Cell phone carriers aren’t created the same. If you’ve been with your carrier for a while and you’re not happy with the service, it might be time for a change.
But although several options are available to you, some cell phone carriers are a better match than others. So before you switch, here’s a look at six things you need to consider.
- Check coverage maps
Just because a cell phone provider offers service in your area doesn’t mean it’s the strongest service. Coverage maps can identify sections of your city or town with 4G LTE service as well as sections without 4G LTE. It also helps to know the network’s closest cell tower to your home or work. You don’t want to get into a service agreement and then discover that you don’t get a strong signal at home.
Before switching carriers, ask a friend or relative who has service with the provider to test their cell phone’s signal at your location. If they get a strong signal, you’ll probably be okay, too. But if they get a weak signal, you may have similar problems with that provider.
- Know the cost of leaving your provider
Don’t skip out on your current cell phone provider until you’ve completed your service agreement, if applicable. Changing carriers before the end of a two-year agreement could result in paying hundreds in early termination fees — even up to $350 per line, depending on your device. If you leave and refuse to pay the early termination fee, the company may send your account to collections, which could damage your credit score.
If you’re not sure whether you’re still in a service agreement, contact your service provider for additional information.
- Get a quote from the new provider
Check plans and prices with competitors before leaving your current provider so you don’t end up paying more than expected for services. The carrier you’re thinking of switching to can provide an estimate of monthly costs (including insurance and taxes) based on the phone and plan you’re purchasing.
- Ask about taking your current phone and number with you
Transitioning from one cell phone carrier to another is easier when you’re able to keep your phone and number. This doesn’t work in every situation. But nowadays, it’s almost always possible to keep your old number through a process called porting.
Keep in mind, however, you can only keep your current phone if it’s unlocked, which means it can be used with any provider. Contact your current service provider to learn whether your phone is unlocked. If not, you can purchase a new phone with your new provider, or you can save money and purchase a used phone that works on your new provider’s network.
For example, you’ll need a CDMA phone if you’re switching to Verizon or Sprint, and a GSM phone if you’re switching to AT&T and T-Mobile.
- Don’t cancel your old plan until you’ve completed the switch
If you want to keep your current phone number when switching providers, don’t cancel your old plan until you’ve completed the switch. There’s a good chance that you’ll lose your phone number if you cancel your plan first.
Switching cell phone carriers could help you save money and get better phone service. However, it’s important to do your homework so you know what to expect from the process. By doing so, you’ll avoid spending more than necessary or getting subpar services.