Reviewed: The 7 Best Cellular Lifeline Service Providers

Top 7 Best Cellular Lifeline Service Providers of 2017 | Video Review

Last Updated: August 11, 2017 by Jeff Newburgh

For those who are elderly, down on their luck, or find themselves in low-income situations, the need for a secure form of communication at an affordable cost becomes more important than ever. Lifeline is a federal program dedicated to providing substantial discounts on phone and internet services to low-income consumers. The program has been in use for over 30 years. It makes it possible for people to connect to jobs, family, and emergency responders without the concern for costly service plans.

The Lifeline program is administered by the Universal Service Administrative Company. They handle data collection and benefit disbursement for the program. Lifeline is available in every state and on tribal lands. The program distributes a monthly stipend toward either voice or broadband internet services.

Lifeline eligibility requires proof of participation in one of several government assistance programs. All providers will require these forms of proof. They can include Medicaid and Supplemental Security Income, among others. Qualification is met when a household's total income is at one hundred thirty-five percent or less than the federal poverty guidelines. USAC defines a household as a group of people living together and sharing money. This is regardless of whether they are related to each other. Examples include a married couple sharing money or an adult who lives with friends offering financial support. By contrast, 3 roommates living together, but who do not share money, would be considered 3 separate households.

Lifeline service providers allow one discount per household. Depending on the company chosen, annual re-certification or renewal is also a requirement. The service must also be used at least once within a thirty-day period for your account to remain active.Important notice: When you click links from this website, we may receive advertising revenue.

Our Top Picks

Our #1 Pick Assurance Wireless

Assurance Wireless is one of the largest providers of phones and service as part of the federal Lifeline assistance program. It is operated by Virgin Mobile. Eligible customers receive a free Android phone as well as a certain number of talk minutes and megabytes of data each month. Free unlimited texting is included. You can also bring your own device onto one of their plans as long as it is compatible.

The service provided by Assurance Wireless is available in over 40 states. Eligibility varies by state, though in most cases, those qualified for any government assistance program can sign up. You need either proof of participation in one of those programs or proof that your income is below a certain threshold. Only one person may sign up per household. Individuals living in group homes are not bound by that restriction.

Assurance works with Android devices only. That means those with an iPhone or BlackBerry will have to work with whatever device is given to them by the program. For the most part, the free phone they offer is the ZTE Quest. They may also have options from Jax, Kyocera, and Alcatel available. You can port your existing phone number to your new phone, if you choose.

SafeLink Wireless is a program provided by TracFone to bring modern-day telecommunications to low-income households. They offer free and discounted phones to qualifying individuals through the federal Lifeline program. Their plans are available in 40 states across the country, as well as in Washington, DC and Puerto Rico. Customers benefit from their nationwide coverage that utilizes cell towers from all major networks. They don't require customers to sign up for a long-term plan, and a variety of phones is available.

To get started with SafeLink, simply enter your zip code on their website. They will then show you a list of plans available in your area. If you choose to bring your own phone onto one of their plans, you'll get better rates on upgraded plans. To sign up, they will ask you a series of questions. These include your name, date of birth, the last four digits of your social security number, and contact information. You will then have to provide proof of eligibility.

Eligibility for SafeLink is dependent upon on whether or not you qualify for the Lifeline program. While states make their own regulations regarding eligibility, if you qualify for Medicaid, food stamps, Section 8 housing, or are a veteran, you can get a free phone. If you're struggling with the application, there are enrollment locations across the country where they can help you.

Our #3 Pick U.S. Cellular

U.S. Cellular is one of the nation's largest full-service wireless carriers. It offers a wide variety of cutting-edge communication devices on its network. The company was founded over 30 years ago and is currently headquartered in Chicago, Illinois. It provides network coverage to five million customers and has over six thousand associates. Key to its mission is its dedication to keeping families connected at all times.

A total of four Lifeline plans are offered through U.S. Cellular. Two tribal plans are available with unlimited minutes and two gigabytes of data per month. These plans require verification that you live on a federally-recognized reservation within the coverage area. The non-tribal plan offers very similar talk benefits, but with less data. The Missouri plan includes one thousand minutes per month with unlimited nights, weekends and incoming calls. Common features include voicemail, caller ID, call forwarding, and the ability to receive incoming text messages. With the exception of the Missouri plan, you can purchase up to one additional gigabyte of data usage per month.

Additional Options

Our #4 Pick Q Link Wireless

Q Link is a free cell phone provider under the federal Lifeline program. Similar to services like Assurance, it is designed for people who could not otherwise afford a phone plan. They offer basic calling and data services for free to qualifying residents of the states they cover. Eligibility is dependent on state regulations. Q Link will help you determine if you fit the bill and guide you through the approval process.

Our #5 Pick EnTouch

EnTouch Wireless is a nationally-based wireless communication company supporting the Lifeline program. Located in Hiawatha, Iowa, the company promotes safe and community-connected engagement. EnTouch has been representing the Lifeline program for the last five years. One of its target demographics includes young mothers living below the poverty line. The company strives to ensure that such customers have the ability to stay connected to their communities. Additional EnTouch customers include veterans, the elderly, and tribal members.

Our #6 Pick Life Wireless

Life Wireless provides customers with free smartphones and cell service through the federal Lifeline program. It is available in over 30 states and Puerto Rico. While eligibility varies by state, they can help you through the process of determining and proving you are qualified. In most cases, those receiving federal assistance of any kind can join the program. The plans they offer also vary by state. Most include some free minutes, data, and unlimited texting each month.

Our #7 Pick TerraCom

TerraCom Wireless is a multi-state regional provider of Lifeline cell phones for low-income consumers. The service is available in 13 states. Upon verification of Lifeline eligibility, a cell phone is provided free of charge. No credit checks, contracts, or deposits are required. Service features include caller ID, call waiting, three-way calling, call forwarding and voicemail functions.

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