How to Avoid Early Termination Fees

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Are you stuck in a two-year contract for your smartphone?

If you're caught up in a cell phone agreement with one of the major cell phone carriers, there's a good chance you're paying too much for what you're getting out of your plan.

The two-year contract isn't the best option for all mobile phone users, and the amount of money you spend on these commitments can add up over a 24-month term.

When you realize it's time to leave your contract and start saving your hard-earned money, take advantage of this comprehensive guide on how to avoid early termination fees (ETF's).

In this guide, we're going to define and discuss early termination fees regarding cell phone plans. We'll highlight the reasons why these fees exist and then offer tips on how to leave your agreement without being forced to sacrifice your hard-earned money.

Lastly, we'll direct you to our cell phone savings calculator where you can find a new (better!) plan where you save money.

What Are Early Termination Fees?

If you've become unhappy with your wireless service and tried to leave before your contract has expired, you've likely run into early termination fees. Wireless carriers require you to sign a contract and then use early termination fees to dissuade you from breaching it, as they don't want to see their customers go.

Because the charges associated with canceling your contract can run anywhere from $150 to $200, wireless companies make customers feel obligated to fulfill every term and condition in their agreements.

These added expenses are not always a guarantee if you play your cards right, so read on the discover how to avoid paying early termination fees.

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The How and Why of ETF's

The wireless carriers who offer two-year cell phone plans can charge a contract termination fee when customers want to breach the terms and conditions of their agreements.

When you want to get out of your contract early, therefore, almost every cell phone carrier will bill you in an effort to keep you on board.

The mobile phone users who want to swap their cell phone carriers or avoid signing contracts altogether do have options when avoiding these additional charges to their credit cards.

Whether you're interested in switching to a new carrier or discovering a no-contract cell phone plan, you can rest assured knowing how to get out your cell phone contract without paying early termination fees.

Termination Fees From Major Cell Phone Carriers

If you're bound to a contract with one of the popular cell phone carriers, you'll want to review your company's rules and regulations before diving into our strategies for breaking off your cell phone contract.

You might need to pay off the rest of your wireless device, for example, upon leaving your contract early, so make a plan of attack if you're truly unhappy with your service. Because the process of leaving before your contract has expired isn't always easy, you'll need to know the rules inside and out to wiggle your way out of your contract.

Here's a breakdown of early termination fees by the four major cell phone carriers - Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile - to help you avoid paying more than you have to for your cell phone.

Verizon ETF's

Whether you're wondering how to switch to Verizon or go through the contract termination process for Verizon Wireless, this wireless provider has its own policies and prices for each course of action.

The fee associated with early termination at Verizon Wireless depends on your wireless device, so you can calculate how much it takes to break a Verizon contract term accordingly.

Pro Tip: If you are looking to switch to Verizon from another carrier, they will pay off your ETF's up to $650 per line.


If you're interested in how to switch to AT&T or the way to go about your AT&T contract termination, this wireless company also has its own way to estimate the cost of each route to improved cell phone service.

The fee pertaining to early termination at AT&T depends on whether or not you have wireless devices, U-Verse Internet, U-Verse TV and more, so you can learn the rates for ending an iPhone contract, for example, to determine the cost of finishing your contract term.

Pro Tip: If you are looking to switch to AT&T from another carrier, they will pay off your ETF's up to $650 per line.

T-Mobile ETF's

In the event you're looking into how to switch to T-Mobile or a way to initiate your contract termination, this wireless provider handles these two actions differently from its competition.

The fee for early termination at T-Mobile is not as popular as the money you save by opting for a T-Mobile contract, so you can choose a wireless device and switch to T-Mobile or opt out of your service altogether.

Pro Tip: If you are looking to switch to T-Mobile from another carrier, they will pay off your ETF's up to $650 per line.

Sprint ETF's

When you're focused on how to switch to Sprint or the way to approach your contract termination, this wireless provider has a more flexible approach to finishing contract terms before they're up.

The fee for early termination at Sprint relates to your wireless device and the details of your agreement, such as whether or not you're part of a lease agreement, to break free from future payments.

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5 Strategies For Leaving Your Cell Phone Carrier

Here are 5 tips and tricks for saying goodbye to your cell phone carrier without paying any early termination fees.

1. Switch to a Carrier That Will Pay Your Early Termination Fees

Under circumstances where you want to relinquish your contract and switch cell phone carriers in the process, you can choose a provider that offers incentives. The majority of cell phone carriers will pay your early termination fees and sometimes even the remaining balance for your phone payment if you transfer to their companies.

Given that this option is a sure way to switch to a better network, you'll be finding a better deal without paying a penny in early termination fees.

Your research skills will do you well when you choose this approach, as you'll get your fees taken care of and enjoy some other perks. Because the competition between the top wireless carriers is stiff, you can also use this competition to your favor when moving to a new carrier.

The enticement you'll receive from one company to cancel your contract at another one will often involve compensation in one way or another, so use this leverage when getting rid of your service contract.

2. Protest Changes to the Terms and Conditions of Your Contract

In the case where your wireless provider changes, fails to uphold or violates the terms and conditions of your contract, you can gain grounds to end your deal.

The updates your cell phone provider makes to the cost or length of your contract term, for example, could present the opportunity to cancel your contract. Given that complicated, ever-changing terms of service often go unnoticed among mobile users, you should pay attention to the changes your carrier makes to the contract you signed.

This approach to contract termination can be fruitless unless you find the right changes to your current contract to render it void. If you don't agree to updates during your contract term and report violated terms of service, you could be entitled to leave your service provider without paying the exit fees.

The fact that companies are required to receive consent from their customers for all contract changes gives you a leg up when fighting the battle against early termination fees.

3. Transfer Your Contract to Someone Else

On the occasion when you're ready to give up your cell phone plan quickly and easily, you can simply switch it over to someone else. You'll need to find someone who wants to change to a new provider at the same time you want out of your contract for a total win-win situation.

Because this solution is genius for all the parties involved, it's one of the best ways to get what you want while keeping your wireless provider happy.

Your cell phone carrier will be pleased to continue receiving monthly payments and you'll have helped a person in need after passing along your contract in this way. As you can transfer it to a friend, family member or someone you haven't met, you'll be able to hand over your contract without spending any money.

The process takes about twenty minutes over the phone when the two people are together, so decide whether or not you want to hand over the terms and conditions of your agreement for free.

4. Complain About Your Service

If you're looking for a fun way to lower your cell phone bill or get out of your cell phone contract altogether, you can complain about bad coverage. Poor service, dropped calls and calls that go straight to voicemail are all grounds to contest your wireless service given that it shows the carrier isn't holding up its end of the deal.

Because you have the freedom to contact customer service and air your grievances, reach out to your service provider and then explain your situation.

A simple phone call with your customer service rep can work wonders for your credit card as long as you're polite and professional. When you get in touch with customer service, you'll want to complain to the customer service rep in a way that doesn't cast a negative light on you.

Your rights as a cell phone user let you discuss any recurring problems with service patiently, so keep records of your discussions and do your best to elevate your complaint about a way out of your contract.

5. Move To An Area Your Carrier Doesn't Cover

When you're in the market for a more extreme way to get out of your cell phone contract, you can go completely off the grid. The four leading service providers account for the majority of the wireless coverage across the nation although you can find gaps in service if you try hard enough.

Because you have the option to move out of your provider's coverage area, or at least convince them you've relocated, you can opt out of your contract altogether.

The fact that most carriers have extensive coverage shouldn't deter you from using your new home as a way to quit your contract. Given that your cell phone carrier won't have a choice in letting you go once you've relocated to an area with little or no coverage, you'll be free of your contract eventually.

Your service provider will, however, try to keep you on by offering ways to boost your signal and extend your coverage, so resist the temptation to cut yourself off completely.


If you're fed up with your current cell phone plan, your wireless provider or both, it's time to learn how to avoid early termination fees. These expenses can come as surprises for most mobile users, especially if it's their first times opting out of cell phone contract.

When you're ready to take the next steps toward ending your current cell phone contract, take a look at our cell phone comparison tool to make apples-to-apples comparisons of the best cell phone plans and save yourself a few dollars.

You shouldn't pay an early cancellation fee unless you absolutely have to this year, so consider your options to avoid letting your wireless carrier keep you captive forever.

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