How To Get Cell Phones for Free in USA?

Raghuram Sukumar Student Stories 16 Comments

Question –  Can you please explain how can we get cell phone in USA for free?

For folks who are coming to USA for the first time, refer to Cell Phone  Buying Guide in USA.

You must have heard from your friends about free cell phone in USA and wondering how is it possible to get cell phones for free in USA.

Free Cell Phones in USA

In the US, cell phones are sold by the cell phone service providing networks.

Cell Phone Service Providers

  • Major – ATT, Verizon, T-Mobile and Sprint
  • Minor – Boost Mobile, US Cellular, Cricket, Virgin Mobile, etc

The network will set the base price for the cell phone and this base price is generally cheaper than the original retail price set by the manufacturer.

In addition to base price, you will have to sign a contract for a fixed period (generally 2 years) during which you will make monthly payments – Post paid plan.

You can choose the monthly payment amount by selecting a plan that suits you. (as discussed in the above post)

Monthly bills can be anywhere between $30 and $ 100 depending on your cell phone plan.

Free iPhone Example – AT&T

Looking at the following screenshot taken from AT&T iPhone cost (I have selected to show only free iPhone)

free cell phones in usa

As you can see iPhone 3GS is available for $0.01 or $0.99 with 2 years contract.

Cost of iPhone 4S  16GB(today)

  • Refurbished – $149
  • New – $199

Likewise you can find other cell phone for 1 cent or totally free.

What happens after 2 years contract?

After 2 years contract, you can get another cell phone with new 2 year contract or continue to use the same phone.

For instance, if you iPhone 4, purchased  in September 2010. 2 Years contract will expire in September 2012.

If iPhone 5 comes out in October, you  have following options

  • Continue to use iPhone 4
  • Buy  iPhone 5 with new 2 year contract  (sell iPhone 4)

You should be able to sell iPhone 4 for $150 to $250 when next iPhone comes out.

Now, you know how to get free cell phones in USA.

Questions about Cell Phones?

Post your question, comments or suggestion about cell phone plans, contracts, new cell phone, old cell phones, etc below in the comments section.


    1. should work, make sure the network you are subscribing to offers sim cards that are compactible with your phone

  1. What happens to the existing contract if I sell the cellphone and plan to get a new phone, such as iPhone5 midway through my contract?

    1. AT&T can upgrade your phone after few months in your contract. You pay upgrade fee + cost of the phone based on how many months remaining in the contract.

      1. Just to add, the upgrade period for iPhones is 18 months and 24 for other phones.

        So, if you have a iPhone, you can upgrade in 18 months and if you have anything else, you need 24 months. This 18 month special exception does not apply on breaking the contract.

  2. Interesting !!! The old iPhones can be presented to folks back home !!! What do you mean by refurbished ?

    1. Refurbished means used phone, checked and recertified by the manufacturer.

  3. But its not easy to get a free phone. u need to have a good credit score inorder to qualify for a free phone. so its almost impossible for a student to get a free phone for free. another option is to pay a hefty deposit which is almost equal to the price of the phone.

    1. nokia x3 should be able to work. be sure though to check if the network you are subscribing to actaully has sim cards that is compactible with your phone.

  4. would it be better to carry a phone from india (an unlocked android, tri-band, that would work there) or get a post-paid connection with a free phone there? which would be cheaper?

    1. I think it will be better to carry a phone from your country to the USA and save yourself some cash. Be careful though as some networks have perculiar sim cards that will only fit in CDMA (not sure of the name) compactible phones.

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