Unlock your AT&T phone or tablet
Whether you're planning to leave AT&T for a low-cost carrier on the same network - or to switch to another of the big four carriers - you will need to get your phone unlocked.
This guide will cover AT&T's requirements, the information you'll need to have ready, how their request form works, and an insight into the low-cost carriers who could help you make major savings on your monthly phone bill.
AT&T unlocking requirements
Unlocking your AT&T phone is a straightforward process, just requiring completion of an online request form. Before that though, you'll need to fulfill the following requirements from AT&T:
- The phone must be unlocked.
- The AT&T device isn't reported lost or stolen or involved with fraud.
- You must either complete your contract or installment plan or pay off an installment plan early.
- You must wait 14 days to unlock your old device if you've upgraded early.
- Your service must be active for at least 60 days with no past due or unpaid balances.
- AT&T Prepaid devices must have at least six months of active service.
Unlocking your AT&T phone
If you fulfill AT&T's requirements, then you'll need to the following information in order to submit your unlock request form:
- Your IMEI number. If you do not have it, you can either refer to the phone's Settings option (where you'll find the number after reaching Settings is dependent on the type of phone and its OS), you can dial *#06# on your phone, which will reveal 14 or 15 digits onscreen, or check underneath the battery cover or - in the case of some iPhones - on the back of the phone.
- The account number tied to the phone
- The account password or the last four digits of the account holder's social security number
- The device's phone number
- Deployment papers, if you are in the military and need to request an unlock for deployment reasons
How to submit an AT&T unlock request form
Fortunately, you do not need to contact AT&T customer service. Instead, you can just follow these steps in order to unlock your phone:
- Visit AT&T's unlock request page: att.com/deviceunlock
- Select Unlock a Device
- Read the eligibility requirements
- Fill in the requested information and submit the form
- You'll then receive a confirmation email with the unlock request number
- Click on the link in the email within 24 hours of receipt to confirm the unlock request
- AT&T will either reject or approve of the request within two business days
Bring your AT&T phone to a cheaper carrier
If your AT&T wireless bill is over $40 a month you're likely wasting money.
When you unlock your phone you open up a whole new world of possibilities in terms of saving money. Most customers on an unlimited cell phone plan only use about 3GB of data per month. Paying for data you don't use just doesn't make sense - instead, save over $600 a month per line without sacrificing network quality.
How to switch carrier and keep your phone
Now that your AT&T phone is unlocked, you should consider switching to a smaller carrier (otherwise known as a Mobile Virtual Network Operator, or MVNO for short). Companies such as Red Pocket and PureTalk lease coverage from AT&T at wholesale prices and sell that coverage on to you at very competitive rates.
AT&T MVNO benefits
- Better prices: Save up to 50% on your AT&T bill.
- Customized plans: MVNOs let you pay for what you need. Some even let you build your own plans, giving you even more freedom.
- Absolute freedom: There are no contracts or credit checks with AT&T MVNOs. All low-cost carriers, in fact, offer prepaid plans, so if you find yourself dissatisfied with the service, then you can leave at any time you wish.
- BYOP: You can bring your own phone or bring your own device (BYOD) to an AT&T MVNO, so you can save more money that would otherwise be funneled into an expensive handset upfront or through monthly device payments. Best of all, you can keep your phone number.
Cheap AT&T phones
- Save up to 50% or more: The cost of cell phones has gotten outrageous. Skip the high prices without sacrificing a great device.
- Big bang for your buck: New smartphones generally only have small changes. Refurbs offer huge value at hundreds less, while keeping the features you want.
- Total freedom: Owning your phone means you can take it to a cheaper cell phone plan any time you want.