How To Get a Free Phone That Doesn’t Suck

If you are homebound or bedbound or disabled, phone and internet can be your key to survival and connection with the outside world. Lilac got a free phone through a “lifeline” service and she was kind enough to share her experiences and everything she learned along the way:

Lilac Gets a Phone

If you are low income, you can get a free cell phone or landline phone through Lifeline. This service is available to all low income people and you do not have to be approved for disability to qualify.

Here’s the trick: Stay the hell away from SafeLink.

After years of languishing in SafeLink desolation, I finally switched to a new service. Now I have a great, free smartphone with two surprising features: You can talk…. and you can listen! That’s right. Talk AND listen!!!! Take that SafeLink! But don’t just take my word for it, see what customers have to say about Safelink.

Phone Options

Assurance Wireless – Provides monthly data, unlimited texts, and monthly minutes. Available to people who receive Medicaid or Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). You can also qualify based on your household income.

Qlink Wireless – Provides limited free monthly calling and unlimited free texting. You may qualify if you already receive government benefit programs like: Food Stamps, Medicaid, Federal Housing / Section 8 Assistance, Supplemental Security Income, or Veteran’s Pension and Survivors Pension Program

Other Free Phone Services – Please comment below with your experiences.

Life Line Land Lines – It is also possible to get a landline instead of a cell phone. These phones are discounted, not totally free. (Reader review: “My phone bill went from $35 per month to $6 per month”).

Before selecting a phone company, it’s a good idea to check and make sure they will be able to provide service and connection in all the locations you will be using the phone.

Internet Options

There are also several services that offer low-cost internet. Here is a great article on How to Get Internet for $5 per month.

Financial Survival for People with Disabilities

If you are low-income and disabled, there are many other programs and services that may be able to help you. Learn more about ways to get assistance with rent, food, utilities, medical equipment, home modifications, medications, electric wheelchairs, disability benefits, and more: How to Be Poor in America

If You are Married

If you are married and your spouse and you live together, you are only allowed to have one lifeline phone. You cannot each get your own lifeline phone.

If You Live with Other Adults

The rule is one phone per household. But wait!!! This rule is very tricky. A household is not what you think it is….

“The definition of a household is anyone living at an address who share income and household expenses.” The rules are explained here.

Suzy and Grace Example: Suzy lives with her sister Grace. They each pay half the rent and half the utilities. They do not share their income and keep separate bank accounts and finances. Suzy and Grace are two households. They are eligible for two phones.

Suzy and George Example: Suzy lives with her boyfriend George. Suzy and George share a bank account and share their money. Suzy and George are one household. They are eligible for one phone.

Lilac Cancels SafeLink

Several people asked me how I switched phones. Here’s how it worked for me: I cannot believe how long I stayed with SafeLink. I could not hear anything and half the calls were dropped. I tried to request a new phone, but there is no way to contact them online, and they are only reachable by phone… super helpful for someone without a working phone!

At some point they sent me a little text noting that due to such-and-such lawsuit they were required to offer me a new phone. I spent some time online trying to apply for this supposed new phone, only to be told that I don’t live where I (obviously) do live and that I should call them with my broken phone upon which I (obviously) cannot call them.

One day someone told me that some companies give smart phones. I thought there was no possibility on earth that this could be true. I was wrong.

I canceled SafeLink by going to my account online on the SafeLink website. Oddly, the SafeLink phone does not turn off when you cancel! My phone kept whatever minutes were still on there and kept working. They did not ask for it back.

It’s important to cancel your old account before applying for a new phone anywhere else. You are not supposed to sign up for two services at the same time. I printed out the page online verifying that my Safelink phone was canceled and kept it, just in case anything ever came up.

I applied for Assurance Wireless online. They sent me a form in the mail to sign. Then they sent me a phone. Whole thing took 2-3 weeks.

When I got the new phone it did not work correctly right away. It turned on, but it wasn’t sending texts. I finally figured out that I had to call Assurance and activate it. They were very nice and I have been quite happy with my new phone.

Landline or Cellphone?

Some people with chronic illness find that cell phones cause symptoms. Learn more about Electrohypersensitivity.


24 thoughts on “How To Get a Free Phone That Doesn’t Suck”

  1. Both Assurance and Safelink have horrible call quality. While Assurance offers at least 1 free phone replacement in-case it breaks or lost, Safelink does not!. Qlink website function looks worse than Assurance, even shady, with no proper service area map. Reviews online aren’t great either. So only alternative is to buy a cheap used factory unlocked phone from amazon or ebay and put in a prepaid SIM.


  2. I called Safelink to sign up. The guy I spoke to didn’t know much, couldn’t explain, I couldn’t understand him, and the volume was so low I could hardly hear him on speaker phone.

    Then they send me the worst & cheapest phone, which is an Alcatel Raven. These dumb phones sell for about $7.

    The are so bad, they make LG look like Sumsung, and Samsung like Apple.

    It has so much programmed, it burns data. It sends so many updates and wastes data. Sometimes it will load an update while you are in the middle of something.

    The phone is very uncooperative. It types wrong, it deletes sentences,

    They also rip people who want more data ever minutes off by offering wierd plans. You can get 1000 minutes & 1000 GB data or 350 minutes & 2000 GB data. (Well it should be 500 minutes.)

    Further more, if you sign up for the 2nd plan (which I did), they may not give it to you. I had to go to the website & change it, which may make people wait a month.

    I have used Tracphone before, and have little problems with the phone service.

    But while they promise unlimited texts, they do say some may require fees. So I am scared to use it.

    They say a person can use an unlocked smartphone of their own, but they are ambiguous with this.


  3. Just received my SafeLink SIM card for the BYOP program. I made sure that it was compatible with their service. Sat around for a week and a half, waiting for the SIM card, I have a Samsung J7 that was my BF’s.
    Well sure enough, their SIM and this phone are NOT compatible.
    I too looked for a way to contact them, and they ONLY have a phone #. What kind of joke is that? NO email, in this day and age, offering these phones?
    Prior I had an Alcatel phone, trust me, you do NOT want an Alcatel. You will see them as possible “upgrades” everywhere, in stores all over. Horrible!
    Alcatel continuously added THEIR own programs onto my phone, filling up all available space with Alcatel crap. They added their own Weather app, then a Calendar app, neither needed, both apps drained a full battery in 2 hours.
    I used that phone with Metro PCS. Never worked right. I didn’t receive incoming calls no matter where I was, my home is in their “5 Bar” area, nope. Callers told me that they’d call and it either went right into VM, or nothing happened. I missed dozens of Text messages, phone right next to me, no message.
    So IMHO Metro Pcs, Alcatel, and now SafeLink are all pretty bad.
    Starting over from the drawing board.


  4. Thanks for all your comments about the Lifeline program. I too am caught up. In the hassle of trying to get a cell.
    phone. Can it be any more difficult? Now you guys tell me that if and when I get approved they have crummy phones and service. Sound like they are scamming the government to me. Sounds like SafeLink isn’t any better.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I have had Assurance,not happy.Ive had this phone for 4 months.Problems are, not reliable,When I make or attempt to answer a call,it cuts off.Also the phone number I have for it has been used by more than 4 different people and constant bill collector calls and texts When I do get a call answered,is this so n so,I say no this isn’t and call gets cut off anywho.I will be looking for another service.I got this phone because I need it for job searching and so potential employers can contact me.I know 3 other people who are having same problem.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Assurance sucks, safelink sucks, static , drop calls, extremely poor customer service, Assurance doesn’t honor what the website tells you you’ll get, q link not available here in Mississippi. Anyone know of decent service? I’m pulling my hair out in frustration and going in circles with providers.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. How long does it take to receive assurance application? We applied online October 31 and the status shows that application was mailed. It’s getting frustrating because we started a safelink application four weeks ago and sent them all required documents by sms, mail, and even uploaded but they still show as documents missing. After calling several times we started the assurance application hoping this one will have better luck being processed.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I have Q-Link and it’s horrible! The phone has never worked right and periodically I have to go through and delete the “free” stuff they download to the phone. It doesn’t have enough memory for ME to download programs, and wouldn’t accept the memory card I tried to add. Sometimes I don’t get my TXT msgs until the next day. The service area is lousy. Top it all off with there is really no way to contact customer service about any problems! You get recordings or told to fork out $25 for a new phone, that of course is the same piece of junk you already got from them!


  9. Well I have Qlink and to me it sucks I had to pay 25 for replacement phone.when the first phone they send me I never got.The replacement phone doesn’t work well at all.Really all I want is to use my own phone that I bought for straight talk and really I wouldn’t care what company I had.But it says the phone is not compatable. Anyone know where I don’t have to use a cheap phone.


  10. Safelink’s smartphones are not user friendly. We’re an apple family so Androids are unfamiliar territory to us. They do offer better phones for a fee via Tracfone. I called Safelink to ask if I can give my son my old iphone 6 (unlocked) and have it hooked up to their system. They told me yes, so long as I have a BYOB SIM Card that is compatible, which only costs $1 (available at any major chains like CVS, etc). Once we got everything ready, I called Safelink tp link it up and Voila! So much better than what they offer!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Be forwewarned that sometimes iPhones, even if compatible with a network, may have their service cut out for long periods of time because they don’t reach all the “bands” of a service provider. I used my Verizon iPhone 5s (which come unlocked and are supposed to work with any service) with Assurance Wireless (which is AT&T) and it mostly worked, but randomly the phone service would go down. Turns out it’s not 100% compatible. The smartphone they gave me always has service if I use the Assurance Wireless SIM card in that.

      Liked by 3 people

  11. I have a Safelink card that they sent me becasue I wanted to keep my older model I-Phone. My model is about 5-6 levels behind the newest uber expensive I-Phone. As a working poor person, I am grateful for just a phone, my own phone and a phone card. Safelink does not work very well, even on the free wireless card that you put into your phone. My phone is unlocked, but I can’t afford to get rid of Safeliink just yet. I don’t even make $300 a week when taxes are taken out! You can’t make phone calls 1/2 the time, I run around where I live to try to find a semi decent reception. Phone calls drop, I can’t hear the person on the other line or they can’t hear me. It frustrates me endure phone interviews where I can’t just explain to the person on the other line that “I am poor, I can’t even afford a phone, I’m doing my best with what I’ve been given.” People are way too privileged, they don’t understand the struggles of so many working class people. I don’t make enough to afford a phone, I doubt many employers would give a damn enough to have an ounce of sympathy for me and others in my situation. So YES, if you can stay away from Safelnk, even the wireless card into your own phone, do so. It works great for texts and things on the web, until they bottleneck your data and you will at many times have NO SERVICE at all, dont’ bother calling or trying to have calls come in becasue reception is always iffy at best. Yet, another hurdle the poor have to endure and overcome, something anyone with enough income WILL NEVER GET!

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Had Safelink for years & was just great full to have a free phone. The phones were primitive & customer service took forever. Lots of problems.
    My husband got a Qlink phone for us. It’s nice for a smartphone but it didn’t work properly. Then I dropped it & the screen broke. Now I have to pay $25 for a replacement. They are okay but hard to get in touch with.


  13. You can only have a cell phone or a landline.
    I don’t understand why this rule exists.
    People who are on SSI or similar income should be able to get both.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. I have experience with and definitely do not recommend enTouch. Their customer service folks used to be very rude and lie to you just to get you off the phone. A year later, they seem to have more courteous customer service reps but they do not honor their Bring Your Own Device policy, even with a network-compatible phone. My phone was stolen and I tried several times over a period of about a year to get them to activate a new device for me. I finally had to cancel my service because the only options they would give me were to buy a new phone from them for $25 or cancel. Since my service was automatically switched over from a different company that stopped serving my area, they did not even provide the phone I originally had, but they still wanted me to pay them to replace it.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Hi,

    I loved your post, very informative! I work for a wireless communication company called, enTouch Wireless and would love to give you more information about the company. We provide the Lifeline Program and include a smartphone, unlimited texting, unlimited talk, and 500 MB of data. We recently started a blog so feel free to look at it for more information as well as our website which is linked to the blog!

    If you are every looking to add or write another article about this topic I would be happy to write something up for you about our services!

    Liked by 1 person

  16. inresting comments abt SAFELINK: i applied (again) 3 months ago, they “sent” a phone that was wrecked in transit. i just called 2x abt replacement, and they say “my” particular fone is not in warehouse (in India?). more to come

    Liked by 1 person

  17. What type of Assurance approved cell phone do you have? It’s my understanding that they only offer their own model or one can buy a slightly larger version for $19.95 (which is still the about the size of a matchbook cover.

    I know, because I have that one, and it is almost worthless both in quality and service. So I’m curious as to what model ‘smartphone’ you have that is Assurance approved?

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Hi Kevin,

      I am using whatever they sent me and it works great for me.

      I don’t know what any of this means, but here is what it says:

      model n817

      android 444

      Did you get your phone through Assurance?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. 817 is a zte i had 2 from assurance both died in 3 weeks message says no android service hope i get decent phone from safelink on utube young girl got a samsung


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