Affordable cell phone service seems like an oxymoron. After all, Americans pay more for wireless service than anyone else, averaging $47 per cell connection. When you factor in all the costs with smartphones, this number can snowball towards $140 and more per month.
If you don't use your phone regularly, there's no need to overpay for items like unlimited texts and large data plans. Instead, you can take advantage of free plans. It's important to note there are limitations with these plans, but if you are not a frequent phone user then they should align well with your needs.
Free Phone Service
Currently, there are two providers offering free cell plans. They are FreedomPop and Ring Plus. Here's a closer look at each provider and what their respective free plans entail.
- No contract plans, meaning no long-term commitments
- Free smartphone
- Nationwide 4G LTE coverage
- A plethora of online resources for support
- Lack of phone support
- No in-network WiFi hotspots
FreedomPop started with the vision of providing cellular access for all. To this end, it achieves this by offering nationwide 4G LTE coverage, a free smartphone, and a free plan. The free plan, called the Basic Plan, includes the following features:
- 200 minutes of voice talk
- 500 text messages
- 500MB of data allowance
What's beneficial about this FreedomPop plan is it provides a sampling of all cell phone services without a cost. It's perfect if you want to send the occasional text or chat on the phone sparingly. Pertaining to data, it doesn't offer much, but you can allow for an automatic top up to your account.
How this works is when you exceed your data allowance, you'll receive 1GB of data for $10. FreedomPop charges your credit or debit card on file once you exceed the 400MB. Of course, if you can want to keep your plan free, here are two ways to do this:
- Disable the automatic top up on your account
- Use your cell phone where they offer free WiFi hotspots like Starbucks or your local library
If you don't want to watch the meter when you text or call others, feel free to download the FreedomPop app. This app includes free calling to anyone in the United States.
You can also receive a free cell phone through FreedomPop. If you want one of the most popular offerings like the Apple iPhone, you can buy the older models like the 5S at a discounted rate.
Overall, FreedomPop offers a good range of discounted smartphones, a free cell plan, and nationwide service to make it a smart choice.
- Free cell phone plan
- The ability to bring your Sprint phone with you
- Free benefits such as access to radio stations, voice translations, and more
- Excellent support options via social forums
- Low data allowances
- You will pay overage charges if you exceed plan limits
Ring Plus is the other carrier who offers free cell phone service. It uses the Sprint mobile virtual network operator, which has been making healthy strides towards closing the gap in performance between it and its competitors in some markets. With Ring Plus' Truly Free plan, you receive the following:
- 125 minutes of talk
- 40 text messages
- 10MB of data allowance
As you can see from its offerings, it doesn't offer as much data allowance or text messaging as FreedomPop does with its free plan. At the same time, you do receive some unique features with Ring Plus.
To start, it doesn't require a credit card from you at the time of service. This is due to Ring Plus cutting off service once you reach certain thresholds, so there's no upcharge for added data because the option doesn't exist.
If you want flexibility monthly, you can choose its Pepper Plan. The Pepper Plan includes free options with customization. To illustrate, with the Pepper Plan you receive:
- 250 minutes of talk time
- 500 text messages
- 10MB of LTE data allowance
These features you receive for free. However, you also have the option of the automatic top-up feature. Due to this, you must have a credit card on file and have a minimum of $5.00 on your account balance. If you overuse any of your features, it will deduct from your current balance. If you don't, you won't have to pay.
A benefit to going with Ring Plus is you can bring your Sprint phone with you. This eliminates any added expenses reserved for buying a new device. If you do need a new device, Ring Plus has many options available from some of the top brands like Apple and Samsung.
RingPlus also provides an ample array of unique benefits. When you sign up for service, you have access to over 40 free radio stations, you can have voicemail transcripts sent to your email, and you can use the Ring Plus Cloud Translator to speak in over 29 languages.
Free Government Cell Phones
Another option, outside of these two providers, is to seek government assistance. The government has a program called LifeLine phone service, where you can have access to a free cell phone and service through a variety of providers such as T-Mobile, AT&T, and regional companies.
To qualify for these benefits, you must meet certain requirements such as:
- Your household income is at or below 135 percent of the federal poverty guidelines. You can use this chart to see if you qualify.
- Another way you can qualify is if someone in your household participates in programs such as Medicaid, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (Food Stamps), Veterans Pension, Tribal Programs, and Supplemental Security Income.
If you qualify, you receive one benefit per household. You can complete the program's household worksheet to see if you are eligible for more than one benefit.
Free Cell Phone Service Recap
Affordable cell phone service is available. You can choose to partner with providers such as Ring Plus or FreedomPop, who both offer free cell phone plans. Additionally, if money is really tight and you are on government programs, you could qualify for a free phone and reduced or free cell phone service through Lifeline. Overall, these providers and programs demonstrate there are lower cost opportunities where you won't have to overpay for the service you deserve. For more strategies to lower your cell phone costs, check out our tips to save money on your cell phone bill.
If you're looking for access to more data and perks from one of the major cell phone carriers but still want to work on a budget, check out our cheap cell phone plans.