Lifeline and ACP programs are the easiest ways to get a free phone service without paying anything. The kind of service you get depends on the provider you’ve chosen. But then, how do I transfer my government phone to another phone with supposedly better offerings?
Overall, it’s pretty easy to transfer a government phone to another phone service. How fast the process will be depends on the method you’re using, with some easier than others, as we shall see shortly.
There are two different forms of transferring a government phone to another phone:
- When changing devices, either when you replace a damaged/ lost one or upgrade to a more decent model.
- When changing phone providers– the new phone can be another government phone provider or a prepaid/ postpaid.
In this guide, I’m going to focus on the second option: transfer a government phone to another phone provider. The steps are about the same on all the government phones I’ve gone through so far.
When You May Want To Transfer Your Government Phone To Another Phone
The reason to transfer a government phone to another phone varies from one person to another. Some of these reasons include:
- Poor coverage/ network signal: the old phone no longer has a strong signal in your location, perhaps after relocating.
- Network incompatibility: your government phone is no longer compatible with your preferred network. A perfect example is SafeLink Wireless, which no longer works on AT&T or T-Mobile.
- Get more free talk minutes: Some of the Lifeline phone providers with free service from the government have better monthly allowances than others. For instance, the lowest talk allowance on the free Qlink phones is 1000 minutes, whereas Safelink can have 350 minutes in some states.
- You want more browsing data: similar to talk allowance, some providers of the free government phone will give you more browsing data than others. Like Safelink Wireless free phone has “truly” unlimited data (with up to 1.2TB high-speed data) on Lifeline + ACP combo plan.
- Need to use mobile hotspot function: Not all the free phones from the government have mobile hotspot to share your data with other internet-enabled devices. Qlink Wireless is an excellent example.
- Would like to redeem ACP device discount: another reason to transfer your government phone to another provider is to apply for a free tablet from the government. Some providers of government phones, like Safelink, don’t have tablet deals.
- Want to upgrade to a cheap no-contract phone: Prepaid no-contract service usually have a bit more reliable service than free government phones. The best part is that some are as cheap as $10 and even $5/ month.
- You no longer qualify for the free government phone: if you try to re-certify your free government phone and fail to qualify, your service usually gets canceled. Then, you’ll have to transfer to a prepaid/ postpaid service to keep in touch with your loved ones.
How Do I Transfer My Government Phone To Another Phone
As I mentioned earlier, the process to transfer a government phone to another phone is about the same with all providers. The difference you may notice is just one, which, on my end, I’ve noticed with only Qlink Wireless.
Fast forward, there are two main methods to approach it, including:
Method 1: Transfer Your Government Phone to Another Phone with the Current Number
The first method you can transfer your government phone to another phone is with your current number. It’s the most convenient approach as you get to keep your old contact list, who can still reach you with ease.
The four easy steps to transfer your government phone to another phone with your number are as follows:
Step 1: Pick and apply the Other Phone
Choose the new phone you wish to transfer your current government phone to and apply. If the new phone is still a government-funded service, you’ll have to fill out an enrollment form as you previously did. Then, you MUST also qualify for the new government phone- either with a low income or participation in a government-funded assistance benefit.
If the new phone is a no-contract prepaid service, you’ll need a debit/ credit card at purchase. Prepaid phones are usually pre-paid at the beginning of every monthly cycle to sway from having to check your credit history.
On the other hand, when your new phone is a postpaid service, the payment is usually at the end of every monthly cycle. But unlike prepaid, here you must prove to be creditworthy- have a favorable credit history.
Step 2: Get Details of your Old Government Phone
Once you’ve ordered your new phone service in Step 1, wait for it to arrive. It usually takes 1 – 3 business days for prepaid/ postpaid phones to deliver. Then, the government phone companies can take 7 – 14 days to fulfill the order, depending on which you’ve used.
As you wait for your order, go ahead and prepare the various items you need to transfer your government phone with the current number. The various items include:
- The account number and PIN of your current government phone
- Your full name and address used with the current government phone
- A cell phone compatible with the new phone service- that’s if joining under the BYOP (bring your own phone) program.
You’ll need to contact your current government phone provider to get the account number and PIN. If the customer agent doesn’t help you, don’t fret. The account number with most government phones is usually your enrollment ID and PIN is the last digits of social security.
Step 3: Initiate the Transfer of your Government Phone
At this point, I like to believe you already have your new phone. If so, contact customer service (of the new phone) to transfer your old government phone number.
To initiate the number transfer, the new phone provider will require your account details gathered in Step 2. They may (not always) also ask for an alternative contact number to reach you when needed.
Once the new phone provider verifies your account, they’ll initiate the number transfer with your old company.
Step 4: Be patient, Perfection Takes Time
Indeed, transferring your government phone to another phone with your current number is usually not instant. It can take a couple of minutes to several hours, depending on the phone companies, traffic, and several other factors.
As your phone number transfers to the new phone, DON’T cancel the service of your old government phone. If you cancel your old phone, it will certainly affect the number transfer and fail to complete.
When you initiate the number transfer in Step 3, your old government phone provider may put a security lock on it. The security lock will pause the number transfer until you remove it (security lock).
To remove this security lock, you’ll have to contact the automated customer service number of your government phone. The government phone I’ve noticed to have this lock so far is just Qlink Wireless. Others may have it or not.
Method 2: Transfer Your Government Phone to Another Phone with a New Number
The other way you can transfer your government phone to another phone is with a new number. It’s the easiest and quickest method as you won’t need anything from your current phone company. However, you do lose your current government phone number, which can be inconvenient for your old contacts.
To transfer your government phone to another phone with a new number, you just need to choose your new service provider. Then, apply for the other phone service as a new customer with a new number.
If the new phone is another government-funded service, you’ll have to be eligible to qualify. The eligibility for a new government phone is still proof of low income or participation in a government assistance program.
Where the new phone you’re transferring to is a cheap prepaid/ no-contract phone, you should also have a valid credit/ debit card. Then, the postpaid phone will perform a soft credit check to make sure you’re credit-worthy.
Once you’ve applied for the new phone service, wait for your order SIM card kit (and phone) to come. Then, activate your service as you usually do as a new customer, with a new phone number.
Whichever reason may be, that’s how to transfer a government phone to another phone service with your current or new number. The second option, where you move to another phone with a new number is the quickest. It doesn’t require contacting your old provider for your account details.
However, transferring your government phone to another phone service with your current number is the most convenient. And as we’ve seen in the guide, you don’t have to contact your old provider for the account details.
In the few government phones I’ve checked, like Qlink Wireless, your service account number is the enrollment ID, whereas PIN is the last SS number.