How to Get a Free Cell Phone When Switching Service Providers

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Picking the right cell phone service for your family is sometimes a real headache, but getting a free cell phone in the process can be a nice perk.

Free cell phones are a moving target, so it’s always best to check with carriers for their latest offers.

Best Free Cell Phone Deals From the Big 4 Providers

If you’re in the market for a cell phone, you’re likely keenly aware of the presence of the industry’s “Big 4.” AT&T, Verizon Wireless, T-Mobile and Sprint own a major portion of the market share in this space.

That includes an infrastructure of cell phone towers throughout United States, but it also means these companies have a good deal of influence on the pricing for some of the most popular phones available.

These companies run promotional deals often, which makes it both easy to find a deal that seems appealing and confusing to determine which deal is best. Let’s sort through some of the offerings from each:

AT&T

It’s makes sense to start with the most exciting free cell phone offer. AT&T has a way that you can secure the new Apple iPhone 11 Pro at no charge.

The fine print on this one is important because there is some serious red tape. It is a “buy one, get one” offer that requires the purchase of one phone to get the freebie. You can finance that phone over 30 months, but keep in mind that second phone will be paid for in the form of a bill credits and reward gift cards.

More details from AT&T’s website:

Offer details

  • $1,000 savings amount applies when you buy two eligible iPhones on qualifying installment plan with an eligible AT&T unlimited plan and receive:
    • BOGO credits of up to $700 over 30 months
    • $300 reward card for online orders. Redemption required.

If you’re not looking for the latest and greatest, there are some less complicated deals available through AT&T.

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Verizon Wireless

Verizon is offering four different free cell phones with a 24-month commitment on a new phone line:

  • Apple iPhone 7
  • Samsung Galaxy A10e
  • Nokia 3 V
  • Motorola moto e6

The fine print explains how this works, though. You’re actually paying for a phone and then getting a credit back on your bill each month: “$399.99 purchase on device payment or at retail price & new smartphone line req’d. Less $399.99 promo credit applied to account over 24 mos; promo credit ends if eligibility req’s are no longer met; 0% APR.”

T-Mobile

Like Verizon, T-Mobile also has four free cell phone options that come with a 24-month commitment on a new line:

  • Motorola moto e6
  • Samsung Galaxy A10e
  • Motorola moto g7 Power
  • T-Mobile Revvlry

The cost of these phones is offset by a credit on your monthly bill for 24 months. If you do not keep your service for the full two years, T-Mobile will bill you for the remaining balance on the phone. So, it’s only free if you stay with them for the duration of the deal. Unlike some deals on the T-Mobile site, there is no trade-in required to get these phones.

Sprint

Sprint boasts a “Sprint Flex” lease program that allows you to acquire a phone without putting down any money. And since it is a lease, you’re able to upgrade to a newer model after 18 months.

The Samsung Galaxy series is being featured on this plan. Sprint’s current offer boasts the opportunity to lease the Samsung Galaxy S10 for 18 months for $0 per month.

Here’s the important fine print on that deal, which includes some of the language we’re getting used to seeing on bill credits and early cancellation costs: “Galaxy S10 $0/mo. after $37.50/mo. credit, applied within two bills. With approved credit, 18-month lease, and new line of service. If you cancel early, remaining balance due.”

The Galaxy isn’t the only phone available on the Sprint Flex plan. You may find a better fit for your needs among these options.

Best Free Cell Phone Deals From Select MVNOs

If you’re not familiar with the term “MVNO”, those initials stand for mobile virtual network operators.

These cell phone service providers do not actually own their own cell towers. Instead, they rely on paid partnerships with the Big 4 providers (Verizon Wireless, AT&T, T-Mobile and Sprint) to provide a cell signal to customers.

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Using one of these companies for your cell phone service can be an opportunity to get a good deal without sacrificing reliability. Check the coverage maps for your area closely to ensure the MVNO you are considering will provide adequate connectivity.

Boost Mobile

If you’re looking for free cell phones, Boost Mobile is “where it’s at” right now.

Boost is offering a promotion that allows for up to four free LG Stylo 5 phones when you switch to them as a new customer. The required cell phone plan is $50 or above, and there is a limit to one free cell phone per line.

If you’re willing to spend a little, Boost also is offering deals like “Buy one Samsung Galaxy A10, get three free.” These bulk phone deals really are something to consider if you’re moving a family plan from another carrier.

Cricket Wireless

Cricket is offering a free cell phone deal on nine different models from a handful of manufacturers:

  • Motorola moto g7 Supra
  • LG Stylo 5
  • Samsung Galaxy J2 Pure
  • Nokia 3.1 Plus
  • Nokia 3.1 C
  • Motorola moto e5 Cruise
  • LG Harmony 2
  • LG Fortune 2
  • Alcatel Tetra

Admittedly, some of these phones don’t have the best specs and receive mixed reviews on the Cricket website. The top-rated review of the nine available belongs to the Motorola moto g7 Supra (4.5 out of 5), so that appears to be the most desirable option.

There are a couple of restrictions on these freebies: “Must port-in & activate new line on minimum $55/mo. voice and data plan.”

Straight Talk

If you’re truly committed to getting a free cell phone without a 18-to-30 month commitment with a carrier, Straight Talk may have an option or two for you.

Though the no-contract specialists still require that you purchase a plan to receive one of their free offerings, it’s not a long-term commitment. In fact, it can be as short as a month. Before you get too excited, you need the details on these phones:

  • They’re reconditioned (read: used)
  • They’re older models
  • They may not offer some of the modern cell phone accommodations we’ve come to enjoy

If those aren’t deal breakers, check out the reconditioned LG Stylo 3 on the Straight Talk website for a potential freebie option.

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Deals on Phones That Don’t Require Carrier Commitment

If you’re like me, you probably hate to be committed to one carrier for any length of time. After all, the freedom of choice without repercussion is a powerful negotiating leverage. The free cell phone game understandably is not for everyone.

For those who want to avoid cell phone commitments, the goal likely shifts from free to cheap phones.

If you’re willing to invest in a phone that is not the latest model, there are deals to be had. Much like car dealers looking to clear the way for next year’s models, cell phone carriers and manufacturers also have to clear inventory on phones that are to be replaced by the annual upgrades.

An important tip for shopping for a phone independent of a carrier: Make sure that you’re buying an “unlocked” phone.

If you acquire one unlocked, you should be able to take it with you from carrier to carrier with only the need for a new SIM card (check on this before purchasing). At this point, you’ll truly be free to shop for the best monthly plan price knowing your phone is already paid off.

Check online retailers like Amazon for deals on unlocked phones. For example, you can get a Motorola Moto G6 Play for $189.99 with your Amazon Prime membership.

Is Taking the Free Cell Phone Worth It? 

The answer to this question is: Maybe. It really depends on your personal situation.

If you are the type of person who needs the latest technology but do not have the cash to pay for it up front, committing to one of these cell phone carriers in exchange for the phone is a viable option.

But keep in mind that the latest and greatest models are not necessarily going to be free, even if you sign up for a commitment that earns a bill credit. If you’re not careful, you may end up making a sacrifice on both the quality of the phone and the freedom of choice in your service provider.

If you’re the frugal type who is fine using a phone that is a few generations older, you should be able to find a phone at such a low cost that you probably won’t see the need to commit to a service provider.

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