How to end a Verizon plan and start a new one.
December 12, 2011 3:59 PM   Subscribe

Help me navigate Verizon from my old family plan (w/parents) to a new family plan with my SO.

I've had a basic cellphone (voice and texting only) with my parents family plan for years. I had to get a new phone about a year ago and that renewed my contract with Verizon as part of that family plan.

Cut to now. This phone is barely working and I'm due for an upgrade. However, my SO and I want to get our own family plan and finally breakdown to get iPhones. My question is, when I present this to Verizon, will they state that I must end my current phone's contract with my parents family plan in order to start a new one? And hence, to do that, I must buy it out?

I'm not in control of the account, my parents are and I am one of the users under that contract (so basically I am a part of it I just don't get the bill or have control of the account).

I'm not exactly sure how this works and would like a little advice before taking the plunge and going to Verizon, which for the most case, has never been a pleasant experience. It doesn't matter to me either way, I of course would never stick my parents with a bill they weren't responsible for and if it means I must pay extra money to terminate my part of the family plan then I will certainly do that.

Thank you to everyone in advance!
posted by modoriculous to Shopping (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
They should be able to just cut the line out of the plan. They aren't going to be cancelling a contract, just changing the terms. About as easy as adding/removing texting/data plans and how many minutes (as in, very easy to do because they've always changed these for us in the middle of the month as requested). You'll need an account holder to be the one to cancel it, though, unless your parents have given you account access. I've actually had really good with Verizon customer service over the years -- they care about keeping their customers and keeping them happy. If you and your SO are planning on staying with Verizon, they will be especially happy :) Also -- for a smartphone, I highly recommend the HTC Incredible 2. I mega heart mine.
posted by DoubleLune at 4:07 PM on December 12, 2011 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Awesome, thanks DoubleLune! That's very helpful. Is there any reason you went for the HTC Incredible in particular? I have to say my knowledge of smartphones outside the realm of the iPhone is very limited.
posted by modoriculous at 4:22 PM on December 12, 2011

I'm also a Verizon subscriber and I'm going to have to disagree with DoubleLune. Verizon recently restructured its "family plan" billing to more accurately reflect the contract situation -- the contract resides with the line/device, not the overall minutes/month family plan. I "own" my family's plan and just cut the minutes/month package down to better reflect our actual usage. I was assured by the very helpful rep that this change would not re-start any contracts, because the contracts are attached to the phones, not the plan.

So if it's only been a year since you last got a discounted phone, I'm afraid you're going to face an early termination fee.

However, I do agree that Verizon customer service has always been excellent, in my experience. Have the "owner" call and ask the question, just to be sure.
posted by peakcomm at 4:54 PM on December 12, 2011

Ah, I should have said, "... you're going to face either an early termination fee OR an undiscounted price for your new phone." If you stay with Verizon, it will be one or the other. They have to get their discount investment back one way or the other.
posted by peakcomm at 4:58 PM on December 12, 2011

When I did this, it was mostly because my youngest brother wanted a phone, and the "family plan" is limited to 5 lines total. It was very simple for me to transfer my number from the family plan to my SO's, because my slot in the family plan was immediately re-filled. Maybe you have a grandma or someone that could take over your slot? It also may be cheaper for you/your parents to just continue paying the ~$10/month until your contract runs out than pay some huge termination fee. I have also found that VZW customer service has been really helpful in situations like this - they want to keep you as a customer, so they will try to do everything in their power to make the transition easy. FYI, though, they won't be able to even really talk to you unless you have the last four digits of the account owner's SS or the account telephone PIN or some other code. The account owner should probably make the initial call.
posted by coupdefoudre at 5:10 PM on December 12, 2011

My point is that the OP, staying with the same phone number and carrier, should be able to switch the contract on the phone to a different plan. But I guess you won't know for sure until you call them. Tips on their customer service: do it over the phone, and if you're not getting what you want, end that call and try back with someone else. We have had some strange requests filled over the years. The only person I personally know who had problems with Verizon customer service was my ex -- and that's because he wasn't paying his phone bill...

As for the HTC Incredible... I prefer the Android Market. Apps are generally cheaper/free compared to the iPhone ones. Android apps makers generally try to make sure their apps are compatible with the better smartphones, so you will rarely run into compatibility issues with apps. Also the Incredible is the fastest of their smartphones -- I had the original and got the version 2 recently, and the newer model really is that much faster and sleeker.
posted by DoubleLune at 5:16 PM on December 12, 2011 [1 favorite]

Unfortunately, I know way too much about cell phones because I handle the wireless accounts for my company. You have a couple of options here, and a lot of it boils down to where you are in your contract and what your upgrade eligibility is.

First, get your account information from your parents. Sorry, not sure exactly what info you need, as I haven't dealt with them as a consumer for many years. Your parents may need to make you an "authorized user" (or, you know, you can pretend to be one of your parents).

Call Verizon and find out a) What would the Early Termination Fee (ETF) be for your line if you cancelled it now, and b) What is your upgrade eligibility date? This info will help you make the most cost-effective decision.

1) If you and SO want to go with Verizon, you call Verizon and tell them you want to do a "transfer of liability." Doesn't involve any fees or anything, it just means that you want to move a phone line to a different account. However it will not change your upgrade date and you may not be eligible for the "contract price" on the iPhone (i.e. they may charge you the full "retail price" which is like $600 rather than the $200 you'd get if you were a new customer or eligible for upgrade).

2) Port your line to another carrier. If you do this, everything will go directly through the new carrier (in fact, don't alert Verizon that you want to leave, or they may try to f*ck up the port). However, if you are under contract with Verizon you will be charged an ETF. The upside is that you will pay the contract price on the iPhone with the new carrier. I'd call Verizon and find out what your ETF is (for your phone it should be $175 less $5 each month you've been on contract).

3) If neither of the above options appeals to you and you are okay changing phone numbers, the cheapest thing may be to keep your old phone number on your parents' line (I think extra lines on the family plans are $10/month), and then just get a new account/number with SO on whichever carrier you like.

FWIW, Consumer Reports just came out with their wireless provider rankings, and again Verizon is on top and AT&T is on the bottom. I have worked with Sprint, AT&T and Verizon, and I always recommend Verizon hands-down for customer service and coverage. Then again, Verizon is usually a little pricier so you get what you pay for.

If you do want to stay with Verizon but aren't eligible for an upgrade, it may be worth it to try to finagle a deal out of them. Sometimes you can convince them to upgrade you early if you threaten to leave. If you are still under contract but want to stay with Verizon, see if you can talk to the "retention department" - those reps are authorized to give you better deals in order to keep you from leaving. YMMV.

All of this is really confusing. I think they do it on purpose. Memail me if you have any more questions!
posted by radioamy at 8:02 PM on December 12, 2011

If Verizon is for some reason going to charge you to switch to a different plan model, you may want to consider visiting a Sprint store. They bought out my Verizon contract (paid the early termination fee) and gave me trade-in credit from my old BlackBerry. I'm not sure if they are still buying out competitor contracts or not, but it may be worth a visit, and you can still get an iPhone (or a Galaxy II S...)
posted by erstwhile at 8:51 PM on December 12, 2011

Response by poster: Amazing! Thanks everyone for the incredibly in depth responses. Looks like I have a little work to do but nothing too painful. And as to all the great remarks about Verizon, I think the pain I've experienced in the past going to Verizon is more about the confusion of buying a phone then it was about the customer experience, I've always had pretty good customer service as far as I can remember. I will look into these options and see what happens. Thanks again!
posted by modoriculous at 4:35 AM on December 13, 2011

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