Introducing The Airfair Lifeline Reload Card!
Airfair Lifeline Reload was an exciting development in the Lifeline
cell phone service market that you'll want to know about if you
participate in this government sponsored program! Lifeline
free cell phone service to income eligible households so that people
who wouldn't otherwise be able to afford a wireless phone can get basic
service. These programs are not, however, operated by the
government directly. Wireless companies apply to become a
Lifeline provider, and, if approved, receive a government subsidy for
each customer they activate.
But You May Need More
There are now a LOT of wireless carriers participating in the program,
because although the service is free, and for low income families, it
is very profitable for wireless companies. They provide
qualifying customers with a certain number of free minutes and text
messages per month. Services don't generally carry forward,
meaning that if you don't use it, you lose it.
While most of the programs have evolved to the point where they provide
more than enough minutes and texts each month to support emergency
calls, keeping in touch with family, basic schedule coordination, job
searching, medical coordination and emergencies, etc., there is
definitely a need for customers to purchase
additional services. Overall, it can be less expensive to
purchase additional services for your free wireless phone account than
to pay for a landline or other wireless service.
As a result, Lifeline providers have offered add-on bundles or packages
that customers can purchase. However, they require that
pay via credit or debit card, which is not always feasible or
practical. The two largest Lifeline programs, Sprint's
Wireless (merged in 2016 with i-wireless' Access Wireless brand, and
TracFone's SafeLink, have had the advantage of nationwide
retail distribution of top-up cards that they've made compatible with
their Lifeline programs. In other words, you can use a Virgin
Mobile top-up card to pay for additional services on Assurance, and you
can use TracFone top-up cards for SafeLink. This makes it
extremely convenient for customers using those programs to buy
additional services for their Lifeline account.
Easy Reload Access!
There are, however, a lot of other Lifeline programs that can't easily
offer this type of in-store payment capability. Thus, in came
Ready Wireless, in partnership with the country's largest retail
transaction provider, inComm, with a universal top-up card designed
specifically to service Lifeline customers. This card
launched in 7-Eleven stores in support of Lifeline providers ReachOut
Wireless, dPi Mobile, StandUP Wireless, MTI, TerraCom Wireless,
YourTel, LifeTel, Telecom Service Bureau, Inc, Your Tel America, and
Affordable Phone Services. Of course, more retailers and
providers are continually being added.
Rather than each of these providers competing to get valuable shelf
space in retailers, not to mention the operational cost and complexity
of managing their own top-up programs, the Airfair Lifeline Reload Card
simplifies the entire process for everyone involved, and most
importantly, provides a consistent, and ultimately ubiquitous customer
experience/access. It makes sense that Assurance Wireless and
SafeLink are not participants given their massive distribution with
Virgin Mobile and TracFone, respectively. If Sprint
gets rid of its Virgin and Boost Mobile prepaid brands, I could see
them jumping on board with Airfair Lifeline Reload Cards, however,
that's not going to happen anytime soon.
It's also a much simplified branding experience for customers who know
they have a Lifeline phone. Just look for the Lifeline
top-up card and you're good-to-go! Overall, I think this is a
great idea that will benefit customers, particularly as the number of
retailers continues to expand.
Lifeline Wireless Phone Reload Card
Below you'll see the what the top-up card looks like, as well as the
available add-on options. Note that these plans may have
changed; I'm still looking for the updated cards, which has proved more
difficult than expected. Arguably, if you can afford
per month (or even $30/month), there are a plethora of prepaid wireless
carriers that offer more competitive plans compared to what you'll get
option. The real benefit here is that if you can't afford to
that much in a particular month, you can simply use your free Lifeline
services. Or if you're going out of town, or need a lot of
minutes only on occasion, this is a great way to simply add services
onto the phone you're already using only when you need it, or can
In terms of the universal top-up card, there's a lot of branding going
on; here are some notes to help untangle the potential confusion:
- Lifeline refers to ANY carrier that participates in the
government sponsored program. Each participating carrier has
their own name/brand for their Lifeline program. The
participating providers are listed on the front of the card.
- enTouch Wireless is Ready Mobile's own Lifeline
You'll see their logo on the front of the card where it displays the
participating carriers. You'll also see the logo on the back
the card. Personally, I think having it on the back of the card is
confusing; it really should just be on the front among the other
- Airfair Wireless is the brand that was created to represent
universal Lifeline top-up program. Arguably, it also
itself as another Lifeline provider. I say this, because if
buy one of the $30+ top-ups, you're really buying a full-on plan, which
then makes Airfair a wireless provider like any other prepaid
carrier. I suppose that's why they didn't just go with a more
straightforward brand/name like "Lifeline Universal Reload" or
something in that vein. In other words, Airfair top-up cards
be used to add services to participating Lifeline programs, or Airfair
is a Lifeline plan of its own if you're buying one of the larger cost
reloads. That said, you obviously need to qualify and get a
Lifeline program independently, so you can't just buy one of these
cards and use it as an independent plan.
A lot of Lifeline providers offer the ability to add on additional
services if you have the money to do so. Thus, I think the
Airfair program could have been simplified by offering a means
of adding money to your Lifeline account, and the Lifeline provider
would then be responsible for selling you their add-ons. That
said, for carriers that don't offer any add-on services, Airfair
enables their customers to purchase add-on services that they otherwise
wouldn't have access to. It's also arguably an easier method
simply having the services added immediately upon redeeming the card,
rather than having to essentially add cash, and subsequently select the
add-on you want from your Lifeline provider.
Overall, despite the potential branding and add-on confusion, bringing
top-up capability to mass retail for Lifeline customers is a fantastic
strategy for Ready Wireless and inComm, and is a extremely beneficial
for customers. No doubt the add-on services, and what's
will evolve over time. To find a location check out the AirFair
Wireless Store Locator
Learn more about Lifeline
Free Cell Phone Service
, and even explore Free
Wireless Broadband Options
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