How to Get Out of Your Cell Phone Contract for Free
Cell phone contracts might seem iron-clad, but loopholes may let you get out of your plan without paying a dime.
Step 1: Cancel within 30 days Cancel within 30 days. Many providers offer a penalty-free window for trying their service. If you've had your contract for under a month, you may be able to cut out without racking up early termination fees, or ETFs.
Step 2: Roam where you want to Some providers pay roaming charges—additional fees to use your phone when you're out-of-network. If yours pays for roaming, use over half your minutes while your phone is out-of-network. Your carrier will rack up a huge bill. It may be more expensive for them to keep you as a customer than to ditch you. If so, they'll send you a termination letter.
TIP: See if you can set your phone preferences to only use "roaming," and make your out-of-network calls using free night and weekend minutes.
Step 3: Watch for service changes Keep your eye out for a notice that your provider is going to make a significant service change. The fine print often states that you have a legal right to cancel your contract if you don't like the change.
TIP: This clause is called a "material adverse change" or "M.A.C.," and each provider defines its own differently.
Step 4: Register your dissatisfaction If your phone has recurring, unfixable problems, keep thorough records of the issues, and register your dissatisfaction with customer service. If you keep your cool and call often enough, you may be able to get off the hook for free.
TIP: Always get a confirmation number for each interaction with a customer service representative.
Step 5: Transfer your plan If you've got a friend who needs a phone, call your provider and ask for an Assumption of Liability transfer to allow you to transfer over your plan.
TIP: If you need help finding someone to take over your plan, search the key words "cell phone plan swap."
Step 6: Move Move to a "blackout" area—a place your current provider doesn't cover—and your carrier may release you from your contract.
FACT: On average, early termination fees range from $150 to $225 per phone line.