There are a number of pages on this site related to the Lifeline
program that answer virtually every question you could possibly
have. However, to make it even easier, I've compiled a list
frequently asked questions to help you quickly find the answers to
common questions. You'll find links throughout this Lifeline
FAQ to other
Lifeline related pages on this site!
1. Is Lifeline really a free phone service, or
will I get surprise charges?
Yes! Land-line and wireless phone bills all pay a small fee
the Federal Communication Commission to fund the Lifeline program,
which is administered by the Universal Service Administrative
Company. Thus, it's a government funded (not taxpayer)
and is in place to provide truly free service to income eligible
households. Check out the eligibility requirements at Lifeline
Phone Service Introduction
2. What if I run out of voice, texts, or data on
my free plan?
Almost every Lifeline provider offers the ability to
services. Each program has a different process, so
you'll need to check their website for details. For example,
allow you to directly purchase it through their site, while others have
you purchase topup cards from partner/sister programs.
also a universal Lifeline topup card called AirFair
that you can use if your provider is a partner.
3. I live with a friend; how can we both get a
The short answer is that you can't. It's one phone per
which is based on your address. The long answer is that
working on improving this experience so that two families living at the
same residence can apply. Your best bet is to contact your
desired provider(s) and inquire. I definitely recommend doing
this before you
apply to facilitate as smooth a process as possible.
4. When do my minutes/texts/data get applied?
The standard rule of thumb is that your monthly allocation of services
are applied on the same day that your service was activated each
month. The only time that can vary is if you activated
the 29th, 30th, or 31st.
5. What should I do if my monthly services
aren't refreshed for the new month?
First, make sure your phone is on. If it's already on, try
power cycling your
phone. If that doesn't work, and you're certain your monthly
has passed, you need to contact your provider.
6. What happens if I don't use my phone
It's my understanding that the official Lifeline rules require that you
make at least one call or send one text each month. If you
you run the risk that your service will be canceled. Be sure
to find out the policy of your provider to avoid any issues!
7. What's annual certification?
The Lifeline program requires that you re-certify your eligibility each
year. Your provider should send you information on the
re-certification process. However, I recommend taking
responsibility for remembering to do it. Put a note in your
at least a month in advance of your anniversary, and seek out how to
complete the process on your provider's website. Some will
you to complete this online, while others will require you to download
and mail in your paperwork.
8. Can I transfer my Lifeline service to a
different Lifeline provider?
No, you can't transfer service per se. You CAN, however,
re-apply with a
different provider. That new provider will take care of
your old service. You can also request that they transfer
phone number to the new service. The process of porting out a
number from one provider to another cancels the originating service, so
make sure you request the number transfer before your service is
9. If I transfer to a different Lifeline
provider, will I get another free phone?
Yes. You will be eligible for whatever phone and service
offer your new Lifeline provider has available.
10. Can I use my own phone, or am I stuck with
what they provide me?
Many Lifeline providers support BYOP (Bring Your Own Phone).
created a page that lists the major Lifeline providers and whether or
not they support BYOP. Check out Lifeline
11. If I didn't get a free smartphone; can I use
Some providers will allow you to use your own phone (see #10 above),
while others won't. Some will also allow you to purchase an
upgrade directly from their website. In addition, some
will allow you to activate phones from sister brands. For
example, you may be able to activate a TracFone smartphone on SafeLink,
12. Is data included in the Lifeline program?
As of December 2016, yes! Lifeline plans now include some
allocation of data.
13. Does Lifeline offer free mobile broadband?
Yes! As of December 2016, standalone mobile broadband is also
part of the Lifeline program. You can keep up to date as
providers start offering this service by visiting Free
Broadband Internet Access
14. I don't qualify for for Lifeline, can I
still get free service?
Yes! There are wireless providers that offer free phone
mobile broadband service. FreedomPop was the first to pioneer
both free phone service and free mobile broadband offers. You
check out all of your paid and free mobile broadband options by
15. What happens if I lose or damage my free
Many Lifeline providers will give you a replacement phone depending on
when you last receives a new phone. Some will only provide a
replacement once, while others will require that you purchase a
replacement. You'll need to check the policy of your
provider. Another option is to apply to a different Lifeline
provider to get a new phone as a new customer.
16. Do I need to return my phone if I fail to
re-certify or no longer qualify?
Generally speaking, no, they'll cancel your service, however, you can
keep the phone. You can even continue using the phone by
for service, just like you would pay for additional service if you run
out of your free allocation.
17. Can I make money with Lifeline?
Yes! You can signup to be a Lifeline agent, and make
commissions. You can find a full discussion at
Become A Lifeline Free Cell Phone Agent