Switch carriers without early termination fees: How to avoid phone ETF fees

Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile and Sprint

If you've been looking to switch carriers without early termination fees, you may have found yourself running into all sorts of problems. The last thing you want is to be having to part with a load of your hard-earned cash just to swap to another provider and yet, that's the unpleasant reality facing so many of us who want to do just that in the middle of our contract.

Breaking a phone contract and binding payment plan often entails an early termination fee, or ETF, or may immediately require a user to pay off the remaining balance of their smartphone if it was purchased on an equipment installment plan. This cost can make it hard for phone users to switch from one US carrier to another.

If you've invested in one of the best phones, whether it be one of the best Android phones or one of the best iPhones, then you've already shelled out a lot of money. The last thing you want on top of that is to then be faced with an ETF - especially given your reason for changing providers may well be to do with wanting to save money by taking advantage of a cheaper plan.

No matter which one of the best cell phone plans you're on, chances are that if you're currently on a two-year contract, an ETF will be noted in the fine print. That being said, competition has been fierce in recent years and so there are options if you're looking to switch carriers without early termination fees. Let's take a look...

Early Termination Fees: Tips to avoid ETFs 

Mobile carriers don’t want to let their customers go – that’s the point of service contracts. If there were no penalty for terminating a contract, the contract wouldn’t have much retaining power. That’s why you can see ETFs in a lot of contracts with mobile carriers. 

They may be less common today than they were ten years ago, as more and more carriers are switching over to mobile plans that users pay monthly. Carriers are also rarely subsidizing phones anymore, opting instead to sell them on installment plans that help the carrier keep customers on the network for the duration of the plan. 

The easiest way to avoid early termination fees and other large bills when leaving a mobile carrier is to avoid lengthy contracts and payment plans in the first place. This can mean larger expenses up front, as users need to buy their phone outright and may miss out on special offers from their carrier. For some, these upfront expenses might keep this from being an option.

Fortunately, there are deals hiding around every corner, with the four major mobile carriers all offering some incentive to assist mobile users in joining their network. Let’s take a look at how to switch to T-Mobile, AT&T or Verizon and avoid a huge bill from the carrier getting left behind.


Switch to Verizon without ETFs

At the moment, Verizon are offering a special deal for new customers. Leave your current provider and bring your phone with you and as long as Verizon deem that phone compatible with their network, you'll bag yourself a $500 gift card. If you bring your tablet or smartwatch with you too, that's another $100 for you.

Looking for a new phone? No problem! Verizon are happy to help you out there as well with super low deals on new phones. Plus depending on what phone you go with, you can bag yourself up to an additional $1,000 in the form of a pre-paid Mastercard as a thank you for making the switch. Check out our guide to the best Verizon deals for more information. 


(Image credit: ATT)

Switch to AT&T without ETFs

AT&T is currently offering $250 in bill credits, plus waived activation fees when you bring your phone over to them from another carrier. You can keep your number, transfer without a contract and if you bring two devices then you can save even more - up to $500. 

New customers can also save up to $700 on eligible smartphones when they trade-in their old one as long as it's deemed to be in good working order. The $700 is applied in bill credits, so it's a great way to save money each month. Check out our guide to the best AT&T phone deals to find out more. 

Switch to Sprint without ETFs


Switch to T-Mobile without ETFs

When it comes to value for money, T-Mobile are leading the way right now with some huge deals for new customers. Get a new phone and they'll pay off your current one and your service contracts with your existing provider up to the value of $650 per line or $350 in ETFs. 

Don't fancy a new phone? No problem. Bring your existing 5G phone across and T-Mobile will pay it off up to the value of $800 in the form of a pre-paid Mastercard. Now that's two sweet deals right there! 


As things stand right now, each mobile carrier has some offer to make joining their network an attractive offer. When it comes to avoiding ETFs or getting forced to pay off a equipment installment plan, all of the major carriers except Verizon has an offer to defray the cost. For those carriers, the deals are pretty even, covering up to $350 for ETFs and $650 for devices. So, instead of focusing on which carrier's deal is better, shoppers aiming to switch can instead look into which carrier has the best plans and what their best phones are.

Mark Knapp

Over the last several years, Mark has been tasked as a writer, an editor, and a manager, interacting with published content from all angles. He is intimately familiar with the editorial process from the inception of an article idea, through the iterative process, past publishing, and down the road into performance analysis.