Can You Get Out of a Phone Contract or Sell a Phone You Owe Money On?
Want to get out of your phone contract so you can buy a new phone, switch carriers or due to financial hardship? Wondering if you can sell a phone you still owe money on? Forget legal loopholes or trying to scam the system; instead, use one of the following legit ways to get out of your phone contract.
Pay off your phone
The quickest and easiest way to cancel a phone contract is to pay off the balance. If you’re on a monthly installment plan, the phone is yours once it’s paid off and you’re typically free to cancel your service.
Double-check your contract to ensure there are no Early Termination Fees (ETFs) before cancelling. Some two-year contracts have ETFs that are prorated monthly. For example, if you buy a smartphone through Verizon and sign up for a two-year service term (which is different from a monthly installment plan), you’ll be charged a $350 ETF if you terminate within the first seven months. After that, your ETF fee declines by $10 per month for eleven months, then by $20 for five months, and finally by $60 during the last month of your contract term.
Consider a different option if it’s not practical to pay off your phone right now or you’re facing high ETF fees.
Check major carriers to see if they currently offer any contract buyout deals, which will pay off your phone and/or ETFs when you switch. You might need to trade in your current phone and buy a new phone to be eligible. Some programs offer discounts on new phones when you switch and trade in your current phone, which can help offset the cost of paying your old carrier’s balance.
Phone and ETF payoffs aren’t instant. Your new carrier will request a copy of your final bill from your old carrier to verify the amounts, which means you’ll probably need to pony up the cash now and wait to get reimbursed by your new carrier later.
Keep in mind you’re swapping one carrier contract for another, which might be fine if all you want is a new phone and carrier, but it might not be ideal if you’re trying to reduce your bills.
Sell your phone
You can sell your phone even if you still owe money on it. That’s because your carrier has extended you a line of unsecured credit, which means they can’t repossess your phone. If you’re considering this route, the best practice is to sell your phone then immediately pay it off. It’s essentially a way to cancel your phone contract for free. And, since you won’t be locked into any kind of agreement, you’ll be able to buy any phone or plan you’d like.
If you don’t pay your phone off and you fail to make payments, your phone will likely be blacklisted and the buyer will not be able to use it. That could present a host of complications and even spell legal trouble.
See how much your phone is worth to find out if selling it will cover your remaining balance and any ETF fees. You can call your carrier to find out how much it will cost to close your account.
Transfer your phone and contract to someone else
Another way to get out of your phone contract is to transfer it to someone else, such as a friend or family member. All major carriers have a process for transferring ownership, a legal process known as “assumption of liability.” Here are their policies:
You can try a site like Trade My Cellular if you don’t know anyone willing to assume ownership of your account. The free service pairs people who want to get out of contracts with people seeking to take over existing contracts to avoid paying activation fees.
Call your carrier if there are extenuating circumstances
Though carriers have an obvious incentive to enforce phone contracts, there are some circumstances in which they’ll consider allowing you to cancel. For example, all major carriers have cancellation or account suspension policies for military deployment, illnesses and extended travel to out-of-service areas.
If you’re relocating for a job and your current carrier doesn’t have coverage there, you might be able to get out of your contract. If you’re experiencing financial hardship and simply cannot pay, it’s worth a phone call to your carrier to see if they can offer any relief. Though you might not be able to get out of your contract, they might be willing to reduce your payments or offer another solution. Make your case to a supervisor to explore your options.
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