Whenever you buy a new smartphone, you probably check your mobile carrier to see if they have any deals. As you search for the best phone for you, you may find that your carrier is charging you a lot more than it should be. So while you can still get your dream smartphone upgrade at a bargain price, you may have to deal with carrier contracts to make your dream a reality. You might even need to switch carriers to get a better deal on a particular phone model – or you might want to switch mobile carriers for entirely different reasons.
The bad news is that there may be fees you’d better be prepared to pay. The good news is that you can easily switch carriers if you wish and some of them will be willing to bear these additional costs for you.
What you need to know about switching telephone operators
There are different steps you need to consider before making the switch. First, you need to know how much you still owe your current carrier for your contract and your phone. Next, you need to determine if you will have to pay an early termination fee. As Verizon points out, these are more or less things of the past. But you might have to pay for one, depending on your carrier and when you last got your phone. These steps often involve the money changing hands, and you will make the bulk of the payment.
Finally, you need to make sure you’re ready for a smooth transition to your new phone, which includes dealing with backups and data transfers. For many tech-savvy smartphone buyers, all of the steps above seem quite natural, but if you’re a new user, you might run into some issues along the way.
Before you switch, you should get plenty of information about your current contract and phone. Call your carrier and ask them directly about an ETF and how much you have left on your plan. Once you have an amount, if any, make sure you have the money to cover it and resist the temptation to upgrade your current contract, especially if you want to ditch your current cell phone service provider. . Customer service reps will likely offer you deals to try and convince you to stay.
Also, make sure you don’t cancel your service yet. You will probably want to transfer your current number to the new carrier. As WhistleOut points out, a new carrier doesn’t have to accept your new number. But since they want your business, they will most often have no problem doing so. So instead of canceling your plan during this call, which means canceling your number, you have to ask the new carrier to transfer your current phone number for you, which will start the cancellation process with your old carrier.
Now that you know how much money you have to pay your operator – ETFs and the total cost of the phone and plan – find out what the new mobile operator is ready to offer you in exchange for your subscription. Companies all have plans in place to entice you to switch, but they vary…and you may have to wait a few months for your money back.
Offers for your new phone
Here’s what AT&T, Xfinity, T-Mobile, and Verizon will pay if you decide to upgrade now:
- AT&T: $500 when you bring two devices to AT&T, save up to $800 with trade-in, $250 in bill credit plus free wireless charger
- Xfinity: $100 prepaid card when you redeem, up to $300 with redemption
- T-Mobile: Pay off all old contract (up to $650 per line or $350 in ETF) and unpaid phone payments (up to $800) with the prepaid Visa card, but you’ll also need to give to T-Mobile your old phone.
- Verizon: Mastercard prepaid gift card, discounts on new phones, or extra cash for trade-in when you switch
- Mint Mobile: 3 months free with the purchase of a new device
Even so, these carriers won’t pay you what you’re owed the minute you switched, especially when it comes to ETFs or receiving prepaid cards in the mail. Unless the deal is to pay off your old balance, like T-Mobile, you must first pay off your balance with your old carrier.
Of course, if you don’t want to get a contract anymore, don’t expect a carrier to buy out your current contract. Also, don’t expect deep smartphone discounts when you go the prepaid route, but some offer attractive monthly payments.
You’ll need to verify that your old phone works on the new network if you choose to switch. Most allow you to bring your old device, but will require you to upgrade. This is why upgrade offers are so good. Therefore, you may have to switch phones when choosing another carrier, whether you like it or not.
In this case, be sure to back up your data first. Whether you’re on Android or iPhone, there are plenty of tools to save your contacts, photos and videos, calendar, email, personal files, and media files. You can perform regular backups automatically to a cloud of your choice, or manually to a computer.
When it comes to moving this data, you can contact the new carrier and the old carrier. They will even help you switch from Android to iOS and vice versa. But don’t give up your phone until you’ve backed everything up.
Once you have saved your data, make sure to delete this data from your old smartphone. This means you will need to perform a factory reset – and you need to log out of find my iphone and similar phone tracking apps – then manually verify that your personal data has been removed from the device.
Editor’s note: This article was originally published on December 8, 2015 and has since been updated.