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Best ways to switch mobile service provider at no cost and avoid early termination fees

ByinTips & Guides | April 12, 2015

Money
Fed up with your current mobile carrier? If so, then this is your must-read. Announcing its new Uncarrier contract freedom, T-Mobile is giving customers a good reason to consider switching service provider. Why? Well, the Magenta Network’s latest initiative promises Sprint, Verizon and AT&T’s subscribers to pay up to even $650 if they abandon their service provider and move to the third of the most popular carriers in the US. But the mentioned T-Mobile offer is just a tip of the iceberg of similar deals recently launched by other carriers, including Sprint and US Cellular.

Best practices while switching your carrier

Cell Phone UserSprint and US Cellular are simply offering to cover the costs of early termination fees for all users of US largest carriers if they decide to sign up to their network. Nevertheless of how good all these may sound, don’t think that the carriers will simply give you the cash. Of course, they will pay your early termination fee but it can’t exceed the maximum level of $350. Additionally, the carriers will also pay you up to $300 if you decide to trade in your old phone.

Such tempting offers are a response to the growing number of unsatisfied mobile service subscribers, especially those who signed up long term contracts. This situation makes all the carriers bringing the game to another level and compete in recruiting masses of new subscribers to their network despite the fact they are still the middle of the contract. But which offer is the best one? How to max out benefits from all these financial opportunities? And is it possible to keep your old phone while changing the carrier? On these and many more questions we will try to answer in our guide on how to switch your carrier at no cost avoiding early termination fees.

Compare offers and plans.

Firstly, before making a decision, you should check and compare all the biggest carriers’ offers. Below we listed several key points you should consider the most when choosing the best switch offer.

  • Money does matter. So before changing your current carrier, calculate and verify how much you can save on such a change. Learn how much the new service plan will cost each month including all the hidden fees and taxes. It is very important thing to do, since most carriers demand overage charges. For instance, Verizon sells 1GB for $10. T-Mobile seems to be the most affordable of all major networks; however, the carrier decreases your downloading speed to 2G after you’ve exceeded your 4G data cap.
  • Network reach is also a factor worth paying attention to. For example if you want to have access to the 4G LTE connectivity literally everywhere, there’s no other option than Verizon which delivers the best 4G LTE coverage nationwide. Other than that, if you’re a rural area resident then you think twice of T-Mobile, which is known for its shortcoming in such places.
  • Next thing is a phone selection. Remember that in many cases it is impossible to buy a phone from one carrier and move it to another. If a phone model is one of the most important incentives for you, then you should check AT&T offer since they’re having the widest selection of smartphones you can purchase and moreover their handsets can be unlocked. On the other hand, if you want to keep your old device, then US Cellular can be the best candidate for you, since it is the only carrier allowing its new subscribers to bring own device to the network and stick with it.
  • Another thing is whether you want or not to sign a contract. Some carriers offer two-year contract or no-contract plans requiring monthly installments to cover expenses of your new phone. Note that T-Mobile is the only carrier that doesn’t give you a two-year contract option.

Concern about the phone model?

Moving on, if you feel like a smartphone model is essential incentive for you when signing up a contract, you should explore the carrier’s smartphones portfolio. Remember always to compare your current plan with the one you want to switch to. Read all the points carefully, with special emphasis on what’s written in the fine print. There are two main ways to bind yourself with a new carrier, both having their pros and cons.

  • Two-year contract enables you to get a new phone significantly cheaper. But, you will have to pay off the device in monthly bill payments for the service. Additionally, you will be also asked to pay one-time subsidize charge. For instance, when taking the latest iPhone or Samsung Galaxy from AT&T or Verizon, you will have to pay $199 at start when entering a two-year service provider agreement.
  • No-contract monthly payments in many cases do not require upfront payments, instead you will have to pay for the phone in 24, 18 or 12 monthly installments. It is an alternative plan offered by most major carriers. The biggest pro of this option is that you will pay slightly lower phone fees than when binding yourself with a two-year contract, and get the new handset for nearly a zero upfront. No contract means no additional cost to cover the phone expenses and no early termination fees if you want to switch the carrier.

If you want to avoid being lead by the nose by the dealer in your carrier’s local store, it is a good practice to print out the offer directly from the carrier’s online website including terms, quotes and fees. You can be quoted on each service provider’s website by simply pretending to shop for a new plan and phone. When you select a particular model of a phone then appears an outlined estimation of prices of various service plans. Once again make sure, you read everything including the fine print which usually includes all the catches unnoticeable at first sight, like overage charges, data caps and other hidden fees.

Trade-in your old phone.

If you want to trade in your old phone to get a discount on a new handset, then be aware that trade-in plans may sometimes be tricky. Most carriers offer trade-in plans which refer only to the latest top-tier smartphones. A new phone can be yours even for zero upfront if you trade in your current device. Naturally, the sum of the trade-in credit depends on the model of the phone you want to exchange. For instance, at T-Mobile the 16GB iPhone 5S gives you a $282 discount. But, you will also have to move your number and start a new plan. If you want to keep your old phone, we recommend to unlock it so it was compatible with any GSM carrier of your choice.

If you want to keep your current phone number to a new service provider, keep it active. So-called “port-in” process enables you to switch your existing number as well as your contacts from your old carrier to a new one.

When your new phone is activated, the only thing you have to do next is to cancel your previous plan. How to do it? You have to take your old phone to your old carrier’s store and terminate the still existing contract. In return you will get a final bill and have to pay the early termination fee. In addition, some carriers punish their used-to-be customers that terminate contract by imposing on them a special charge called a “restocking fee” for a phone that rates from $25 to $75. The thing is that no one knows what this fee means and what kind of terminated commitment it covers.

Ways to avoid early termination fees

Scared of the early termination fee? Don’t worry they are ways to dodge these expenses. For instance, if you’re change your place of residence to a place that isn’t covered by your carrier, you can abandon the carrier and have the early termination fee cancelled. As mentioned earlier, you can also benefit from promotions offered by Sprint, T-Mobile and US Cellular that promise to pay up to $350 of your termination fee when you decide to trade in your old handset. First port in your number to a new carrier and when you get the final bill from your previous carrier, submit it online to your new carrier. Simply, remember that in certain cases the early termination fee is refundable no longer than 60 days after activation of your new phone. So, make sure to deliver your termination fee to the new carrier on time.

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