The cost of living in the United States inflated by an average of around 8% in the last year, and most of us are feeling it. From food to gas and everything in between, we’re all trying to save money where we can. Fortunately, we don’t have to break the bank on communication; with the right knowledge, we can get a free government iPhone.
Companies such as Apple, Samsung, and more are helping out, providing old, refurbished models to make calling and texting easier to afford. Some can even get a free iPhone 14. However, how do we take advantage of these programs? If you’re struggling to pay your phone bill, you’ll want to keep reading.
Free Government iPhone Programs
During the COVID-19 pandemic, our social services relied heavily on connectivity; schools and businesses transitioned from in-person to online. To help facilitate this massive shift, the federal government created multiple financial programs.
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) assigned these programs to the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC), a nonprofit organization that aims to help low-income residents afford internet and phone services.
As part of their agreement with the FCC, the USAC received nearly $10 billion to fund service and equipment discounts. A large sum goes toward the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP), which provides lower monthly bills for broadband (up to $30 lower a month).
Additionally, the USAC facilitates the Lifeline program, which connects you to a phone or internet company that helps you receive a free or heavily discounted smartphone. The providers vary by state, but the most accessible include:
- American Assistance
- Assurance Wireless
- Safelink Wireless
- Q Link Wireless
- Budget Mobile
- Access Wireless
Here’s how to find your nearest Lifeline provider.
Available Providers in Each State
To get your free government iPhone, you’ll first need to find a local service company participating in the Lifeline and ACP programs.
To do this, you need to visit the USAC website and use the Companies Near Me tool. After carefully reading the information and instructions on the page, follow these steps:
- Enter your zip code or city and state
- Select the Lifeline program
- Select the Mobile Service option
- Click ‘Search’
The tool takes you to another page with a list of service companies. Clicking on each company takes you to their eligibility page, where you can find their offers, qualifications, and applications. If your list has limited or no options, you can search your entire state at the bottom.
Be aware that to receive your free phone, you’ll have to switch your service provider. So if you’re already with a major company such as Verizon or AT&T, you’ll have to decide if it’s worth swapping.
How to Qualify for a Free iPhone 14
The Lifeline and ACP programs help low-income households afford internet and phone services. As such, only those who qualify can receive a free government iPhone. In order to sign up, you’ll need to meet requirements based on your income or based on your federal assistance program membership. Let’s take a look at these qualifications below.
NOTE: You only need to meet one of these requirements for eligibility.
Based on Your Income
If your annual income is 135% or less than the Federal Poverty Guidelines, you can apply for Lifeline. This number ranges around $20,000 (in the continental US) and increases by about $7,000 for each additional person. For a more accurate depiction, check out this USAC FPG chart.
Depending on the service provider you apply for, you’ll likely have to provide proof of income. Be prepared with something like your tax return or three consecutive pay stubs.
Based on the Use of Federal Assistance Programs
Additionally, you can apply for Lifeline if you or someone you live with participates in federal assistance programs. These include:
- Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
- Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
- Federal Public Housing Assistance
- Veterans Pension and Survivors Benefit
Similar to income-based eligibility, the service provider may ask for proof. In this case, you’ll need to show something like an official document or membership ID.
How to Apply
After you determine if you qualify for Lifeline, you can apply with a participating carrier. Take time to compare the plans of each company, as some don’t offer free government iPhones.
The enrollment process may look slightly different for each carrier, but they’ll essentially ask for the same information. You can expect to provide your:
- Personal information
- Contact information
- Plan of choice
- Eligibility information (refer to the previous section)
Following your application, a company representative will contact you to finalize your service. Then, you’ll have an opportunity to choose a free smartphone. As we noted, some companies even offer iPhone 14s.
Available iPhone Models
It is possible to find a service provider that offers a free iPhone 14 from the government. However, you’re more likely to receive a much older model. That’s because the phones are refurbished and therefore more affordable to give away. Most likely, you’ll have a choice between:
- iPhone 6/ iPhone 6 Plus
- iPhone 7/ iPhone 7 Plus
- iPhone 8/ iPhone 8 Plus
While these phones aren’t the current model, they’re still great for talk and text. Plus each one comes with an unlimited plan along with data at an unbeatable monthly rate. This is what makes the ACP and Lifeline programs so great for low-income families.
If you’re not an Apple fan, you can also receive a free government phone from other great brands. Companies such as Samsung, LG, and Motorola also participate in federal assistance programs. Work with your provider to determine their available options.
Other Ways to Get a Free iPhone 14
The USAC offers incredible programs to help low-income families afford broadband and equipment. However, if you don’t qualify for Lifeline, you can’t receive a free government iPhone this way. Fortunately, there are other methods for getting the iPhone 14 and similar models for little or no money.
The best way to receive a free phone is through trade-in programs with major service providers. Companies like Verizon, T-Mobile, and AT&T will offer you a heavily discounted price on a new model if you exchange your current device. In some cases, you can even cut the entire cost. Check your trade-in offer for your service provider using the links above.
Depending on your employer or school, you may also qualify for a free smartphone as part of their benefits. If you’re in a position where you need reliable communication to complete your work or studies, you have leverage for a new device. Of course, this option is case-dependent, so talk with your company to see if this applies to you.
The image featured at the top of this post is ©Framesira/Shutterstock.com.