Cell phones have become a necessary part of our everyday life. Whether you’re traveling, working, or just hanging out, you always need to have your phone on hand.
So, why are they so darn expensive?
As it turns out, they don’t actually have to be. You can get a free phone, with a free or cheap service, right now — if you just know where to look.
Ready to learn more? Here are 10 places you can look for a completely free cell phone this year.
LifeLine Support Phones
Did you know you can get a free phone, plus data, talk, and text, from the government?
LifeLine Support is a government-funded initiative to provide affordable communication to all Americans. The program is linked up with several cell phone providers across the country. If you qualify, you can get a free phone, plus a stipend toward your phone bill, or a free limited service plan.
It’s a great option if you’re on a tight budget and struggling to pay your monthly bill with one of those expensive, mainstream providers.
There are some caveats to this program: only one member of your household can receive LifeLine support at a time (so you can’t get free phones for the whole family), and you have to be eligible to apply. That means that you:
- Earn less than 135% of the federal poverty limit annually. For all states except Alaska and Hawaii, that means you earn less than $16,862 every year.
Or, you’re currently participating in one of these programs:
- SNAP (formerly known as food stamps)
- Supplemental Security Income
- Federal Public Housing Assistance
- Veterans Pension and Survivors Benefit
- Tribal Programs (for residents of federally-recognized Tribal lands)
Eligibility for LifeLine phones can change regularly, so head to their website to make sure you qualify before you check out one of these affordable providers.
If you are eligible for LifeLine support, here are some great options for you.
1. Access Wireless
Access Wireless is a LifeLine provider that can give you a free phone, as well as limited free service every month.
That free service will include: 750 minutes of talk, unlimited texting, and 200 MB of data every month. If you live in California, your plan will be bumped up to 1,000 minutes of free calls each month. That’s a lot of talking for no charge!
Access Wireless is available in most states, but not all. Check their website to see if you can get a free phone and service in your location.
2. SafeLink Wireless
One of the oldest and most widely-used LifeLine providers, SafeLink Wireless is a great choice for people across the nation.
You can get a free Android phone when you sign up for SafeLink, as well as a monthly plan that includes 350 minutes of talk, unlimited text, and 500 MB of data. (The details of your free plan might vary in each state, but this is the standard for most states).
SafeLink also gives you the option to bring in your own compatible phone and get the free service added on — a good choice if you have a phone already, but can’t pay the monthly bill.
3. Feelsafe Wireless
Another popular LifeLine Support provider, Feelsafe Wireless provides free phones with affordable service to residents of California, Kentucky, Michigan, Mississippi, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, and Wisconsin.
With your phone, you’ll get a basic monthly plan for talk, text, and browsing data. The details of that plan will be a little different in every state.
Although the free phone is limited to certain states, the coverage isn’t — Feelsafe is highly rated for its incredibly broad coverage, across all 48 continental states and Alaska. The reception is comparable to mainstream providers like Verizon and T Mobile.
Your FeelSafe phone might be free, but your coverage will be priceless.
4. Q Link Wireless
Q Link Wireless is a great option if you want to ditch your expensive cell phone provider without losing the benefits of that plan, like rollover minutes.
Alongside your free phone, you’ll get unlimited texting, plus 500 monthly call minutes. But the best part is, those minutes can roll over into the next month if you don’t use them all. Q Link also has a referral program that will reward you 100 bonus minutes every time you get a friend to sign up.
Check their website to see if Q Link is accessible in your state. They’re available in more areas every year.
5. Assurance Wireless
The last LifeLine Support provider on this list is Assurance Wireless, an affordable option for people across the country.
If you’re eligible for LifeLine Support, you can get a free phone from Assurance, 350 minutes of calling, unlimited text, and 500 MB of data each month. The coverage is great for the cost, and comparable to most major national plans.
Need more than 350 minutes every month? You can use a Virgin Mobile top-up card to add more minutes to your Assurance plan. It isn’t free, but it’s a lot cheaper than buying an entire monthly plan.
Other Places To Get Free Phones
Not eligible for the LifeLine Support program? No worries. You have other options.
There are plenty of places to get a free phone online. Marketplaces and trading groups are a solid place to start — you may have to do some negotiating with sellers, or offer up something you can trade in return to get your phone for free.
These sites won’t provide you with free calls, text, and data, but you can always use one of the providers I mentioned above to get a cheap, no-contract plan each month.
You should also keep in mind that you may have to pay a couple of bucks for shipping, unless you connect with someone in your community that will meet with you in person.
If we’re talking about cheap or free electronics online, we have to mention Craigslist. This is the tried-and-true site for finding independent sellers in your area.
Check recent Craigslist postings to find deals on used or second-hand phones in your area. You might not be able to get the newest models, but you’ll be surprised by what people are willing to get rid of for incredibly low prices.
Negotiating with independent sellers on Craigslist also gives you the option to trade your old phone or another device. Trade-ins are fairly common on this platform, and can give you the option to get a newer phone without having to pay.
Similar to Craigslist, OfferUp is a site where users can post their used electronics and other products. It’s not uncommon to find phones on OfferUp for as low as $5, or for a trade-in deal.
Just enter your location and browse through electronics to find the phone you’re looking for. If you don’t want to meet your seller in person to pick up the phone, some ads on OfferUp will also give you a quote on shipping fees.
8. Facebook Marketplace
Facebook Marketplace is another great platform to find people in your neighborhood who need to get rid of their used electronics. Browse Marketplace listings to see what’s available near you.
You can also use Facebook to join a local buy, sell, and trade group — groups allow you to post that you’re looking for a free or trade-in phone. That way you can have offers come to you, instead of wasting your time scrolling.
NextDoor is a popular social network designed to connect people in the same community. It’s similar to Facebook Marketplace, but a little smaller — and with less of a risk of scammers.
This is a safe, super reliable way to connect with your neighbors and see if anyone is looking to get rid of an old phone. You can barter, trade, or just wait until you see someone posting that they have a free phone to get rid of (it happens more often than you might think!)
10. BuyNothing Groups
Ever heard of the BuyNothing Project? It’s an awesome initiative to foster giving and sharing within communities.
If there’s a BuyNothing group in your area, you can head to the website to join. There, you’ll be able to meet with people who have phones and other clutter to give away.
Your free phone will probably be an older model, but don’t worry — no one is donating junk to these groups. You’ll also be able to communicate with the person who’s giving it away to make sure it’s in working order.
If there is no BuyNothing group near you, there is also the option to start one yourself! Get your friends and neighbors to join, and you’ll be sharing your old things in no time.
Why consider a LifeLine Support phone?
If you’re looking for a free phone with free or cheap service, LifeLine Support is definitely worth looking into.
This government-funded program is meant to help people who may not be able to afford a new phone and service themselves. Even if you do have the space in your budget for that phone, if you qualify for LifeLine, it might just be worth it to save that money for something more important.
Everyone deserves access to communication — that’s why the LifeLine program exists, and why you should take advantage of it if you can.
Pros and cons of LifeLine Support phones
To help you decide if LifeLine is right for you, here are the main pros and cons:
Pro: You can get your phone and service provided all at once, instead of finding a free phone elsewhere, then spending time searching for a free or cheap plan.
Con: LifeLine is only available to those who qualify. You will have to re-certify your eligibility every year that you use the program.
Pro: Unlimited texting is available for free with nearly all LifeLine Support providers. Most of them also offer a significant data plan — enough to get you through the month without having to pay for more.
Con: Most LifeLine providers have geographical limits. Not all plans are available in all states, so you’ll have to search for a provider that’s available where you live.
Why consider a phone from an independent seller/trader?
If you don’t qualify for LifeLine support (or even if you do!) there are plenty of other places to find your free cell phone. Most of those involve communicating with an individual who wants to sell, trade, or donate their used phone.
There are quite a few benefits to finding your phone this way. For one thing, you might be able to find a fairly new, or at least high-quality used phone. A lot of people are dead-set on buying the newest phone model every year, so they have to trade out their old devices that are still in decent condition.
It may take a little more time to search for a free phone from an individual, but it could be worth it in the long run.
Pros and cons of independent sellers (or traders)
If you aren’t sure whether you should get a free LifeLine Support phone or search for a phone from another source, here are a few pros and cons to help you decide:
Pro: It’s all in your hands when you’re shopping for your own phone online. Don’t like the look of a phone someone’s giving away? Unlike with the LifeLine Support program, you can wait for a better option to come along.
Con: It takes time to find a free phone online, especially if you aren’t willing to trade another device. You’ll have to be prepared to dedicate some time to browsing and negotiating.
Pro: You can choose your own provider once you have your phone, including cheap, contract-free plans.
Con: When you get a free phone from someone online, it won’t come with a free service. You’re going to have to find your own affordable plan before you can use the phone.
The bottom line: phones don’t have to be expensive
We all need to have a cell phone. It’s how we communicate with each other, get where we’re going, browse the web, and more. We all need a phone — but we shouldn’t have to pay for it.
Whether you qualify for the LifeLine Support program or you’re looking for a used phone from an individual, there are plenty of ways to get your phone for free, plus free or cheap monthly service.
If any of these 10 sources sound right for you, get started right away! Your new phone doesn’t have to be expensive.