There are plenty of so-called “deals” out there, but most of them are just clever sales tactics to sign you to a long-term contract or make sure you pay more in the long-run. Cell phones are a major expense these days, so how would it feel to get rid of your cell phone bill once-and-for-all? Pretty good, huh?
Believe it or not, there actually is a 100% free cell phone service out there. No contracts, no hidden fees. However, not everyone qualifies for it. It’s called SafeLink Wireless and you qualify based on your income.
SafeLink gives you a cell phone completely free and you receive up to 250 free minutes every month without a contract. You can purchase additional minutes if you choose. Minutes are purchased through TracFone, but another impressive benefit is that you get a deal on the minutes purchased as well. For example, if you purchase a 60 minute TracFone card you’ll actually receive 200 minutes for a SafeLink phone instead of the 60 minutes you paid for. According to their website, those 200 minutes would end up costing you $19.99, or 10 cents per minute.
To be absolutely sure whether you qualify, you’ll want to check out the official guidelines on the SafeLink website, but I’ll give you the qualifications that they listed for my particular zip code.
You Qualify IF:
You already participate in one of the following programs:
Federal Public Housing Assistance – Section 8
Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program
Supplemental Security Income
National School Lunch (free program only)
Temporary Assistance for Needy Families
Your total annual household income is at or below 150% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines. Here’s an explanation of what that means.
1 person in your household $16,335
2 people $22,065
3 people $27,795
4 people $33,525
5 people $39,255
6 people $44,985
For each additional person… Add $5,730
No one in your household can receive Lifeline Assistance through any other wireless carrier. The program only allows for one free cell phone per household.
You must have a valid U.S. address – no PO boxes.
If you are applying on the basis of income you must provide proof in the form of a W-2, last year’s tax return, four consecutive pay stubs, or a letter from your employer.
You must reverify your income each year. SafeLink sends you reminders about 8 months into your initial year of service and you can requalify online or by phone. They just need to make sure that you still qualify for their service.
What does the 250 minute plan include?
You receive 250 free minutes (you can add more if you run out)
A text message = 1 minute used
International calls are not included
Minutes do not carryover from month to month. The minutes automatically reset each month.
* I believe that the phone cards continue to rollover until they expire like usual.
A 450 minute plan from AT&T, Sprint, or Verizon will cost you $39.99 per month. Also, you’ll have to either have a long-term contract or pay for a phone yourself.
The SafeLink program will give you a free phone and 250 minutes free each month without a contract. If you were to buy 200 additional minutes to match the 450 minutes mentioned above it would only cost $19.99.
$19.99 is better than $39.99.
I have talked to customer service and researched the service as much as I can, but I can’t completely sign off on SafeLink because I don’t qualify and, therefore, can’t try it myself. If I recommend a product or service on Simple Family Finance I want to make sure that I’ve used it and liked it and I can’t in this case. However, it appears to be a good service for those who qualify. SafeLink Wireless is a provider of the U.S. Government’s Lifeline support program and there doesn’t appear to be a catch involved.
The cell phone carrier used will depend on which phone they send you, but will most likely be either AT&T or Verizon. You don’t get to pick your phone, but they don’t appear to be ancient relics either. If you live in a rural area like I do, you may want to mention which carriers’ service works best in your area, but the customer service folks that I spoke to said that they take that into account when they check your zip code.
I know 250 minutes isn’t a lot and we’re in the middle of the age of smart phones and data plans, but if you’re trying to pay off debt, struggling to pay your bills, or would just like to cut back your expenses it might be worth a shot. Again, you can add minutes if necessary.
Saving $20 – $50 per month is nothing to sneeze at. It just might be the jump start that you need to finally get your finances in order.
Check out the SafeLink Wireless website for more information.
After all, free is free. And free is good.