Anytime you turn on the TV, you’re likely to see an advertisement for a free phone when you switch wireless carriers. These promotions happen all year-round and a great way to save big not only on the latest flagships but a range of different phones from budget options on up.
Read on to learn more about how to score free phones from the top nationwide networks and a few select budget carriers.
Are Free Phones Really Free?
There’s no such thing as a free lunch. Anytime cellular carriers offer a free or even discounted phone, there will be a catch. In general, the nicer the phone, the longer and more expensive your contract will be. Keep an eye out for early termination fees and other hidden costs because you will pay for that phone somewhere even if it’s sticking to a more expensive phone contract for a 24-month period.
If you can see yourself sticking with the provider for the duration and the monthly contract isn’t too low, then go for it. But, many people benefit from purchasing their phone outright and have the flexibility to switch providers when necessary (especially if you travel internationally)
Without further ado, how to get a free phone when you switch carriers.
Note: promotions change all the time. For the most up to date information, be sure to visit the carrier’s website or stores directly. We’re also going not to cover trade-in deals because that’s not really a free phone. You’re just paying with your old phone instead. For the most part, you can get discounted new iPhones or Samsungs with a trade-in of a recent model iPhone or Samsung.
Free Phones from the Big 4 Nationwide Carriers
AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, and Sprint are the four nationwide US carriers (soon to be three). They have infrastructure across the US and also the pricing of most smartphones on the market.
These companies often have a wide variety of deals that can be very appealing and a little confusing. Here are some of the top offers as of this writing.
AT&T has one of the most exciting free phone deals—get a new iPhone 11 Pro at no charge. But you need to watch carefully here. First, AT&T is the most expensive of the four carriers on a monthly basis. But the fine print of this deal is where the red tape is. It’s actually a “buy one, get one” offer. You have to purchase one iPhone 11 Pro to get the free one.
You can use financing to pay for the first phone, but the second phone is paid in bill credits and rewards. If that sounds a little terrible, that’s because it is.
Here are a few more details:
- $1,000 savings applies to two eligible iPhone purchases on eligible (expensive) plans.
- Credits of $700 over 30 minutes
- $300 rewards card for online orders. You must redeem to get the offer.
When you’re done rolling your eyes from the offer, you can check out a few of the less complicated offers AT&T offers. But you’ll have to settle for an older or budget phone.
Verizon’s deal is a little less complicated. They currently offer four free phones with a 24-month contract:
- iPhone 7
- LG Stylo 5
- Motorola Moto e6
- Nokia 3V
- Samsung Galaxy A10e
Again, this is technically a free phone, but a little more complicated than first appear. You pay for the device then get a credit on your bill each month. If you have good credit, though, you don’t have to pay an upfront cost.
T-Mobile also has four free handsets with a 24-month contract on a new line:
- LG Aristo 4+
- LG K40
- Motorola moto e6
- Motorola moto g7 Power
- Samsung Galaxy A10e
- T-Mobile Revelry
With these phones, you can bill credit for 24 months offset by the handset cost. If you don’t keep the service, you have to pay the remaining balance on the free. The advantage compared to other carriers is the monthly service requirements are lower, and you don’t need a trade-in.
The “Sprint Flex” program isn’t exactly a free phone, but it is an excellent way to get a flagship without paying anything upfront. It’s a lease that allows you to upgrade every 18 months. The Samsung Galaxy is prominently featured on this plan with options to lease Samsung Galaxy S10 (soon the S20) for $0 per month.
You do have some fine print in the deal, including bill credits, early cancellations cost, and approved credit.
Like the other carriers, they also offer free budget options include:
- LG Tribute Royal
- Samsung Galaxy A10e
- Samsung Galaxy A50
Best Free Phone Deals From Budget Carriers
More people than ever are using budget carriers. Budget carriers are MVNOs (mobile virtual network operators). These providers don’t own their own towers but rely on paid partnerships with AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, and T-Mobile to provide cell service. Usually, these carriers offer much lower monthly deals while still having excellent coverage.
Here are some of the best options:
Boost Mobile has a few good offers right now. The best deal is up to four free LG Stylo handsets when switching as a new customer. You need a $50 plan or above ($30-35 cheaper than Verizon and AT&T), and you can only get one free phone per line.
If you’re willing to spend a little, they do have a few other deals like “Buy one Samsung Galaxy A10, get three free.” This is great if you’re moving your family plan/
- Samsung Galaxy A20
- Motorola Moto G7
Cricket probably has the most extensive offering of free phones. They’re also among the best deals for family plans. These phones are currently available with a minimum $55 plan and new-line activation:
- Alcatel Tetra
- LG Fortune 2
- LG Harmony 2
- LG Stylo 5
- Motorola moto e5 Cruise
- Motorola moto g7 Supra
- Nokia 3.1 C
- Nokia 3.1 Plus
- Samsung Galaxy J2 Pure
If you’re trying to get a free phone and don’t want an 18-30-month contract, then Straight Talk may be the best option for you. There the leading no-contract providers. You’ll still need to purchase a plan, but it can be as short as one month. You do have to take this with a grain of salt. The phones in general are:
- Refurbished (Used)
- Older models
- Don’t have the best specs or features
If you are fine with this, Straight Talk has several options to choose from. One good choice is the LG Stylo 3, which is about the closest you really get to a free phone.
Free vs. Cheap Phones
If you’re willing to spend a little bit, you can find some great phones out there. This will also give you the flexibility of avoiding lengthy, expensive cell phone commitments.
Similar to how car dealers always need to clear space for next year’s models, cell phone manufacturers have to do the same during upgrade cycles. You can get a one or two-year-old flagship phone for a fraction of its original cost, and you can go with the best cellular provider for you.
Just make sure the one you buy is unlocked so you can easily switch from carrier to carrier.
How to Get a Free Phone When You Switch Carriers
The last question you’ll need to ask yourself is, “are these free phones actually worth it?” Well, it depends on the person you are. If you need the latest technology and don’t have the cash upfront, then committing to one of these contracts may be a decent option for you. But if you’re the frugal type, you might be better off taking your business elsewhere.
Just remember the latest flagships aren’t going to really be free. You’ll either have to pay upfront or receive bill credits. Even if you just a budget phone, you may still be locked into a lengthy commitment. So be sure to do your homework and make sure the deal is really worth it before you sign the contract.
Visit the Buyback Boss Blog for more articles on finding phone deals. Here’s everything you need to know about finding free and discounted iPhones. We’ve also explored when’s the best time to buy a phone. Find out this and more on our blog now.