Guide for 2024 Lifeline Eligibility (Cell Phone Benefit)

The Lifeline program is a government benefit program that provides free or discounted phone service to those who qualify. For example, you could be eligible for a free cell phone plan that includes unlimited talk and unlimited texting. Lifeline can also be used to get an discount on existing phone or internet plans.

Lifeline is different than other benefit programs because you get the benefit through a Lifeline provider—one of many private companies that offer mobile or internet service—even though it's the government checking your eligibility for the program. The Lifeline providers that you are able to choose from vary by state, and so the exact benefits you may receive may vary.

If you receive SNAP or Medicaid, you are eligible for Lifeline. About 7,500,000 people get Lifeline in the country. However, many more people are eligible but haven't applied—only 1 in 5 eligible people have applied for this benefit!

What do you get from Lifeline?

There are a few ways to get your benefit if you're eligible for Lifeline.

Free cell phone plans
The most common Lifeline benefit is a free cell phone plan. The legal requirement is that the plan has a minimum of 1000 free minutes per month and 4.5 GB of data per month. However, most plans also include free text messaging, and many may offer more minutes or data.

Some Lifeline providers also include a free smartphone when you enroll in their Lifeline plan. With other plans, you can keep your current phone if it is compatible.

Discounts for your existing phone or internet plan
If you already have a phone or internet plan, you might be able to get up to a $9.25 monthly credit on your plan. Unfortunately, many providers do not participate in the Lifeline program, so if that's the case your best option might be to research Lifeline providers in your area and see if it's worth switching to a new provider.

Verizon and AT&T offer Lifeline discounts in some states.

Each household is only eligible for one Lifeline benefit. To review offers in your area, you can use the Companies Near Me tool.

How can I be eligible for Lifeline?

You're eligible for Lifeline if you, someone in your household, or your child or dependent gets any of the following benefits:

  • SNAP / Food Stamps
  • Medicaid
  • Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
  • Federal Public Housing Assistance (FPHA)
  • Veterans Pension and Survivors Benefit

Most people qualify for Lifeline through Medicaid. You can also qualify for Lifeline based on your income, even if you don't receive any of the benefit programs listed above.

Lifeline monthly income limits

You can be eligible for Lifeline based on your income, even if you don't receive any government benefits. The limit is 135% of the Federal Poverty Level. The numbers below can be compared to your total monthly household income before taxes, including job, self-employment, and other income like social security, disability, child support, workers' compensation, unemployment, and pension income.

Even if your income is above the income level in the table below, you still may be eligible. In the majority of states, SNAP has higher income limits than Lifeline, and if you're able to get SNAP, you're automatically eligible for Lifeline.
Household Size 48 States + DC + Territories Alaska Hawaii
1 person $1,694 $2,117 $1,948
2 people $2,299 $2,873 $2,643
3 people $2,909 $3,620 $3,340
4 people $3,510 $4,388 $4,037
5 people $4,115 $5,146 $4,733
6 people $4,721 $5,902 $5,430
7 people $5,326 $6,660 $6,126
8 people $5,920 $7,416 $6,822
Each additional person + $605 + $757 + $697

What is the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP)?

The Affordable Connectivity Program is a government program that provided free/discounted internet service, very similar to how the Lifeline program gives free/discounted service primarily for phones. The ACP stopped accepting new applications in February 2024. Many of the Lifeline providers also previously offered ACP benefits.

Still looking for affordable internet service?
Even though ACP is no longer active, some providers offer internet plans specifically for clients who receive Lifeline, SNAP, WIC, or other government assistance programs.

Some options here include Access from AT&T, Verizon Forward, and Internet Essentials from Xfinity.

More Lifeline resources

Resource Website
Qualify and Apply for Lifeline
Do I Qualify? Quick Screener
Lifeline Providers Near Me Tool
Info About Enhanced Lifeline Benefits for Tribal Lands
Are you eligible for Lifeline? See if you qualify for Lifeline and submit an application using the Lifeline National Verifier