How to Switch to AT&T (Without Paying AT&T Prices)

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So you're thinking about switching to AT&T?

Maybe you're not happy with your wireless provider and you're shopping around for a better price. Or, maybe you already know you want the benefits of being on the AT&T network. We're going to tell you about an option that gives you both.

Did you know that there's a way to have cell phone service on the AT&T network without paying AT&T prices?

If you don't know about MVNOs (Mobile Virtual Network Operators) it could be worth a bundle in savings to read on. In fact, it's not uncommon to save over 50% on your cell phone bill by switching to an alternative carrier.

4 Key Benefits of Switching to a MVNO

MVNOs are smaller carriers that lease bandwidth on the major carriers' towers. This is good news for you because it means you're getting service on the main networks you've always depended on, with the same great coverage.

I know you'll need some good reasons to change carriers, though. Here are some things you should know about how you can benefit from an alternative mobile provider:

  • Cheaper prices: Cell service on the big four has become expensive - we all know that. AT&T MVNOs keep their overhead low so that they can offer you solid service at a better price.
  • Customized plans: The big four carriers all promote their unlimited plans as their main offering. The flaw in this ploy is that the average smartphone user goes through less than 3GB of data usage per month. It's like paying for 200 TV channels and when you only watch 20. MVNOs let you pick and choose exactly what you pay for.
  • No contracts or credit checks: All low-cost carriers offer prepaid plans. If you're unhappy, you can leave anytime you choose.
  • Keep your phone and number: If you bring your own phone will save you between $10 and £30 per month in pricey device payments (which, incidentally, work as a form of contract, keeping you tied to your expensive carrier).

Now that you're ready to take advantage of all of these benefits of MVNOs, let's look at how to go about making the change.

3 Simple Steps to Switching to an AT&T MVNO

Some aspects of changing your mobile service are the same regardless of your current provider or device.

  1. Choose a carrier. Each AT&T MVNO offers something a little different. Find the one with the prices, plans and coverage best suited to your mobile usage and budget. Later in this guide, you'll find a list of AT&T carriers.
  2. Choose a plan. Most low-cost carriers offer customization options - this is what makes them so attractive. You can pay only for what you need instead of overpaying for data or minutes you'll never use. You wouldn't pay for 24 eggs if you only needed 12, right?
  3. Get your phone unlocked. All carriers must grant your request to unlock your phone as long as it's paid off, isn't lost or stolen, and you're not in the middle of a contract.

Now it's time to check out your money-saving options.

ROK Mobile

ROK Mobile is a revolutionary MVNO that offers more than just affordable service. All of its plans include unlimited talk and texts and free international calling, plus roadside assistance. In addition to the regular cell plans, you can also choose plans that include life insurance, burial coverage, ID theft insurance, and more.

As far as ROK Mobile vs. AT&T prices, here's how it breaks down. ROK Mobile offers three GSM plans: $30 for 3 GB, $40 for 6 GB, or $50 for 8 GB of data per month. AT&T charges $90 for its unlimited plan.

What you need to know, however, is that the average smartphone owner only uses about 3 GB of data per month. Choosing the $40 option from ROK Mobile saves you as much as $600 per year over AT&T.

Red Pocket

Red Pocket gives you several choices in terms of your data plan. Prices start at $10 for 500 MB with the top tier coming in at $60 for 10 GB. 3 GB of data will run you $30 per month. Red Pocket also gives you free international calling to 72 countries.

Straight Talk

You may have seen Straight Talk products at your local Wal-Mart. This provider also utilizes all four networks, providing what they claim is 99% coverage of the U.S. population.

Plan prices range from $30 to $60, with the highest level giving you free calls to countries like Canada and Mexico. You can also purchase extras like a mobile hotspot and global calling cards.

Other AT&T Carriers:

  • Net10
  • H20 Wireless
  • Cricket Wireless
  • Freedom Pop
  • Consumer Wireless
  • Pix Wireless
  • TracFone
  • Boom Mobile

Pro Tip: You can sell your old phone using our comparison tool and then buy a used or refurbished phone.

Switching from Sprint or Verizon

If you want to switch to an alternative AT&T carrier from Sprint there are a couple of things you should know, especially since you will probably be bringing your own device.

There are two technologies used for cellular phone service - CDMA and GSM. Sprint and Verizon utilize CDMA. It used to be that there was no way to bring your own phone from one network to the other, however, some newer phones are designed to function on both the CDMA and GSM technologies. These include:

  • Most 4G LTE devices
  • "Global" phones, which are CDMA phones designed so that you can use them in other countries
  • Some newer iPhone models

Once you've checked with your chosen carrier to make sure your device is compatible, you'll need to call Sprint and request an unlock code. This code allows you to use your phone on any carrier.

Check out our handy guide on how to unlock a phone. Verizon devices come unlocked, so if you're making the switch to the AT&T network from Verizon you'll be ready to go.

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Switching from T-Mobile

T-Mobile operates on GSM just like AT&T devices making the switch pretty easy.

In order to free your phone for use on the AT&T network you can submit a request for T-Mobile to unlock your device. This wireless provider also allows you to unlock phones through the T-Mobile Device Unlock app. The app is only available for Android so you should contact customer service if you need to unlock an iPhone.

Even though many phones will work on both networks it's best to check with your new carrier to verify that you can keep your device. You will then want to compare cell phone plans available from AT&T MVNOs to figure out which one best matches your needs and budget.

questions to ask before switching to at&t

Questions to Ask Before Switching to an AT&T MVNO

Changing carriers doesn't have to be intimidating. Here are answers to some common questions you may have about switching to AT&T low-cost carriers.

How Do You Activate an AT&T MVNO SIM Card?

Your SIM card - which you can learn more about here - should arrive already activated or come with simple instructions to do so.

Can You Take Your Existing Phone to an AT&T MVNO?

If your current phone is from T-Mobile, then you should have no problem bringing it over. If it's from Verizon or Sprint, you may be able to, but you'll want to check with the carrier to be sure. Verizon iPhones are the most likely models to be eligible for this process. Whether you're bringing a Verizon iPhone or that of another carrier, be sure to use iCloud backup to save your data before the switch, just in case (iCloud backup is activated from within your settings).

Will AT&T Alternative Carriers Buy Out My Contract?

MVNOs do not buy out contracts. However, they also do not require contracts. This means once your current contract expires you can switch and never have to worry about being chained to one carrier again.

Can I Transfer My Phone Number?

Yes, you can keep your phone number. It's important that your current phone number remains active until you follow the instructions to port it into service with your new provider. If you cancel your old service first, your number will not be able to transfer.

Do AT&T MVNOs Have Coverage in My Area?

AT&T MVNOs enjoy the same national 4G LTE coverage as AT&T itself. However, if you live in a particularly remote area, check the company's coverage map to be sure you can get service in your location.

How do you port a Phone Number?

Your new service provider will tell you how to for your phone number over to your new account. This process is typically very simple and fast.

Recap

With the rise of these low-cost carriers, there's no longer any reason to pay high rates for data and services you'll never use.

AT&T MVNOs offer the basics you'd expect like unlimited talk, text and data, even international calling options. As intimidating as it can feel to change your cell service, an alternative mobile provider is a solid choice that will put hundreds of dollars back in your pocket.

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