How to Unlock a T-Mobile Phone (and Switch to a New Carrier)

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When it comes to SIM unlocking, T-Mobile is the most complicated among the major four carrier networks, going so far as to have restrictive limits on their devices. With that being said, these limits should not affect most customers.

T-Mobile spells out a long list of requirements that your device must satisfy before being unlocked, but if you follow the steps below, you'll find the process to be simple.

We'll help you with what you need to check before you unlock your phone: whether your phone is eligible, the carrier's requirements, and the terms and conditions you'll need to follow in order to give them an unlocking request for the requesting line.

We'll also show you how you can keep your unlocked phone on the T-Mobile network without paying T-Mobile's high prices!

Before You Unlock, Check the Tech

  • If you are considering switching networks altogether, then you should know that after unlocking your T-Mobile phone, the phone can be used on AT&T's network, which should cause you no issues. After all, both carriers run their networks on GSM technology, and better yet, they use Band 4 for LTE service, so all 4G LTE devices should be able to use AT&T's network without any problems. All you need to do is pop in a SIM card using AT&T's network and you should be good to go!
  • While Verizon uses CDMA and not GSM, there is a chance that you can use T-Mobile devices on Verizon's 4G LTE network, as both networks run on the same spectrum. However, some functions, such as calls or texts, may be limited, so check with the carrier and your device's manufacturer before you switch to a Verizon carrier.
  • As for Sprint, Sprint is a CDMA network like Verizon, but it runs on a different band compared to the other three carriers. With that being said, Sprint's network does accept certain devices from T-Mobile, but you need to check with the particular carrier to make sure.

But best of all, you can use T-Mobile unlocked devices on T-Mobile MVNOs, as they use the same exact network!

Unlocking Requirements from T-Mobile

T-Mobile has a longish list of requirements before they will unlock your phone. The key ones are:

  • It must not have been reported blocked or reported lost or stolen.
  • If using T-Mobile's Equipment Installment Plan, all payments must be made over the contract term and the device must be fully paid for.
  • You have made no more than two unlock requests, per line, in a single year.
  • If your device is a prepaid phone, it will need to have been active for at least a year, or your smartphone must have had $100 in refills.
  • Your account must be in good standing.

Requesting an Unlock

So long as you satisfy those unlock requirements, you can follow these quick steps to unlock your phone:

  1. Dial 611 from a T-Mobile phone or you can dial 1-877-746-0909 from any other phone.
  2. If your phone is eligible for approval - T-Mobile, after all, can deny any request - you will receive an unlock code.
  3. After you input your SIM unlock code, you'll be able to unlock your device and carry it to a new carrier.

Be ready for T-Mobile to ask you for the following information when you request an unlock code:

  • The number of the account associated with your T-Mobile phone, as well as the account holder's name
  • Either the account holder's password of the last four digits of the account holder's social security number
  • The IMEI or MEID number of the device. You can find the IMEI or MEID number by checking under the battery cover or, if you have an iPhone, on the back of the phone. You can also check the "Settings" of your phone for the IMEI number. From there, finding the number depends on the phone's type and operative system. You can also find the IMEI number by dialing *#06# on your device. The 14- or 15-digit number will flash on screen after you dial the number
  • The phone number attached to the line of service
  • Your military papers, if you are in the military and are being deployed

Did you know that you can unlock cell phones without contacting T-Mobile mobile customer service? Fortunately, there is a T-Mobile device unlock app that you can take advantage of. However, the T-Mobile device unlock app is Android only, meaning you won't be able to use this app if you're using an iPhone.

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Save Money with a T-Mobile MVNO

After you unlock the device and become free from your original carrier, you should take a moment to consider MVNOs as your next carrier. MVNOs are companies like U.S. Mobile, Mint SIM, and TPO Mobile.

These alternative mobile service providers rent space on the major carriers' towers and resell it to you lower prices than you're paying the big guys. These companies offer several major advantages:

  • Better prices: T-Mobile MVNOs don't have the same massive overhead and marketing costs as the major carriers so they can sell you similar service at lower prices.
  • Customized plans: The vast majority of smartphone users don't need unlimited data, yet they pay for it. That's like paying for 100 TV channels when you're only going to watch 20 of them. MVNOs let you decide what kinds of services - and how much - you need, so you're only paying for what you actually use.
  • No contracts or credit checks: All low-cost carriers offer prepaid plans. If you're unhappy you can leave at any time you want. Some MVNOs don't even have activation payments!
  • BYOP: You don't need to purchase new wireless phones! Bringing your own phone to a T-Mobile MVNO allows you to pocket the extra money you'd funnel into a costly device payment plan. And don't worry, you can keep your number too.

Selling Your Old Phone? Compare Offers to Get the Best Price

You've unlocked your phone, but what do you plan to do with that phone? You'll likely be selling it. You can always trade it to your current carrier, but you would not earn a lot of money. Most of the time, you would be better off selling the phone to a reputable online seller. If you happen to have a phone that is in good condition - without scratches, scuffs, or cracks - then these sellers will pay top dollar for your device.

However, if you want the maximum amount when you sell your phone, then you can either do a little bit of research of sellers or you can refer to our handy price comparison tool. For example, you could be wanting to sell your 256GB iPhone 7, which is in good condition. If you access our tool, you'll find - at the time of writing, anyway - that Gazelle will pay you $305, BuyBackWorld will pay $320, while Decluttr will pay $346.

If you happen to be looking for a new phone, then you should think about a used phone rather than a new one, as you'll be able to save hundreds of dollars (up to 50 percent off the MSRP, in fact) by buying a used phone, which will have little differences compared to a newer, off-the-shelf model. With our price comparison tool, you'll be able to compare deals of used phones all in one place, allowing you to not even save more money but also time and energy!

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