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What Happens if You Miss Your Free Government Cell Phone Re-Certification?

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According to the Lifeline Assistance guidelines, you have to re-certify that you still fall under the program’s qualifying guidelines once each year. Unfortunately, a lot of people forget about their re-certification date. What happens if you forget to re-certify? It depends.

You’re Off the Program

If you don’t get re-certified, you’ll definitely be out of the program. However, what happens after that depends a lot on the plan that you’re on.

If you’re on a cell phone, with no credit card on file and no contract, then chances are your phone number will just be canceled. You’ll receive a text telling you that your plan has been discontinued. You won’t be able to make or receive calls, or use text messaging.

That’s not all there is to it.

If You Have a Phone Bill …

If your Lifeline program is attached to a bill, then it’s a different story. For example, let’s say you’re just using Lifeline to save $9.95 on your phone bill. Perhaps you have internet or cable TV attached to the same bill. Now, let’s say you forget to re-certify your Lifeline phone. What happens?

Most likely your phone will not get canceled. Instead, the phone you’re using will be added to your phone bill. You’ll have to start paying cash for your phone instead. If you want to cancel, you need to actually call your phone company to let them know you no longer want service.

Note that some phone companies can actually charge you late fees for not canceling your phone. This will also be added to your phone bill.

Again, if you don’t have a phone bill, this isn’t something you need to worry about. However, if your Lifeline Assistance program is attached to any other bill, you need to make sure you don’t get billed for not re-certifying.

Make Sure to Read Any Cellphone Related Mail

If the FCC changes any of their policies around the Lifeline program, they’ll send you a letter in the mail. Make sure you open these letters so you know about these changes. A lot of subscribers fell off the program when the FCC made changes to the requirements, because they threw away the notification. They either thought it was spam or just didn’t read it.

Can This Affect Your Credit Score?

It depends. If you don’t have a phone bill, then no. Getting your Lifeline phone canceled will not affect your credit. However, if the plan turns into a monthly bill and you don’t pay that bill, it can affect your credit.

To Wrap Up …

In short, if you want to keep your phone service, make sure you know exactly when your recertification deadline is. Get it done at least a week or two before that deadline.

If you don’t plan on keeping your phone service, it’s better to call and cancel than it is to just wait for the certification to expire. The number to cancel your phone service should be pre-programmed into your phone.

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