How To Get a Free Cell Phone When Switching Service Providers

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

Free cell phones are a moving target. We have lots of good information below, but it’s always best to check with carriers for their latest offers.

Best Free Cell Phone Deals From the Big 3 Providers

If you’re in the market for a cell phone, you’re likely keenly aware of the presence of the industry’s “Big 3.” AT&T, Verizon Wireless, and T-Mobile own a major portion of the market share in this space.

That includes an infrastructure of cell phone towers throughout the 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 frequently, 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 provider. These offers are active as of April 2022.

AT&T

It makes sense to start with the most exciting free cell phone offer. AT&T has a way that you can secure the new Samsung Galaxy S22 at no charge.

The fine print on this one is important because there is some serious red tape. It requires the trade-in of an eligible smartphone in good working condition with a value of at least $35.

Here are more details from AT&T’s website.

You’ll need to:

  • Purchase an eligible smartphone on a qualifying installment agreement, including taxes on full retail price (upfront) and $30 activation/upgrade fee.
  • Activate/keep postpaid eligible unlimited wireless service (min. $75 for new unlimited customers before discounts).
  • Trade in an eligible smartphone within 30 days of activation.

Then you’ll get:

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  • Up to $800 in bill credits with eligible smartphone trade-in

According to AT&T’s website, credits start within three bills after the trade-in is completed. Credits will be applied in equal amounts over the term of the installment agreement.

In addition to the free Samsung Galaxy S22 deal, AT&T is also offering an Apple iPhone 13 for $100 ($700 off) with an eligible device trade-in.

To get this deal, follow the same steps above as you would to get the Samsung S22. To get the iPhone, though, the eligible device you trade in has to be worth at least $95 to qualify for the full discount.

Verizon Wireless

Verizon is offering several different free cell phones with a 36-month commitment to an unlimited plan on a new phone line:

  • Apple iPhone 11
  • Apple iPhone 12
  • Apple iPhone 12 mini
  • Google Pixel 6
  • Motorola moto g pure
  • Motorola edge 5G UW
  • Obric Myra 5G UW
  • Samsung Galaxy AO2s
  • Samsung Galaxy AO3s
  • Samsung Galaxy A42 5G
  • Samsung Galaxy S20 FE 5G UW
  • TCL 30 V 5G

There are a few other free phones to choose from that are certified pre-owned including several Apple iPhone models.

The fine print explains how this works, though. You’re actually paying for a phone and then getting credit back on your bill each month: “Purchase on device payment or at retail price required. New line required. Promo credit applied to account over 36 mos; promo credit ends if eligibility requirements are no longer met; 0% APR. Unlimited plan required. Taxes & fees may apply.”

If you’re looking for a newer smartphone, there are still ways to get a free one from Verizon. Other current deals for the Apple iPhone 13 phones and new Samsung Galaxy S22 phones include: 

  • Save up to $800 when you trade in an eligible phone with select unlimited plans.
  • Save $439.99 with any unlimited plan. New line required. Plus $200 when you switch. 

You can check out the full details of Verizon’s deals here. Simply select the phone you’re interested in and click on “See Details” under “Ways to Save.”

T-Mobile

If a 36-month commitment is too long, T-Mobile offers the following free cell phone options that come with a 24-month commitment on a new line:

  • Motorola moto g pure
  • Motorola moto g stylus 5G
  • Motorola one 5G ace
  • Nokia X100 5G
  • OnePlus Nord N200 5G
  • REVVL V+ 5G
  • Samsung Galaxy A12
  • Samsung Galaxy A13 5G
  • Samsung Galaxy A32 5G 
  • TCL 30 XE 5G

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 actually free only if you stay with T-Mobile for the duration of the deal. Unlike some other deals on the T-Mobile site, there is no trade-in required to get these phones (aside from the OnePlus Nord N200 5G).

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Best Free Cell Phone Deals From Select MVNOs

“MVNO” stands for mobile virtual network operators.

These cell phone service providers don’t actually own their own cell towers. Instead, they rely on paid partnerships with the Big 3 providers (Verizon Wireless, AT&T and T-Mobile) to provide a cell signal to customers.

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.

Metro by T-Mobile

If you’re looking for a free cell phone without a 24-month commitment, Metro by T-Mobile is one of your best bets right now.

Metro by T-Mobile is offering your choice of one of five free 5G phones right now when you switch. The current selection of free devices includes: 

  • Samsung Galaxy A13 5G
  • Motorola moto g stylus 5G
  • OnePlus Nord N200 5G
  • Nokia X100
  • TCL 30 XE 5G
  • OnePlus N10 5G

To get this deal, you’ll have to purchase the phone and activate it on the $60 Metro by T-Mobile monthly plan. This limited-time offer is available in-store only. Selection and availability vary by location, and a $20 per line activation fee may apply.

Cricket Wireless

Cricket Wireless is also currently offering a selection of free phones when you switch to the service bring your own phone number.

If you sign up for a plan that costs at least $55 per month, you can get a free Cricket Debut, Cricket Icon 3 or Motorola moto g power.. If you choose a plan that costs at least $60 per month, you can also choose between the Samsung Galaxy A02s and Cricket Dream 5G. The $60 plan includes unlimited talk, text and high-speed data in addition to 15GB of mobile hotspot per month. 

With this deal, you’ll pay for the first month of service at the point of sale plus the device taxes. 

Visible

Visible, owned by Verizon, offers unlimited wireless plans for as low as $25 per month per line. When you switch to Visible, you can get a new phone for free by trading in your old device

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Right now, Visible offers two different devices that you can swap to for free: 

  • Motorola moto g pure
  • Visible Midnight

To get one of these phones for free, create a Visible account and transfer your number to start the process. Choose which device you’d like to swap to, and Visible will mail it to you along with your SIM card and a pre-paid return label. You can then use the label to send in your old device.

Deals on Phones That Don’t Require Carrier Commitment

You may not like the idea of being committed to one carrier for any length of time. After all, 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, you’re more likely to find a cheap phone deal rather than a free phone.

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 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 buy an unlocked phone, 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 knowing your phone is already paid off.

Be sure to check online retailers like Amazon for deals on unlocked phones. For more tips on how to get a better deal, check out our article on the best places to buy an unlocked phone.

Is Taking the Free Cell Phone Worth It? 

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

If you need the latest technology but don’t have the cash to pay for the phone upfront, committing to one of these cell phone carriers in exchange for the phone is a viable option.

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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 happy 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 particular service provider.

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