Free Cell Phones for Low-Income: in California (CA) Best Deals/Tips

Free Celll Phone Low-IncomePreviously the state of California did not allow the option of free cell phone service for Lifeline customers.  Lifeline low-income customers were only given the option of a reduced rate for wired landline telephone service. The program is designed to help low-income people to have access to communication services.

The California Public Utilities Commission approved two options of service funded through the Federal Communications Commission's Lifeline program from the Universal Services Fund. One company is completely free and the other costs $2.50 a month for 25o minutes and 250 text messages. Both programs give the qualified low-income user, a free phone.

These programs offer service for those who can not have a landline such as homeless, those living in temporary housing or nursing homes care.  Those who already have Lifeline discounts on a landline can opt to port their number to a cell phone but will lose the Lifeline discount on the landline. Low income is as low as $24,700 for household of 1-2 people or those who receive public assistance.

Assurance Wireless is now live in many parts of California, we checked Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco, Sonoma and Palm Dessert zip codes through the online qualifier. Assurance Wireless includes:

  • Free cell phone, 250 free text messages and 250 minutes of free monthly voice service to eligible customers.
  • The $5 Talk and Text Plan also offers a free cell phone plus 500 text messages and 500 voice minutes.
  • 1,000 total voice minutes and 1,000 text messages for $20 per month.

Assurance Wireless customers also have the option of obtaining 1,000 total voice minutes and 1,000 text messages for $20 per month.

To learn more about Assurance Wireless, including eligibility requirements, please call 1-800-395-2171 or visit  or download the application online.  This service is provided by Virgin Mobile as part of the Sprint network.

Once that form has been submitted with the necessary paperwork and approved, applicants will receive a free Assurance Wireless phone [usually within 7-10 days].

The phone comes with 250 free voice minutes and 250 free text messages available for 30 days while customers wait for federal Lifeline Assistance approval.

After customers activate their phone, they will receive an official Application Form for the federal Lifeline Assistance program from the state of California within 45 days along with proof of eligibility for the federal Lifeline program.

The other new program is from ReachOut for California Residents Only. Customer service is available in Spanish or English from ReachOut at  1 877 777-1914. The ReachOut  program offers:

  • A free camera phone, with the option to pay for an upgraded phone.
  • 25o minutes first minutes free for first month, shipped free.
  • 25o minutes and 25o text messages for $2.50 a month to co continue, minimum.
  • 500 minutes and 500 text messages for $5.00.
  • Buy more minutes at 3 cents a minute in $3.00 increments.
  • If you don't buy new minutes, you can keep the phone with the minutes.
  • You may need a credit card to pay for additional minutes.

Two methods of qualifying are program-based or income-based.

If you are applying for a  free Lifeline phone you will need to provide proof of the government assistance that you receive or proof of your household income and upload to the phone service operator.
If you do not have proof available to upload now you will not be eligible for instantly. Documentation includes, prior year tax returns, paycheck stubs, Social Security, unemployment, divorce decree or official documents. Low-income families of military personnel may also quality for free cell phones.

ReachOut Wireless cannot certify or verify your eligibility for Lifeline service without the submission of your Social Security Number.

Application Tips:

If you don't have computer, you can take your documents someplace like a library or Kinkos to scan them to upload your application.  You may have to photocopy your documents to mail with your application.

Assurance Wireless is currently available in 34 states including Alabama, Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Washington D.C., Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia and Wisconsin.

The are other free cell phones for low-income customers in other areas read our how-to article.