How much will it cost you to switch cell carriers in the US?

"your phone" is likely really NOT yours

"your phone" is likely really NOT yours

The answer, at least for me at this point, is almost two months of pain, countless wasted hours with tech support, and some $4,500.00 and the process is still not complete!

If the number seems high,  realize that it applies to a 4 phone family plan with Credo Mobile. The total is comprised of the following fees / costs.

... about $250/phone to buyout existing phones
 ... and then another $800+ per phone to buy new unlocked phones as my carrier (Credo Mobile) engaged in behaviour that made it almost impossible to get MY PHONES moved to another network.

... plus some activation and miscellaneous fees charged by Sprint when creating the new accounts

I will elaborate more below, but if you are one who likes to skip to the end of a novel and read the ending first, here is the summary of what I have learned. 

1... Credo Mobile has the worst customer service of any of the carriers I have been with in the US. 
 (NOTE: I have had service over the years with all the major carriers and, althought Credo bills themselves as the only "progressive" carrier, their customer service and business practices were much worse than any of the big conglomerates I have been with in the past)

2... If a carrier plan sounds "too good to be true" - it is!
 (NOTE: I will never purchase another phone from anyone other than APPLE and will never again sign up for carrier subsidized plans as a way to "save money".)

3... My advice to anyone who will listen... NEVER EVER use CREDO as your cell service provider AND (if you can make it work) only buy unlocked, full price, phones directly from Apple.

I would argue that I am still on a "payment plan", but my payment plan is now with my credit card company vs my cell carrier. And MasterCard will have no way to hold my phone hostage if / when I choose to pay off my phones in full.  

Here are the details of the nighmare that was my attempt to switch carriers ....  

What prompted my desire to leave Credo... 

This all started when I called to find out about international plans as we were going to travel to Mexico for a long weekend to attend a family members wedding. I discoverd three things. First, Credo has little to offer when it comes to traveling. Second, what they do offer is ridiculously expensive. And Third, if you want to get your phone unlocked for travel, you must let them know more than two weeks in advance to have any confidence it will be done in time.

What prompted me to believe I could / should switch... 

Needless to say, I was frustrated by the information I received on that call with Credo customer service. Five minutes on the internet checking other carrier plans and pricing let me known that I could cut my cellular bill by 50% AND have travels to Canada and Mexico included. So I called Credo back and asked what it would take to get out of my current contract and switch to another carrier.   

The answer I received was the first of many communications from Credo that ended up being soemthing between flat out lies or indications that their customer service reps have little or no training and don't really understand the systems they have in place.

The big lie that I foolishly believed...

I was told by the Credo rep that I was not under contract but rather was on a phone payment plan. All I needed to do was pay off the balance due on the 4 family phones and I would be able to leave without penalty and take my phones with me. I specifically asked about the process of unlocking the phones and transferring to other carriers. I mentioned I was leaning toward Sprint and the Credo rep said this would not be a problem as Credo is an MVNO of Sprint and therfore the phone was guaranteed to work on the Sprint network.

Great news I thought. This makes perfect sense and will be a simple and quick process.  I was not under contract and just needed to pay of the balance due on the phones. I would then own them free and clear and could move to any carrier once the phones were unlocked.

What really happened... 

As you have likely guessed by now, that is not what transpired. I was told once the phones were paid for, the unlock should be complete within 48 hours. Fast forward more than a MONTH, and Credo had not yet unlocked our phones and out of sheer desperation and frustration, I had choosing to buy 4 new, full price, sim free, phones from Apple. The phones would replace the perfectly good phones I already owned, but could not use as Credo was unwilling or unable to properly release them to another carrier.

Lessons learned... 

In the end, it was a hard learned lesson. But moving forward I have vowed that I won't ever be held hostage by a cell carrier again. I will purchase my phones directly from Apple, fully unlocked to assure I can move to any carrier I choose without having to navigate their "customer retention" policies. 

Some key aspects of the story I would not believe if I had not lived thru them...

... On April 6th 2016, Credo charges my credit card over $1,000 to complete the purchase of the 4 iPhones I had on their payment plan.

(you would think at this point I would own the phones as they have billed me and I have paid in full... however, if you believe this you would be wrong or at least you would be in disagreement with Credo)

... over the course of the next 30 days, I made 8+ trips to Sprint stores trying to get the phones I though I owned added to my new Sprint account... and each time they were not able to add them as Credo repeated failed to release the phones as promised

... the most egregious of the statements made by Credo regarding why they phones we're not available to move to another carrier went something like this...

"We appreciate your prompt payment for the balance due on your phones. Althought we billed your credit card and collected the funds within hours of sending you the bill, your payments will not post to our internal accounting system until your next monthly billing cycle. This means that other carries trying to add those phones to their system will get an error showing you have not yet fulfilled your obligations to Credo. We are sorry for the inconvenience but have no interest in helping you further. If you will simply put your phone in a drawer and not user it for a month, it should be ready to activate after our next billing cycle is complete."

That is clearly not a "quote" from Credo. What really happened was much worse. I would make a call and get assurance and confirmation that the phones were unlocked and could be transferred. Then I would waste hours with Sprint trying to figure out what the problem was. At some point "accounting" and "tech support" had no idea what the other was doing.

In the end, I needed working phones for me and my family and waiting a month for Credo to release my phones to me was not a realistic option. I very quickly realized that I could trust nothing Credo said regarding the future availability of MY PHONES, so I purchased new, unlocked phones directly from Apple.  

... In the process, I also was informed by several reps at different carriers that the ONLY way you can be certain your phone can be transported from one carrier to another ... is to purchase  a phone that has NEVER been locked by ANY carrier. 

... We are now approaching two months since I started what I thought would be a two DAY process to move my phones to another carrier. Credo has released our phone numbers and they have all been ported to NEW phones. They have unlocked the phones and we have sent them off to www.gazelle.com to sell them in hopes of recovering some of the expenses incurred in the horrendous process.

... Credo has promised to credit back the original charges, but of course, has not done so yet. To add insult to this process, I am now receiving emails about an outstanding balance on my account as they have continued to bill me for service even though I have been with Sprint for the last two months.

NOTE: I kept the account open under instruction from Credo. They noted the account would need to be open while transfers took place but I would not be charged. As with almost all the other communications from Credo customer service, there seems to have been little or no effort made to followup or deliver on their promises.

For more information about your rights with cell carriers in the US, check out this page on the FCC's website.