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What Does It Cost to Switch Cell Phone Carriers?

Posted on 03/10/21 by Nicholas Jones

woman using cell phone to shop for a new mobile carrier

Today, switching cell phone carriers is easier than ever.

Years ago, moving from one phone provider to another meant buying a new phone, switching to a new phone number, and adding contacts and apps manually. Now, this is rarely the case. Most phones work across any provider, the cloud makes restoration easy,  and phone numbers can be transferred regardless of carrier. This allows cell phone customers to switch whenever necessary — whether they’re looking for improved service or better rates.

However, there are still some hurdles involved in switching cell phone carriers that users should know about. The process isn’t always free, and approaching the switch without proper preparation can result in big fees and big headaches. This is what you need to know about what it costs to switch cell phone carriers.

Why Switch Cell Phone Carriers?

While many customers are content to stay with the same cell phone carrier indefinitely, some people will eventually make the leap to a different provider. This usually occurs for a few distinct reasons:

  • Cost Savings: Some providers are more expensive than others. If bills are getting too high to manage and a competitor can offer a better deal, then switching may provide long-term cost savings.
  • Better Offerings: Most carriers have similar plans, but customers with limited minutes or data may want to switch to a more expansive alternative that can accommodate increased calls, texts, and mobile web browsing.
  • Improved Service: Not all carriers can provide the same level of reach. Customers in rural areas in particular may find that one provider offers better reception than others.

For those seeking better reception, it’s important to be aware that making a switch may not yield a significant improvement. Remote areas may have a similar service situation regardless of carrier — providing a substandard experience across all major providers. This can lead to costly switching for unnecessary reasons. In these situations, a cell phone signal booster can help you improve service in your home or vehicle at a cost far below the average price to switch carriers. Boosting a local signal is easy and affordable, giving you the results you need without the costs that come with a big switch.

man talking on cell phone in his home

Costs to Switch Cell Phone Carriers

Despite an increased ease in switching cell phone carriers, the process can still be somewhat of a commitment. There are a number of fees that can apply to the switching process, making an arbitrary move a costly burden. For this reason, customers are discouraged from switching without a good reason for doing so.

With this in mind, it’s important to note that not all fees will apply to all customers in all circumstances. Some fees (like early termination fees, for example) may not be applicable if a customer’s contract is up. Before assuming fees apply (or assuming they don’t), read through your contract and the terms and conditions imposed by your current carrier carefully.

Early Termination Fee

An early termination fee is exactly what it sounds like: a fee for ending an agreement with a carrier early. Today, these fees are relatively rare, as many providers are moving away from the two-year contract model. However, some customers may still be subject to steep costs for quitting. Early termination fees may be either a flat rate or a variable amount that decreases as the end of a contract draws nearer.

Some carriers will cover the costs of early termination fees for those who switch in an effort to draw business away from the competition. Be sure to ask a new provider during the sign up process.

Device Payments

In the past, most cell phone carriers required customers to purchase a device in full at the start of each new contract period. While some cell phone users may still do this, it’s now far more common to finance or lease devices over the life of a contract. This model can be more affordable on a short-term basis but can require customers to pay off balances or lease termination fees if a contract is canceled before its end point. If you’re considering switching but just financed or leased a new device, then you may find yourself owing hundreds of dollars in device payments when cancelling.

Additional Fees

Some phone carriers add on extra fees, like restocking fees, to make switching to a new provider an expensive headache. Be sure to check your contract before moving forward to see if there is any way to reduce or avoid these kinds of additional expenses.

Costs When Starting Service With a New Carrier

man paying online with a credit card

Customers can expect to pay some level of costs associated with quitting an old carrier, like termination fees. But there will likely be additional expenses owed when joining a new carrier. Before signing any paperwork, take time to research the kinds of fees and charges that may be a part of enrolling in a new plan.

Activation Fees

Activation fees are common across most carriers and generally apply to both new plans and new phones for existing users. These fees are often low, usually no more than $50. Some carriers may waive activation fees to incentivize new customers.

New Device Purchases

In some cases, customers may be able to bring their devices from one carrier to another, but this isn’t always possible. When device portability isn’t an option, new customers may be required to purchase or lease a new phone. Many carriers offer discounts and deals on popular phone options, like new Android and iPhone models, but buying a new device with a new carrier will likely require at least some kind of investment up front.

Plan Costs

If you switched carriers for a reason other than price, like enhanced features, then you may end up with a more expensive plan. This can mean a necessary increase in regular spending — whether major or minor. When comparing prices, be sure to consider taxes and fees. A plan’s advertised price is usually lower than what a customer will end up paying on a monthly basis.

Be aware that some carriers utilize an a la carte model for extra services, like use of a mobile device as a hotspot or international coverage. If users want premium services, these kinds of features can add up.

Will a New Carrier Cover Termination Costs?

Whether a new carrier will cover termination costs is highly variable and will depend on both the provider in question and any particular promotions in place. Some are always willing to do this, while others are more resistant. Even if a provider doesn’t make coverage clear, it never hurts to ask. Many customer service representatives are willing to do whatever it takes to register new customers, and that can include covering a variety of costs associated with leaving a provider. However, unless explicitly advertised, don’t count on a new carrier to cover termination costs. Always approach a switch as if all expenses will need to be paid out of pocket.

weBoost home studio next to cell phone in home

Switching cell phone carriers can be a costly commitment, but there are several valid reasons for moving from one provider to another. If better reception is your primary reason for switching phone providers, then a cell phone signal booster may be the cheapest, most effective way to improve performance.

Before dropping a few hundred dollars in fees to switch carriers, check out weBoost boosters and see what we can do for you.

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