What Does It Cost to Switch Cell Phone Carriers?

Nicholas Jones | January 4, 2017

We’ve all thought about changing cell phone service providers. Most of us have probably done it at least once, maybe more.

But changing carriers can hit you in the wallet. So let’s take a look at the potential costs involved in switching cell providers.

First, will your reception be better?

When you’re thinking about switching cell providers ask this: Will my new carrier’s reception where I live and work be better than, or at least as good as, my current carrier?

If the answer is “yes,” then proceed below to get a handle on your out-of-pocket costs to switch.

If the honest answer is “no” or even “maybe not,” then you should look closely at getting a cell phone signal booster rather than switching carriers.

After all, what good is the latest smartphone or the perfect service plan if you can’t get cell reception? A cell booster may be able to significantly improve your current carrier’s reception at less cost to you than switching to a new service provider.

For more on this see our previous posts How to boost cell phone reception in your apartment, and How to get better cell phone reception with technology.

Have poor cell reception in your apartment? Switching service providers may not help. Your building may block all carriers’ cell signal from getting in. The solution – a cell phone signal booster.

What will it cost to drop your current provider?

Early Termination Fee Thankfully these charges for prematurely terminating your cell service agreement are fading out as the carriers end the practice of 2-year contracts for subsidized handsets. But depending on when you signed your current contract, you may still be subject to an ETF.

An ETF can be as much as $350 but they’re typically prorated based on months of service. If you think you may subject to an ETF, check with your provider.

Your current phone/tablet payoff You’ll most likely have to pay off your current device before switching. With cell phone carriers no longer subsidizing phones we now have to purchases our handsets. So if want to switch carriers and your phone is not yet paid for, you’ll have to pony up the balance.

And how much you owe probably depends on how long you had the phone. If you’re not sure how much you still owe, check with your provider.

Do other fees apply? Will the carrier you’re leaving ding you for other miscellaneous charges, like a “restocking fee,” etc? Be sure to ask.

What will it cost to initiate a new carrier?

You’ll most likely have to purchase a new phone Often the lure of a feature-laden new device is the very motivation for wanting to switch providers. But some carriers may let you bring an unlocked phone to a sweet new plan. Others require a new phone purchase just to qualify for the new plan. If this is the case, find out how much the device purchase price or the monthly payments will be.

Activation fee Will you be charged for account activation? If so, be sure to ask your new provider’s rep if they can waive this charge for you.

Your new plan How does the new plan compare to your previous carrier’s plan? Is it unlimited? How are data overages handled? Are they charged on your bill, or is your network speed simply throttled back to Stone Age data rates when you go over the limit?

Will your new carrier help you pay for the switch?

Most will, but be sure you understand the conditions. How much can you get to offset your expenses of switching? What must you do to qualify for reimbursement? How will it be delivered to you – for example, on a prepaid card, or as “carrier credit” on your account?


Tired of poor cell reception from your service provider? Click below to check out our full line of cell signal boosters. Before you switch carriers, see if you can save with a weBoost signal booster!