SafeLink Offers 100% Free Cell Phone Service – Do You Qualify?

by Chris Tecmire

Cell Phone

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

Food Stamps

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

Other Stipulations

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.

Cost Comparison

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.

Image: Michal Marcol /

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Lawrence Nugent June 28, 2012 at 2:30 pm

I am unable to log into my safelink account for purposes of verification. Also have received some unwanted spam messages which took some of my minutes away and prompted to enroll in programs which were likely scams.


Chris Tecmire June 28, 2012 at 5:26 pm

That’s unfortunate. I’ve received quite a few spam texts when I had a normal AT&T plan too – it’s frustrating. As far as your safelink account is concerned, I would assume you need to contact someone. I’m not familiar with their system.


Trina Tribisondi July 10, 2012 at 10:02 am

I am unable to rercieve my 250 each month I recieved the first amount of min then after that nada please help


Chris Tecmire July 10, 2012 at 12:47 pm

Here’s the website that has SafeLink’s contact information.
Make sure you give them a call and find out what happened. Unfortunately, I can’t help you any more than that because I’m not affiliated with them in any way. Good luck Trina!


Maria Ruiz June 26, 2013 at 5:15 am

Yo tenia un telephono y se dano, Que puedo hacer.


Fidel Lopez January 1, 2014 at 4:48 am

(1). I was wondering, when you receive your 250 minutes per month and you still have minutes left over, do you get to keep those minutes as rollover minutes. (2). Also how many text messages does this gov. Issued safelink phone provide monthly and how many minutes of your time is taken off for each text. (3). I believe i saw that this phone

provided 250 minutes of calls plus 1000 text
messages, is that monthly or yearly texts per
month. (4). How could i qualify for a internet ready phone if possible and how much would that cost. (5). If i have another phone with internet that have a chip, could i use the safelink chip and use the other phone? Sorry for many questions but really didnt get to much info except for charger inside box without instructions or other information. Ciuld you or someone that knows answers to my questions be so kind and inform me. I would really appreciate your welcomed answers. Need something with bigger keypad.


Esteban October 1, 2015 at 2:34 pm

Instead approach them to learn just what the type is. Ask them
exactly what their drawing.


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