Understanding the major things you can expect when switching from one carrier to another will go a long way towards making the transition as smooth as possible.
You Might Have to Pay an Early Termination Fee
If you are making the jump while you are still under contract with another provider, expect to pay a fee for the privilege of leaving. These early termination fees (ETF) can run as high as $350, causing sticker shock for many consumers. To avoid any unpleasant surprises, make sure to check your current contract and understand what you will owe before you make the decision to switch.
That being said, carriers are always looking to poach customers from their competition, and so it’s not uncommon for major ones such as Sprint or AT&T to facilitate your switch by helping to cover the costs of your ETF. These offers are always in flux, but generally involve either a direct reimbursement or a billing discount.
You’ll Pay a New Activation Fee
Activation fees are a tactic used by carriers to make you feel locked in to their services right from the start. For that reason, even the cheapest cell phone plans will require you to pay an activation fee up front. But while they may be annoying, these fees usually won’t rise above more than $15.
What’s more important for consumers is to understand that your new service is not activated until you pay the fee. In other words, it’s very important to not make the mistake of cancelling your old phone service until you have paid to activate the new one. If you do, you might find yourself unexpectedly without service until you can straighten everything out with your new carrier.
You’ll Need to Decide What to Do With Your Old Phone
Another thing that is often overlooked by consumers searching for the best cell phone plans is the potential cost of replacing their old phone. Do not fall into the trap of assuming that the device you were using with your previous provider will work on the network of your new one, because that isn’t always the case.
Expect to have an upfront conversation with your new carrier about whether or not you can use your current phone. If you can’t, run the numbers to see how the cost of a new one impacts any benefits of making the jump. It’s not out of the realm of possibility that the cost of purchasing a compatible device could end up canceling out the savings you are getting by switching.