What to Consider When Switching your phone Carrier

Switching your phone carrier can be stressful. Shopping around and seeing so many different choices and prices and crazy perks can leave anyone confused ready to throw in the towel.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. If you remember a few tips before you get started you’ll be able to weave your way through all the hyperbole and get what you need and what you want.

These days there are so many different phone service providers, it’s hard to decide which one is the best fit for you. If you’re satisfied with the service you have now, you may not think it’s necessary to switch providers — but it could be very well worth your time to do a little research and see if there may be a better option out there for your needs.

Taking your hard-earned dollars away from one carrier and giving them to another instead is not a decision to be made lightly, no matter how much you’ve grown to loathe your current provider of cellular services. If you’re thinking about switching carriers to take advantage of big deals for cool new phones, here are a few things to look out for when researching phone providers, and factors to consider before making a switch.

Browse the phone selection first

Phone manufacturers and service providers don’t always align, and the service provider you may be most interested in may not carry the kind of phone that you require. Be sure to browse the available devices before you make any significant decisions.

Research customer service reviews

When it comes to solving problems relating to your phone service, you want a provider who’s got your back when you need them. If a provider gets horrible reviews on their customer care, then no matter how great their device deals are or how affordable their service plans, you don’t have the peace of mind of knowing that if something went wrong, you would be able to get your problem solved. It may even be worth paying a little extra per month to sign on with a provider who has great customer service.

Make sure your area is covered

Especially for those who lived in remote areas, check your potential cell phone service provider’s coverage area. Even the big names have areas and regions that have spotty service coverage.

It seems pretty obvious, but you wouldn’t believe how many people sign up for new service only to get home and discover their phone does not work inside their house. Avoid this misfortunate by conducting thorough research before choosing a provider.

Awesome customer support, low prices, the best handsets… none of it really matters if your carrier can’t give you the coverage you need when you need it. Before switching, check the official coverage maps to see what your chances of ever getting 4G LTE are likely to be.

You can’t assume these maps are going to be accurate down to the last square foot (even the carriers themselves admit that) and, of course, if you live in a basement that’s going to affect your signal strength, but you should be able to get a pretty good idea about how well covered your particular area is.

Don’t forget to check the locations of your parents’ house and your weekend getaway cabin and your office as well, just to make sure you’re not going to be caught short in the signal stakes. Make sure you look at both voice and data coverage as well as comparing the speeds you’re going to get on your new carrier.

Calculate the cost

You may have to pay off your old phone if you’re jumping to another carrier—check with your current wireless provider if you’re not sure. The good news is the carrier you switch to may give you some prepaid credit to help with the cost.

If you do contact your current carrier and ask about the cost of leaving, the news that you’re thinking of bailing might be enough to get access to a few different special deals with your current company, in which case it’s time to go back and reassess all the costs and offers again to see what makes most sense.

Thankfully two-year contracts are no longer offered by the networks, but if you haven’t yet finished your old one this might be an additional charge to consider (known technically as an Early Termination Fee or ETF). If you’re bringing family members along with you, you might need to have a calculator handy.

Ask a friend

There is another way to get advice on coverage quality, and prices on deals, and how a carrier treats its customers—find a friend or a family member who’s on the network that you’re thinking of switching to. If they had to switch carriers as well and know how the process works, so much the better.

Just like reading the product reviews for a gadget on Amazon can add some context to its official list of specs, talking to someone else who knows your (potential) new carrier inside out can be very helpful. Don’t forget stuff like international roaming—has your friend been abroad? How was the cell service?

No matter how bad life gets on a particular carrier there’s still a barrier of inconvenience and hassle to get over to move somewhere new. Once you’ve set the ball rolling though, you can often switch over more quickly than you might expect, and it’s certainly a lot easier to do than it was in the past.