How To Switch Cell Phone Carriers

How To Switch Cell Phone Carriers

You're thinking about switching cell phone carriers, but you're not sure how. The process seems pretty complicated, and you have a lot of questions. In this article, we'll show you how to switch cell phone carriers.

Why Switch Cell Phone Carriers?

There are a lot of reasons to switch cell phone carriers. Maybe you were paying too much for the features you wanted, or maybe the coverage wasn't very good in your area. The good news is that switching carriers isn't as hard as it seems. You may even get benefits for doing so, as carriers want to incentivize you to switch to their service.

Pick The Right Time To Switch

It's important that you don't switch cell phone carriers at the wrong time. For example, if you try to switch before the end of your monthly data cycle, the old company will not refund you for the unused days of your plan. You should try to switch a few days before the end of your cycle to minimize your costs.

Also, if you are in a contract, try switching at the end to avoid termination fees.

Pick The Right Plan

Make sure when you switch to a new cell phone carrier that you pick the right plan for your budget and needs. It may be worth going back and looking at your data usage to see how much you've used in the last year or so. If you're only using a few GB each month, an unlimited plan may not be for you.

You can use our cell phone plan comparison tool to help you decide which plan will work best for you. Use our filters to help you narrow down the right price, data, and other features to meet your needs.

Make Sure Your Phone Will Work

It would really stink if your phone didn't work on the new network! Some phones are carrier locked, which means that if you switch carriers, you won't be able to use your phone on the new network. This is a method cell phone carriers use to try to keep you loyal to their service.

If you aren't sure if your phone is compatible, you can check on the carrier's website. They typically have a tool that allows you to punch in a code associated with your device to check whether or not it will work. If your device isn't compatible with the network, you'll either have to find another carrier or buy a new phone.

The code you have to use to check your device's compatibility is called an IMEI or MEID number. On Android, you can find this number by going into your Settings and tapping About Phone. On an iPhone, tap Settings -> General -> About.

Carrier Locked?

If your phone is carrier locked, you won't be able to get it to work on another network. However, it's possible that your phone might work with an MVNO carrier which uses the same network. For example, if you switch from Sprint to Tello Mobile, you would probably still be able to use a Sprint carrier locked phone because Tello Mobile is powered by Sprint's wireless network.

Can I Unlock My Phone From A Carrier?

It's sometimes possible to unlock your phone from a carrier. The process varies in difficulty, but once your phone's contract has concluded, it's always a good idea to get the device unlocked from your carrier. If you don't and decide to cancel your plan, the carrier may not be as willing to unlock your device.

To get started, you'll need to gather the following items:

  • Account holder name and the account's number
  • Device IMEI number
  • Phone number
  • Social security

Unlocking On Verizon

Verizon temporarily locks its devices for 60 days after purchase. After this time has elapsed, the phone can be used on any GSM network like AT&T and T-Mobile.

Unlocking On AT&T

AT&T has a more complicated approach to unlocking cell phones. First, you have to make sure you are eligible for a device unlock via the information from this list, also provided below.

  • The phone hasn't been associated with theft or fraud. This is to prevent thieves from stealing your phone, unlocking it, and using it on another network.
  • There are no past-due balances on your account.
  • The device isn't active on another AT&T account.
  • If you have a business account with a 2-year contract, you'll have to wait 30 days before you can unlock any devices that you've upgraded too early.
  • If you have an AT&T prepaid device, it must have been active for at least 6 months.
  • You'll have to get workplace permission, if the device is owned by a business.

AT&T also offers a handy unlock request form that you can use, as long as you meet the criteria.

Unlocking On T-Mobile

This is pretty similar to other carriers. They also have a list of criteria, just like AT&T:

  • The device can't be associated with theft or fraud.
  • Your account must be in good standing.
  • You can't have requested more than two device unlock codes per line of service within the last 12 months.
  • You may have to provide proof of purchase.
  • If it's a postpaid account, you must have been active on T-Mobile's network for at least 40 days.
  • For canceled prepaid accounts, your balance must be zero.
  • For prepaid accounts, you device must have been active for at least one year or the device must have at least $100 in refills per line.

You can call T-Mobile at 1-877-746-0909, or use the T-Mobile app, to contact them to request the unlock.

Can I Keep My Number When I Switch Cell Phone Carriers?

Yes, as long as you take the right steps! It's best to check the policies of the network you're switching to, so you know how to preserve your number. When you're porting your number to a new carrier, make sure that you don't cancel your old plan until the number porting is complete. Once your number is ported, you can cancel your old plan.

The Federal Communications Commission has special rules to ensure that you can keep your current phone number, if you'd like to, regardless of what you might owe the original carrier.

How Much Does It Cost To Switch Cell Phone Carriers?

Switching cell phone carriers won't cost you much money. In some cases, the new carrier may actually pay you to switch! For example, if you switch to Verizon, you can get up to $650, over several installments.

You may have to pay some fees to switch, but often the benefits carriers offer will outweigh these fees, so you really are gaining money by switching.

How Long Does It Take To Switch Cell Phone Carriers?

Assuming that you are switching to a new cell phone carrier towards the end of your monthly data cycle, this can be done in less than a few days. Sometimes, it can even be done in less than a day! However, it's always good to plan for it to take longer than expected, so you aren't scrambling at the very last minute.

You're Switched!

Now you're an expert on switching cell phone carriers. Thank you for reading this article, and we hope that it's helped you decide to switch to the deal that works best for you. Please share this article with someone who may be looking to switch carriers, and if you have any questions or suggestions, please leave a comment down below.


Liam Shotwell

Hey there! I'm a content manager here at UpPhone. Feel free to reach out if I can help!

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