Are You Eligible For The Cricket Lifeline Credit?!

Program DISCONTINUED in 2015 following acquisition of Cricket by AT&T

What is Cricket Lifeline Credit?  First of all it’s important to understand that Cricket Communications’ Lifeline assistance program is not a free cell phone service like TracFone’s SafeLink or Virgin Mobile’s Assurance Wireless programs.  There are some good reasons for this that are discussed below.  Basically, Cricket’s program provides eligible individuals with a credit on your monthly bill.

Although Cricket does have Monthly plans under the PAYGo brand, their core product looks and feels more like a no contract postpaid plan; they call it Cricket Wireless.  So what does this mean?  Essentially it means that although you must pay for a month of service in advance, you actually get an electronic bill, and any overage charges you may have in a particular month (ex. ring tones, wall papers, etc.) are actually added to your next month’s bill.  I know, kind of strange and certainly not the norm in the prepaid industry, and whether or not that's good is an entirely different topic!

The reason for this background is to help explain why it is that they’re calling this program a credit to your monthly bill; because you actually do have a monthly bill!  So the Cricket Lifeline Credit is available only on their core monthly, Cricket Wireless plan, and not on their PAYGo Monthly plans (mostly available in National Retail stores).  This is due to Lifeline regulations that dictate that eligible plans must have a fixed monthly cycle date.  While I expect that over time that requirement will change, at this point in time, it is what it is.

Who’s Eligible for the Cricket Lifeline Credit?

Eligibility varies by state.  Here's a list of some of the state programs that  may be eligible in participating states.  If one of these catch your eye, you'll want to check out the particular requirements in your state.  In the section below you'll find a list of states where they've rolled out this credit program.  Each link will take you over to the Cricket Communications website for that particular state where you can review the details, and decide whether oyou want to apply if you feel that you meet the requirements.


  • Medicaid/Medi-Cal
  • LIHEAP (Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program)
  • SSI (Supplemental Security Income)
  • Section 8 (Federal Public Housing Assistance)
  • SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program)
  • WIC (Women, Infants, and Children Program)
  • Healthy Families Category A
  • NSLP (National School Lunch Program)
  • TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families)
    • CalWORKs (California Work Opportunity and Responsibility to Kids)
    • StanWORKs (Stanislaus County Work Opportunity and Responsibility to Kids)
    • WTW (Welfare-to-Work)
    • GAIN (Greater Avenues for Independence)
  • Bureau of Indian Affairs General Assistance
  • Head Start Income Eligible (Tribal Only)
  • Tribal TANF
  • Food Stamps (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program)
  • MEAP (Maryland Energy Assistance Program)
  • National School Lunch (Free Lunch Program Only)
  • EUSP (Electric Universal Service Program)
  • TCA (Temporary Cash Assistance)
  • Public Assistance to Adults
  • TDAP (Temporary Disability Assistance Program)
  • MO HealthNet (Medicaid)
  • Free Lunch Program (National School Lunch Program)
  • CHIP (KidsCare)
  • OAP (Old Age Pension Benefits)
  • AND (Aid to the Needy Disabled)

There are also Income Based eligibility for certain states.  For example, the following are those for California:

  • One or Two Person Household: $24,000
  • Three Person Household: $28,200
  • Four Person Household: $34,000
  • More Than Four Person Household: $34,000, plus $5,800 for each additional household member

So how do I apply?

The key here is that you must already be a Cricket Wireless customer, meaning that you can’t apply to the program without first having a Cricket account.  Once you have an account, you can apply for the Cricket Lifeline Credit by visiting a Cricket Retail Store or a Premier Dealer.  The application is available in-store or can be downloaded online.  During the application process you need to provide documentation that proves you’re participating in one of the eligibility programs, as well as show a government issued photo ID.

When will I get my credit?

You should see the credit within 30-60 days after filing your application (assuming that you ultimately qualify).   So if you’re a brand new customer, you can expect to have to pay at least one month of service at the regularCricket MSGM8 price before you see the credit show up on your account in the second and subsequent months.  Note that you may be asked to validate that you’re still eligible for the Cricket Lifeline Credit each year.  This is particulary true lately given that the government is cracking down on customers fraudulently applying and yet still getting approved.  The requalification requirement is a governement mandate, and not a Cricket requirement per se.

What about Cricket Broadband?

Unfortunately Cricket’s Prepaid Wireless Internet service is not currently eligible for the Cricket Lifeline Credit program.  As noted above, only their core wireless program is included.  Why you might ask?  The Lifeline assistance program is a government subsidized program that is only for voice service.  At least at this point in time, it's not as easy to argue that mobile broadband is an essential tool compared to keeping in touch with loved ones, keeping safe, calling 911 for emergencies, etc.  That said, there's been a lot of talk amongst the industry and governement representatives that broadband will be included at some point.  However, as Cricket is no longer focussing on broadband, I doubt that they would do the work to include it in the Cricket Lifeline Credit program when it does get government approval.

So what’s the catch?

There really isn’t a catch at all!  So long as you’re eligible for the Cricket Lifeline Credit, it should be smooth sailing.  The only restriction is that you can only apply for one phone per household.  Also, unlike the other programs, you won’t get a free phone, though you do get to buy the phone of your choice, which has some major advantages.  In fact, people using other Lifeline programs have complained about the very poor quality free phone they receive, and spend a lot of energy trying to figure out how to get a more user friendly phone working on the free service.

Final Thoughts

The Cricket Lifeline Credit is a great deal for people who are eligible, however, for some reason, it just doesn’t seem as compelling as the other Free Cell Phone Services available.  This program lets you get a discount on a fixed monthly plan.  Even the least expensive plan will require that you pay money each month.  On the other hand, with Assurance Wireless and SafeLink, you get truly free service each month (including a phone), and if you need more minutes than what’s included, you can always add more money.  The point being that you don’t HAVE to spend any money each month if you don’t want to or can’t afford to.

Cricket Lifeline Credit

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