If you’re squinting to read this on your old iPhone 6, you might want to consider upgrading your phone with your new provider. But if you recently upgraded your phone and just want to keep it, you can do that too.
If you’re not attached to your phone emotionally (or physically), trading it in may be worthwhile. Trade-ins are an easy way to get credit toward your next new phone or to cover any taxes and fees you might be charged for switching carriers. But a word of advice, check how much money you’ll get back if you trade in your phone to your new cell phone provider versus how much the maker of the phone would give you.
Chances are you may get more for trading in your old phone to one compared to the other. But you should also consider which trade-in refund works best—some stores will give you a credit to your bill while others will give you a store gift card.
Here’s where you can check cell phone trade-in values by maker:
And here’s where you can check trade-in values by carrier:
If you can’t imagine giving up your phone for the newest model, good news: all four of the major wireless carriers offer Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) programs.
Of course, things aren’t so simple. Your phone needs to be compatible with your new carrier, and it needs to be unlocked. Unlocking can be a somewhat technical process, so we recommend checking a guide—or, if possible, having a representative from your current carrier help you.
This policy may change based on which carrier you’re with, but we think calling ahead is a great idea no matter what.
If you want to try your hand at unlocking your phone, here are some walkthroughs:
(Warning: You are about to enter a very technical area. Be prepared for techy acronyms and cell phone jargon. You can do this.)
Your phone also needs to be compatible with your new carrier’s bands and frequencies. Compatibility gets a little technical, but to sum it up short and sweet, bands refer to 4G LTE compatibility and frequencies refer to 3G compatibility.
Now that 5G phones are on the rise, you’ll need to make sure your new provider supports your 5G device—if you have one.
Your phone’s 3G compatibility also needs to take into account whether your phone uses the Code Division Multiple Access (CDMA) or Global System for Mobiles (GSM) network. AT&T and T-Mobile use GSM, while Verizon uses CDMA.
That means it’s easier to switch with AT&T and T-Mobile than it is with Verizon.
But as we mentioned, GSM and CDMA mostly affect 3G compatibility, so even if your phone uses a different network, you’ll likely be OK as long as you can get a 4G or 5G LTE signal. (But beware, if you can’t grab onto that signal, you’ll have no reception at all. Risky business.)
The easiest way to check your phone’s compatibility is to go to your new carrier’s website and enter your IMEI or ESN number. You can find each carrier’s compatibility check below.