Are There Any Free or Low Cost Cell Phone Services for Senior Citizens?

The federal government, state programs and phone providers strive to make phone service affordable for low-income adults. Although there are no discount programs reserved exclusively for seniors relying on Social Security, low-income seniors receiving Supplemental Security Income benefits are eligible for discount programs. There are also service plans designed just for seniors.

Lifeline

The Federal Communications Commission established the Lifeline program to provide low-income households with discounts on landline or wireless phone service. As of 2015, the discount is $9.25 per month. States may offer additional or supplemental discounts to help lower phone bills. Lifeline is open to households with an income at or below 135 percent of the federal poverty level, but you're automatically eligible if you receive SSI. Enroll by contacting a Lifeline provider in your area.

Assurance Wireless

Assurance Wireless is a Lifeline Assistance program that provides low-income individuals with a free phone and free service through Virgin Mobile. If you're receiving the Lifeline discount on your wireless phone or landline, you can apply to switch your service to Assurance Wireless. If you receive SSI, you're automatically eligible. As of 2015, the service includes:

  • Unlimited text messages
  • 500 free minutes for the first four months
  • 250 free minutes after four months

You can apply online through the Assurance Wireless website or call 888-898-4888 for more information.

SafeLink Wireless

SafeLink Wireless offers free phones and phone service to low-income adults. Service includes:

  • Unlimited text messages
  • 500 free minutes for the first four months
  • 250 free minutes per month thereafter

Each state sets the specific eligibility guidelines, but participation in a federal or state public assistance program is generally required. For state-specific information, call 800-378-1684.

Link Up

The Link Up program is a state program that helps with the cost of establishing or installing phone service, either landlines or wireless. For example, in Oklahoma, the program pays up to half of installation costs, up to $30. To be eligible, your household income must be at or below 135 percent of the federal poverty level or you are receiving SSI. Contact your state's public service commission to find out if Link Up is available in your state. You can also contact a phone provider in your area to inquire about the program.

Senior Service Plans

Cell phone providers also offer affordable plans for seniors. The plans are created based on the general usage patterns of seniors; therefore they usually include basic features and limited minutes. For example, AT&T offers the Senior Nation 200 Plan, which provides 200 minutes, voice mail, call waiting, caller ID and long distance. The cost is around $30 per month. Contact phone providers directly to inquire about senior phone plans.