Are you in need of an affordable phone, wireless, or internet service, and perhaps a low-cost mobile device but having difficulty finding a provider that fits your budget? If so, Lifeline may be the right answer for you! Lifeline is a government program that offers discounted or free phone, wireless, and internet services and cell phones to eligible low-income households. With so many companies participating in the program, it can be overwhelming to choose the right one. In this article, we’ll take a closer look at some of the top Lifeline companies and compare their plans and services, so you can make an informed decision and find the best provider for your needs.
How to Compare Lifeline Companies
When comparing Lifeline companies, there are several factors to consider.
Area of service
Firstly, you need to evaluate the area of service of each company to ensure they provide service in your location.
Lifeline is a government assistance program that offers free or discounted monthly services and cell phones in all U.S. states and territories, however, each specific company has a different list of locations where it operates.
Make sure to choose one that operates in your state of residence, otherwise, you will be unable to apply. To find companies near you, visit cnm.universalservice.org, enter your location, choose the Lifeline program, and press Search. The system will provide you with a list of all the Lifeline providers that offer benefits in your area. Moreover, each company will be listed along with a link to its official website and contact number, which will make your mission of comparing Lifeline companies that much simpler.
Secondly, you must check the coverage area of each company making sure they provide reliable coverage and strong signal in your location. Most Lifeline companies have a very comprehensive coverage map on their websites. You can find the map by visiting their website and searching on the main menu or by using your search engine to search for “(name of a provider) coverage map”. Once you visit the website, you will be able to key in your location into the provided search box. You can type in your ZIP code or address. The system will then let you know whether 4G LTE or even 5G network is available in your area.
As most Lifeline companies are MVNOs (mobile virtual network operators) that don’t have their own network but use the network of one of the three largest carrier companies in the U.S. (AT&T, Verizon, or T-Mobile), you can also search online which network a selected company uses and this way you will know more about their coverage. However, you must keep in mind that in times of congestion, the customers of the carrier that owns the network infrastructure may have a slight advantage over the MVNO’s customers.
Free Minutes and Data Plans
The next step is to compare the different plans offered by each company to see which one meets your needs and budget.
Many Lifeline companies also participate in the new Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) that provides discounts on monthly internet services and connected devices. All Lifeline subscribers automatically also qualify for ACP. Such companies normally offer three types of plans – Lifeline Only, ACP Only, and Lifeline & ACP Combo Plans. The latter tend to be the most valuable plans that come with the most perks, simply because they are financially backed by not one but two government assistance programs. Plans provided by Lifeline companies tend to offer a limited or unlimited amount of monthly talk minutes, unlimited monthly text messages, and limited or unlimited monthly data. Additionally, you should check if the company offers any additional perks, such as rollover minutes, voicemail, or picture messaging.
Plans may also be divided into those for eligible Tribal households (which get more benefits) and the ones for eligible non-Tribal households. Moreover, plans differ between states.
All Lifeline providers offer discounts on monthly services. Moreover, many of them also offer discounted or free phones. Indeed, there is a huge variety of Lifeline companies that provide eligible customers with cell phones completely free of charge. However, there are some differences in exactly the kinds of phone brands and models that are offered. For instance, most Lifeline companies don’t reveal which phone model a customer may receive in advance, as the offer depends on the plan the customer qualifies for, the state, and availability. However, they tend to offer entry-level to mid-range Android smartphones. Those Lifeline companies that also participate in the ACP program and have additional funding from the government tend to offer slightly more advanced phones. Some providers, such as AirTalk Wireless, Cintex Wireless, and NewPhone Wireless offer basic flip phones, high-quality Android phones, and even mid-range iPhones. Moreover, unlike other providers, they allow customers who qualify for the Lifeline & ACP Combo plan to choose the device they wish to receive.
Before committing to a specific company, make sure to carefully review the entire list of benefits that you may be able to get from each company. To do so, simply visit the company’s website, type in your ZIP code, and in many cases, you will be redirected to the company’s offer in your state. There you will see which plans are available (Lifeline, ACP, Combo, etc.) and what kinds of benefits are offered by each plan. You can expect to receive free or discounted monthly services with free talk minutes, text messages, and data, and a free phone.
If the company also participates in the ACP program, you may also be able to receive a highly discounted tablet. That is because some ACP companies offer a one-time discount of up to $100 on internet-connected devices, such as tablets. However, according to government rules, the customer must pay a mandatory co-pay of more than $10 and less than $50 to obtain the device.
While you compare Lifeline companies, also make sure to check for any hidden costs. Lifeline companies tend to have very few hidden costs as they are oriented toward providing low-income customers with government-extended benefits. Nevertheless, it’s always better to be safe than sorry. You can scan for additional costs on the provider’s Terms and Conditions webpage.
Contract or Without Contract
Will you be required to sign a contract? What kind of a contract? Make sure to read the fine print before enrolling in a provider’s program.
However, you must know that you can change your Lifeline provider whenever you wish to do so, as long as you select another company that operates in your area and that you don’t receive benefits from more than one provider at a time. You may be asked to prove your Lifeline eligibility once more and to reapply when you change to a new provider. To change your Lifeline provider, simply call the new company, tell them that you wish to switch to them, and the agent will guide you through the process.
It’s also important to look into the customer support options of each company to ensure you can easily reach them in case of any issues.
Lastly, you may want to consider the reputation of each company in terms of reliability, quality of service, and customer satisfaction. By taking these factors into account, you can make an informed decision and choose the Lifeline company that best suits your needs.
Which Lifeline Companies is Best for Me
To effectively compare Lifeline companies and decide which one is best for you, follow these simple steps:
- Get a list of all the Lifeline companies available in your area at cnm.universalservice.org.
- Visit each company’s official website (the links are provided on the list).
- Enter your ZIP code to view the offer that is available in your state of residence. As a Lifeline subscriber, you can apply for a Lifeline Only plan, an ACP Only plan, or the Lifeline and ACP combo plan, which tends to be the most valuable one.
- Review each company’s offered benefits, network coverage, hidden costs, contracts, customer support service, and the other considerations listed in the previous section.
- Once you have chosen the company that best fits your needs, find its online application on its website, complete it by providing all the required information and documentation copies, and submit the application. If your application gets approved, you will be notified immediately and you can expect to receive your benefits in a matter of days.
If it turns out that you are dissatisfied with your provider, you can always switch to another by repeating this process.
This being said, here is our pick of the best Lifeline companies:
- Access Wireless (read more and apply at accesswireless.com)
- AirTalk Wireless (read more and apply at airtalkwireless.com)
- Assurance Wireless (read more and apply at assurancewireless.com)
- Cintex Wireless (read more and apply at cintexwireless.com)
- Easy Wireless (read more and apply at myeasywireless.com)
- enTouch Wireless (read more and apply at entouchwireless.com)
- NewPhone Wireless (read more and apply at newphone.com)
- Q Link Wireless (read more and apply at qlinkwireless.com)
- SafeLink Wireless (read more and apply at safelinkwireless.com)
- StandUp Wireless (read more and apply at standupwireless.com)
- TruConnect (read more and apply at truconnect.com)
These companies all offer their services in several U.S. states and offer great network coverage. Moreover, they are some of the most generous providers that offer free monthly services, free cell phones, and some of them even discounted tablets. They have reliable customer support services, no hidden costs, and reasonable terms and conditions. Furthermore, these companies all have great customer reviews.
List of Other Lifeline Companies
In addition to our pick of the best Lifeline companies listed above, there are many more Lifeline providers that offer their services in one or more of the U.S. states, including:
- American Assistance
- Arctic Slope Telephone Association Cooperative
- Assist Wireless
- AT&T Mobility
- Centennial de Puerto Rico
- Claro de Puerto Rico
- Cordova Wireless Communications
- Element Mobile
- Epic Touch/Epic PCS
- Infiniti Mobile
- Life Wireless
- Nemont Wireless
- SafetyNet Wireless
- SouthernLINC Wireless
- Tag Mobile
- Tempo Communications
- Terracom Wireless
- Total Call Mobile
- True Wireless
- U.S. Cellular
- Verizon Wireless
- Viaero Wireless
How to Get a Lifeline Free Phone
To get a Lifeline free phone or any other Lifeline benefits, you must follow these strict steps:
- You must make sure that you qualify for this government assistance program. You can qualify if your annual household income is at or below 135% of the federal poverty guidelines or if you participate in a qualifying government assistance program, such as Medicaid, SNAP, SSI, a Tribal program, etc.
- You must make sure that you can prove your eligibility by providing copies of valid official documents that include all the vital information. Acceptable documents include paycheck stubs to prove your income and an approval letter or benefit verification letter to prove your participation in a qualifying program.
- You must then apply for the program through the National Verifier. Learn how to do so online or via mail at lifelinesupport.org/get-started.
- Once your Lifeline participation gets approved, you can then compare Lifeline companies and decide which one is the best for you by following the instructions above.