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How to move your phone over to another carrier

I've had it! you think to yourself. I'm done with my carrier! I'm not working with X company ever again! I'm sick of the awful customer service! I'm tired of the hidden fees! I can't even get decent reception in my own living room! I'm done!

You may have gone through this very same internal monologue. You may have even spoken it aloud. You may even have blustered about your service on the very network you're complaining about.

But then you look at your trusty Galaxy/Motorola/iPhone, lying there on the counter, and you think, It's not you. You're great. It's just your network!

Well, what if it were possible to switch to another carrier but keep the same phone? American phone companies have a long history of imprisoning their customers in draconian contracts, but that is starting to change. The process can still feel like a bureaucratic obstacle course, but once you've found a new provider, you'll likely thank yourself for your perseverance – and so will your phone.

Here's how switching providers usually works:

Review your contract

Most people sign their first cellphone contact without even thinking about it, and there are lots of reasons why they may regret getting locked in. Then, when you decide to switch, leaving your carrier is like filing for divorce.

It can be costly and labor-intensive, and companies will keep their hooks in you for as long as they can. But contracts do eventually end, and you can decide to terminate your relationship.

Figure out whether your phone is GSM or CDMA

These days, many Americans are familiar with "SIM cards." A "GSM" phone uses these tiny little cards to store customer information and make the phone function. You can swap them out whenever you like, a very popular practice among international travelers.

Just arrived in Greece? Well, just buy yourself a prepaid SIM card at the Athens airport, stick it into your phone, and you're good to go.

CDMA doesn't have a card you can simply remove, and it's much more familiar to American users. In order to use a CDMA phone on a different network, you'll have to ask your current carrier for permission. Don't be surprised if they decline.

Next page: Getting the green light
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