What You Should Consider Before Changing Cell Phone Providers

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changing cell phone providersBefore you change cell phone providers, there are many details that you must first consider. While there is nothing wrong with doing this, remember that the grass is not always greener on the other side. You need to weigh the pros and cons of sticking with your current provider, as well as what you will get by making a change. Here are several of the most important details to consider:

1. How much will it cost to make a change? Believe it or not, there is probably a fee for canceling your current contract. You agreed to pay this fee upon signing your contract, but probably don’t remember because it was so long ago or it was in the fine print that you didn’t read.

Generally speaking, cell phone carriers prorate the cancellation fee. For example, I recently contacted my provider, Verizon Wireless, to ask about this. I have a two year contract with a $150 cancellation fee. But since I only have 12 months left, it would only cost $75 to dissolve the contract and part ways.

Believe it or not, it’s actually not impossible to get out of these fees if you decide to cancel your contract early. If there are serious issues with the company’s reception, customer service, and phones that you can cite, you may be able to get out of the contract. Make sure you talk to a supervisor as these are the people who have the authority to let you off the hook. In the case of an issue with the provider’s reception in your area, check out Erik’s story of how he got out of his T-Mobile contract and saved $200.

2. To most people, being able to keep their current number is of utmost importance. While this was “touch and go” in the past, you should not have any issues in today’s day and age. No matter which provider you are switching to, they should be able to help transfer your old phone number. To make this change simple, you need the following information: account number of your current provider and the passwords needed to access your account. Again, your new carrier will be able to walk you through this process.

3. Will you need to buy a new phone? Don’t get caught believing that all cell phones are compatible with all service providers. If your phone cannot be used on a new network, you will be required to purchase one upon signing a contract. Again, this is an added fee that you need to be aware of, but most providers offer some kind of free phone if you sign a 2 year contract with them.

For example, the iPhone 4 only works with AT&T. If you move to any other network, you will have to purchase a new device.

4. Don’t forget there’s still more work to do! Once you’ve chosen a new provider, there are still some key things to consider when trying to get the best deal on your cell phone plan. Don’t just go with the status quo and sign up for the most common plan with your new provider. Do your research and make sure you’ve figured out a cost effective plan that suits your needs.

Back to the iPhone…

Let’s be honest: most people who are changing cell phone providers are doing so because they want to get their hands on an iPhone. As noted above, your only option for this phone is AT&T.

For many, the main benefit of switching to AT&T is the chance to buy an iPhone. While this is definitely intriguing, don’t look past the fact that this carrier has had its share of problems over the years. When compared to Verizon, the coverage area is not as large or reliable. This means that your location will have a great effect on just how much service you get. Obviously, this is something to consider before making the switch. The last thing you want is to make a change, just to find that using your phone is next to impossible. At this point, you’re stuck with the new service due to the astronomical cancellation fees.

What about the new data plans for the iPhone? AT&T recently dropped their unlimited data plan for new customers. Current options include $15 for 200MB of data or $25 for 2GB of data. If you surpass your allotment you will be charged $10 for every additional gigabyte of data. This change may have you thinking twice about the iPhone. Those who are still interested should check out our iPhone 4 review.

If any of you have recently changed cell phone providers, let us know how the process unfolded as well as why you made a switch.

(photo credit: samantha celera)

Categories: Spending and Saving

  • Amber

    I was with Verizon but recently switched to T-Mobile. I wanted an Android phone but didn’t want to pay more than what I was already per month (about $65 after taxes) and if I added in the data plan with Verizon it would be at the least $75 before taxes.

    I bought an unlocked Nexus One and went with T-Mobile’s no contract plan (Everything Plus). I was a little concerned about my minute usage, I generally only call people eves and weekends but never usually spent more than 200 minutes of peak calling a month. However, the rest of my family is on Verizon. I’ve gotten at least 2 full month bills, same deal only 200 peak minutes used. My monthly bill, after taxes, $63.01. There was a $35 service fee to initiate but I was at the end of my contract with Verizon and was able to transfer my number pretty easily. I think it took maybe 6 hours to completely port my number. So I had two cell phones for a time, the N1 to make calls out and my LG to receive calls. That’s how I knew it had switched officially, when I started getting calls on my N1.

    T-Mobile offers two options with their no-contract plans. Option 1: You can basically treat it like a pre-paid account. You pay your bill and when you use up all your minutes that’s it until you pay your bill again. There is no credit check going this route. Option 2: You can treat it like a contract plan, they do a credit check and charge you for any time you go over. Monthly payments as usual.

    I did the math, 2 year contract price for the phone plus the cost of a contract required cell plan with unlimited text and data (almost $20 more a month) or full price for the phone with the no contract cell plan with unlimited text and data. Over a 2 year period of time, you pay more for the contract plan. Plus this way I have an easy out if I want to take it. And when I travel abroad, I can use pre-paid SIMs or just free wifi connections. And yes, I do have a Europe vacation coming up this Fall.

    I was a little concerned with T-Mobile’s coverage area but so far it hasn’t been much different than Verizon. Granted, I pretty much stick within highly populated areas but for where I go it seems to work just fine.

  • UseYourNoodle

    The most inexpensive way to operate a cellphone is with Net10. The phones are the same as you would get with another carrier, the coverage is the same too but it is so much less. I couldn’t believe how much I saved by switching, and no contract either. I can still text and talk to everyone fora lot less.

    • Boxergirl

      Do you have a plan or do you pay as you go. the pay as you go…does that include texts as well?

  • Donna

    At and T bought out my cell phone carrier, and since the ‘transition’ started from June of last year to now, I have been bombarded by outrageous charges and having to prove that my plan will not be changed, well, now I am told that I have to put up with At and T charging me outrageous prices and changing my plan, and I am not the only person that is upset with this corporation. I have been trying to fix this. What happened to them honoring what they say in letters to us, that we won’t be over charged and etc and etc. They do not stand by their promises. This has been the most stressful thing to me, and others are telling me to quit At and T and go to Sprint or Verizon. If they don’t fix the problems to my satisfaction I will probably have to do that. I even asked for the president of At and T’s address so that I could contact him personally with my complaints, but to no avail. I kept getting the run around over and over again. It is not fair that the company should charge the customers for their buying out AllTel. This is what it is amounting to.

    • guest

      I am with sprint and had have had ongoing issues; at least once a year I notice my bill has increased and when I call to find out why it is usually a long drawn out ordeal and on many occasions I have to threaten disconnect to get any results, plus, I end up paying a couple of dollars more per month and have less service because they claim they no longer have the codes to restore the option I originally had; over ten years my 2 line plan has gone up about 50%, despite all of my efforts to keep cost down; some of the issues I have had include being charged for taxes in 2 localities; blocks being taken off of my plan resulting in charges from incoming texts and pictures and accidental internet connections, changes in voicemail (now counting against my minutes when originally free), nights and week ends start and end times changed, land-line calls now count against anytime minutes on nights and weekends (resulting in $80 in overall fees, before I was informed, which I am currently fighting over)… the list goes on but you get the idea… I have literally spent hours of time to resolve these issues and about the time I think things are going smooth, something else comes up.

  • Dlgrif1

    The real question remains who is in control of your service and for many, since they now depend on their cell phone, their life. When you go to change phones and the old provider changes your plan to remove features you count on (and pay extra for) as verizon has to “unlimited data”, changing providers is your only way of making known your objection because you never get to speak to a real decision maker customer service maker.

    After over 15 years as an Alltel then Verizon Customer I am faced with this! I have paid more in rates and now find they have a different concept of customer service.

  • Ron I.

    With larger companies buying some smaller ones, it gets confusing to pick the best one at the right price. Seems like they got you coming or going. You think you have a good deal until you find out coverage/performance is not as good as the carrier you left at a slightly high cost.