My money's no good here
April 20, 2020 11:35 AM   Subscribe

Please help me not spend another 3 hours doing this. I need a new iphone. My old one is an iphone 6 and limping along with no camera and other problems. I have Verizon but want to switch plans -- both for this new phone, and for another line that doesn't need a new phone.

I cannot figure out how to do this on any website, and every time i have called a provider to switch, they literally have said they will re-route me, I get put on hold and go to another person who also says they are the wrong person and puts me on hold again. (I am empathic with the stress on people working at call centers in other countries for major US corporations but I just need to get back to my own work and not be routed to yet another person who doesn't have the authority to switch plans.)
This is the situation, can you help me figure out how and where to get this done quickly?
1. I want to buy an iphone XR or maybe pre-order the new SE
2. I am overdue for an upgrade from Verizon, but for Verizon, this means paying the full price for the new phone plus an upgrade fee. And trying to contact customer service to figure out how to buy from them via chat left me waiting for an hour. Ugh. I'm done with Verizon which is overpriced anyway.
3. I need to switch two phone lines, my own with the new phone, and another line that does not need a new phone, to Tmobile or another service, and to buy the new iphone at the same time.
Why is this so difficult? Normally I would walk into the Tmobile or AT&T store in the mall and let them just set it up.
What I have done: Gone onto the AT&T and T Mobile websites, tried "chat," which doesn't work for this issue bc there are only bots who don't know what I'm talking about, and there are no drop down menus for switching plans and getting one new phone with two lines.
I just want to get a phone and get on with things. Any link or phone number I'm missing is GREATLY appreciated.
posted by nantucket to Computers & Internet (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Based on your description, if you're using the language "switch your plan" this may be where you're getting tripped up. They may be interpreting that as meaning changing from one plan to another, rather than changing provider TO their service.

I looked at the AT&T website, to get a sense of the language and structure, and it looks like this is your order of operations:

1) Identify and purchase a phone
2) While you're purchasing, tell them you want to port the number over (i.e. from Verizon)
3) Add a second line to the plan, and port that number over too

This is assuming you don't have a contract with Verizon, in which case you'll have to break the contract one way or another. This could mean paying a fee to get out early, paying the full rest of the contract, or having a deal where AT&T or T-Mobile buys your contract out (I don't know if this is a current offer).
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 12:21 PM on April 20, 2020 [6 favorites]

Best answer: The safer way to do this, especially in this time of overloaded customer service, is to split this into two steps:

1. Get new service with new provider (with or without phone, as you wish)
2. When new phone with service is in hand and functioning, initiate a number transfer to the new provider (with the new provider - never tell your old provider that you are cancelling)

If you are not on prepaid for the old provider, your bill will be prorated so you won't be paying significantly more (unless there are drastic customer service delays). Also if for some reason, you don't get service in your home with the new provider (or some other dealbreaker), it is a lot easier to cancel and refund a new line than to cancel and refund a new line _and_ to do another number change back.

There is also the remote possibility that due to dysfunctional bureaucracy, if you try to do both at the same time, the steps will go out of order and you'll have service with the new provider but no phone so functionally neither. The likelihood of this happening will increase when you add complexities like an additional line or with a delayed preorder.

And seconding what chesty_a_arthur is saying: you tell AT&T/T-Mobile that you want a new line of service, and are porting over a number from Verizon. You are not "switching plans".
posted by meowzilla at 1:03 PM on April 20, 2020 [1 favorite]

(Also, just FYI everything you’re saying and the way you’re describing this in English is totally reasonable! In case this process or our explanations are making you feel dumb, it’s a mobile industry problem, not a You problem.)
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 3:10 PM on April 20, 2020 [2 favorites]

I am overdue for an upgrade from Verizon, but for Verizon, this means paying the full price for the new phone plus an upgrade fee.
Buy the phone directly from Apple and there should not be an upgrade fee. If you want to move to a new carrier, it may be easier to move your number first and then you know which carrier to have the sim card set up with. You will need to call the company and not just chat online to get a new account set up.
posted by soelo at 4:24 PM on April 20, 2020 [1 favorite]

Consumer Cellular offers an array of phones, and their transfer process was painless when I dumped Verizon for them. I'm now (about 6 years later) paying CC about $60 a month for 2 smart phones with a lot of data included, which is what I was paying VZ for 1 dumb phone when I made the change. CC markets heavily to seniors, so they work at keeping things simple. Most of the rest of the telecoms are still playing the same shell game they've been running forever.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 6:29 AM on April 21, 2020

This may be a situation where you have to mask/glove up and physically go to a store. I recently needed to switch plans with Verizon, wasted an entire day trying to do it via phone/website, before going into a store where it was done in less than 10 minutes. In my area there are the official Verizon stores, as well as Verizon-licensed off brand stores. I went to one of these, and was the only person besides the worker. I also just found out that Verizon has prepaid plans for literally HALF the price, and the exact same talk/text/data allowances, so now my phone bill has been halved. Good luck, it's incredibly frustrating!
posted by csox at 7:22 AM on April 21, 2020

Here's where you can sign up with Consumer Cellular. You do not need to go to a phone store, and you most certainly do not need to speak to the thieves at Verizon.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 9:39 AM on April 21, 2020

I'm thirding Consumer Cellular It is an ATT reseller. Don't be scared off by the "for seniors" branding. It has always been easy dealing with them, definitely not a clip joint. My bill for 2 phones, unlimited text and talk, 10 GB data is $60 a month. If you go over they just bump you up to the next tier pro rated. No "contract" so you can adjust your plan with your usage. For example I had more data for a month long trip and when I got backed scaled it back. With our Iphones visual voice mail works and personal hotspot works, (I know some providers/plans charge extra for this.) I don't know what their data cap is, for me as a choice to upgrade it is 55gb so that might be a problem for you.
posted by Pembquist at 10:03 AM on April 21, 2020

The only caveat about Consumer Cellular is that they use two networks, AT&T and another one, and which one your phone connects to is determined by the installed SIM card. This is not a big deal; if the card connects you to a net that's weak where you are, you call CC and arrange to go get the other card at Target. CC takes the cost of it off your bill. Their customer service is top-notch.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 10:33 AM on April 21, 2020

The other network CC uses is T-Mobile. If either that or AT&T is good in your area, you'll be OK. When I upgraded my phone last year, I suddenly didn't have good service at home, because they'd put a T-Mobile card in the new phone. A trip to Target cured that.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 10:40 AM on April 21, 2020

As for plans, we have had good luck with Pure Talk. Everything is done online. You can get a phone through them or just the SIM Card. It does however use the AT&T/T-Mobile network. If you just want a phone and continue with Verizon, is a great place for phones.
posted by Sialia at 1:10 PM on April 21, 2020

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