As a representative for a major nationwide cell phone carrier for over five years I have been asked countless times how to get out of a cell phone contract without paying any early termination fees. Well, throughout my five years working intimately inside the cell phone industry I have stumbled upon multiple methods that typically result in the company letting the customer out from their service contract without any termination fees.
First it’s important to understand the main reason why cell phone carriers have service contracts. Although there are multiple profit driven reasons cell phone carriers lock their customers into these contracts, the main reason is the device you are using for the service. Let me explain; if you were required to sign a contract when purchasing the phone you are using, then you purchase your phone for a subsidized price. This means you bought your cell phone for less than the company bought it from the cell phone maker for. I know that doesn’t sound possible because you may have paid a high price for an expensive phone but trust me, the cell phone company themselves typically make no money (and often loses money) on the sale of the cell phone at the discounted prices. They then require contracts to ensure that the customer will stay with their company long enough so they can recover the money lost on the device and a good profit on top of that. An early termination fee is just another way to ensure you don’t leave the company early. So before you attempt to get out of your contract after only a few months in, keep this in mind and let your conscious be your guide on whether or not it’s unethical to get out early when you agreed to stay a certain amount of time in exchange for (often) a couple hundred extra dollars in your wallet after you bought that nice phone.
1. Did your text messaging rates change during your contract term? You could get out of your service contract!
Most major cell phone carriers have a policy that if they make a change to the service that breaks any of the terms of service in the contract, then you can get out the contract without an early termination fee.
The thinking behind this is that if the company changes anything in the contract during the service period that wasn’t outlined previously in the contract, then your signature on the contract doesn’t indicate an agreement to these new changes. The most common one is text messaging overage rates as they seem to keep climbing. At the company I worked for it started at $0.05 per text, then $0.10, then $0.20 and so on. On each of those steps I was able to call the company’s customer service line and get customers out early from their contracts as a result of these changes that the customer never agreed to in their contract.
2. Tell the company you moved to an area they don’t have service.
Now make sure you check their coverage maps first to make sure the company doesn’t think they have service in the area. If the company thinks they have service there (whether it really works there or not) then you are fighting a losing battle. Preferably find an area where you have a friend or family member living and the company’s coverage maps don’t show any service anywhere in that zip code. Now when you call the company and tell them you have or are going to move there then they all typically have slightly different methods to confirm you are, in fact, moving or now living there. Sometimes they want something as simple as changing your address in their system to a valid address in the area you say you are moving. Others want a utility bill from that address faxed to them. The worst of the worst companies will want a utility bill or rental agreement in your name faxed to them. Now they realize not everyone has a living situation where they may have these documents, they just want to make a reasonable effort to make sure you are actually moving to where you say you are. Now keep in mind anyone with an internet connection can go online and make a rental agreement for any address and any name they want and print it out. Try to be moving to an address where you already have a friend or family member in case they mail you something important you would like forwarded to you. On a final note on this topic, if you argue that the phone works everywhere else but just not in your house you won’t win. The company will make the “it’s a mobile phone made to be used when you are mobile and away from home” argument.
3. Military personnel may have a good ticket out of their contract.
Cell phone carriers understand that military personnel don’t choose when and where they are stationed. If you have been deployed overseas then you are as good as out of the contract already. If not because of a lack of service overseas then they will typically let you out of contract without any termination fees because of the high roaming rates. Just call the company and tell them you are being deployed overseas and they will let you out. Be prepared however, they also make a reasonable attempt to make sure you aren’t making up a story to get out of the contract here as well. Sometimes they do ask for a copy of your deployment papers. Also if you are just being sent to an area of the United States where their service doesn’t work very well they will typically let you out of contract as well. They are a much more relaxed here as far as how well they cover the area versus letting you out of contract than if you are a civilian who decided to move. They know it likely wasn’t your decision.
4. Find someone to take over your contract.
If you can find someone who’s willing to take over the rest of your service contract then you will be out free and clear from the contract without any termination fees. Basically the company doesn’t care that you are a customer for the length of the contract, they just care they have a customer complete that contract. It doesn’t just benefit you either; the person signing up only has to complete the remainder of the contract not the full length. If you can’t find a friend, family member, or someone you located on craigslist to take over your contract, there are websites that will pair you up with people who are looking to get out of their contract and into your service provider. Do a search and find some of these sites or check out CELLPHONEDEPOT.COM or CELLTRADEUSA.COM.
Now I know there are other, more obscure and harder to accomplish methods of getting out of cell phone contracts without early termination fees but these four seem to be the most popular and in my experience, the easiest for customers to accomplish. Remember not to lie; my point in this article is to show you ways in which you may already qualify to be released from contract without any early termination fees. Good luck!