How to Get Your Free Cell Phone and Cheap Phone Plan

About three-quarters of adults in America own a smartphone. Moreover, having a cell phone can offer many benefits to its users. Some of these benefits can include feeling safer, having access to emergency services, being able to stay connected to a job and family.

If you are a member of a low-income family, you can qualify for a free smartphone and receive discounts on your next cellphone bill with Lifelines services. Aside from the discounts that Lifeline gives its users, it is crucial to understand your options regarding phone services, affordable cell phone providers and how you can save money on phone plans. 

Learn About Lifeline Communication Services

This internet and cellphone provider is a government program that is administered by a company called the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC). The purpose of this program is ensuring that Americans receive equal opportunities in terms of cell phone services. 

Initiated in 1985, Lifeline gives discounts on mobile phone services for customers in the United States who meet the low-income requirements. With the Lifeline program, customers will have access to a free mobile phone and receive a monthly discount on their monthly cell phone bills. This is only possible through participating carriers. 

What are the benefits of Lifeline?

Lifeline gives many benefits to eligible customers. Here are some of the benefits that Lifeline provides:

  • A free cell phone with Wi-Fi capabilities.
  • A monthly discount of $9.25 on mobile phone with participating providers.
  • The chances to connect with emergency services, jobs and family members.

Since March 31, 2016, the Lifeline services began to provide broadband benefits to low-income households. However, Lifeline can only provide households with a discount on either cell phone services or broadband services.

What makes you qualified for Lifeline?

To become eligible for Lifeline discounts, applicants need to meet the qualifications. The requirements are mainly centered on the income of a household. Benefits can only be provided to a low-income family who have earnings that are at or less than 135 percent of the government poverty guidelines. No matter the number of adults within the family, this federal program can only give one discount per family. 

There is also a possibility of qualifying for Lifeline benefits if you are already receiving through a specific income-based government program. Some examples of these income-based government programs are:

  • Medicaid
  • Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
  • Federal Public Housing Assistance
  • Temporary Assistance Needy Families (TANF)
  • Specific tribal-specific programs, like TTANF or Head Start
  • Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)

Learn About Forms of Cellphone Plans

Even if you are not eligible for Lifeline, it is crucial to understand your options in terms of cell phone plans to save money on your mobile phone bill. Listed below are the three kinds of cell phone plans:

  • Prepaid plans
  • Month-to-month plans
  • Contract plans

Plans that require a contract need the user to commit to your plan terms for a certain period of time. The typical contract plan will last up to two years. Contract plans have their own unique benefits such as having a guaranteed fixed payment throughout your contract period. 

The majority of providers will pay for a portion of the newer model of a phone when you sign up with them. Even though low-income families can receive a free mobile phone through Lifeline, the smartphones provided by the program are usually older models. 

Alongside their benefits, contract phone plans also have their disadvantages. Typically, providers will need their new users to pay an activation fee when they sign up, and if they cancel their contract before the contract period ends, then they must pay the early termination fee.

Monthly plans tend to be the usual choice among mobile phone users who do not want to sign a phone contract. These phone plans need less commitment than contract plans. Providers will give different versions of a month-to-month plan. Each plan will have different features like unlimited texting, hotspot function and unlimited data.

When decide to add more features to your plan, the expensive your plan will get. Even though month-to-month plans do not need a contract, they do not have the benefits of a contract plan. For instance, with a monthly plan, you cannot replace an older model with a free, newer model or receive any other perks involved with a contract plan.

Prepaid plans are nothing like the previously mentioned plans. They do not have a contract, you do not pay monthly bills and there is no commitment. Also known as pay-as-you-go plans, these kinds of cell phone plans allow you to buy minutes, a number of texts or an amount of data that can be used over a specific time period.

These plans are simplistic and can be beneficial to those who have poor credit or do not use a cell phone often. These prepaid plans have fewer features than most plans but more affordable than a contract plan or monthly plan as a result.

Pros and Cons of MVNO Cellphone Plans

Also known as the Mobile Virtual Network Operators, these providers are smaller and offer inexpensive phone services than the more reputable cell phone providers. These companies lease their mobile phone services to larger networks or are kept by major providers. 

There are many advantages and disadvantages to signing up for an MVNO provider. These MVNO mobile phone plans usually do not need contracts, so there are no credit minimum requirements for the customer to meet. Furthermore, fees are often more affordable than those of reputable cell phone providers. 

However, there are disadvantages to MVNO providers. The service quality may differ from area to area, so you may have to deal with slower data speeds or service interruptions. 

How to Save Money on Cell Phone Plans

To save money on your mobile phone bill, it is good to browse and compare prices offered by cell phone companies providing services within your neighborhood. This can include big-name carriers and MVNOs depending on what you like. When you are looking over your pricing options, you should also look for discounts you can be eligible for. 

For example, carriers may offer discounts for students, veterans or employees. Additionally, there may be discounts that can help you save around 10 to 20 percent. If you are eligible for Lifeline services, you need to find a provider approved by Lifeline.