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The Ultimate Guide to Switching Phone Carriers: Make the Smart Move

Kathleen Christie bio
A man talking on his cellphone through his phone carrier.
Want out of an expensive contract with your mobile provider? Before you leave your phone carrier, check out our simple checklist to make the perfect switch.

Have you noticed a sudden hike in your phone bill or experienced lengthy waits for customer service? These issues often prompt people to consider changing their mobile service provider.

As a cell phone plans expert specializing in call center development and telephony operations, I understand the frustration that can come with your mobile service.

In this guide, I'll delve into the essential factors to consider when choosing a new phone carrier and offer best practices to help you select the most suitable plan for your requirements.

» Learn more about the difference between prepaid vs. postpaid phone plans.

Key Considerations for Switching Mobile Carriers

Phones Offered by Carriers

Providers often bundle the latest smartphones with their plans, which can significantly impact your decision-making process. The monthly cost of these phones should be a major consideration, especially given the rising prices of high-end models.

Factor the overall cost of the phone into your budget, including any interest if it's on a payment plan.

Network Coverage

The FCC's mobile LTE coverage map is a useful tool to determine the best carrier for your region. Additionally, check the coverage maps that carriers post online to better understand network quality in your area.

To help you understand how satisfied people are with their mobile service, the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) checks two elements. The quality of phone calls (like how clear they are and if they get dropped), how strong the network coverage is, and data speed.

Based on the ACSI's ratings from 2022 to 2023, both AT&T and Verizon are fantastic choices. They scored 80 out of 100, meaning their customers are generally happy with their services.

Number Portability

Most people want to keep their existing phone numbers for convenience. Thankfully, regulations require carriers to allow number porting, making it easier to switch without changing your number.

Here's what you should do:

  1. Check if you can transfer your number: Ensure your new carrier can take your old number. This usually works if both carriers cover the same area.

  2. Pick a new carrier and plan: Choose a new mobile carrier like Tello and a plan that fits your needs.

  3. Collect information from your old carrier: You'll need:

    • Your account number.
    • Your account PIN or password.
    • Your billing address.
    • For business accounts, the name of the person authorized on the account.
  4. Keep your old service active: Wait to cancel your old service until your number is moved over. If you cancel too early, you might lose your number.

  5. Tell your new carrier you want to keep your number: When you sign up with the new carrier, let them know you want to bring your old number and give them the information from your old carrier.

  6. Wait for the transfer to finish: It might take a few hours to a day for the number to move over, sometimes longer.

  7. Activate your number with the new carrier: Once it's moved, you'll get instructions from your new carrier to use their service.

Contract Terms

Whether you choose a contract-based plan or a no-contract option, be mindful of the conditions involved, particularly if you're getting a new phone. Some contracts may include a commitment period or early termination fees.

Mint Mobile, for example, operates on a prepaid basis, offering plans in 3-, 6-, and 12-month increments. Suppose you cancel within the first seven days of activation or before using more than 100MB of data. In that case, you are eligible for a full refund.

On the other hand, Cricket Wireless typically doesn't charge fees for canceling your account. However, if you have a contract or installment plan with a device agreement, there may be early termination fees or a remaining device balance to settle.

After completing the account termination process, it's wise to confirm that your account has been successfully closed. You can do this by contacting customer support or reviewing your status online.

Phone Bills

Take some time to go over your current phone bill to spot charges you weren't expecting. This includes data overages or roaming fees from international travel.

If you often face data overage charges, consider a carrier like Mint Mobile, known for its generous data plans.

Choose the Right Plan for Your Needs

Carriers have a range of plans to suit different preferences. For instance, Visible offers a straightforward plan with unlimited data, talk, and text. This is ideal for those who prefer a simple, all-in-one solution without choosing from multiple options.

On the other hand, Xfinity Mobile, known for its flexibility, allows you to mix and match different types of lines on one account – perfect if your family has diverse needs, like one person needing unlimited data while another hardly uses any data at all.

For frequent travelers, exploring the best mobile plans from Ultra Mobile that include international calling features can be a cost-effective solution in the long term.

» Are you often out of the country? Check out these mobile plans for frequent travelers.

Carrier Customer Support

In-store support at places like Verizon is excellent for a hands-on experience with devices and plans. You can try out phones and get immediate answers. If visiting a store isn't an option, you can check out online support options with FAQs, live chats, and forums, which can be handy, especially after hours.

For complex issues like account or billing, phone support from carriers like Verizon and T-Mobile offers detailed assistance. Mint Mobile also provides quick help through social media and apps.

You've got to check how fast a carrier responds and if their service hours work for you. Also, look at customer reviews for insights into a carrier’s service quality.

Best Practices for a Smooth Phone Carrier Switch

Switching to a new mobile carrier can be a smooth process if you follow these best practices.

  • Check phone compatibility: Make sure your phone is unlocked for flexibility. For instance, an iPhone bought from Apple is generally unlocked, while one from a carrier like Verizon might be locked to their network.
  • Don't cancel your current service too soon: Wait until your number is fully ported to the new carrier. For example, if you're moving from AT&T, keep your service active until the switch is complete.
  • Note feature changes: Features like voicemail settings may reset. Jot down specific settings from your old carrier to replicate them on your new one.
  • Prepare for transition issues: Sometimes, porting your number might cause temporary glitches like dropped calls or texting issues.
  • Assess customer service: In-store support can be more helpful for complex issues, unlike online support, which might be better for quick fixes or general queries.
  • Research costs and coverage: Look into plan details and network coverage. For example, Verizon might offer better rural coverage than other providers.

Navigating the Switch to Your Ideal Phone Carrier

Switching to a new phone carrier can feel like a big step, but it's often a move that brings more benefits and satisfaction in the long run. As you weigh your options, remember to consider factors like network coverage, plan costs, customer service, and the specific needs of your mobile usage.

With the right information and a clear understanding of what you need, you're well on your way to finding a phone carrier that aligns perfectly with your lifestyle and communication needs.

» Want more options? Check out these Verizon alternatives.

Kathleen Christie bio
Kathleen Christie, a Top10 writer, specializes in call center development and telephony operations. She's skilled in Avaya provisioning, IP Telephony, Modular Messaging, Microsoft Suite, and Telecom Expense Management, along with Training, Leadership, Customer Service, and Problem Resolution.