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What to Know Before You Buy a Phone Online


January 31, 2019

If you’re wondering how to buy a cell phone at an affordable rate, you’re not alone. A brand-new smartphone may be tempting, but the hefty price tag that comes along with it? Not so much. Whether you choose to buy a phone through your carrier, the manufacturer, or an online marketplace, shopping online may be your best chance at finding a great deal. Consider these tips to help you think outside the box and find a solid phone for a great price.

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Shop around for deals

You can buy a phone without a plan, but it’s often the best choice to find a good deal on a phone from your preferred carrier. For many cell phone carriers, the best sales come at specific times during the year. For example, you can usually get a great deal on an older phone when the newest model hits the market. If you’re looking for the latest model, wait a few months for the demand to die down to avoid paying top dollar. And it’s always worth shopping around during the holiday season — Black Friday and Cyber Monday through Christmas may be the right time to score a great deal.

Can’t wait for the holidays? No matter what time of year it is, you may be able to find a sale. Visit your cell phone carrier’s website to see what promotions they’re running, then compare the prices at big box stores, manufacturers, and online marketplaces. A little online research can go a long way in getting the most bang for your buck.

Research the site’s return policy and warranties

Whether you’re buying your phone from an individual seller, at a retail store, or through your cell phone carrier, be sure the website you’re using has built-in buyer protections. Research the site’s return policies and warranties before you shop, as well.

Most carriers offer a limited warranty for phones you purchase directly through them. This gives you peace of mind knowing the device is clean and in good working order. For example, if you purchase your phone from Xfinity Mobile, it comes with a satisfaction guarantee and a 14-day return policy. Big box stores and other retailers offer a middle ground: many will offer a standard return policy and limited warranty.

Ask the seller questions

You can buy used phones online in an online marketplace, but dealing with an unknown seller can be risky. Read the seller’s ratings, and look for detailed descriptions and photos of the phone you’re looking to buy. Ask for the cell phone’s serial number so you can make sure no one has reported it lost or stolen, and inquire about any damage you might not be able to see in photos. Also, find out if the phone is still under contract or lease — your carrier can’t reactivate a phone until it’s free from its previous contract.

For added security, don’t pay for your phone with cash or directly from your checking account. Instead, use a payment method with built-in security, like PayPal or a credit card with generous refund policies. These extra layers can protect you in the event of fraud.

Getting a new phone online can be a great way to find a good deal, but make sure you know exactly what you’re buying before you commit. To find the right phone at the right price, do your research beforehand, shop on reputable sites, and trust your instincts.

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