery
During this process, ask your new provider if they cover any costs associated with canceling your old contract. Don’t worry about this step if you do not need to cancel a contract with another company.
As a final step, you need to contact your old provider to terminate your service, then call back your new provider to help you make the switch.
Opening a New Account with a Provider
If you don’t currently have phone service and want to open a new account with a provider, contact them via phone, in person, or online. They will guide you through the following steps.
You will need basic personal information, your I.D., and a means of payment. Depending on the company, you may be able to finance a new phone, bring your current phone, or receive a free phone with the plan.
3. Set Up Your Free Phone
Now that you have your service and a new phone, it’s time to set it up. If your phone company has a brick-and-mortar location, they may be able to do it for you there.
Unfortunately, many branches have closed or require you to set up your phone on your own. Not to worry – you should be able to do this easily with a bit of guidance.
First, plug your phone in so that it fully charges.
Next, please turn it on. Again, depending on the make and model, you may need to hold down a visible power button, or, for newer Apple or touch-screen phones, you may need to hold down one of the side buttons.
Once the phone turns on, it should prompt you to set it up. You can choose your password, add personal information, and install any apps you want.
Create a Password
Phones will often let you decide between a numeric password code, a pattern password, or biometric recognition to open your phone. While it might be tempting to leave your phone unlocked with no password, nowadays, that puts you at risk for fraud and even identity theft.
Thumb or facial recognition (AKA biometrics) is the safest and fastest way to unlock your phone. A numerical code is also a good alternative, so long as you choose numbers that are easy for you to remember but hard for others to guess.
Add Your Information
Next, add essential information like your contacts and favorites so you can quickly call your loved ones with a few clicks.
You can also change aspects of your settings, like setting up how long your phone stays active before locking, blocking, or letting your phone track your location for things like GPS and more.
Search “how to customize my phone model” on YouTube for more detailed, step-by-step instructions.
Install Helpful Apps
Plenty of apps can help low-income seniors communicate, learn, and find local resources.
For those on limited or low-cost phone plans, you can save money by using some popular apps to talk to your loved ones. So long as you connect to Wi-Fi or data, you can make a video or a phone call for free. Do note that the person you’re calling should also have this app.
- Whatsapp offers phone and video calling, as well as group calls.
- Talkatone gives you a free U.S. number to make and receive calls.
- Skype uses your username and can create a new phone number to make and receive calls.
Bonus: More Free Things for Senior Citizens
Low-income seniors can also access things like:
- Free internet through the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP)
- Free food through the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP)
- Free tax counseling for the elderly
- Free health insurance through Medicare or Medicaid
- Senior discounts at restaurants for 55+
- Free education at some universities
Older adults face many challenges, from navigating retirement to keeping their balances in check. Senior citizens can find relief from at least one burden by getting a free phone and phone service through Lifeline, an independent 55+ phone plan, or an MVNO.
Lifeline provides free cell phones and cell services for qualifying low-income seniors. However, you must be able to prove your income hardship through your paystubs or W2 or by participating in another government program like Medicaid or SNAP.
Many phone companies also offer discounted 55+ plans for those who don’t qualify for Lifeline. MVNOs are another way to receive discounted phone service.
Regardless of your chosen method, go with a company like StandUp Wireless that offers a free cell phone for new customers. We’re waiting for your call!
Save Money on Your Wireless Phone Service
Did you know that if you qualify for SNAP, you may also be eligible for Lifeline or the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP)? Lifeline and ACP are government-run programs to help low-income consumers receive free or heavily discounted communication services.
Click here to find out more and apply for this valuable benefit.