The Secrets Behind the Very Best Cellphone Deals

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There are deals on new cellphones and cellphone plans running constantly. And I mean all of the time. Whether you want a new iPhone or Samsung Galaxy phone, the major carriers (as well as some of the smaller carriers) will have offers that may seem too good to be true. Before you get your heart set on that new phone for half price, or that buy one, get one free deal, here’s what you need to know about what’s behind these cellphone deals.

New customers only

One thing you’ll notice about a lot of cellphone discounts and cellphone plan discounts is that they’re for new customers only. Most of the time, the fine print that comes with these offers states you need to port in your current number from another carrier and/or activate a new line of service. This is why you shouldn’t get too excited when you see a great phone deal from your current carrier, because more than likely, you won’t be eligible.

So, these are great deals for those who are looking to switch cellphone carriers and do not have any particular loyalty to their current carrier or plan.

Monthly installment plans

Discounts on the cellphones themselves aren’t completely straightforward. Yes, carriers will advertise “50 percent off” or “Buy one, get one free” offers, but often it’s not quite as simple as that. When you see these deals from carriers like AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile, they’re usually only for phones bought on monthly installment plans. Basically what this means is, your discount won’t come all at once, but will be divided over your installment period — usually 24 to 36 months. If you cancel your service (and installment plan) early, you’ll owe the full remaining (non-discounted) balance on the phone.

So, to be eligible for a monthly handset payment plan, you need to also have an active postpaid service with the carrier. For example, you can’t just pay off a phone with T-Mobile, and then choose a cheaper prepaid cellphone plan from Mint Mobile.

These deals are great for those who don’t mind staying with their provider and plan for the next couple of years (or longer). If you just want a cheap phone, however, but don’t want to be locked in to staying with a provider for this long, give these kinds of deals a pass.

Trade-in discounts

Another thing you should be aware of are the trade-in discounts that carriers will promise you. Most of them will say something like “Get up to $300 off a new iPhone with an eligible trade-in.” The key words here are “up to” and “eligible trade-in.” First, when they say “up to” that means $300 is the max discount you’ll receive and it’s usually if you trade in a fairly new phone. More than likely, you probably want to trade in your phone that’s at least a couple of years old already, in which case, you’ll receive less than the max.

Secondly, when carriers say “eligible” this means not all phones models will be accepted. Some carriers don’t even accept trade-ins that were released in 2015 (or before then). Some carriers will only accept the iPhone 7 or newer for their trade-in deals. If your screen is cracked or there is some other damage to your phone it will garner less or even be rejected for trade in.

So, before you sign up for a new phone plan, check first to see whether your current phone will actually get you a good discount. Usually carriers will let you check the value online so you can decide whether it’s worth it or not. You’ll get the best value if you have a fairly recent model (within the last two years) that is still in good working condition with little or no damage.

In-store or online only

Another thing to look out for when on the hunt for a great cellphone deal is to first check whether a deal is available online or in-store only. Some cheap plan offers are only available online, so if you head to a store, you won’t be able to get the same deal. It works the same the other way around — some deals are offered in stores only.

Are you in the market for a new cellphone or cellphone plan? See all the best deals on our comparison page.

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