5 Ways to Get Low-Cost & Free Cell Phones for SeniorsFree Stuff
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Are you a senior looking to save some cash?
Why not start with your phone bill with free cell phones for seniors?
Lucky for you, there are various ways to find free cell phones for seniors, as well as free cell phone service.
Or, if you don’t qualify for a free phone or service, you may be able use other strategies to lower your costs and get more bang for your buck.
Whether you’re shopping for yourself or a loved one, you don’t want to get stuck paying more than necessary.
Read on to learn how to get a free senior cell phone or lower your bill.
1. Government Lifeline Program
The Lifeline Program is a fantastic way for eligible seniors to get free mobile services and a free cell phone.
The federally funded Lifeline program provides participants with a free smartphone with free monthly service that includes 350 free minutes, unlimited text/picture messaging, plus 1GB data for Internet browsing, email, social media, etc.
Many individuals know about the Lifeline Program as the one that provides “free government phones.”
While the Lifeline program isn’t geared toward senior citizens, there are many seniors who could qualify, especially if they are on fixed incomes or already receiving certain government benefits.
You may qualify for a Lifeline phone if your income is at or below 135% of the federal Poverty Guidelines, or if you’re already participating in another government aid program such as one of the following:
- Food Stamps (SNAP or EBT)
- Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
- Federal Public Housing Assistance (Section 8)
- Veterans Pension Benefits
- Low Income
The list of public aid programs that make you eligible vary from state to state.
The Lifeline program is also available to individuals who live on tribal lands that are recognized by the federal government, or to those who participate in a tribal assistance program.
The Lifeline program, which has been around since the 1980s, aims to make telecommunication services available to all Americans in order to improve access to education, jobs, and other opportunities.
2. Mobile Virtual Network Operators (MVNOs)
MVNOs are wireless service carriers that typically rely on the networks of the major carriers (Sprint, AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon) to provide mobile services to their customers—usually at substantially lower costs.
Think of an MVNO as a reseller of mobile services.
MVNOs tend to be ideal for customers who don’t need the latest smartphones or the most extensive talk, text, and data plans.
One great example is a senior citizen who mainly uses his or her phone for emergencies and to occasionally connect with family and friends.
Here’s one MVNO that’s worth looking into…
This is how FreedomPop works: you purchase a mobile phone at a discounted rate from FreedomPop — or you can use your own device, if it qualifies — and then you get the cell phone service for free with no contracts.
The free basic monthly plan includes:
- 200 minutes talk time
- 500 texts
- 500MB of data (using FreedomPop’s nationwide 4G LTE network)
The provider also offers plenty of other low-cost options for those who want more time and data, as well as opportunities to earn free data, such as through referrals.
To sweeten the deal, FreedomPop is currently providing a special offer for seniors (customers ages 55 and up).
When you purchase one of their phones, they give you a free month of their premium plan, which includes unlimited talk and text, as well as 2GB of data.
They’re also offering senior citizens the chance to purchase the Alcatel Conquest LTE (valued at $199.99) for just $29.99.
According to TechCrunch, FreedomPop states that 90% of the data mobile users consume is over Wi-Fi, so a limited plan is all that is really needed to bridge the gap of time spent off Wi-Fi.
The provider also says on its website that people who drop their service with “expensive smartphone giants” are able to save about $1,400 a year.
FreedomPop sells a variety of mobile phone and tablet brands, including Apple, Samsung, Nexus, and Motorola.
Many of the devices are used and refurbished, which allows for markdowns of up to 50% off — adding even more to your savings.
If you already have a device you would like to use, you can check with the provider to see if it qualifies for use with your plan.
FreedomPop isn’t the only MVNO out there. Here are just a few other carriers that consumers turn to for lower-cost, no-contract plans:
- Republic Wireless
- Virgin Mobile
- Credo Mobile
- Boost Mobile
Some of the benefits of MVNOs are you usually don’t have to enter into a contract, and you can use mobile services from one of the big-name networks at a considerable savings.
On the other hand, the downside is you will have to keep close track of your talk, text, and data usage, unless you opt for an unlimited cell phone plan.
Also, because you’re working with a virtual provider, you won’t be able to walk into a local retail store when you need assistance.
Depending on your situation, the pros of switching to an MVNO may outweigh the cons. Learn more about MVNOs in this PCWorld article.
3. Phone Plans Designed for Seniors
Some wireless service carriers have cell phone plans specifically designed for seniors who use their phones more sparingly than younger generations.
Here are a few examples of plans available at the time this article went live:
- T-Mobile’s Unlimited 55+ Plan
2 lines with unlimited text, talk, and LTE data for $70 a month
- AT&T’s Senior Nation Plan
200 anytime minutes, 500 night and weekend minutes, and unlimited mobile-to-mobile minutes for $29.99 a month (for basic phones only; available for customers 65+)
Plans starting at 200 minutes for $14.99 a month, along with affordable text and data add-ons (plans and phones geared toward seniors)
When shopping around for mobile services, make sure to ask about any cell phone deals for seniors.
You may be able to choose a plan that better meets your needs while getting a great price!
4. Switching Service Providers
Many wireless service providers will offer you a free phone or free services (such as data) for switching to their company from another carrier.
Here are a few examples of deals that were available at the time of this post:
Free phone from Cricket
Free unlimited data a year from Sprint
To qualify for deals like these, customers typically have to sign up for a minimum amount of monthly or prepaid services.
Wireless service carriers change their offers on an ongoing basis, so it’s important to do your research and see what’s available.
5. Call & Texting Apps
There are numerous free apps you can use to make calls and send texts for free, using your data plan or Wi-Fi connection. A few examples include Skype, Viber, Google Hangouts, Facebook Messenger, and WhatsApp.
These apps allow for both voice and video calls.
The downside is you can usually only call and message other users of the app when you have the free version.
On the plus side, some apps, such as Skype, allow you to pay for a unique phone number, which you can use to and call standard phone numbers and even receive calls.
Another benefit is that you can use Skype to make affordable international calls.
If you’re a bit more technologically savvy, call and text apps may be a good way to avoid using up your minutes, which helps you keep your costs down.
Higher Competition & Better Opportunities to Save
In 2014, a report from a UK regulator found that Americans were spending more for mobile services than users in 17 other countries, with the average mobile customer in the U.S. paying about $47 a month per connection.
However, since then, increased competition in the U.S. cell phone market has forced providers to boost their offerings and lower their prices.
Data from the U.S. Labor Department shows the consumer price index for wireless phone service dropped 12.5% year-over-year in 2017, according to an article by Fox News.
While increased competition has resulted in better deals from major wireless service providers, consumers still aren’t settling and are instead searching for the mobile plans that deliver the best value. Be sure to shop around so you can maximize your savings!
More Seniors on Smartphones
While senior citizens have historically had lower rates of technology adoption compared to other generations, their usage has dramatically increased over the years, making them an important demographic for wireless service carriers.
According to Pew Research Center, about two-thirds (67%) of U.S. adults ages 65 and older use the Internet, and about 4 in 10 (42%) own a smartphone, with smartphone adoption among seniors nearly quadrupling in just 5 years.
As more seniors turn to their phones, carriers are taking notice and offering low-cost, limited-service plans that better cater to the older generation.
If you’re a senior who is looking for a low-cost or free cell phone or mobile service—or if you’re searching for these perks for a loved one—explore your options because there are plenty of them out there!
Want more money-saving tips? Check out our recent post on how to get free Internet.
Jessica is a freelance writer and former journalist, starting her career as a crime reporter for a local newspaper. She received her Bachelors in Creative Writing from the University of California, Riverside, and her Masters in Journalism from the University of Southern California. She brings deep, investigative research experience to her writing.