Phone “plans” have completely changed. Today, we consumers have multiple choices, lots more flexibility, plus the freedom to get a new phone when we want one, not on someone else’s timetable. Here are the new rules of switching carriers, plus the simple five-step way you can make a switch.
You don’t have to wait for a new phone
Just when we’d finally become accustomed to replacing our phones every two years, everything changed. It used to be, when you signed up to a phone carrier you got a new phone for “free” along with a shiny, new 24-month contract. While that “free” phone may have been appealing, it wasn’t actually free. You were paying for it every month as part of that hefty bill. Plus, if you chose not to “upgrade” (and re-commit) after two years, you were actually overpaying for that phone. Nowadays, you can get a new phone or a new carrier anytime you choose.
You can pay month-to-month
Today, two-year contracts are a thing of the past. When you switch to a new carrier, you are paying month-to-month and are free to leave anytime. This means you can switch your plan each month—choosing the amount of data, minutes or text messages you want to use that month, and you aren’t “extending” your contract each time you do so. Also, because there’s no contract, if you find your carrier isn’t working out, it’s much easier to switch than ever before.
You can buy a new phone … or not
With the new month-to-month billing, came a new way to buy phones. As you no longer buy that “free,” heavily-subsidized phone when you sign your contract, carriers needed a new way to offer you a phone that didn’t mean spending $500 to $1,000 at once. (Yes, that’s how much smartphones can actually cost!)
Instead, you can buy the phone outright from your carrier (or in some cases, direct from the manufacturer) and spread the cost over a 24-month payment plan. This feels like a contract, but it’s not. You can still cancel your service with that carrier, anytime—you’ll just have to pay whatever balance remains on the phone’s purchase price when you leave. Plus, there’s often no down payment (although you will have to pay all the taxes upfront).
You can switch anytime (if you’re not in a contract)
While most carriers no longer offer two-year contracts, you may still be in one. In this case, you will have to wait for your contract to be up or see if your new carrier will cover any of your early termination fees. The only thing that may “tether” you to your old carrier is your old phone. If you own that phone, or can pay it off, you may still need to “unlock it” from your old carrier, so it will work on your new network.
Getting a phone unlocked is a lot easier than it used to be, especially now that it’s actually legal. But that doesn’t mean it’s simple. To do it you’ll need your phone’s IMEI number, your phone number, all the relevant account details, and the phone number of your current carrier. Call them up and they’ll walk you through the process. Some carriers even offer a way to do this online as well, so we recommend you check their website first.
You don’t have to upgrade your phone when you switch
The best thing about this “new way” is that the phone is yours after two years. That’s right, you own it. This means you can sell it, trade it in for a new phone, or keep it and just continue to pay your carrier for your monthly plan. If you are on a budget, this is an excellent option. On an Xfinity Mobile plan, that could mean paying only $12 a month for your smartphone plan! Today’s smartphones can easily last four, five, sometimes even six years. Check out our 5 Signs You Need an Upgrade to help you decide whether to keep your phone.
Now that you know all the new realities surrounding cell phone carriers, here’s a quick step-by-step on how to switch your carrier:
- Step 1 - Research all the plans out there and figure out which is best for you. Xfinity Mobile is the only carrier that doesn’t charge you a monthly line access fee, plus offers free minutes and texts. All you pay for is data: $15 a month for 1 GB or $45 for Unlimited data.
- Step 2 - Gather all your current account information, and make a note of all your phone’s details if you want to take your phone with you (including that 15-digit IMEI number). Call your carrier to find out about any cancellation fees, outstanding balances on your account, and whether your phone is locked to their network. If it’s locked, begin the process of unlocking it with your carrier, but do not cancel your service at this stage.
- Step 3 - Back up all the information on your phone—just in case. On an Android, you can use your Google account to sync all your data to the cloud. On an iPhone, use Apple’s built-in iCloud backup service.
- Step 4 - Call the new carrier to request your new service or simply go online. Verify that they can “port-in” your number from the old carrier. As long as you’re staying local, this shouldn’t be a problem. However, you won’t be able to bring your area code with you if you’ve moved to a different state.
- Step 5 - Once your new service is up and running, call your old carrier to cancel and request a final bill.
Looking for a new phone carrier? No problem. Long gone are the days when you got a shiny new phone and then become locked into a carrier for the next 24 months. Welcome to the very flexible future of mobile phones. For more information on Xfinity Mobile’s wireless plan offerings, visit xfinity.com/mobile.