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Guide For Switching Cell Phone Providers

Planning to switch phone carriers can seem a little overwhelming, but the truth is the process is quite straightforward once you’ve chosen a new provider, with the cell phone carriers taking care of most of the work for you. Here we’ll explain how to choose a new provider, how to switch cell phone carriers, and how to keep your number.

How to Choose a New Cell Phone Carrier

If you’re going to switch cell phone providers, you have no shortage of options. Several dozen service providers operate in the USA, although only four have their own nationwide wireless networks: Verizon Wireless, AT&T, T-Mobile, and Sprint. Most people choose from one of these four networks.

When you’re planning to switch phone carriers, deals and discounts are the main draws for many people. Remember however that while special deals (such as free access to streaming television services) are certainly tempting, the strength, reliability, and speed of the carrier’s networks are more important factors.

Do your research carefully before you switch phone carriers. Read the fine print of any agreement to make sure you know what the service offers. It doesn’t make for a thrilling read, but doing so helps you decide if a potential new carrier is right for you.

How to Switch Cell Phone Carriers

The process of switching cell phone providers is quite simple. All you’ll need is some basic information on your existing carrier account, including your name, billing address, and current account number. You may also need your phone’s ESN/IMEI number, your current account’s password, PIN, or the last four digits of your Social Security number for identification purposes.

Accessing this information isn’t a problem if you’re the main account holder on your current cell provider account. If you’re on a family plan, you may need to get some of this information from your plan’s main account holder.

Contact your new cell phone provider and set up the new account. Make sure your phone is unlocked if you want to keep using it with the new provider. You may have to ask your existing account provider to unlock the phone or your SIM card. Most often, this request can be made with a simple phone call.

To complete the process, your new service carrier will contact your old provider on your behalf to switch you to the new account, a process that may take anywhere from a few hours to a business day.

Settling Accounts with Your Old Phone Provider

When you switch phone carriers, you’re still liable for any charges owed to the old provider, who will typically send you a bill for any outstanding debt within a month. Before you make the switch to a new provider, check your existing service agreement carefully: if you’re locked into a service contract you may have to pay termination fees. Sometimes your new carrier is willing to pay any termination fees as part of their switch cell phone carrier deals, but not always.

If you bought your phone from your existing carrier, make sure the phone is paid off before you switch cell phone providers. Otherwise, you may have to pay the outstanding amount upfront.

How to Switch Phone Carriers and Keep Your Number

There was a time when switching phone carriers meant surrendering your old phone number and getting a new one from the new provider. Needless to say, this was a major inconvenience, as phone owners had to inform all relevant parties of the number change. Worries about changing phone numbers prevent some people from making the choice to switch cell phone providers even today.

Fortunately, times have changed. The Wireless Local Number Portability federal regulation protects your right to keep your phone number, and in most cases, it’s easy to transfer, or “port,” your old phone number to a new cell phone provider.

There are exceptions to this rule. While old carriers cannot prevent you from leaving with your old number, new carriers are not obligated to accept the new number. As refusing to port an old number isn’t good for business, most carriers allow you to do so. A few local providers, however, still won’t accept old numbers.

Before we get into how to switch phone carriers and keep your number, there’s an important precaution to take. You need to determine if your mobile device is compatible with your new provider. Again, this isn’t as big an issue as it once was, but you should check the new provider’s website to ensure your old phone will work with them (if not, it’s possible to port your old number to a new phone).

To port a number to a new cell phone carrier, take the following steps:

  • Keep your old carrier account active until the port is complete.
  • Backup your phone’s data as a safety precaution.
  • You can port an existing cell phone number, landline, or fax number, but not cannot port a number to an existing line.
  • Contact your new provider and ask that your old number be ported. Be ready to provide your name, address, and customer account number.
  • If you are keeping your old phone, provide the new carrier with the phone’s ESN/IMEI number, which you can find in Settings under About Phone.
  • Your new provider will contact your current provider and make arrangements to port the number. You don’t have to do anything at this point.

Once your new phone service is activated, your old carrier should cancel your old phone service. Call the old provider to confirm the switch to the new carrier has been finalized.

Taking Advantage of Switch Cell Phone Carrier Deals

Competition among different phone providers is fierce, and the major carriers often reserve their best deals for customers who are switching from other providers. Deals may include special discounts or significant savings on new phones, so before you decide to transfer your old phone, check to see if you can pick up a new phone with your new service plan.