Access Wireless Vs Safelink: Which Is The Best Free Government Cell Phone Service?

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A couple of days ago, we compared Access Wireless vs Assurance Wireless to see who would give you a better lifeline program. In this post, we’re going to continue on the topic but when comparing Access vs Safelink. So, you can continue reading if you’re still looking for a carrier with better free rate plans and coverage.

Well, of course, the service doesn’t have to be necessarily for yourself, but also a friend who you might know needs a phone. The Covid-19, which is still a pandemic, has caused hardship everywhere, and for almost everyone. Hence, the reason the government even brought the Emergency Broadband Benefit (EBB) to give a hand to those of us struggling to work or study from home.

Even so, our question still remains, which will give you a better experience between Access Wireless and Safelink?

Access Wireless vs Safelink: a Quick Summary on the Free Wireless Phone Providers

FactsAccess WirelessSafelink Wireless
Parent CompanyI-WirelessTracFone
Carrier NetworkT-Mobile (previously Sprint)T-Mobile/ Verizon/ AT&T  
Free Voice MinutesAt least 250 minutes [all states except California]At least 350 Minutes [all states except California]
Free Text MessagesUnlimitedUnlimited
Free Browsing DataUp to 3GB of dataUp to 4.5GB of data
California Rate PlansFree smartphone Unlimited talk time Unlimited texts Up to 3GB of dataFree Smartphone Unlimited minutes Unlimited texts Up to 6GB of data
Extra Data PackagesYES [as low as $1 to $50]YES [as low as $10 to $39]
Monthly Paid PlansYESYES
Customer Care1-866-594-36441-800-378-1684

Access Wireless

Access Wireless is one of the various providers you can consider if you’re looking for a free cell phone service. It’s a brand of i-Wireless, a mobile virtual network operator (or MVNO) that targets low-end consumers with affordable prepaid plans.

Access Wireless is also an MVNO since it doesn’t have a network infrastructure of its own. It has been running on Sprint’s CDMA network until the recent merger with T-Mobile, which has caused a slight transitioning. According to the company, all the users of the lifeline program were to switch to a device that’s compatible with the GSM-LTE network by April 2021.

Fortunately, the Access Wireless online shop does have a variety to choose from, including the latest basic and smartphone devices. Even better, the company does have a shop now and pay anytime mobile phone financing, whereby you can get your desired handset at low monthly installments.

Safelink Wireless

Safelink is also a lifeline program- a seemingly great one if we might add. After the EBB launch, the company has been offering its users free cell phone service for life unlimited everything, plus 10 to 15GB of mobile hotspot data.

Many smartphone owners received the text message inviting them to the temporary benefit in early February. But, as usual, it didn’t work out for everyone, whereby some complained about delay and others ineligibility errors.

Regardless, Safelink is still one of the best when it comes to coverage. The default network (if you fail to choose when applying) is T-Mobile, but you could also get an AT&T or Verizon SIM card. It even supports BYOP (bring your own phone) policy, whereby you can join with your favorite unlocked cell phone, considering it’s compatible.

Access Wireless vs Safelink: Comparing the Features of the Phone Providers

Here are the five main similarities and differences between Safelink and Access Wireless.

  1. Eligibility

Technically, all lifeline programs have universal requirements for one to be eligible for their free cell phones. So, we can split the points here two ways with our Access Wireless and Safelink

As per the rule, you have to either show proof of a low household income, which should fall at or below 135% of federal poverty guidelines. Or else participate in either of the government-funded programs, not limited to Medicaid, Food Stamps, Supplementary Security Income, et cetera.

More on that, the rule provides you have to maintain either of these requirements to continue receiving the lifeline benefits. Hence, the reason the individual companies require you to apply after every twelve months.

Free Cell Phone Plans

Even though it’s free, the lifeline “business” is still very competitive, just like with prepaid providers. Each of the participating companies will try any means possible for you to join their program so they can have a higher take on the federal funds.

For instance, the regular allotments from Access Wireless usually include free 250 talk minutes, unlimited texts, and 3GB of data in most states. Then, the Californian government does chip in something so their underprivileged residents can get unlimited talk and text, plus 5GB of data.

Note, the temporary Emergency Broadband Benefit has seen the eligible applicants get unlimited talk and browsing data from Access Wireless. However, the data allowance will start with 25GB of high speeds, then lower speeds thereafter.

Safelink Could be Better, But…

Indeed, Safelink does have the bonus of the Emergency Broadband Benefit as well. As was mentioned, the provider brings you the unlimited everything plan, with free talk minutes, text messages, and browsing data.

Even so, the company has no mention of whether the data will have capped high speeds or not. But when you check your lifeline account, you’ll notice a high data count of up to 2TB. So, we can say they kind of offer unlimited high-speed data.

Nonetheless, the free plan upgrade is still temporary and Safelink will revert you to the standard allotment when COVID-19 is no longer a pandemic. In these regular plans, the provider gives most states between 350-1500 talk minutes, unlimited text, and 4.5GB of data. Then, the Californians receive unlimited talk minutes and texts, plus 6GB of data.

At this point, therefore, we could say that Safelink does have a much better free phone plan allowance than its counterpart. But then, the operator usually charges any call you make to customer care from your monthly minutes. So, you could end up finishing up all your minutes on the customer service if you happen to run into a lot of issues.

Add-on Cell Phone Plans

Technically, the federal EBB program has increased the free minutes and data allowance to unlimited. So, many users of the lifeline programs are finishing the month while still they can make calls and text.

Even then, the broadband program is only here for a short while as it’s expected to end with the COVID-19 pandemic or the allocated funds- whichever comes first. And once that happens, lifeline providers will go back to their usual operations.

If it’s our Access Wireless and Safelink here, you’ll now have the 250 or 350 minutes, which, to be fair, is less. So, you might end up using up all your allowance before the month even ends.

Regardless, the two companies do offer additional plan packages if you won’t be able to wait until the next month. They offer both the fixed and unlimited allowances as shown here:

Access Wireless

  • 1GB of data (only) @ $5
  • 2GB of data (only) @ $10
  • 4GB of data (only) @ $20
  • 5GB of data (only) @ $30
  • 250 talk minutes (only) @ $5
  • 500 talk minutes + 500MB data @ $10
  • 500 talk minutes + 1GB data @ $25
  • Unlimited talk minutes + 2.5GB @ $35
  • Unlimited talk minutes + 4GB data @ $50

Safelink Wireless

  • 500 talk minutes + 500MB data @ $10
  • 1000 talk minutes + 1GB of data @ $12
  • Unlimited talk minute + 2GB data @ $14
  • Unlimited talk minutes + 4GB data @ $20
  • Unlimited talk minutes + 14GB data @ $30
  • Unlimited talk minutes + 40GB data @ $39

As you can see, Access Wireless is more flexible and has add-on plans for everyone. However, Safelink is relatively more affordable for both fixed and unlimited allotments in case you even decided to upgrade your free plan.

Free Smartphone and BYOP Policy

Similar to other lifeline companies, Access Wireless and Safelink will give you a free cell phone at the time of joining. But the devices are all entry-level models, which, in most cases, are several years old. So, you may miss out on some of the latest technologies, including NFC for contactless payments and the latest 5G support.

Nonetheless, the two network operators do allow you to bring your phone to their network. You just need to make sure the device is compatible with their network and the Volte LTE technology. Also, you might need to have your phone carrier unlocked if it was a branded model.

Free Hotspot Data

Last but not least, both Access Wireless and Safelink do offer mobile hotspots with the ongoing EBB allowance. However, the former doesn’t have the extra data for the hotspot, in which case you’ll be using your monthly allotment.

Meanwhile, Safelink does have the extra allowance for mobile hotspots- perhaps, since they’re giving unlimited data. But the data for the feature (hotspot) varies with the state, whereby some will get 10GB and others 15GB.


The free mobile hotspot data allowance from the lifeline programs is with the ongoing offer on Emergency Broadband Benefit. It’s primarily targeted to the underprivileged individuals who would like to work or study with their computers at home but don’t have the cabled internet.

As such, when the EBB ends, the free hotspots will most likely end as well unless you upgrade to a paid plan.

Final thoughts

In truth, both Access Wireless and Safelink are good if you’re looking for free phone service to hang on now you’re out of work. They enable you to keep in touch with family, friends, and potential employers without having to worry about any phone bills.

Even so, Safelink is a much better choice both with and without the EBB benefits included. You not only get more data allowance, but also a separate mobile hotspot to share with your laptop and computer.

Also, the add-on and paid unlimited plans of the TracFone brand are a bit cheaper compared to Access Wireless. Then, they have a “truly” nationwide coverage since you can activate your line with Verizon, AT&T, or T-Mobile network.