How to Get Approved for a Cell Phone with Bad Credit

Posted by in Credit Scores | Updated on May 26, 2023
At a Glance: Phone companies consider a credit score below 600 as “bad” credit, although specific criteria may vary. For example, Sprint considers a credit score of 700 and above as “excellent” and anything below 550 as “fair.” AT&T may require a deposit for credit scores below 600. Options for getting a phone line with bad credit include prepaid plans, buy now pay later plans, joining a family plan, or using a cosigner. Prepaid plans offer advantages such as no deposit, lower monthly bills, flexibility, and affordability. Some prepaid plan options include Verizon AllSet, AT&T GoPhone, T-Mobile Simply Prepaid, and Sprint Prepaid.

Right about now, about 96% of the American population has a cell phone. These phones are not only used to keep you entertained but also to keep you connected and organized. They are so essential that when your phone breaks, you need to find and buy a new one immediately.

With that in mind, not everyone can cough up the money to buy a new phone right away – in which case, you need to find some credit alternatives. Knowing that your credit is not in such a stellar way, you can’t help but wonder how to get approved for a cell phone with bad credit. Well, luckily for you, there are a couple of ways for you to do so.

What Do Phone Companies Consider “Bad” Credit?

Under most circumstances, if your credit score is below 600, then it means you have the “bad credit” mark. At least, that is how most lenders see it. But is it the same for phone companies? What exactly do they see as “bad” credit? Well, that mostly depends on the phone company.

Let’s take Sprint, for example. When you get a new cell phone using Sprint, you will be required to submit information on your credit score. For Sprint, anyone who has a credit score of 700 and above is considered “excellent.” That being said, anything that goes below 550 is labeled “fair” – which is just a nice manner of saying that your credit score blows.

While 550 is a “fair” credit score that you can apply with, it doesn’t mean that you will also be accepted. From various users that left reviews on forums, for an AT&T plan, you’ll have to make a deposit first if your credit score is less than 600.

Which begs the question, what do you do if your credit score is particularly bad? Will it be impossible for you to get an AT&T plan? Well, that’s not the case; you will still have several ways to get a cell phone plan. You just have to be more open to research.

4 Ways to Get a Phone Line If You Have Bad Credit

In most cases, people with bad credit getting a new cell phone often subject themselves to hefty deposits or credit checks. However, there are still several ways for you to get a cell phone without throwing yourself in bigger debt and harming your credit. Here are some of the more popular options.

Get a Prepaid Plan

One of the most efficient ways to get a cell phone with bad credit is to opt for a prepaid plan. Like prepaid checks, this option has you paying a certain fee in advance before you use any services. Since you are paying in advance every month, this one does not need credit checks. Your credit may have hit rock bottom, but you’d still be eligible to get a prepaid plan.

Enroll in a Buy Now, Pay Later Plan

Do you want to buy the latest ultra 5G phones, but don’t have the cash at hand? In that case, you may enroll in a “buy now, pay later” plan. As the name suggests, you can get this phone without needing a deposit or a credit check, and then pay it later on in installments. Typically, these plans are paid off in 12-24 months.

Get Added to a Family Plan

A family plan is yet one more efficient way to get a cell phone. If you have a family member that has excellent credit, then you might want to join in the family plan offers. You might even get access to features that are not normally available to people of your credit score.

Use a Cosigner

If you don’t have any family members that can join you on a family plan, then one more efficient way of getting a cell phone is to use a guarantor (i.e. cosigner). If someone with excellent credit signs on your behalf, then you may get your cell phone plan even with bad credit. Bear in mind that you need to make timely payments because if you don’t, your cosigner will become the responsible one.

Why Is a Prepaid Plan Better?

Since the phone is not subsidized, a prepaid plan does not require any initial deposit – mainly because you are engaging in prepaid expenses. The money is paid upfront and can last different lengths of time, depending on the price of the phone. That being said, there are various advantages to prepaid plans, including:

  • You are not required to make a deposit and may usually buy the phone right away with less than half of the usual deposit – receiving a contract plan in return.
  • Your monthly bill by using a prepaid plan will be much cheaper (around $20-$30 per month). This is because you have already paid for the phone in advance.
  • Since you aren’t locked into any contract, you can cancel the service or change your mobile carrier at any time.

Prepaid plans tend to be less expensive as compared to contract plans and represent a good option for those that want flexibility at a better price.

Prepaid Phone Plan Options

If you have decided to go for a prepaid plan, there are various options for you. Depending on the company that you go for, you may receive different data offers at various prices.

Verizon AllSet Prepaid Plans

If you are a Verizon fan, then you might want to try out the Verizon prepaid plan. Depending on the data plan that you get, you may pay somewhere between $35 and $45, and you can choose from a variety of smartphones. This includes the latest Samsung Galaxy phones and iPhones. Plus, if you only need a new number and cell phone plan, Verizon allows you to bring your own phone.

AT&T GoPhone® Plans

Depending on the plan that you get, a prepaid plan from AT&T can be anywhere between $35 and $65 for any phone. Unlimited plans are more expensive, but even if you do not use all the data, it will all be rolled over into the next month. You may also go for an 8GB offer that costs you $8 per month, but you may only get access to it if you initially prepay $300 for the first 12 months.

T-Mobile Simply Prepaid

With a price going from $40 to $60 depending on the amount of 4G LTE data that you get, this one offers you unlimited data, text, and voice over the network. You also have the New Smartphone Equality Program that allows people with bad credit or no credit history to buy a new cell phone at a low price. You have many smartphone options to choose from, including the latest models.

Sprint Prepaid

The Sprint prepaid plan is a good option if you want to skip the credit check. By paying $35 per month, you can get the Unlimited Kickstart Plan that gives you unlimited data, text, and voice. Among prepaid plans, this is considered to be in the affordable range.

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The Bottom Line

You don’t have to remain phoneless or work with old and unresponsive phones. You don’t even have to save much money to get a phone upfront. You just need to go with the right plan that you may pay in installments.