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Topic: free cell phone -- the so-called "Obama Phone"

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Subject: free cell phone -- the so-called "Obama Phone"
Date Posted: 9/6/2010 6:29 PM ET
Member Since: 4/2/2010
Posts: 911
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If you or someone you know needs a cell phone but can't afford a regular plan, there's Safelink -- aka the "Obama Phone" because President Obama created the program.  It's based on income.  If you qualify, they will send you a new cell phone and you get 120 monthly minutes and texts, 411 directory assistance.  Whatever minutes you don't use get rolled over to the following month.  Not enough minutes to have a decent conversation but enough to tell someone you're stranded somewhere, to call AAA, or to call your spouse to have them to fetch milk on the way home.

We helped the neighbor apply.  It took about 15 minutes to sign up, and they had the phone to her within a week. 

If you want more minutes, the StraightTalk phones from Verizon/Wal-Mart are a good deal.  $30 per month for 1000 anytime minutes, 1000 texts, and internet.  $45 for unlimited minutes/texts/internet.  The phones start out at $30 for a basic flip phone and $60-$90 for a QWERTY keyboard smartphone.

Date Posted: 9/30/2010 12:28 PM ET
Member Since: 7/23/2007
Posts: 1
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The program was originally created by Lifeline, which was created in 1984 during the Reagan administration and was originally for landline services and low-income families.  It was and is still funded by telecom comanies and not by taxes, the government, or sponsored by the President.  TracFone recently partnered up and is now the largest sponsor for SafeLink, which provides affordable, basic service for low-income families. 

All of the above information (and more) is available at the web address posted above.  Click on "Learn Program Information" and "About Lifeline" to get all the information.

Date Posted: 10/3/2010 10:22 PM ET
Member Since: 5/10/2005
Posts: 2,360
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That's a lot of minutes for an emergency phone.    Especially with rollover!

If you want a phone for emergencies (and don't qualify for the free one), Virgin Mobile is $20 every 3 months and the money rolls over continually, but you do have to pay every three months.  When I signed up it was $15 every 3 months if you signed up for automatic payment on a credit card; I don't know if they are still doing that.

It has been more than sufficient for the last few years.  The few times I've needed longer conversations I've been able to have them since I've built up quite a lot of rolled over time.  Many months I don't use the phone and many more I'll use less than 10 minutes calling to say "I'm in the parking lot" or similar.

I suspect the per minute cost is higher than other phones, but I have yet to see a per month cost lower.  Since it's for emergencies and minimal conversations, the monthly fee more than covers the use I make of it, and any more expensive plan would be silly to pay for.

Date Posted: 10/5/2010 11:36 AM ET
Member Since: 8/6/2010
Posts: 10
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Ah, Safelink. There's also Assurance Wireless. Neither are created by the President, Safelink was around before he got into office. I am against having government cell phones. If you're in an emergency, all you need is a phone that can dial 9-1-1. Assurance gives I believe 250 minutes a month, and BOTH phones come with texting as well. If you're in a emergency, do you really need the ability to text? I don't know about other states, but in Florida there's a company called Metro, where you can ge unlimited phone service for the entire country, plus unlimited texting for only $40 a month. I know too many people with these phones who use them for everything but what they're made for. 

Date Posted: 10/8/2010 3:37 AM ET
Member Since: 4/2/2010
Posts: 911
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Yeah I was wrong about the President starting it.  I got that info. from my neighbor, whom we helped sign up for it.  She did say "Obama phone".  I guess that's just the street lingo.

It's not just for emergencies.  Plus to a disabled poor person, being stranded somewhere with no money can be an "emergency", but if they have a phone, they can use it to call a relative or friend for a ride.

Subject: Virgin Mobile
Date Posted: 11/1/2010 7:25 PM ET
Member Since: 9/22/2010
Posts: 3,459
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Virgin Mobile. What a deal!

I am now paying a year what I used to pay every month. I only make about one call a day so the very basic $20 a month and $0.20 a minute is all I need. Even then, after two years I have over $100 on account with them. Even if I lost the $100 by quiting, I figure that is what I use to pay for 2 months.

The best part of this great deal was that my work colleague recommend Virgin Mobile, so he set up his account to have a code that gave him credit when someone signed up and said he recommend Virgin Mobile. I used that code and that gave him and me each 60 free minutes. I signed up in Janaury and didn't use up my free 60 minutes until mid-July.  In two years, I've saved well over $1,000.

Subject: Money Saving Tips
Date Posted: 12/18/2010 12:25 PM ET
Member Since: 12/18/2010
Posts: 1
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Date Posted: 12/19/2010 5:50 AM ET
Member Since: 11/18/2008
Posts: 99
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Christine S, what they are made for is not just emergency use. They are designed to help low income people have a phone that will be available for that all important job call or other numerous things needed like drs etc. considering there are many who receive these phones who dont even have a place to live, it is extremely important for them to have a phone.


The amount of minutes you receive depends on your area and state. I have one of these phones because I am a low income mother with a disability and a special needs child. It is a huge relief to know I have a phone should we be locked out of the house, my son has a severe allergic reaction and I need to give him his epi pen and get him to the hospital and many other things that could go wrong. I also dont have to fear that when I need it, I will turn it on and find out I missed the cut off date to add more minutes to it to keep it active.

Last Edited on: 12/19/10 5:53 AM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 12/24/2010 4:23 AM ET
Member Since: 8/18/2010
Posts: 1,540
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Be advised that if you already have a land-line, with reduced Lifeline discount (about $15 a month) you cannot also get a safelink phone.

Basically, safelink is great for those low income people who do not have and cannot afford a land line.

Date Posted: 12/29/2010 5:43 PM ET
Member Since: 1/29/2006
Posts: 706
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I also have saved big bucks by going to Virgin Mobile and paying $20 for 3 months of service.   The only time I ever need more minutes is rarely when I travel.    I used to pay $55 a month with Sprint.   The quality of calls and everything is so excellent with Virgin Mobil you can't beat it .   I will never go back to paying more not even when we get all our debt paid off and can "afford" it.