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How We Chose the Best Free Phones for Seniors

Not all carriers offer the same free phone. The variety of brands and models to choose from can make your head spin. After extensive research, our team zeroed in on the best free phones for seniors. The criteria used to evaluate which no-cost phones made it onto our list include the availability of senior-friendly features, customer perks, and carrier reputation and reliability.

Pro Tip: Having a hard time deciding the type of phone that meets your needs? Head over to our best cell phones for seniors list for the lowdown on the pros and cons for various makes and models.

Free Government Cell Phones for Seniors

According to the Center for Social and Demographic Research on Aging at UMass Boston, approximately 50 percent of older adults living alone and 23 percent of older couples have annual incomes that fall below the amount necessary to meet their basic needs.4 There are multiple government assistance programs that provide seniors with free or discounted phones, internet service, and computers. Let’s take a look at the options and how to qualify.

Assurance Wireless

Assurance Wireless is part of the federal Lifeline phone assistance program. Qualifying households receive a free smartphone and accompanying benefits each month. Assurance Wireless is part of the T-Mobile network, covering 99 percent of Americans. The Assurance Wireless Lifeline service is free to qualified consumers, and extra voice minutes, data, international calling, and international texting may be purchased for an additional fee.

If your household is eligible, you can receive:5

  • A free Android smartphone
  • Free unlimited data
  • Free unlimited texts
  • Free unlimited minutes
  • Free 10 GB of mobile hotspot data

Eligibility requirements for Assurance Wireless Unlimited are based on federal or state-specific eligibility criteria. Qualifications may be based on household income or participation in a government assistance program, such as Medicaid, Veterans and Survivors Pension Program, and Supplemental Security Income.


Lifeline is a program offered by the Federal Communications Commission for low-income consumers. Qualifying individuals receive discounts on phone, broadband internet, or bundled voice-broadband packages from participating providers. The Lifeline discount is available in every state, territory, and commonwealth, as well as on tribal lands.

If your household is eligible, you can receive:6

  • Up to a $9.25 monthly discount for eligible subscribers
  • Up to $34.25 per month for eligible subscribers on tribal lands

Participation in the Lifeline program is based upon income or enrollment in federal assistance programs, such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, Supplemental Security Income, Medicaid, federal public housing assistance, and Veterans and Survivors Pension Program.

Benefits Tip: Lifeline subscribers must recertify their eligibility every year. If you fail to recertify, you’ll be unenrolled in the program and lose your discount.

Affordable Connectivity Program

The Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) helps low-income households pay for broadband service and internet-connected devices. One monthly service discount and one device discount are available per household.

If your household is eligible, you can receive:7

  • Up to a $30-per-month discount on your internet service
  • Up to a $75-per-month discount if your household is on qualifying tribal lands
  • A one-time discount of up to $100 for a laptop, tablet, or desktop computer (with a copayment of more than $10 but less than $50)

In order to be eligible for ACP, individuals must meet the income requirements or participate in a government assistance program such as Supplemental Security Income, Medicaid, or federal public housing. If you already receive the Lifeline benefit, you’re automatically eligible for the ACP. It is possible to receive both Lifeline and ACP benefits at the same time.

Quick Tip: The choice of internet providers is based on where you live. The Federal Communications Commission provides a list of participating providers by state.

Other Ways to Save on a Cell Phone

If you’re not able to snag a free cell phone, don’t despair! There are plenty of ways to cash in on carrier deals, perks, and discounts. Unsure where to begin? Our 2022 cell phones for seniors buyer’s guide covers everything you need to know about cell phone brands, carriers, and how to get the best deal.

Choose a Low-Cost Cell Phone

If you’re on a limited income, paying full price for a phone out of pocket isn’t easy. The great news is that many cell phone carriers offer low-cost monthly payment plans. Consumer Cellular is a fine example, with their senior-friendly flip phone at just $2 per month for 24 months. We’d be remiss if we didn’t cover Consumer Cellular’s phone plan affordability (plans start at just $15 per month). Check out our Consumer Cellular review for an in-depth look at plans and pricing.

From the Experts: Head over to our cheapest cell phones for seniors list, and check out our top wallet-friendly picks to find the right cell phone for your budget.

Capitalize on Senior Discounts

Don’t forget to take advantage of your AARP membership perks! AT&T and Consumer Cellular have partnered with AARP to offer senior discounts on cell phone plans, accessories, and upgrades. Considering AT&T? Before you lock in, learn more about the AT&T Unlimited 55+ plan pricing and value.

Money-Saving Tip: From retail and grocery to travel and leisure, there are plenty of discounts to be had. Our complete list of senior discounts details over 100 deals to claim.

Tap Into Veteran Cell Phone Discounts

Veterans who don’t qualify for federal phone programs such as Lifeline or Assurance Wireless have other cost-saving options to make the most of. Many cell phone providers, including Verizon, T-Mobile, and AT&T, offer special discounts to military and veteran families.

Did You Know: Monetary and medical benefits may be available to qualifying veterans, surviving spouses, and dependents.

Check for Phone Plan Deals

Pair your no-cost or low-cost cell phone with an affordable phone plan. From time to time, providers offer free lines, waived fees, and monthly freebies. For example, Mint Mobile is the cheapest prepaid mobile carrier we’ve tested, and their new customer offer lets you try them out for three months at their lowest possible price (plans start at $15 per month). And if your carrier isn’t offering any current deals, don’t be afraid to ask!

From the Pros: There are plenty of economical phone plans to choose from. Check out our list of the best cell phone plans for seniors to find out which cell phone providers dominated the competition.

Frequently Asked Questions About Free Phones for Seniors

Written By

Maureen Stanley

Writer & Editor

Maureen joined with more than 10 years of experience writing in health, lifestyle, and nutrition for premium brands like General Mills, Westinghouse, and Bristol Myers Squibb. Her passion for empowering older adults is evident in coverage of topics like retirement, health… Learn More About Maureen Stanley