How To Get Out Of A Cellphone Contract Early

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WikiHow has a good article on How to Get out of a Cellular Service Contract. While most of the methods involve smooth-talking your way out of the contract, they do point out my favorite way to get out of a cellphone contract: Wait for them to change your contract terms. This actually happens quite frequently, and I’ve done it successfully myself. In my case they raised the late payment fee from $25 to $39 or something like that. They’ll bury this in your statement in tiny print, sometimes on the back of page 6 of 7 or something.

But the law says if they change your contract, you can either accept or cancel within 30 days. Cancel! This is perfectly fair as they are changing the rules on you! Note that they may cancel you that very second, so be prepared. In fact, I remember my conversation with Verizon Wireless like it was yesterday:

Me: Hi, I’d like to cancel my contract.

Verizon CSR: That’ll be a $300 cancellation fee, sucker. (okay, she didn’t say “sucker”)

Me: It says with my statement that you are changing my contract so I can cancel without any fees.

Verizon CSR: Let me check. [pause] Yes, we raised the late payment fee. Have you ever had a late payment?

Me: Umm… maybe…

Verizon CSR: Let me check. [pause] No sir, you have never made a late payment. This change will not even affect you. Do you really think it’s fair that you are breaking your contract for something that doesn’t even affect you?

Me: Hey, I wasn’t the one who wanted to change the rules.

Verizon CSR: But you never pay late.

Me: Please cancel my contract without a fee as the law requires.

Verizon CSR: But blah blah you’re a bad person blah blah may god have mercy on your soul blah blah

Me: Please cancel my contract without a fee as the law requires.

Verizon CSR: Okay your account is cancelled as of immediately. Your phone will no longer work. Your number is gone. Your last bill will be prorated. Goodbye. [click]

And true to her word, my cell phone was dead that very second. No problem, I put it on eBay and got me a better deal elsewhere 🙂

Some of the other tricks seems more like long shots. Here are the two I think are the most likely to work:

Get off the grid. Study your provider’s coverage map and find a town (maybe in Alaska?) with absolutely no service. Then tell the company you’re moving there. They’re not legally required to cut you loose, but frustrated consumers have reported success.

Get a lemon. Get a known problematic phone, complain 3 times, be let out of a contract due to your local lemon law.

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  1. If you do it this way, don’t you lose your cell phone number too? Or were you able to port it to another carrier?

  2. This was before number-porting was possible. I’ve never ported a number myself, so I’m not too familiar with the process. I’m assuming it could be done, but you’d have to get it started before calling to cancel.

  3. I recently left Verizon to sign up with Sprint. When I was at the Sprint store, I gave them my verizon account # so that they ported my # and ended my Verizon contract. The porting process took about an hour, but was told it may take up to 24 hours.

    Four days later, a Verizon rep called and offered me 1200 bonus anytime minutes and waive your $35 service establishment fee. I have 30 days to accept the offer.

    Sprint has just raised the text message fee from 10 cents to 15 cents. you can call in to cancel your contract.

    Do you have to pay the $150 for the phone if you stayed less than 2 years?

  4. I’ve ported my number at least twice with cell phone and two times with landline to VOIP. Recently I transfered my number from cingular to tmobile, which takes about 24 hours. Transfering from vonage to sunrocket has been 2 months and still counting, so there’s a huge difference there.

    As far as I know when you port your number with a landline number or VOIP number you have to keep your old service open until the number is transfered. With cell phones, it’s similar that you have to port the number first and then cancel the service, except every time I’ve done cell phone transfering the old service is automatically cancelled, therefore it seems that you might not be able to get out of the contract.

    Seems that say I want to go from cingular to tmobile for instance and I called tmobile, got a contract and transfered the number. I don’t see myself being able to go to cingular and getting out of the bill.

    Also even if something is by law I honestly don’t trust a lot of cell phone companies. You had this experience with verizon………. I’m willing to bet that cingular won’t be as nice.

    I’ve had nothing, but problems when I had cingular and at the end they actually owed me 50 dollars and didn’t want to pay it, I kept calling and calling and calling and they promised to send me the check. Finally I filled a complaint with and the FCC and finally their presidential office contacted me. This time instead of telling me they were going to send me a check, they feed me with more BS of why they aren’t sending me the money. If I could say this was my only bad experience with cingular, but there’s a reason why they have the worst customer service ratings…….people don’t care. People like rollover minutes and free mobile to mobile

  5. This was all over slickdeals forums just recently. Here is a link to the discussion: link

  6. Here’s a better option (at least for me): use a service like Virgin Mobile that doesn’t have any of this contract ridiculousness.

  7. Which cell phone service do you use now? How do you like them?

  8. Here are some more trick from the same source: link

  9. But if u port the number then verizon would assume ur terminating ur contract and charge the cancellation fee…and getting that reversed might be a pain….i dunno…im guessing!

  10. Great conversation! LOL.

  11. wow cant believe they can get so anal over ending a contract when they’re the ones changing the terms. the same applies for credit card and many other subscription service.. when they change the terms on you, you generally have the choice of opting out and closing/canceling your account.

    good riddance.

  12. I’m using tmobile right now, not the best………. but night and day compared to cingular.

  13. I use Cingular… it’s okay. I get a discount for using my school email. If you have an .edu address you can try as well. I think my wife and I share 800 minutes w/ 7pm nights, for a little under $70 including taxes a month.

  14. There was an article on this in SmartMoney on October 13:



  15. [?] from MyMoneyBlog, SmartMoney and wikiHow pages [?]

  16. Fernando Ortega says

    For cingular customers if you tell them that you are moving to caliente,nevada zipcode is 89008.. they will then cancel your contract without paying the cancellation fee!!!!! it worked for me it was awesome!!!!!

  17. I just signed a 3 year contract today, (well its 12:50am, so I guess that was yesterday) and I regret doing this – as the phone I purchased is not what I thought it was.

    The keys are harder to push, as I do text message a lot, and the “call” button is awkward to push. All of this alongside fliping the phone open is a minor task in itself.

    I want to cancel my “signing” and I wonder if there is a legal way to do this, like a post-puchase dissonance issue or something.

    Any ideas?

    Provider: FiDo
    Phone Type: Sony Ericsson
    Location: Ontario, Canada

  18. If you can find & tell me a good-legal way to do this, and it works – I will pay you $30.00.


  19. Many contracts offer a 14-day or 30-day refund clause, I would read your contract carefully. If anything, go back to the store and see what they are willing to do – swap out the phone, etc.

  20. FiDo 15-day satisfaction guarantee. You should be able to return the phone. If it works, please let me know and donate the $30 to charity 🙂

  21. retire sizzle says

    J Bizzle,

    check out

    They might be able to help you get out of your contract

  22. verizon just told me they DO NOT tax the 175 smackers per line early termination fee…

    plus we all need to call costomer service after every call and check our minuites

  23. Thanks for this info Jonathan!

    Back in Nov ’06 it didn’t occur to me to us this to cancel the contract when Verizon suddenly decided that I renewed the contract on only one of my phones, 8 months before it was due to expire. My main concern was that they didn’t hit me with their $175 cancellation fee in June when I didn’t renew. Since it was obvious to Verizon that I actually didn’t renew my contract on only one phone they honored the non-renewal in June. Although it took several phone calls.

    I knew I was going to change carriers in June. Verizon’s service was fine but we live in one of the phantom coverage zones. All long our part of the Lake Erie coast cellular reception is horrible. I tried a couple different phones and finally decided to try a different carrier. I switched to AT&T (Cingular). The reception in our neighborhood still isn’t great but it is better than we previously experienced. Otherwise they have been good so far. It was kind of amusing when I spent the first two weeks in August in Cimarron, NM and discovered that only AT&T has good reception out there.

  24. Will this change allow you to cancel your contract without fees’s –
    The Verizon Wireless Regulatory Charge helps defray Verizon Wireless’
    ongoing costs of complying with various regulatory mandates. Because
    the costs of complying have increased, beginning November 15, 2007, the
    monthly Regulatory Charge will increase from $0.04 to up to $0.07,
    depending upon the actual costs of complying with these programs. For
    more information regarding this charge, call 1-888-684-1888. Please
    consult your Customer Agreement for information about rate changes.

  25. sp pernel, so pretty much that would change the contract and I can just cancel for free?

  26. has anyone tried to cancel their verizon contract by citing the increase from 0.04 cents to 0.07 cents in Regulatory Charges? This would be a huge help if someone had some tips or experience with this move on an old strategy. Thanks, Randi.

  27. I a m with Cellular One which is now AT&T. Ihave a phone that has been sent in 3 times for the same problem and never fixed. I have sent back the crappy loaner phone and after 17 days they have not been able to verify that the loaner phone had been received by them yet. They have now charged my account an extra 100 bucks for this loaner phone. I have contacted my local rep and he has stated that I should have sent it back to them by certified mail if I didn’t want to pay the $100 if it was lost. This is the same wonderful customer service I have been getting from him since the trouble with my phone. I am thinking due to the “lemon” phone I have and the fact that the company “contract” is now with AT&T I should be able to get out of this contract early? What do you think my chances are?

  28. I was formerly a cellular one customer. I had almost 1.5 years left on my contract and was going to have a $400 cancellation fee. With the merger I switched to at&t and then cancelled my contract the next day for $0 nothing under my 30 day return policy.

  29. Ok I have had AT&T for 6 years now and need to get out of my contract. I am fed up with there stupid customer service and my bills that come $150 to $200 more than they are supposed to be! I have called on this many times and they are just dumb. Anyone know of any changes they have made so I can get out of my contract without the ETF

  30. I want to get out of Cingular too, like Mason, my bill this month came to $283. yea $283. its such crap and its always over $130. And their customer service just isn’t good anymore. and I for sure am NOT going to pay $175 to cancel.

    How can I find out when they change the agrements terms and stuff. I dont know how to or where to look to stay up to date on that.

  31. This is for those that are tired of getting stuck with charges that don’t belong to them. I noticed my T-Mobile bill going up in price each month, so today, being tired of paying more than what I signed on for, I started to do some research on our bills. Apparently T-Mobile raised the price of our text messaging WITHOUT informing us. We have kept every single piece of paper T-Mobile has sent to us over the last two years…we use one of the phones for business so we had to keep any and all documentation for expense reports and taxes. We never received any “insert”. On top of this, for the last year of our service, we have had dropped calls, static on the lines, no service, etc. We have called many times to get the technical problems resolved-even went as far as purchasing new phones (at full cost) for both lines and replacing sim cards-and still-the service is below par. As far as the texting goes-I did my research and then looked at our plan online…I signed in, clicked on “Plans”, went to the bottom of the window and clicked on “See Other Included Services”, went to the bottom of the next screen and clicked on “More Information About Services”, On the next page…First paragraph under the heading “ALL PLANS” If you read the first couple of lines-you will see that T-Mobile themselves say that text messages are only supposed to be 5 cents a text. This is for ALL PLANS-Not just for mine. Yet they are charging everyone more! As far as I am concerned-this is deplorable-and earns them MILLIONS of dollars a month!!!!! A month-not a year or more. Think on it-every one of their customers is paying more than what they say they actually are charging. I called T-mobile and explained that we were very unhappy with the service and now we find out that our Text cost went up. I spoke to a lady and explained what I found on their website and started to ask why they were charging me more than they themselves state the charge is supposed to be. And here I have been paying more for TWO YEARS!!! She said this was a tax, I said no it isn’t-read the paragraph. She put me on hold for a few minutes. When she came back, I asked what would they do for me since I have been paying more than required for 2 years. She didn’t know-so I asked for a supervisor. It took a few minutes-but I got one. . She came back and actually thanked me for finding the “typo”. She couldn’t believe that no one had found it before. She even confirmed the “typo” with her supervisor and then their business department. When I did get the supervisor, she was very defensive. I wasn’t-I was actually pretty nice. I explain everything again, and I ask her-what was T-Mobile going to do for me since I have been paying over their own rates for the last two years. She states that she has documentation that we received the insert explaining about the Text rate change. She stated that I HAD to have received the insert. I told her I was more than willing to send her every paper I had for the last two years, it isn’t here. Unless I signed it and gave it back (which if I had received it and they had asked me to at the time-I probably would have), she cannot say I received it. I am not a dishonest person-I would take a lie detector test to prove we never received it. She refused to give any-she only offered me a rate of .10 cents for our texts for the last month, but as of right now-I am officially notified that my rate of texts from here on out would be 15 cents per text. I couldn’t believe she said that-I repeated ”So you are saying, as of right now-you are officially notifying me?” She said yes. If that is the case-I should be able to cancel my contract because I am just now officially informed of my text rate change, and since we are still having service problems after trying everything they suggested, we no longer want to keep the service. We especially don’t feel that we should have to pay even more for services that we are not happy with. She said no-and I said-but you stated yourself that people had 30 days from the time of discovery to cancel their contracts without an ETF if they did not approve of the rate change, and you just “OFFICIALLY” let me know of my rate change. She started to get a little more rude now and told me she could not waive the ETF. I explained that this didn’t make sense, from what she herself said in the beginning of the conversation. We keep going round in circles repeating the same points of view. I asked to speak to her supervisor. She told me they weren’t there but she would have them call me. I have “print screened” the page with the 5 cent text rate-with the date of 2-6-2008, so they can’t say it didn’t exist. If 5 cents per text was on their site and I saw it-they should honor it, and have it retro-active for the last 2 years. I just feel that they are cheating everyone, and they aren’t even letting anyone know about it. We shall see what happens.

  32. could any one tell me how to get out of a contract with at&t they are to high and every month my bill is different amount do any one know of a change they have made

  33. Francine says

    I got out of my at&t contract by signing another contract when I signed the new contract that terminated the old one. I had 30 day trail period on the new contract and before the 30 days were up I called in and told them to cancel and recd a prepaid evelope to send back the phone they had sent me with the new contract.

    I also got out of paying the ETF with sprint/Nextel, I conplained about my service so csr put in claim tickets to fix the problems I was having because they could not fix the problem they let me out of contract. However, I had several claim tickets in and they could not fix any of them. People if you have a phone that was suddenly taken out of the stores chances are those phones were lemon and you could probably get out of your contract based on lemon laws.

  34. Do the surcharges or government fees being changed also effect the contract terms to the point that I can cancel my contract with Sprint?

  35. I have been trying to get out of my verizon contract. My husband has had his phone changed 5 times already. We actually just sent back his 5th phone and they will still not cancel my contract. I am over verizon their service has not been great. We get at the most 5 dropped calls everyday and customer service rep stated this to me. I don’t know what else to do.

  36. Is there any other way to get out of this contract without paying fees. I was on the phone with customer service last night until 12:30am! i don’t feel I should pay cancellation fees for a service that does not work!

  37. I want out of my Alltel contract but I don’t know how. Please help me!

  38. In August 2008 T-Mobile will be raising the price of texting-Again! This means-you will be able to cancel without etf-because they will be changing-thus voiding-original contract terms. You have to call within 30 days of it changing though-otherwise you are stuck-because they see your not responding as an agreement to the new terms! They finally sent a notice out through the mail-yes-you may not have gotten one-as we didn’t the last time they changed the terms. It is also on the website when you sign in. (a very little box on the webpage) All you do is call in-say you do not agree to the new texting terms-and they will try to talk you into staying-just stick to your plan. But be prepared-they will cancel your phone(s) right then and there! So be sure that you have your new phone(s) already up and running! I know many of you are with different providers-check online-and your bill very carefully to see if there are any changes! I hope this helps!

  39. Please note this is only valid for people who do not have a messaging plan. If you pay for a bundled messaging add-on you can not use the increase as a reason for breaking the contract since the increase does not affect you. This is also only valid for people not worried about losing your current phone number. If want to keep the phone number you will have to do some more hagling with the CR you talk to.

    1. This step is very important. If you have not sent or received a SMS message within the past three months send a SMS message to your T-Mobile phone now. If you try this without having a recent text message on your account. T-Mobile will deny your request stating that the change will not affect you since you do not use text messaing.

    2. Log into your T-Mobile account. Click on Billing, then Current Usage. Verify you see the SMS Text message. If you do not see a message wait a few hours and check back. Based upon my experience the site updates a few times per day. If you do not see the message the CR will not see it.

    3. Call T-Mobile’s main support number at 1-800-937-8997. When prompted by the automated system say “Cancel my Account”. This should send you to the right department.

    4. When the customer service (CR) person asks why you are calling say, ” I want to cancel my account. I was notified today that the SMS messaging rate will be increasing from $.15 to $.20. on 8/29.” Some CRs seem to know about this and others don’t. They may put your on hold and verify the change.

    5. The CR will probably come back and offer you incentives to keep your contract. Deny all offers.

    6. If you haven’t used text messaging within the past 3 months the CR will say the change doesn’t affect you and you will need to pay the ETF. Tell them you sent/received a text message today and it will affect you. Tell them to check your recent activity.

  40. Hi-I’m am so pleased to see that many people are up in arms about T-Mobile’s service. I advise everone to read my previous post. You CANNOT be on a texting plan and cancel without an ETF. The reason being is that the text rate increase does not effect you. I hope this helps. You may want to search the web about different ways to cancel contracts without an ETF. Thre is also news about a California judge declaring ETFs “unlawful”.
    I also went into a Verizon store the other day (just checking out the phones) and they were talking like they might help me out of my current contract if I signed up with them. (Now this may just be that store-and I am not under contract anymore-so again-just giving you guys whatever experience I have had.)

  41. I need to get out of my Alltel contract fast. They keep trying to charge me overages!

  42. with at+t we often dont get any service in some areas. my daughter has epilepsy and had a seizure, and we were not able to call 911 until we ran to another part of our state park. when i complained to at+t and asked to be let out of our contract they told me the only medical reason they would accept to get out of the contract would be DEATH. Does anyone know if this is legal? I’m told that Verizon will let you out of a contract for medical reasons.

  43. i want to buy a phone on 30 august but after 2 weeks i will go back my country and so i want to cancel my contract in two it possible?and how much money do i must pay for this?

  44. mr.wilder says

    I was recently arrested and the cops confisicated my cell phone as evidence. This was 3 months after signing with Verizon. I have no cell phone and no idea where it is at. Obviously I have bigger problems than canceling the service (because I probably am not going to need it in jail). You think I have a chance at canceling the contract?

  45. hey so i still have 16 months left on my contract and im looking to get out of it early without having to pay 300+ on june 1/2010 bell is raising their late payment fees by 1% if i called and said i wanted to cancel my contract free of charge due to their changes could this work??


  46. IF you signed a contract and want out early you’re not holding up your end of the deal by ducking out early so in turn you would have to pay an ETF early termination fee. At that point there is no issue with closing the account because you will have payed to have it canceled. There is no easy way out of a contract.

  47. I recently purchased a new iphone 6 last month. And they gave me a free tablet without telling me monthly charges on it. And I just received the bill that I’m paying almost $50 monthly payment for the tablet. How can I return it without penalize?

    Thanks so much,

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