Switching cell phone providers is an easy process. However, before going through with the switch, there are some factors you'll want to account for, as they can affect your finances now and well into the future.
It used to be many cell phone companies would place you under a two-year service contract. If you switched providers before the term ended, you would pay an early termination charge, which varied depending on the device you had and how far you were into the two-year plan.
However, there are ways of avoiding the EFT fee if you are still under contract. If you move, and the place you move to doesn't have service by the carrier then you might be able to have them waive the fee.
For many people, it's a different story now. Cell phone companies have done away with two-year contracts. In lieu of them, you can finance phones for the full purchase price, or in the case of Sprint, lease iPhones with an upgrade option every year.
Fees to Switch Providers
With this in mind, you can incur hefty expenses if you switch providers. To demonstrate, if you have one or multiple phones that you owe balances on, you must pay those off before switching service. This can equate to hundreds or even thousands of dollars up front.
While all four carriers do offer to buy out old contracts or phones when you switch to them--up to a certain amount, it can often take as long as two to three billing cycles to receive this credit. Therefore, if money is tight, it's important to keep these upfront costs in mind before switching.
When you switch from your current provider to a new one, chances are costs are going to be a primary motivator for doing so. Cell phone companies offer enticing incentives to new buyers where you can receive a discounted phone, more data in a plan, or even waived activation fees to join. You can compare cell phone plans using our handy tool here.
Before committing to a plan, it's important first to understand how much data you need. You can go through your last three months of statements to find the average you use per month--for many users, this is between 2 to 3 GB.
Next, select a data plan that aligns well with your current needs. This can help you avoid overpaying for a plan that has much more data than you need; it can also ensure you receive enough data per month so you don't have to pay excessive usage charges.
Using this as the basis, compare each provider's packages to see which offers you the most affordable plans. Along with this approach, if you can find a trusted friend or relative, hop on a family plan.
Join a Family Plan
Individual plans tend to be much more expensive than family cell phone plans. Therefore, if you have a friend(s) who you trust to pay their portion of the bill on time, then family plans represent significant savings to each person.
The reason for this is cell providers charge access per phone line. For this reason, two or three people combined will result in less expensive access charges per line--outside of the primary account holder. This means you'll pay less for the same service and if you use more data, you can pool your resources to receive a better plan.
Keeping Your Current Phone
Financing a new phone can be enticing. Providers don't require a down payment, if your credit is good and you can finance the phone for 0 percent interest. At the same time, it adds more to your monthly payment.
With this in mind, a good alternative would be to bring your current phone with you. Before switching providers, do some research on bring your own phone plans as many companies offer significant discounts on their plans when you don't purchase one of their newest phones. Then consult our guide on how to unlock a phone or ask your current cell phone company to do it for you. They will do so as long as your account is in good standing. Then, depending on who you go with, you might need a new SIM card to activate service.
If you ask your new provider and they won't let you transfer your phone over, then you have several options. You can trade in the device with the new provider, who can offer you credit depending on the type and condition of the phone. You can also sell it online via eBay, Craigslist, or use a service like Gazelle.
Another alternative would be to find a provider who will let you use your old phone with them. This saves you money you would have to spend on leasing a new phone.
Keeping Future Costs in Mind with Promotions
Cell phone providers might try to lure you by offering temporary incentives. These can include more data per month for the same price or a discount off your service for a specified time.
When receiving these promotions, it's important to find out when they will end and what they will cost you after they expire. This can help you determine if the deal is good enough to warrant the future expense. If you're trying to save some extra money on your monthly phone bill, now is also a good time to switch to a cheap cell phone plan.
Keeping Your Current Phone Number
One of the biggest concerns with switching providers is keeping your current phone number. Luckily, most companies make it easy for you to port your number to your new provider. There are some guidelines you must follow, though:
- First, to make the port successful, you must be the primary account owner making the request. If you are on a family plan, you must have your current provider transfer responsibility of billing to you before you can make the request. In all instances, keep the account with the current provider open until the port is successful.
- If you choose to switch to a prepaid cell phone carrier, be mindful of the fact some might not port your new number. Therefore, it's important to call and ask the new provider if they can do this request before committing to them.
- You can only port numbers to new accounts.
- To port a number, you need current information from the carrier including the phone number you want to port, the account number, and any access code you set up with them.
Switching Cell Phone Carriers Recap
If you follow these steps, then transferring your number is easy. Often, if you lease or buy a new phone with the provider, it will issue directions on how to do this during service activation. Normally, this process takes only a few minutes to do. Of course, you can always visit one of the provider's store to complete this as well.
Keeping these factors in mind will help you prepare for the switch financially. It will also aid you in finding the best cell phone plan that suits your needs.