Seniors throughout the country understand that money can be tight in this economy. So, if there was a way to get free cell phones for seniors who were in financial difficulty that would be a great thing. The good news is that there are several options for seniors and low-income individuals. And because I have utilized these service to help my mother, I will also give you my personal experience with getting a free government cell phone for Mom.
There are a few important points I need to make talking about these options. First and foremost, the programs that I am going to discuss are not only meant for those over 65, but are for anyone who hits the financial qualifications. So, in addition to seniors you can look at these programs as free cell phone programs for low-income individuals.
It also important to state up front that…
- Not everyone is going to qualify for these programs
- The three “national” carriers that I am going to reference do not cover the whole United States. Each of them most covers of the country so what you will have to do is keep applying, one-by-one, until you find the one that will work in your area
Video Overview of the Free Cell Phones For Seniors Page
Nationwide Sources of Free Cell Phones as well as Cell Phone Plans For Seniors and Low-Income Individuals
Assurance Wireless-if you scroll down further to the end of the article, you will have the opportunity to read my personal review of the Assurance wireless system, as this was the company I eventually went with in order to get Mom her cell phone.
SafeLink Wireless-The best known of the government-sponsored free cell phones for seniors throughout the USA, or anyone else, is offered by SafeLink Wireless. For those who qualify, you can receive a free cell phone as well as 250 free anytime minutes per month to use at your discretion.
You also have the opportunity with SafeLink to purchase additional minutes, either 250 additional minutes for $5 for 750 additional minutes plus 1,000 texts for $20. There are income requirements so you will definitely need to fill out an application to see if you qualify. You can visit SafeLink Wireless for information regarding enrollment.
Budget Wireless–Budget Wireless provides the same features as SafeLink and Assurance.
The one thing that was very interesting is that Budget gives you the option, if you choose, to get more advanced phones such as smart phones that operate Google Android platform. It should be noted, however, that these Android type phones are NOT ideal for many seniors as they can be complicated to use and you will have to pay for them.
All three companies, because they support a federal government program, offer similar benefits and eligibility requirements and offer ideal free cell phones for seniors. Nonetheless, because the difference obviously is customer service and the selection of phones available, you should contact all of them to determine which is the best for you.
enTouch Wireless-There is one additional company I want to mention, enTouch Wireless. They too offer many of the same services that Assurance, Safelink and Budget offer, but their phones are more optimized for seniors with hearing issues.
I will discuss this more below…
What To Look For In Free Cell Phones for Seniors
When you’re looking for a cell phone for seniors you are looking for simplicity. This does NOT mean things that come attached to the latest iPhone, like texting, unlimited data, customizable apps, GPS, etc… It DOES mean that you are looking for, as my father puts it, a “brick with an antenna”…
- No bells and whistles…a phone that rings and makes calls, that’s it
- No fancy apps
- Internet is optional
- A simple phone that is easy to use
- Large buttons that are backlit
- Maybe a simple ‘911’ button to use in emergencies
- A loud speaker for the hearing impaired that is hearing aid compatible
enTouch and Hearing Aid Compatibility
Of all the companies I researched, enTouch was the only one that made mention of the issues relating to the use of hearing aids for seniors and also the specific problems of adapting a cell phone to use with a hearing aid. There was a specific page on their website that specifically identified this issue and gave recommendations of how to deal with it.
Therefore, if you do have a hearing aid at least they seem to be the one company that understand the specific needs of those with a hearing aid when it comes to getting the right cell phone.
Most low-income seniors will qualify for a free phone from the government, but if you don’t or if you want a different model phone (the government phones are pretty simple), there are a few options you can consider…
I have written extensively about their “Anywhere Casual” plan, which has no monthly bill…you just pay for the minutes you use. You can go here to find out more.
GreatCall markets their Jitterbug line of phones which are specifically designed for seniors and comes with very senior friendly features such as the 5 Star Urgent Response system and Jitterbug Live Nurse, where you can call at anytime and speak with a nurse. You can find out more by clicking here.
My Assurance Wireless Review…A Great Free Cell Phone for Seniors
Assurance Wireless offers services similar to Safelink Wireless in getting senior citizens free access to cell phones. But because this is a government-sponsored phone, you need to learn whether or not you qualify. Therefore, I will first discuss the requirements for the phone and then the features of the phone and the program.
Video Overview of Assurance Wireless
In order to qualify for the program, your total household income must be at or below 135% of the federal poverty guidelines in states that follow the federal eligibility criteria, OR you currently qualify for one of the following programs…
- Medicaid (this is how Mom qualified…I merely sent in her Medicaid number and 5 days later the phone, which you can see below, arrived)
- Food Stamps/Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Plan
- Supplemental Security Income [SSI]
- Temporary Assistance for Needy Families [TANF]
- Supplemental Rental Assistance [Section 8]
- Federal Public Housing Assistance [FPHA]
- The National School Lunch Free Lunch Program
- Low Income Home Energy Assistance Plan1
If you meet these requirements, go to the Assurance Wireless website, enter your zip code to bring up your state’s application, fill it out and follow the instructions. However, please note that currently Assurance Wireless is not available in all 50 states, although the number of states grows all the time.
As far as the benefits you will receive with the Assurance Wireless program, you will receive… A free phone 250 free voice minutes per month. You receive this free of charge. However, if you feel you need more minutes, there are two other options where you can choose to add minutes.
For an additional 250 minutes monthly, for a total of 500 minutes, you will pay $5 a month. For an additional 750 minutes monthly, for a total of 1,000 minutes + 1,000 texts, you will pay $20 a month.
Regardless of the program you choose, you will have access to benefits such as:
- Voice mail
- Caller ID
- Call Waiting
- No annual contracts, bills or activation fees
- Nationwide coverage through the Sprint network
- Free calls to customer service
And the Assurance Wireless application doesn’t take that long to process…my mother had her phone within a week of me filling out the application and getting the supporting documentation (which in our case was the Medicaid approval letter).
In her case, the only information required was for me to take a picture of her Medicaid approval, send that to Assurance Wireless and Mom had her phone shortly thereafter. After that, I received the phone within 5 days…pretty fast for the government.