Switching Phone Carriers: Costs, Fees & Deals
The cost of switching phone carriers can be affected by a number of factors, including device payoff and plan type. But a switch also has the potential to help you improve service and might even save money, making it the better choice in the long run. Before you take the plunge, review what goes into any carrier switch and see if you're ready to make the change.
Early termination fees.
Most major carriers have eliminated the 2-year contract for consumers, so early termination fees (ETF) are quickly becoming a thing of the past. Depending on when you got your last phone, however, you could still be subject to an ETF of up to a couple hundred dollars. The only way to know for sure is to check with your current provider.
Unless you purchased your phone outright or you've had it for a few years, you'll likely have to pay it off. Any outstanding balance must be paid in full before switching carriers. How much you owe depends on a number of factors. Check with your provider to find out your remaining device balance.
All major wireless carriers offer Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) programs. In order to participate, your phone must be unlocked and compatible with the new carrier’s network. If you are purchasing a new phone, ask your new provider about the all-in cost of your device, including taxes. Often, you can get a credit for trading in a device if you aren’t required to surrender it when you cancel your current contract.
Miscellaneous switching fees.
Three common fees often accompany a phone carrier switch:
- Most service providers charge an activation fee of $10 to $40 to create a new account and configure a device for their network.
- It's common for carriers to charge a one-time fee of $1 to $25 for providing and programming a SIM card. Without the card, your device won't work on the new network.
How to switch carriers.
1. Comparison shop
Research and compare apples to apples before you switch carriers. How much will each element, including minutes, messages and data, cost? How much are overage charges, if any? Can you get the device you really want?
2. Watch for deals
3. Gather personal information
Make sure you have all the necessary details, including your current account number, password/PIN and your phone's ESN/IMEI number. You can usually find this on the back or under the battery.
4. Back up your data
Back up your iPhone, Android phone or other device before returning it to your current carrier, trading it in or switching to a new provider. Note: voicemails normally don’t transfer, so listen and respond to them as needed before turning in your phone.
5. Ask about your number
A carrier isn’t required to accept your old number, so check the policy before cancelling your current plan. If you decide to keep your phone number, your current plan will probably need to remain active until you “port in” at the new carrier. (That’s the process of transferring your number and contact information from your old provider to the new one.) To check if you’re eligible to keep your number when switching to Verizon, click here.
6. Make the official switch
You can switch carriers online or in person. Once you’ve activated your new service, your old account should automatically cancel, but contact your previous provider to make sure. You’ll receive a final bill, which may include an early termination fee if you’re required to pay one.
Switch to Verizon.
Switching carriers can be a great way to reduce your wireless bill and, with a move to Verizon, improve the quality of your service. Do some research and follow the above 6 steps so you can confidently choose the best provider and plan for you — without worrying about surprise charges. Click to explore Verizon plans.