How to Change Cell Phone Carriersby James JohnsonUpdated September 26, 2017
Whether you're moving to a new area where your current service is not supported, you simply decide to change your cell phone carrier for something new or you want to take advantage of a new cell phone such as AT&T's iPhone, there are several important considerations you'll want to think about. Considerations include the cost of leaving your current provider, whether you want to take your phone number with you to the new company and whether you'll need a new phone for use with your new carrier.
Leaving Your Current Company
Find out the cost of canceling your contract. These costs can run up to $200 for canceling your contract before your full time is up. In most cases, cell phone companies prorate that cost based on the time remaining on your contract. For instance a 2-year Verizon Wireless contract will cost you $150 to dissolve, however 1/24th of that amount is removed for each month you stay on your 2-year contract, or 1/12th for each month you stay on a 1-year contract. Find out from your carrier what the early termination fee will cost before you leave.
Find out if your phone will work with the new carrier. For instance, a CDMA phone from Verizon Wireless will not work on AT&T or T-Mobile's GSM network, but a GSM device from AT&T may work with T-Mobile depending upon the type of cell phone. If you want to keep your phone, it's important that you stay within the type of network your phone supports.
Have your phone unlocked if moving to a new carrier of the same type. If you don't want to buy a new phone, you can often have your phone unlocked by the original carrier for free if you have been on their service for at least 90 days. Call your carrier and ask for the unlocked code. Once unlocked, you can use your GSM or CDMA device on the same type of networks from other carriers.
Moving To The New Cell Phone Carrier
When signing your new contract, include the number you wish to "Port." This simply means the number you want to move from your current carrier to the new carrier. You will need to have your current carrier account number along with any special passwords you use to access your current account. Porting a number can take up to 24 hours in some cases, during which time you can still make calls but not receive calls on the new line.
Examine plans at the new carrier compared to your old carrier. Determine the minutes you'll need including when your nights and weekend minutes will begin. For instance, Sprint may offer early night and weekend minutes; if you tend to make a bulk of your calls at night you may want a smaller minute package which could save you money.
Examine extra features at the new carrier compared to your current carrier. Prices vary and you may want to know what costs you will incur with the new service provider. If the charges are higher, only you can determine if the cost is worth the switch or if you should cut back on certain features.
Request cash back if you're bringing your own phone to the mix. Non-corporate stores (Authorized Resellers) make money for each contract they start, and in some cases they will actually give you cash back or free "gifts" such as Bluetooth headsets and other perks if you have your own phone and you want to sign a new contract. This won't always work, but it's worth a try.
Always check with users of your new service in your area to make sure service is working as advertised. If you don't need to sign a 2-year contract because you have your own phone, go with a 1-year standard contract as it allows for more options down the road.