Monday, January 26, 2009

SafeLink Wireless: When "Free" Isn't A Great Deal

Update: SafeLink now has a competitor, and they're offering a better deal. See our post about Assurance Wireless.

Running the numbers on the SafeLink Wireless offer for qualifying low-income people, it turns out that this program is a truly good deal if you only use the free minutes and don't buy any additional minutes through the SafeLink (TracFone) retail channel. If you plan to talk beyond the minutes offered for free, and you don't include cost of the inexpensive phones you get through this program, you can find cheaper service elsewhere. Here's the analysis:

In most states where SafeLink is offered, you get a free phone and 68 minutes of free talk time a month (80 in Massachusetts). So far so good. Free is great. If you only use these free 68 minutes a month, there is no cheaper program (unless someone knows of a company that pays you to use a mobile?).

If, however, you plan to talk even one more minute beyond these 68, the resulting per-minute cost is higher than you pay with other providers. SafeLink Wireless is part of TracFone, and from the SafeLink web site, when you purchase additional minutes beyond the free ones, you buy a TracFone card. The cheapest TracFone card right buys 60 minutes for $20, or $.33/minute.
  • 68 free minutes + 60 paid minutes = 128 minutes
  • Total Cost paid (additional minutes) = $20
  • 128 minutes / $20 = ~$.16/minute
$.16/minute isn't exactly the lowest price in the prepaid mobile world. Virgin Mobile's lowest-cost minute card gets you 200 minutes for $20 ($.10/minute), and if you buy in higher denominations, you get an even cheaper per-minute rate. Net10, which is another TracFone-owned company, charges a flat rate of $.10/minute for all their card denominations. So, on a per-minute basis, the SafeLink Wireless deal is not the best for lower-income people who plan to use more than the free minutes provided.

There are two main caveats to this. First, SafeLink provides a free phone along with the minutes. I made a call to SafeLink last week, and was told that the phones available through this program are the Motorola W175 and C139 models. Both phones were available on the TracFone web site last week for $9.99. So, while a free phone is great, it's only a savings of $10 or so. This gets eaten up pretty quickly by the $.16/minute rate. Second (and more importantly), the additional (TracFone) minutes you add to the SafeLink phone don't expire for 90 days, vs. 30 days for Net10 minutes. In other words, you get to keep you minutes for 60 days longer, which is a good thing for people who don't always have funds to actively replenish their phones.

There are other reasons why the SafeLink Wireless program may not work for many low-income people. The biggest is the requirement that you have a home mailing address, and only one person at that address can receive the subsidy. If you're living in a shelter, a group home, your car, or on the streets, you can't take advantage of this even if you otherwise qualify. Sounds like the FCC made SafeLink adopt the policies of the LifeLine program, which was designed with landlines in mind. Hopefully, that will change.

Community Voice Mail clients and others who are thinking about this program should think hard about how many minutes they plan to use each month. More than 68? Look at the alternatives.

(I've been trying to talk with someone at SafeLink Wireless and TracFone for months, but am finding their web site and customer service processes almost impenetrable. If anyone from TracFone would like to refute this analysis, I'm all ears!).

79 comments:

Anonymous said...

I am thinking this is for emergency use only. You have a regular phone. If they have time to talk that much time to talk on a cell phone which is outside the home, maybe they can still work. Key word is EMERGENCY purposes

mary said...

wow, i can't believe you're panning this great deal offered for free to the needy. despite the drawbacks that you are exagerating, its fantastic.
no, its not intended for long-winded gabbing. initially when this service was thought up, it was to provide an emergency phone to the poor who can't afford phone service, so they'd be able to call the fire dept, police, etc.
its 68 minutes and they rollover. its free, for goodness sakes, that's better than paying anything to another company.
i got my phone in 1 week after applying. the first day i activated it, my car broke down at an intersection. i called the insurance company, 2 mechanics, car rental service, and work. it was freezing out, and i would have had to walk to a payphone and leave my car if i hadn't had this phone.
i think you should be extolling the virtues of any service that's helps the poor and needy.

Community Voice Mail said...

Thanks for the comment Mary. I didn't mean to "pan" the offer, and I agree that it's great to have a free phone and minutes each month. For those people who will *definitely* make more than 1-2 calls a day (~68 mins/month), however, it's cheaper and possibly easier to go with another vendor and to not jump through the hoops to get this service. We've done some surveys with our clients, and most who currently have cell phones use around 200 minutes per month as they search for jobs, housing, and other resources.

Also, I believe that every mobile phone, even those that are not in service, have the ability to call 9-1-1. You don't need an active phone to call 9-1-1.

So yes, great for emergencies and low-use, and I'm really glad you had your phone when your car broke down. And I'm glad the Federal government has opened up this funding to include mobile phones for low-income people, but I just wish the deal was better and participants received more minutes out of it.

Thanks again for writing! You're the first person I've communicated with who received a SafeLink phone, and I'm glad you've had a good experience.

Anonymous said...

I have had my Safelink phone since the end of last year and I couldn't be more pleased. I have physical ailments that prevent me from walking any distance at all. I feel so safe now when I go somewhere to know I'm not going to just have to sit there until someone came if I broke down. I, personally, thnk you are missing the whole point of the plan. I have never bought additional minutes and it is plenty. It tells you right on the front how many minutes you have keft so all you have to do is keep it under control. I use my house phone for long conversations and my Safelink to call and say "I'm on my way" or "do you need anything before I get there?". If you need more than 68 minutes, learn to conserve. I, for one, am so thankful this program came my way...it's fantastic.

Sandi

Community Voice Mail National Office said...

Thanks for your post Sandi. I completely agree; if you're only going to use the free minutes, the SafeLink program is *great*! It's only for those people using more than the free minutes that we don't necessarily recommend it (the per-minute price is more expensive than what you can get elsewhere).

Glad you're finding your Safelink phone useful! Thanks!

Gwynne said...

I have one. I'm not much of a phone talker, at all. I have a home phone line, and because it's bundled with my internet service, which I must have because I work from home online, I don't qualify for LifeLine home phone service, which only cover a basic, non-bundled line. I did qualify for the SafeLink, based on receiving food stamps, and only having made $9,883 last year.

I don't anticipate having to buy a lot of minutes. I may buy a double minute for life card if I get the extra money, as well as minute cards on occasion if I plan to be out of the house for any length of time. In the summer, I walk a lot, so having the phone will be nice.

It was nice to qualify, because while the phone would have only cost $10 for me to buy it, when you're barely making enough money to pay your bills and eat, it's really hard to justify a cell phone, even if you could really use it.

I've had prepaid phones before. And I'd go so long between being able to add minutes that I'd end up losing the phone number. I'd then have to pay extra to re-activate, and go right back into running out of minutes with no money left.

At least with SafeLink, I know that I'll have my 68 minutes every month. My phone number, with voicemail, will be preserved, without having to reactivate when I happen to have extra money.

Anonymous said...

Get a job and pay for your own cell phone. This is a luxury that my tax dollars shouldn't pay for.

Anonymous said...

I recently received my SafeLink phone and I couldn't be happier. I am usually confined to my home where there is telephone service, but when I'm on the sub-way or trying to go out looking for a job or run into any emergency, I have the comfort of knowing that I have a link for assistance. Please don't discredit these people for helping those of us who are struggling. Some of us can't afford the luxury of purchasing a cell phone and paying a monthly bill (I would think that would make any decent human being happy). Haven't the "fat cats" gotten fat enough for you? Give real Americans a fighting chance.

And as previously said...what you don't use rolls over to the next month. Maybe some people will learn what budgeting means.

Community Voice Mail National Office said...

Hi. Thanks for posting. Again, I'm glad you received and like your Safelink phone! It *is* a great thing that people who qualify can get them, and everyone who qualifies should consider it. My only caveat is that if you definitely plan to use more than the number of free minutes provided to you each month, it is less expensive overall for *you* to buy another cheap phone (Virgin Mobile, Net10, etc.). This is particularly true in Pennsylvania and other states that offer 42 or less minutes/month for the SafeLink program.

Enjoy your phone! I'm glad you have this resource!

- Steve (Community Voice Mail)

needy said...

I received my safelink phone 2 months ago. I thought it only for emergency use in my car. I have friends who have been poor their entire lives. They cannot get the concept of this being much more expensive than almost any other cell phone service. I find that there is a mentality like this with most things. One friend bought a "Tracephone" just as I was sending him a phonecard that was 2.3 cents a minute. I tried to tell him that a Verizon phone would be much cheaper but the up front cost was so much greater he could not see it. Same thing happens with these payday places. The people who can least afford it are the ones who use it.

I know people who do not buy health insurance who say they cannot afford it. But spend close to a hundred $'s on lottery tickets monthly and can afford to buy X-mas presents, something I had to give up a long time ago.
I just think these are examples of the mentality of the poor in our country.

The truly needy as you have described are rarely helped by the government. I guess these are the people commonly articulated as "fallen through the cracks".

Safelink helps those who generally could afford it on their own but have other priorities but not those who truly need the service. Nothing new for this society. I so agree that basing it on the current hard line programs made no sense at all. All cell phones can call 911, having one for regular use is a "luxury" for most of us poor folk.

Brett said...

So what good is a free phone when it hardly ever works? Get used to "CALL FAILED" Same thing happened before when my wife bought me a useless trac phone. Gave up on that. I then got a net ten phone that gave me very good service. I could actually count on it working when I wanted to use it. Then again she signs up for this safe link and now I am back to a useless trac phone again. If the government is paying trac - phone then the government is getting ripped off and the poor people aren't being served. If the government is issuing a credit for this thing why can't you get the credit with the company that you choose the same as the lifeline home phone system and not be stuck with a phone that never works anywhere that I want to use it. Even when others get cell phone service this cheap trac phone won't. I am about feed up enough with this thing that I think I am going back to the net ten so I can actually get some service when I need it.
Brett

Anonymous said...

hi i have safe link and i was wondering could i buy the 29.99 phone they {tracfone}offer with double mins 4life and tranfer my number to that phone? would it then double the amount of mins safe link gives me?i go a little over ever month and it leaves me without a phone b/c the extra mins are to pricey for my budget thanks

BabyBoomer in FLA said...

To the Anonymous Poster who said that this is taking his/her tax dollars...
Well, I've worked since I was 16. And... I know what it is like to lose everything due to accident/trauma. I need help now. And, I am a tax-payer too! By the way, this is NOT a luxury. In today's world...it is a necessity. YOU need to get a heart!!

Anonymous said...

Getting through to their Customer Service Dept. is like getting through to Fort Knox. I am trying to find out what happened to my mother's phone, which she applied for 2 months ago. The only person I spoke to was in Technical Support. She told me how to get a "live" voice from the Customer Service end, but when I finqlly had an opportunity to hit the button to be transfered, it hung up on me!! Just terrible support!
It will be easier to add her to my family's account and be done with it.

Community Voice Mail National Office said...

Hi. Thanks for you post. Sorry you're having trouble with the SafeLink Wireless (TracFone) customer service. While Community Voice Mail is in no way connected to SafeLink Wireless program, I did contact the nonprofit (USAC, www.usac.org) responsible for administering the payouts for the federal LifeLine program (which subsidizes the SafeLink program), and asked where consumers can submit complaints about SafeLink Wireless, TracFone or any other telephone company. Here's what they told me in an email on May 6, 2009:

"The best advice for consumers who have complaints about their telephone company is to contact their state public utilities commission. USAC maintains a list of contact information for each PUC at http://www.usac.org/li/low-income/contact-commission/default.aspx."

"Consumers can also file a complaint with the FCC at 1-888-CALL-FCC or electronically at http://esupport.fcc.gov/complaints.htm."

I hope that helps. Good luck tracking down your mother's phone.

Community Voice Mail National Office said...

In response to "Anoynmous" on May 2: I believe that the SafeLink Wireless program does not let you add TracFone "minute doubling" cards to your SafeLink phone. I don't know for sure, but I think that's the case. I suggest you call SafeLink Wireless' support line to ask (1-800-378-1684).

Anonymous said...

For the poster that said "Get a job and pay for your own cell phone. This is a luxury that my tax dollars shouldn't pay for"

Well, in a perfect world, hugh? But that's not how it is.

I happen to be disabled, just saw this on tv and signed up immediately and qualified, it will be a blessing to me, I am at the hospital 3 or 4 times a month, have to travel by the train and I am alone so this isn't a luxury for me, it's a necessity in case I need to call for help.

And I do hope that you never do become disabled and have to rely on assistance, you're fortunate. I am not so much, I didn't plan on having severe spinal cord damage and become disabled at 37, I'd rather have a job and not need this phone, so maybe you should think for a minute before you make a blanket statement about getting a job. I tell ya what, I'll trade places with you, you be disabled, I'll be able bodied and get a job.

Korinna Maria said...

Heres my problem, I just called customer service and number one i cant understand the reps have the time, number two, I do not get mail on my street address, I live in a rural part of pa where we have whats called a mailing box, which everyone in the community gets mail at, so this is a real problem trying to get the phone and the reps do NOT understand what you are trying to tell them when you explain this!!! Its so frustrating, I called a month ago after trying every push button on my phone to get through, they finally put me through to cs and I stayed on the phone for over an hour with them explaining the situation and there like oh no problem we will send it ups (the application) which guess what its two months later and they never did send me the app (plus it doesnt work when i tried to apply online)! So I just called tonight and the guy was like oh ill have it mailed toyour mailbox, I gaurantee you folks i probably will not have this mailed there, anyway, so i asked him to speak with the supervisor and he told me the supervisor was not available and to call back in 30 minutes!!! and then i said no have him call me back!!! so im patiently waiting now, this is sooo annoying, im calling the state if i dont get through or get this application and im makng a complaint federally! I think they do this on purpose because they dont want us to get a phone i dont know, its just making me sooo aggravated!!!

Anonymous said...

To the person who made the statement about trading places with the able bodied man; thank you for posting that! I am actually in between; I recognize that many people use the system and are going to suck this out of tax payers. I also believe that it DOES help many people who honestly need it. Making stereotypical statements only made that other person look like a snob. I m looking forward to the help as I have to stay home caring for my disabled baby son while my husband works double shifts and I go to school online with scholarships.... I wonder who the low class person really is? The other poster or me?????

mikey said...

I totally agree with Steve. The SafeLink program is a good start but it is presently too little help for too few people to impress me THAT much.

My capitalist instincts and training make me believe the companies are bound to be getting AMPLE tax write-offs for these tiny and sometimes difficult-to-use $10 phones (especially if you are disabled and depending, of course, on the nature of one's particular handicap).

My reaction to the $6.80/month charitable contribution - at full retail value of course - to the needy is equally tepid. It's a start, albeit a meager one and with lots of (sometimes costly) strings attached.

I would hope the SafeLink pogram is soon available in many more states than are presently served. Also, perhaps a few more options on larger, easer-to-use phones for those with certain visual or hairing impairments, for example, would be a very welcome addition.

I read the various other comments posted and value everyone's First Amendment rights (even the Second Amendment makes sense to me at times but that's another blog entirely).

All of you make relevant points at times regardless of my educated hunch that some of you are for some odd reason still reeling over the outcome of the 2008 national election.

Relax, you'll get your turn again in 2012. After all, this is STILL the United States of America, right?

Nonetheless, comments such as these "talkative" people need to get a job suggest to me that we need more collective efforts as a compassionate nation to get the rest of you "conservatives" either a heart implant or one of those newfangled higher "edu-makations".

LOL

It's all good, folks. It's just a phone, right? ;) **==

Cathi said...

Both of my daughters were approved for these phones, but have yet to receive them. During investigating, I found that they were sent to the wrong addresses, activated by others NOT my daughters in April. We reported them stolen/not delivered, and are STILL waiting for a reissue.

Codecrackx15 said...

Another wasted subsidy.
Cell phones are not a necessity and if someone can not afford one then they should not have one.
Did the poor people not get by in the 1980's without cell phone service? Oh, yeah there was no cell phone service then.

Christina said...

The SafeLink phone I ordered also was sent to the wrong address, and after tortuously long waits on hold with their customer service people, SafeLink confirmed that it had in fact sent the phone to the wrong address. This is after I had received from them a FedEx tracking number and was told it was sent to my local post office. The post office showed it in their system but could not locate the phone.
But do you think it was just a matter of SafeLink sending a replacement phone? NO! Sent emails to TracFone, and they did call, but not during the hours I specfied even though I emailed them time and time again.
Today, I was told the phone cannot be sent out because I cancelled the account! No, I told them, I didn't. They couldn't reinstate the "account," either -- just one of their rules. "We showed it went to the right address, ma'am," the rep (whose English I could barely understand) told me. Frustrated now beyond reason, I asked if she was calling me a liar. I told her they had confirmed it had been sent to the wrong address. So, I said, "Let me get this straight--YOU screw up, and I, the customer, get penalized." That's just the way they do things. For 80 minutes a month, are you kidding?! Worst customer service experience ever!!

Community Voice Mail National Office said...

Christina, sorry to hear you're having a problem with Safelink. Again, we have no connection to them. I suggest you file a complaint, however, if you feel you've been treated poorly. See my post about how to file a complaint about a phone company (http://communityvoicemail.blogspot.com/2009/05/how-to-file-complaints-about-phone.html).

Good luck. I hope you eventually get your phone!

St Pete said...

Mary, A Phone and address is required when dealing with VA, DCF (food stamps, medicaid...) Social Security and other social services. These calls usually involve long interviews often with automated systems. The drawbacks are not exaggerated. The phone is still a blessing when help is needed.

Anonymous said...

Re: anonymous who said get a job, buy a phone. Do any or many with that attitude uderstand at all that a lot of us out there, did work all of our lives, and paid taxes as well. But now we are stuck in a situation where we need help ourselves.
And this service does just that.

Anonymous said...

can someone tell me if there is a website or phone number that allows me to look at the phone numbers called with the Safelink phone? Some kind of records to check the calls....any ideas?

Anonymous said...

I think the biggest thing people aren't getting here is that for many people using SafeLink, it is their only phone. They likely gave up their landlines to save a few more dollars for food, gas, or public transit.

Community Voice Mail National Office said...

Hi Anonymous from 7/18. I recommend you call Safelink product support to ask this. According to the web site (www.safelinkwireless.com), the number to call is: 1-800-378-1684.

Again, I don't work for Safelink Wireless or its parent company (TracFone), but it doesn't appear that you can check your phone usage via a web site. I'm sure you can see previously dialed calls on the phone itself, however.

Community Voice Mail National Office said...

To Anonymous on 7/20: You're right about people using their Safelink Wireless phone as their only phone. It's likely that some people who had landline phones through the Lifeline program somehow cancelled their landline and transferred the Federal Lifeline benefit to a Safelink phone. You can only receive one Lifeline benefit at a time, so no one should be able to have a subsidized landline *and* a Safelink Wireless phone at the same time.

The Safelink phone and minutes are completely free, while the landline LifeLine benefit is a subsidy, usually bringing the monthly cost of the landline phone to around $10/month (varies by state, etc.). However, the trade-off is that your minutes are limited on the SafeLink phone, while you can make as many local calls as you like on the landline phone you get from Lifeline.

Again, if you don't use more than the free minutes offered each month with Safelink, it's a great program. As soon as you start buying minutes for the phone, however, it's not that great a deal. If you have a home, however, and need to make a lot of phone calls all the time, it's worth considering the landline LifeLine benefit as it might be cheaper for you in the long run.

Anonymous said...

No service support. Tax supported "free" phone came to one client of mine (a homeless, disabled veteran) after 4 months of trying -not working, and when it was reported, a new phone never arrived, even after being given tracking numbers, etc. Customer gave up. A second client never got his phone, either, and also gave up. Calls, emails, etc to the company numbers went unanswered and even pleas to Attorney Generals office, and local and federal representatives went unanswered. A TOTAL TAXPAYER RIPOFF!!!!!

Anonymous said...

It is absoulutly amazing to me to read all of the complaints that have been posted about something that is absolutly free. It baffles my mind. No one forced anyone to get the phone and no one has lost anything by getting it. I just ordered mine and it took all of 45 seconds of my time. If I get my phone and it doesn't work OH WELL then I have lost nothing except the 45 seconds. I am glad to have a phone for emergency use. I cannot complain.

Anonymous said...

First of all - its not free - it's free to the recipeints but the tax payers are paying for it - Nothng is free - someone somewhere is paying - that being said - does anyone know how to penetrate the website or get help from customer service. The website is dropping of the "0" in the beginning of the zipcode I am trying to use and then tells me I have an incorrect mailing address - trying to contact someone at Safelink - or the customer service by phone is impossible - you jsut keep getting rerouted back to the intro - And just so everyone knows this company is a subsidiary of a Mexican owned company and the services on US tax dollars are also provided to illegals - big surprise there huh? Big brother at his finest with this scam of a program - and for all who use these phones you should know the phone is owned by the government and allows government access to each and every call you make should they choose to do so. you have no claims to privacy when using thses "free" phones.

Anonymous said...

i need someone to tell me how to contact the fed gov who is heading this program i have been trying for over 3 weeks to get my 99 yr old grandfathers 77 yr of daughters phone activated so she can call me when she needs help because he has fallen i call tec support and am on hold for almost 2 hours

Anonymous said...

I have a safe link phone and have had it for 2 weeks. I already needed to purchase a minute card for 25$ for 90 extra minutes. The reason I purchased the minutes was because all I had was 25$ and I don't have a home phone, and I can't afford the $13.00 a month it would cost even with the special land line program. I also can't afford the deposit, or the cost of the home telephone itself. I have two children and a husband who was out of work for two months due to his chronic illness. So i needed a phone and When I found out I could get one for free, I was blessed. Yea, we don't get many minutes, but it's all we can get. And as far as the people who say a cell phone is a luxury, I don't know. At this point, all I have is the luxury of this free phone and the 68 min/month. If I could get a home phone for free, I would gladly get that instead.

Community Voice Mail National Office said...

Thanks for your post, Anonymous (on Aug. 17). Glad this service is working out for you!

Community Voice Mail National Office said...

Anonymous on 8/12...if you're having trouble getting service from Safelink, I suggest you file a complaint. I wrote about this here: http://communityvoicemail.blogspot.com/2009/05/how-to-file-complaints-about-phone.html

vincent said...

I have a safelink phone and the free 68 minutes per month are not coming up. When attempted the system states that it cannot download and is unavaliable. The company has yet to respond. The minutes are due by the third of the month and it is now 9/11.

Merle Lindt said...

To me, providing this type of phone is a good thing.

Is it the greatest deal at the lowest price? No, but for those who cannot get a phone normally, it's better than nothing.

btw, I keep hearing that Virgin Mobile is offering a similar low-cost plan for the unemployed and other people who need a basic phone w/o the big bills... $10 a month but I don't see it on their site.

Do they have it? If so why don't they announce it?

Community Voice Mail National Office said...

Hi Merle (Sept. 26 post). Thanks for commenting. Virgin Mobile gained eligibility to provide mobile phones using federal LifeLine funds in March of this year, but hasn't yet announced any plans to provide them. We (Community Voice Mail) talked with Virgin about helping to get the word out about their program in a concerted way, and also to help them "sell" discounted phones to our clients at events around the country, but at least at the time, they weren't interested in working with us. I have a feeling that they're waiting to get their LifeLine product out into the market first. Or, their pending acquisition by Sprint (announced in July) may have caused them to delay their launch.

We're still looking for a prepaid carrier who would like to work with us to sell thousands of phones to our clients. We'll get them in the room for the carrier; if the price/service is right (better than what we can get on the open market), you'll likely have a lot of sales. Contact salbertson (@) cvm.org.

Community Voice Mail National Office said...

To Vincent, who posted on 9/11/09. Sorry to hear you're having problems with SafeLink. Did this get resolved? If not, I looked around the Support section of the SafeLink Wireless site and found a few things to try:

1. Try the instructions on this page: https://www.safelinkwireless.com/EnrollmentPublic/pending_min.aspx.

2. Call their technical support line at 1-800-378-1684. Note: don't call from your Safelink phone as this will eat up your minutes. If possible, call from a payphone or a landline. This is a toll-free call.

3. These appear to be the only two avenues available for technical support. If you're still not getting the help you need, I suggest you file a complaint with your state public utilities commission, which regulates Safelink Wireless and other phone companies. I posted an article about this here: http://communityvoicemail.blogspot.com/2009/05/how-to-file-complaints-about-phone.html

Good luck!

vtownsend said...

I personally got the phone for my daughter she's 8 yrs old, and i'm teaching her responsibility for things. Her at that age having a phone is a luxury and it's also safe. It's so much going on in this world today that i need that comunication with her just to make sure she's ok when i can't physically be there. when you teach a child young about cause and effect they are more responsible adults.If it's only say 65 minutes on her phone then she know only to call me or her daddy when it's important or 911.I think it's a great idea.

Anonymous said...

I have had the safelink phone they provided me with and couldn't make any calls. I have called them several times and just recieve a reference number and they state they will have to forward it on to the safelink department. Tracfone IS the safelink department. I finally found a source in the BBB from someone higher up in the department stating anyone with an issue to contact him. I did and in return recieved another totally differnt phone that STILL doesn't work! Now I just got on here and read where there are only two phones they issue for this service...and quess what? Mine isn't one of them! Imagine that!

Anonymous said...

WHAT IS WRONG WITH SOME PEOPLE?
RE: Safelink Wireless.
I keep hearing & reading the litany of complaints. Whining about "My taxpayer dollars....My taxpayer dollars...funding cell phones for poor people"!

Some tax dollars should, and do, fund schools where those people can get an EDUCATION!
Taxpayer dollars DO NOT fund the Safelink Wireless Program!
It is funded through the "Universal Service Fund" which receives contributions through various sources. None of which include ANYONE'S TAX DOLLARS!
Look it up @ thefreelibrary.com 'TracFone Wireless launches Safelink Wireless..' and display some semblance of intelligence!

After working for over half of my life (college educated, earning a very good income) to support 2 children as a single mother, I became ill and totally disabled. I cannot stand up for over 45 seconds, much less stand up straight, nor walk more than a few steps (basically crippled), I am legally blind,and am in chronic, debilitating pain (for which I do not take pills). There will be no "recovery".

I have a Safelink phone and thank God for it. I could otherwise, not afford a cell phone. My daughter pays for my internet service; to keep in touch with her while she is deployed to Iraq (her fifth deployment), forced to leave her husband and infant daughter for a lengthy period of time. Literally laying her life on the line, daily, (she has never once, complained) defending the freedom for all people of the U.S., including the ignorant whiners who don't know what they are talking about!

An additional retort to: "Needy" whose post of 4/13/09 claims to 'know a few people who squander what little money they have on lottery tickets, rather then obtain health insurance'....as "examples of the mentality of the poor"....
That is actually an example of "being lackadaisical and in poor judgment". Something you, yourself, are guilty of.

This email: sir or madam...
better exemplifies the mentality, of the disabled and poor!

P.S. Perhaps the Church of those associative people, assisted with buying the Christmas presents!

Kerrie said...

My husband is a sheriff's deputy where we live and I am a stay at home mom with 3 kids. He works well over 40 hrs a week and we still qualified for safelink wireless. I got my safelink phone because i'm always going to the store and such with my girls and if I were to break down with 3 small children in the car, it would be a nightmare and possibly very dangerous. So the idiot that basically said poor people are idiots should take a good long look in the mirror. We have worked hard all of our lives. And by the way, i don't think using money to buy christmas presents is a bad thing at all and i'm proud to say that if I only had 5 dollars to my name on christmas I would spend it on a gift no question. (unless my kids needed anything...) Also, i've been behind people in the store that buy lottery tickets one after another and as annoying as it can be, I really think it's sad. These people have one thing in common: they're all hoping that in one second their lives will be changed and their troubles will be over. To me that is very very sad. You should get a heart and learn to have some compassion for those that may be less fortunate than yourself. The shoe may be on the other foot for you someday.

Anonymous said...

Safelink wireless also lets you double your minutes so if you buy 60 that doubles to 120 plus the free 68 minutes=188 minutes/20 (cost of the minutes)= .09 a minute.

Also safelink is coming out with their own brand of minutes:
15 min=$3
25 min=$5
50 min=$10

Community Voice Mail National Office said...

To anonymous on 12/14:

You indicate that Safelink lets you double your minutes if you buy the "doubler" cards that TracFone sells to its retail customers. When I last called Safelink about this, I was told that Safelink customers can NOT double minutes with the TracFone "doubler" cards. I can find no reference to this on the Safelink web site. Do you have a source for this information?

I'd also like to know your source for the "Safelink" minutes you mention. The message on the Safelink web site (see https://www.safelinkwireless.com/EnrollmentPublic/buy_airtime.aspx) has been the same for at least the past year: "afeLink Wireless Airtime Cards will be available at retailers soon." Can you point me to a part of the Safelink web page that talks about Safelink minute pricing?

Also, the pricing you've listed (15 min=$3, 25 min=$5, 50 min=$10) is still $.20/minute. This is twice the per-minute rate of Net10 and Virgin Mobile (each $.10/min), to name just two other prepaid vendors. And Net10 is a TracFone brand, just like Safelink! This price is still not as good a deal as we should expect for a federally-subsidized telephone assistance program.

Steve

Anonymous said...

My husband was laid off from his job in March and our family is really struggling by it. He was eligible for a free phone from SafeLink and it really has been wonderful. It keeps him connected with me as well as possible future employers while he is on the job hunt. I LOVE SAFELINK! Such an awesome program!

Anonymous said...

At this point for me it has become the principal of the thing.I have tried for going on 5 months now with frequent phone calls and emails to get my mother(she is eligable) a phone through the safelink program.It's a great concept but they have the worst most rude customer 'service' I have ever encountered.Getting ready to file my complaint soon.

Community Voice Mail National Office said...

To Anonymous on 1/3/10:

If you've had a lot of problems with Safelink, I definitely encourage you to file a complaint with your state Utilities Commission. You can find more information about how to do this elsewhere on this blog (see http://communityvoicemail.blogspot.com/2009/05/how-to-file-complaints-about-phone.html).

If you haven't already, definitely check out Assurance Wireless (www.assurancewireless.com) as a Lifeline alternative (actually, a competitor) to Safelink. 200 free minutes per month vs. 42-80 from Safelink. Assurance Wireless is from Virgin Mobile. See our write-up about this here: http://communityvoicemail.blogspot.com/2009/12/assurance-wireless-new-free-lifeline.html.

Good luck! It actually does help if you file complaints when you've received bad service. Phone companies are regulated by the state in which you live, and so you have some local recourse.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the information on Virgin Mobile offering a service.I'll check them out and hope they are better than safelink.
Still going to file my complaint about safelink just to prove a point.I don't even care about the phone for my mom anymore.lol

EnufZNuff said...

I didn't have a problem with the so-called "Obama Phone."

It seemed reasonable to give poor people a cheap phone and a few minutes a month.

Go find a job. Go to the doctor. Get the car fixed. Whatever.

But now, Virgin Mobile has a new program that gives poor people 200 minutes a month.

FREE!

It's too much!

What's next? Iphones? Blackberries?

Virgin is using taxpayer money extravagantly.

Am I wrong?

Community Voice Mail National Office said...

Re: EnufZNuff's comment on 1/6:

Virgin Mobile (Assurance Wireless) and Safelink are receiving exactly the same subsidy amount from the government for the Lifeline program (up to ~$10/month per user). Virgin as a company is just choosing to provide more minutes than Safelink. I have no idea if they're making or losing money on the deal, but they're definitely not getting any more money from Lifeline to offer more minutes.

Thanks for your comment!

cheap cell phones said...

great post. Keep it up!

Anonymous said...

I have had safe-link for almost a year now, and it is a minimally adequate device. The earphone is atrocious, and the speaker phone might as well be non-existant.


If I want to0 use the speakerphone, I have to turn the phone backwards, and then the other parrty cannot hear half of what I'm saying.
I tried to use the sim card in another phone, and it won't acept it.
I called safe-link, and they acknowledged this, and told me I couldn,t up-grade to a phone with a better speakerphone, even if I paid for the better phone myself.

Pres. said...

I was recently told a disturbing story about an elderly man in a nursing home in Brooklyn, NY. It seems that he wanted to apply for a SafeLink wireless phone but was advised that someone else at the nursing home address had recently applied for and received a phone. It seems that their policy is, one phone to an address, regardless of whether it is a single family residence or a large health care facility. Am I the only one who feels that this does not quite make sense?

Community Voice Mail National Office said...

Unfortunately, this "one phone per household" rule is imposed by the FCC, in an effort to prevent fraud. Currently, Safelink Wireless and other phone programs that access Lifeline funds (government phone subsidy program for low-income people) can only send a single phone to an address. So, if you qualify for the program but are living in a shelter, you can only get a phone sent to you there if you're the first one to apply for it. This policy is something of a carry-over from the Lifeline land-line program; they didn't want more than one subsidized land-line coming into someone's house.

Tracfone, the company that provides Safelink, has asked the FCC for a clarification of this "one phone per household" requirement, and most people who have weighed in are advocating for a rule change that would take into account people who live in group living situations. No word yet from the FCC if/when a change will happen, but I'll post when I hear anything.

Anonymous said...

well when i first read this , i was gonna go into a rant about me paying for other peoples toys again, but i cant find anything that says tax payers dollars are tied to this, so if its completely out of pocket on the companies behalf, well then cudos to them and stfu O/P ITS FREE NO STRINGS ATTACHED, JUST BE POOR lol, and to the person who broke down "you are not poor if you own a car"

Anonymous said...

i am very thankful for the safe link program. but i do have a question, the phones buttons are so small a lot of people have troubling hitting the right numbers, is there any way you can transfer the sims card to another phone with larger numbers?

Community Voice Mail National Office said...

My understanding is that you can't do this with the Safelink phones. The phones you get are tied to the Safelink service, and the service can't be moved to another phone.

I believe you *can* do this with Assurance Wireless (www.assurancewireless.com), a Lifeline "competitor" to Safelink that provides 200 free minutes a month to eligible people. If you're using Safelink, I think you should consider switching to get a lot more minutes per month. Call Assurance to find out more.

Anonymous said...

What good is a ohoine you can't call anyone on? My wife has had one and refuses to use it. Every time she's tried to call me on my cell about an emergency at home it comes up with "EMERGENCies ONLY" and won't let her call me. She's permanently disabled. She broke her finge and tried to call me on the "Safe Link" and it wouldn't let her make the call. What good is that?


I'ver bought her a Straight Talk from WalMart. The Safe Link goes in the garbage.

Community Voice Mail National Office said...

To Anonymous on May 3:

Sorry to hear you're having problems with Safelink's program. Have you called them to try to fix it? They *have* to fix this problem, either by sending you a new phone or by fixing your account. From your post, it appears that you're not getting your free airtime to make calls; depending on where you live, you're supposed to get between 65 and 80 minutes per month, and it's supposed to automatically show up on your phone on the 1st of each month.

The Safelink technical support number is 1-800-378-1684. Since you're phone isn't working, you'll have to find a payphone or other phone to make this call. It's toll-free.

If your phone is a Motorola C139 or a Motorola W175, it appears there is a problem getting your free minutes. The Safelink web site has a solution for this. See https://www.safelinkwireless.com/EnrollmentPublic/pending_min.aspx.

Finally, if neither of the above work for you, and Safelink can't/isn't fixing your phone, here's your next step:

Call your state Utilities Commission and file a complaint. As I wrote in a previous blog post (see http://communityvoicemail.blogspot.com/2009/05/how-to-file-complaints-about-phone.html), you can go to a web site to find the right place to call.

Good luck to you and your wife.

Anonymous said...

I AM VERY INFURIATED ABOUT SAFELINK I APPLIED FOR THE PHONE FOR MY ADULT SON WHO HAS MENTAL ILLNESS IN AUG2009 THE PHONE NEVER ARRIVED FOR THE NEXT TWO MONTHS LWAS TOLD THE PHONE WAS ON THE WAY I THEN CALLED BACK AND WAS TOLD HE COULD NOT RECIEVE IT BECAUSE SOMEBODY ELSE HAD A PHONE IN HIS APARTMENT IN JAN09 MY SON MOVED INTO THIS APARTMENT IN NOV08 I WAS THEN TOLD I WOULD HAVE TO FAX MORE INFO TO PROVE HE ACTUALLY LIVED HERE QUITE FRANKLY AFTER THE WAY I WAS TREATED I DID NOT TRUST THEM BECAUSE OF THE CHANCE OF IDENTITY THEFT IN JAN10 I RECIEVED A REENROLLMENT FORM FOR THIS PERSON IN WHICH IT STATED IF ANY FRAUD ON THIS WOULD RESULT IN A 5YEAR SENTENCE NOW IN MAY10 I CALLED AND AFTER SEVERAL HOURS OF BEING TRANFERRED I SPOKE TO ANOTHER SUPERVISOR TOLD TO FAX MORE INFO SO I CALLED THE MENTAL HEALTH PROGRAM SO I WOULD HAVE PROOF THAT IT WAS FAXED I SENT TWO UTILITY BILLS AND DOCUMENTATION DATED JAN 09 WHEN THIS PERSON APPLIED AND A COPY OF A POLICE LOG IN THE LOCAL PAPER WHERE HE USED HIS MOTHERS APT8 I LIVE IN APT6 I WAS TOLD BY THE SUPERVISOR I CALLED THAT I SHOULD CONFRONT THIS PERSON WHICH WOULD JEOPARDIZE MY SONS SAFETY THIS PERSON HAS TAKEN MY SONS PACKAGES FROM THE UPS DRIVER OPENED THEM AND DISCOVERED IT WAS A REPLACEMENT CABLE BOX HE RETURNED IT TWO WEEKS LATER MINUS THE REMOTE CONTROL I THEN CAME HOME AND FOUND MY SON HAD BEEN PUNCHED IN THE FACE BY HIM SO I AM SUPPOSED TO CONFRONT HIM I SPOKE TO THE REALTY OFFICE AND WAS INFORMED HE SHOULD NOT BE ON ANY MAILBOX BECAUSE HE IS NOT A LEGAL RESIDENT IN THIS PROPERTY HIS MOTHER HAS SUBSIDY AND HE IS NOT ON THE LEASE NOW HE HAS MOVED HIS NAME TO APT10 I GET DIFFERENT INFO EACH TIME I CALL SAFELINK TO ALL YOU PEOPLE WHO PRAISE THIS SERVICE I HOPE YOU NEVER HAVE THIS HAPPENTO YOU RICHARD

Community Voice Mail National Office said...

Sorry you're having such a lousy time with Safelink. In which state are you located? If you're in Maryland, Michigan, New York, North Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, or Virginia, you can get a Lifeline mobile phone from Assurance Wireless (www.assurancewireless.com). As I've written elsewhere on this blog, Assurance is a much better Lifeline phone for eligible people; 200 minutes/month vs. 55 to 68 for Safelink. If you're in one of these states and eligible for Lifeline, contact them (call 1-888-898-4888).

Good luck to you and your son.

Anonymous said...

how long should it take to recieve your safe link phone??? It has been since 10/7/10, its now 10/15/10.... Please email me with answer thank you! krazy_MAINEiak_23@yahoo.com

carl said...

I have to laugh at the Teabag clowns that gibber about "Obamaphones" and taxes. Get it right -- it's paid for by the Tracphone company. If you're going to babble Teabagger ideology, please just go and make a tricorn hat out of construction paper, and stamp your little feet somewhere else.

Community Voice Mail National Office said...

Technically, the Lifeline program (which provides Safelink and Assurance Wireless phones, among many other landline and contract cell options) is funded by the Universal Service Fund, which is collected from each phone company. Most (all?) of these phone companies in turn collect the USF fees from their customers. The fees are based on long-distance calls, so if you make long-distance calls, you're contributing to the USF.

It is likely that Safelink and Assurance Wireless are contributing some of their own money to their Lifeline programs, usually in the form of a free handset.

Anonymous said...

Safelink now offers 250 free minutes per month and they are more prompt than assurance. I have sent in four (4) applications to Assurance but no phone, i was told you might have to send in as many as ten (10) before you get a phone if you qualify.

Anonymous said...

I truly think that its a nice thing for the needy to receive help in this area because for those who are saying that your taxes shouldn't have to pay for this. think about the older people that can't work but still need a safe way to communicate. You should be grateful for something like this because my grandma has one and i can call and make sure she's okay. I'm just saying true people can get up and work, bit at least look out for the older people that can't or don't need to work.

Anonymous said...

I tried to get one of these Phones, and they said I do not qualify due to the fact I do not receive mail at my street address. They are not am american company. They are based out of India, and according to their representative it is illegal for people from India to send things to the USA through a PO Box. Another reason why the USA is going down the drain. Why can't an american company handle it, or at least have a shipping office in the us that handles the USA business.

Community Voice Mail National Office said...

Tracfone, the company behind Safelink Wireless, isn't based in India, but their call center (the place you called) may very well be. That being said, they are implementing a program based in the U.S., and the part about not being able to send phones from India isn't true. What *is* true is that to get a phone and service through this program, you have to have a valid U.S. mailing address (i.e. something recognized by the post office), and only one phone can be sent to that address. They won't send to P.O. boxes or any address not in the U.S. Post Office database of valid physical addresses. This is the law as established by the FCC, and any company providing Lifeline phones has to abide by this law. There is a movement to get the FCC to amend this law, but a change like this often takes a lot of time...

Anonymous said...

tracfone/safelink are apart of something phenomonal even as cheap as it may seem. Telephone services have been deemed a life essential service to the less fortunate in this country. And regulated by the federal government in much the same way as electricity and natural gas. By the utilies commission. So if you need it you will not be refused unless of course you dont qualify.. It is a huge market already and with the economy right now this business is booming..All you gotta do tracfone is just keep on peddling those dimestore phones, if you were more integral id do some networking for you.. YOure not giving anyone anything but a hard time safelink. The way I see it You guys are right there with all the unfortunate people with your hand out.

Anonymous said...

They now offer 250 free minutes with the phone.

Billione said...

Has anyone corrected any of the people who have suggested that the so-called poor people who benefit from such phones "get a job" because they don't want their tax dollars going toward this program? Zero tax dollars are going to pay for these phones or service. So each of you that has made the comment needs to find another issue to gripe about. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

Just for the record Safelink/Tracphone SUCKS! I qualify for the service and I got my cheaply made phone within 7-10 days. I had the brilliant idea to port my number over from a major carrier...that's the number all my doctors have, etc. And now I've been just over 2 weeks without cell phone service of any kind. This required that they send me a new or replacement SIM card. Twice they've sent it to the wrong state and getting a tracking number or even trying to speak to someone that's halfway intelligent is next to impossible. The phone might be great if use it straight out of the box. But if you have any sort of issues and need to call customer service, all I can say is good luck. They are the worst out of any company I have ever spoken to. They will "yes" you and say that they "understand" when in reality, they don't give a shit about your problem and do absolutely nothing to resolve it. And once you ask to speak to a supervisor, it's just another rep. Before too long, they all answer with fake names and say they are the supervisor. I'm thinking about sending the phone back and using some other company on a "pay as you go" plan. The chances are good that the big carriers can handle common issues like this. I came from Verizon who yes has some major billing issues but they at least fix them if you call them. Sad but Safelink actually makes the big companies look better. Lesson learned on my part...you get what you pay for.

Anonymous said...

To those Anonymous and disabled posters. BRAVO! I am disabled also, and I live and support a son on only social security $600 a month. I don't get any handouts, we just go without everything, no car, no new clothes, no winter boots and coats...etc. We had no phone for 3 years, until a social worker told me about another free phone company called Assurance wireless. I got the free phone and 250 free minutes per month (no text unless you pay for it) which is higher than safelink. I prefer Skype (unlimited for less than $3 a month, but this gives me a back up phone and one I can keep with me when I'm able to go out somewhere. The phone is REALLY tiny which bugs me, but it sure is good to have around. When it comes to the government helping the poor those who don't like it must be smart enough to realize that there will ALWAYS be people who will abuse them, but that doesn't justify NOT helping the poor because others are greedy and selfish! Yeesh!

Anonymous said...

If you want to double your minutes...when you buy the card at the store..before you input the 16 digit code on the card..be sure to check your email...safelink sends an email out every so often with a promotional code you can use to double your minutes..so when you buy the 20 dollars/60 min card..put in the code..when it asks to put in a promo code, put in the promo code provided from the email, and your minutes are doubled...hope this helps..

Anonymous said...

I cancelled my SafeLink service last month and signed up with Life Line.
Safe Link is still giving me minutes which is fraud so I have to file an FCC Complaint I'm not losing my new service because of their greed

Anonymous said...

It isn't all about money.
Those who negatively comment about others who are frustrated in how they are treated because the phone is "free" fail to see the offense is very real and can be morally defrauding and disheartening. Even when money has been involved courts often award financial compensation for emotional "costs" or ignored promises.
For a needy person to be given a free box of food that is knowingly inedible is demeaning.