8 Places to Get a Free Cell Phone (and Service)

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Sometimes, you just need a phone that works. Here are some ways to get a cheap or free cell phone and cell phone service.

It’s amazing how much your cell phone can become part of your daily life.

I know that I’m a heavy phone user, but even I was surprised to find that I typically use my phone for an average of five and a half hours a day. That’s almost like having a full-time job of looking at a phone.

Even if you don’t use your phone for hours a day, they’ve become essential tools for modern life.

Cell phones are powerful tools, but they don’t come cheap. The latest smartphones can cost $1,000 or more. On top of that, there’s the expensive monthly bill, which can run into the hundreds of dollars for a family.

Not everyone has that much money to spend, and not everyone needs the latest gadget. Sometimes, you just need a phone that works. Here are some ways to get a free or cheap cell phone and cell phone service.

8 Places to Get a Free Cell Phone

While you won’t be able to get the latest iPhone for free, if you need some help getting access to a cell phone, these services can help.

1. Lifeline Support

Lifeline Support is a government-funded program that helps to reduce the cost of cell phones for people who qualify. If you qualify, you’ll receive a subsidy of at least $9.25 each month toward your cell phone bill and a free Android smartphone to use.

You can qualify for this program by meeting any of the following requirements:

  • Earn less than 135% of the federal poverty amount each year. For residents of the 48 contiguous states, that amount is $16,862 for a household of one person.
  • Participate in one of the following programs:
    • SNAP (formerly known as food stamps)
    • Medicaid
    • Supplemental Security Income
    • Federal Public Housing Assistance
    • Veterans Pension and Survivors Benefit
    • Tribal Programs (for residents of federally-recognized Tribal lands)

Only one person per household can receive the subsidy, even if there are multiple qualifying persons.

If you have a phone plan that is less than $9.25, the subsidy will cover the full cost.

2. Assurance Wireless

Assurance Wireless is part of the Lifeline Assistance program, and you can use this plan if you qualify for Lifeline Assistance. This plan will get you unlimited talk and text, as well as 2GB of data each month, free of charge. Customers who use Assurance Wireless can also get a free Android phone.

Assurance Wireless offers free Android phones and free cell phone service to those who qualify for the Lifeline program

If you want to add additional data to your plan, you can sign up for a monthly plan or pay for the data as you use it.

Monthly Data Plans:

$15 2.5 GB
$20 3 GB
$30 6 GB
$40 12 GB
Pay As You Go:

$1 100 MB
$3 500 MB
$5 1 GB
$10 2 GB
$20 4 GB
$30 5 GB

3. SafeLink Wireless

SafeLink Wireless is another provider that partners with the Lifeline Assistance program. You can bring your own phone to use with the service or get a free Android device when you sign up.

If you qualify for Lifeline Assistance, you qualify for free service from SafeLink. The plans available will vary with your location.

For example, in Massachusetts, the voice-focused plan offers 1,000 minutes and 1 GB of data each month. The data-focused plan offers 350 talking minutes and 2 GB of data. However, in California you get unlimited voice and 3 GB of data. If you use your own phone you get 4 GB of data.

If you bring your own phone to connect rather than getting one from the program, you get a bonus of 500 MB of data each month

4. Craigslist

If you don’t qualify for a free Lifeline cell phone or prefer to use another option, there are plenty of other choices available. Although you probably won’t get the latest phone model, you can probably find something that works.

Start by looking at your local Craigslist to see if anyone is holding a yard sale or specifically looking to get rid of an old phone. Often, people on Craigslist will want you to pay for the phone, but you can always ask if they’d be willing to let the phone go for free. They may be willing to give it to you, especially if the phone is damaged or not working. This gives you the chance to get a free phone and to learn some basic phone repair strategies.

When you make a purchase online, make sure you follow basic internet safety rules when you’re going to meet with the seller.

Related: 13 Sites Like Craigslist to Buy and Sell Used Items

5. OfferUp

OfferUp is an online marketplace that works a lot like Craigslist. Most people who post things on the site are expecting payment, but some people will post things they’re giving away.

OfferUp cell phone section

You can always negotiate with people to see if they’re willing to give the phone away for free, which can work if the phone has been available for a while with no takers.

6. NextDoor

NextDoor is a social network that connects people who live in the same neighborhood, helping them connect, barter, trade, and learn about local events.

As with other online communities, people will post things they’re trying to sell or give away. Keep an eye out for people who are trying to get rid of an old cell phone and you might get lucky.

7. Facebook Marketplace

Facebook Marketplace is Facebook’s place to sell or trade items. You can view posts from your friends and from people who live in your area. If you see a phone up for grabs, reach out to the poster to see if you can pick it up for free.

8. Buy Nothing Groups

A Buy Nothing Group is a local community that is built around the idea of freely sharing the things and skills that you have with your neighbors. The idea is that rather than bartering or trading, people will offer the things they don’t need to others. In return, people who need things can get them without having to spend money.

This is a great place to look for a free phone. It might be older or have some cracks in the screen, but it’s still a viable option if you need a phone.

Related: How to Get Free Stuff Online

Places That Offer Free Phones When You Switch or Add a Line

If you need a new phone, many carriers offer a brand new phone when you sign a contract with them. These won’t be the newest models, but they’ll be sufficient for most things.


Sprint offers customers the chance to get a free phone if you lease one, making it a good deal for couples who want to get on the same phone plan. If you sign up for Sprint Flex and lease an LG V30+ for 18 months, Sprint will give you a second LG V30+ free of charge.


When you switch to Verizon or add a new line with a 24-month contract, Verizon will give you your choice of an Alcatel AVALON V, Samsung Galaxy A10e, or Motorola Moto E6 for free.

Get your next phone free with Verizon when you switch services or add a new line


T-Mobile will give you a free REVVLRY, Samsung Galaxy A10, or Moto G Power when you commit to a T-Mobile plan for 24 months. If you already have a phone, you can trade it in for a discount on a new iPhone or Android.


AT&T also offers a buy one get one free deal on select smartphones, including the iPhone 10 and Samsung Galaxy Note10. To be eligible you have to commit to a 24-, 30-, or 36-month plan.

Where to Get Cheap (or Free) Cell Phone Service

Many cell phone providers offer a cheap monthly plan that gives you the service that you need.


FreedomPop is a free phone service provider that anyone can use. You don’t have to meet any eligibility requirements to sign up. All you need is a cell phone, though you can purchase one at a discount from FreedomPop.

The free plan offered by the company comes with 200 minutes of voice, 500 texts, and 500 MB of data. If you want to upgrade to unlimited talk and text, you can pay $11 a month. To get unlimited talk and text plus 1 GB of data, the cost is $20 a month.

Republic Wireless

Republic Wireless offers unlimited talk and text for just $15 and data at a rate of $5 per GB. You can change your plan at any time, but you’ll be billed for the full plan even if you don’t use all the data.

Google Fi

Google Fi offers two plans: Flexible and Unlimited.

The Flexible plan charges $20 for unlimited talk and text and $1 per 100 MB that you use. You don’t have to guess at your usage and choose a data amount; you’re only charged for what you use. If you use more than 6 GB in a month, your bill will be capped at $80, even if you use more data.

The Unlimited plan charges $45 – $70 per person, per month for unlimited talk, text, and data. It also comes with 100 GB of cloud storage for each member.


Ting charges a base rate of $6 per line per month. You can then choose the number of minutes, texts, and MB of data to add to the plan letting you customize your plan, and its price, to your usage patterns.


TracFone offers unlimited talk and text plus 1 GB of data for $20 per month. You can add up to 2 GB of extra data for $5 per GB. Any unused data will roll over from month to month.


T-Mobile’s essentials plan offers unlimited talk, text, and data for $60, but you can save a huge amount by putting multiple people on your contract. For example, if there are four people on your contract, you’ll save $30 per person, making this a great deal, especially for heavy data users.


CellNUVO is a phone provider that lets you play games and accomplish tasks to earn points. You can then use those points to pay your monthly bill. If you’re able to earn enough points, you can cover your entire bill, including the purchase cost for your phone.

That means you can get a new phone and phone service free of charge.

To get started you have to download the CellNUVO app. Once you’ve downloaded the app, you can watch advertisements and complete offers, such as downloading specific apps, to earn points. Points can be redeemed for talk time, texts, data, or as a credit on the monthly payment for purchasing your phone.

Earning points can be time-consuming, so you’ll want to make sure you only use your phone when you need it. That can help you conserve points, which is important because it’s often time-consuming to work to earn enough points to obtain a free phone. You want to make sure you’re using your time wisely and reaping the benefits, and it’s often difficult to balance the two.

Related: 13 Companies That Pay You for Your Data

You Don’t Have to Spend Hundreds on a New Phone

Cell phones are expensive, but they’re an essential part of daily life. Even if you don’t plan to use yours for anything but phone calls or texts, having one can offer some peace of mind.

Taking advantage of an opportunity to get a free phone means you can get an essential tool without paying a premium price.

TJ Porter

TJ Porter has in-depth experience in reviewing financial products such as savings accounts, credit cards, and brokerages, writing how-tos, and answering financial questions. He has also contributed to publications and companies such as My Bank Tracker, CardCruncher, and Echo Fox. He aims to provide actionable advice that can help readers better their financial lives. In his spare time, TJ enjoys thinking up new ways to optimize my own finances, in addition to cooking, reading, playing games (of the board and video variety), soccer, ultimate frisbee, and hockey.

Paul Donne
Paul Donne

Hello, just an FYI for you guys: Hello Mobile is an excellent low-cost cell phone service. I’ve been with them for several months and have no complaints. All their plan prices include taxes and fees and they give you a free SIM card with free shipping. I can’t say anything bad about them.

Pamela K D'Olympio
Pamela K D'Olympio

Hi Paul! How much do you pay per month if you don’t mind me asking? I’m afraid your low-cost and my low-cost may be somewhat different. Thanks!


Great article and great advice! Thank you.

Amber Cagle
Amber Cagle

I currently have the sim card and service provided by Q link it is a godsend as I haven’t been able to work since Covid hit. The service is a little shoddy even though I’m in the middle of Salt Lake City. It is FREE and I love that I got to keep my phone.

Chandra-Mae Medley
Chandra-Mae Medley

I just wanted to say that I too have been blessed with Q Link Wireless here on the island of Maui in beautiful Hawaii. I was previously paying Straight Talk $45/mo until I became unemployed and couldn’t afford it (till a friend told me about Q Link). I am receiving assistance and on a fixed monthly income with not many finances available for necessities after my rent is paid.


Lifeline wireless services now offer unlimited talk and text and data (plus hotspots). It depends on the state you live in. I have used SafeLink for a long time because Tracfone owns it (you can choose Verizon service, T-Mobile, or AT&T). They unlock their phones after 1 year of use, by request. There’s also word of a broadband discount coming to help with our home internet. SafeLink also gives a one-time replacement phone if you lost yours, and replaces any of theirs if it’s within a year warranty period.


I have been approved for the unlimited talk, text, and data through Lifeline since 2020 and have service through SafeLink. I have an approved EBB # and still, they shut me off like clockwork after 250 minutes. And when I call the worst customer service on the planet located in another country, they say the only way I can get my service turned back on is to buy a TracFone card. With money that I don’t have, of course. They have been doing this to me for over a year. So the government pays them for my service and they proceed to cut it off and make me pay out of pocket after the arbitrary 250-minute limit. It’s October 2021 and it still happening. If I refuse to buy minutes and data, they cancel my service and say I need to be re-certified. It’s the biggest headache and Safelink is always looking to shift the blame (where no one is held accountable for their shady business practices).

Curtis Friend
Curtis Friend

They did the exact same thing to me and this last time I finally got tired of the runaround and got ahold of Assurance Wireless and they sent me a brand new Wiko Life 3 phone. It’s unlimited talk and data (and 10 GB hotspot data each month). I could be wrong on that but you should definitely try them out if you are tired of the SafeLink runaround game.

Shelly Cigainero
Shelly Cigainero

My phone from Assurance is broken right now and I can’t seem to get a hold of anybody to get a replacement phone. Do you happen to remember how you were able to get in touch with Assurance to get your replacement phone?


I’ve used Assurance Wireless for about 9 months now and received 2 brand new Moto G Pure 2021 phones about 2 weeks after applying.

I lost 1 and the 2nd seemed to have glitches so I called their customer service, told them the issues, and specifically said: “I have done all troubleshooting steps and it’s within warranty, may I have a replacement?”

About 6 days later another new Android was delivered for free and they have never required returns, although technically they should. I kept it as a backup and they have never once mentioned it. Great service and customer service as well!


Thanks for your formation. It certainly cut short my search for a new cellphone service. Lifeline wireless is my choice. Thanks again!


Visible is a great option as well. It is owned by Verizon and they use Verizon towers. They charge around $45 (taxes and fees included) for unlimited everything, but what’s even cooler is that they have this thing called PartyPlan where you can join these groups of other Visible customers and get your total monthly bill lowered to an affordable $25/month. They also offer money, or a deal of some sort, if you choose to bring your own phone/device to their network. They have some of the best prices around on a wide variety of new smartphones, most of which come with additional deals like rebates that lower the total cost of certain devices. 😄

Oscar Valadez
Oscar Valadez

I’m a veteran and have cancer. I broke my phone and have received a SIM kit from QLink for free service but don’t have a phone. Is there anyone that will help me get a free phone cause I don’t have the funds to pay?

Lori Bernard-Pease
Lori Bernard-Pease

Lifeline in California is pretty good! I’ve been with them for over a year now. You get unlimited calling, texting, unlimited data for free. I was using my own phone and this year out of the blue they sent me a new cell phone. Cloud Stratus (which T-Mobile makes). Not bad for free. The phone sticks a little sometimes but that could be how loaded down I’ve got it.


I’m so happy to hear others talk bad about SafeLink customer service. They are the worst! I’m in the beginning stages of trying to contact them and I’m already going to give up and go somewhere else. I have done this before with them and they are not worth my time! Thanks for letting me vent!

Brandon Dawson
Brandon Dawson

Been trying for several months to get government assistance on a phone but haven’t had any luck.


Access Wireless offers a free smartphone with free Talk, Text, and data. The application process is easy and the phone arrives within 7-10 days.

Jeff Collins
Jeff Collins

TextNow is offering their SIM card for $0.99. I was getting tired of sending T-Mobile $73/month for my $40/month +55 phone plan.

You can use TextNow for unlimited phone calls and text messages for free if you don’t mind ads after texts. It is free forever. If bothered by ads, pay $1.99/month for just one ad at bottom of the display or $9.99/month for no ads. If you want 2GB data for internet, $16/month or 3GB data and no ads for $20/month.

I am home most of the time and my phone connects to WiFi for data. If I go to the store, I start to use my 3GB of data. Lowering the bill from $73 to $20 means I can afford gas and Taco Bell now. Lol. Worst case, I could get ads on my phone and still keep my phone number.

I can connect to WiFi with my tablet or laptop and log into TextNow and make and receive phone calls and text messages.

Martine Donnay
Martine Donnay

Hello and good afternoon!

Currently, I am a T-Mobile customer. I would like to transfer my number to Verizon. Is that doable?

Yes! As long as you remain in the same geographic area you can generally keep your number even if you switch carriers.


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