How to Cancel a Cell Phone Contract - Without Paying

Signing a cell phone contract almost always comes with the bonus of a heavily discounted, or free, phone that might otherwise be unaffordable. Most contracts also contain an early termination fee that the service provider will charge if you try to leave before the contract ends. Although it's not always easy, you can sometimes withdraw from a cell phone contract without paying this penalty.

Cell Phone Contract
You can escape a cell phone contract.
credit: glegorly/iStock/Getty Images

Switch Service Providers

In a bid to get new customers, some service providers offer to pay your early termination fee if you switch to their service. It's not technically "free," as someone pays the fee, but it frees you from any responsibility for the early termination fee. This is a good choice if the new service provider offers a better contract or options or allows you to run a month-to-month service. If you like your current phone and it works with the new provider’s system, you can often keep it.

Get Someone to Take the Contract

If you don’t want to keep your current service, you might be able to transfer the contract to someone else. You can list your contract on websites, such as Cellswapper, that connect cell contract sellers and buyers and find someone to take it on. Or you can find someone you know who wants to assume your contract. As long as that person meets the service provider’s criteria, a customer service representative can make the switch over the phone.

Watch the Terms of Service

“Material changes” to the terms of service give you a chance to ditch your contract. If, for example, the service provider adds a new fee or discontinues a discount that applies to your contract, you can ask the provider to end your service without an early termination fee. Because material changes give customers an excuse to leave, service providers tend to bury the information on bills and in email updates. To use this approach, you need to keep close watch on all communications from your service provider.

Report Service Failures

If you experience persistent problems with your service, such as dropped calls and no signal, report them to your carrier as they occur. Creating a record of poor performance helps to establish grounds for asking the service provider to release you from the contract without imposing a punishing fee. Remain calm and as polite as possible when reporting problems to customer service, as these agents or their supervisors represent your main avenue to escaping the contract.