How to Get Free Phones for Seniors From the US Government

How to Get Free Phones for Seniors From the US Government

If you are a senior looking to save money on household bills, getting a free phone is an excellent way to start.

The US government helps income-eligible seniors to receive free or government-subsidized phones through the Lifeline Assistance program and the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP).

In addition to phones, tablets, and other internet-connected devices, qualified seniors may get free voice minutes, text, and broadband or internet service from participating telecom companies every month.

This quick guide explains how to get free phones for seniors. We will also show you ways to qualify for and receive free phone and internet services through government programs.

Get Free Cell Phone for Senior Citizens Through Lifeline

The Lifeline Assistance program has been around since 1984, although many people refer to it as an “Obama phone” in more recent times. The program aims to provide low income individuals and households with government-subsidized cell phones and free monthly texts and talk minutes.

Lifeline works hand-in-hand with many cell phone service providers to fulfill the program’s goal of giving families access to telecommunication services. Some carriers offer SIM cards for senior citizens who prefer to keep their phones.

A few of the more popular Lifeline service providers are:

While many companies offer different phone models, you can only sign up with a Lifeline service provider in your state.

To get a free or discounted phone and cell phone service from Lifeline, you must enroll in the program by meeting certain eligibility criteria. Seniors who qualify will receive a free phone and monthly cell phone plan to easily stay in touch with loved ones.

Get Free Internet Service for Seniors Through ACP

The Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) is a newer government-sponsored program designed to help income-eligible seniors and households pay for broadband service and internet-connected devices.

ACP takes the government’s connectivity assistance beyond just free phones for seniors and other eligible individuals. Depending on the ACP service provider you sign up with, you can receive the following:

  • Free unlimited monthly talk, text, and data
  • Free access to high-speed hotspot data
  • Free voicemail
  • 3-way calling
  • Free 911 service
  • Caller ID service
  • Call waiting

If you run out of text, voice minutes, and data, most Lifeline and ACP service providers allow you to purchase additional plans at affordable prices.

Lifeline Eligibility Requirements

As a senior, there are two ways to qualify for Lifeline and ACP and receive free phone and internet services.

First, you may be eligible for Lifeline if your household income does not exceed 135% of the Federal Poverty Guideline. If you don’t meet this income limit, you may be able to enroll in the Lifeline Assistance program by participating in any of the several government assistance programs, such as:

  • Medicaid
  • Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
  • Veterans and Survivors Pension Benefit
  • Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
  • Federal Public Housing Assistance

Depending on the state you live in, you might be eligible for Lifeline through Tribal assistance programs like:

  • Tribal Head Start (only those households meeting its income qualifying standard)
  • Bureau of Indian Affairs General Assistance (BIA)
  • Tribally Administered Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (Tribal TANF)
  • Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations (FDPIR)

ACP Eligibility Requirement

Getting free phones for seniors is more beneficial if you qualify for ACP, as this allows you to enjoy free unlimited talk, text, and data offered by service providers each month.

If you are a senior who currently receives a Lifeline benefit, you don’t need to meet any other criteria to qualify for ACP. Simply talk to your Lifeline service provider to learn how to enroll in the ACP program and start receiving free internet service.

Interestingly, you can receive both Lifeline and ACP benefits simultaneously and use them for the same or separate services.

However, if you are currently not a Lifeline subscriber, you can qualify for ACP through any of the following ways:

  • Your household income is less than or not more than 200% of the Federal Poverty Guideline.
  • You participate in one of the several federal assistance programs like Medicaid, SNAP, SSI, and others already listed in the Lifeline eligibility requirements.
  • You are a part of a Tribal assistance program.
  • A household member (your child or dependent) participates in any of the government assistance programs above.

How to Check if You Qualify for ACP or Lifeline


A hassle-free way for seniors to check if they qualify for Lifeline or ACP is through the National Verifier application system.

Here’s how to check if you qualify:

  1. Visit the National Verifier website.
  2. Select your state or territory.
  3. Click “Get started” and fill out the online application form.

Another way to check your eligibility is by submitting a paper form at your local Lifeline service provider’s office.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I keep my current phone and still get free phone service?

Many Lifeline service providers allow you to keep your current smartphone if you don’t want the phone models available or don’t want to go through the hassles of learning new menus and icons.

If your preferred Lifeline service provider offers the option, you can apply for a new SIM card and use it in your current phone. This will allow you to receive free monthly texts, voice minutes, and data on your existing phone.

Can seniors get free phones directly from the government?

The US government does not give out free phones to seniors or anyone, for that matter. Instead, the government subsidizes phone and broadband services for income-eligible households and individuals.

However, while you may not get a free phone directly from the government, you can get free phones for seniors from many Lifeline service providers if you are eligible for the assistance program.

How long will I continue to receive free phone service?

You will receive free talk, text, and data for 12 months, after which you must recertify your eligibility.

If you do not recertify, you will stop receiving phone and internet services. Although you don’t have to return the phone, it will only function as any regular phone.

How long does it take for a free phone to arrive?

The exact time it takes for your free phone to reach you will depend on the Lifeline service provider you choose and when your application gets approved.

In many cases, your free phone should arrive in seven days or thereabout, as long as you provide your correct physical address when signing up.