Update 2016: ReachOut Wireless no longer offers free government phones
As a participant of the government’s LifeLine program, ReachOut Wireless offers both free phones and deeply discounted phone service for low-income individuals. In general, ReachOut Wireless offers free phones, but the free phone option is not available in all states. For those states in which they are unable to offer free phones, they offer discounted phone service through their Simple Plan program.
What ReachOut Offers
Under the free government phone program, you don’t have to pay a deposit, sign a contract or go through a credit check. As long as you qualify you to get a free phone along with free airtime minutes.
ReachOut Wireless has three monthly airtime minute plans of 50 minutes, 125 minutes and 250 minutes. The monthly airtime minutes for the 50 and 125-minute plan carry over to the next month if you don’t use them all; the 250-minute plan does not.
If you need more talk minutes that provided by the free plan, you can always purchase additional talk time. The price ranges from $3 for 20 minutes up to $52.95 for 1,000 minutes. You can buy the airtime online with a debit or credit card or you can go to a Money Gram, Emida or Western Union location and buy time there.
Qualifying for ReachOut Free Government Phones
Generally speaking, if you participate in any of the government assistance programs, there’s a good chance that you qualify for a free phone. Listed below are a few of the qualifying programs:
- Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
- Section 8 Federal Public Housing Assistance
- Temporary Assistance for Needy Families Program (TANF)
- National School Free Lunch Program
- Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP)
- Food Stamps
There may be additional qualifying programs that ensure your eligibility for a free phone. Remember, programs vary by state so if you’re not sure if you qualify, ReachOut at 1-877-870-9444 or visit their website.
ReachOut Wireless Free Phone States
This is where it gets a little fuzzy. Under the frequently asked questions on their website, they refer applicants to their coverage area map to see if ReachOut offers service in any particular area. The misleading aspect of the map is that although ReachOut offers service in a given area, the map doesn’t say whether the service is for the free phone option or the discounted option.
It seems the only way to determine if they offer free phones in your state is if you insert your zip code on the signup page. If they provide free phones in your state, you’ll be able to complete the application. If not, you’ll be given the opportunity to sign up for their discounted Simple Plan.
By testing a few zip codes I found that they offer free phones in Arkansas, Georgia, Kansas, Illinois, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, and West Virginia but not in Alabama, Alaska, California, Florida, Montana, Nevada, New York, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, or Wyoming.
Instead of inserting zip codes for all 50 states, I’ve sent a request to ReachOut Wireless asking them to provide me with a listing of the states in which they provide free service. When I get a response from them, I’ll post it here. In the meanwhile, if ReachOut Wireless isn’t available in your state, click on the By State link above. Maybe there’s another service you can use.
Re-certifying Your Service
ReachOut Wireless is required to randomly request applicants to re-certify after a year of service. This is not a requirement for all customers. If you are chosen to recertify, you have 30 days in which to re-certify (they provide detailed instructions on what you need to do to recertify).