8 Tips for Getting a Cell Phone with Bad Credit

Updated on March 12, 2024

Having bad credit can make many things more difficult, including getting approved for a new cell phone. Cell phone carriers often check your credit before approving you for one of their plans. If you have bad credit, you may get declined or be asked to put down a large deposit.

Use these 8 proven tips to increase your chances of getting approved for cell phone service despite having bad credit:

1. Shop Around Beyond the Major Carriers

Major carriers make approvals challenging without good credit. However minor carriers utilize more relaxed approval policies and down payment options. Don’t get discouraged if the big carriers deny your application at first.

2. Compare Prepaid and No-Credit-Check Options

Prepaid services won’t check your credit when you apply. And newer no-credit-check plans from Spectrum Mobile, Visible, and Xfinity Mobile also bypass credit checks and contracts. These plans provide solid coverage at affordable rates.

3. Call Customer Service and Ask About Alternatives

If an online application gets denied, call customer support and explain your situation politely. Representatives can check if deposit programs or other options exist beyond the initial decision. The personal touch goes a long way.

4. Check if You Qualify for Lifeline Discounts

Government Lifeline Assistance programs provide discounted or even free cell service to those facing financial limitations. Conditions like low income, unemployment, disability, or enrollment in other assistance programs like Medicaid can qualify you.

5. Add an Authorized User with Better Credit

Some carriers allow authorized users with better credit to improve their chances. Add a friend or family member over 18 as an authorized user to provide an immediate artificial boost to your perceived creditworthiness.

6. Shop at Physical Locations Rather Than Online

The instant decisions from online applications won’t always consider exceptions or special programs. Applying in person lets you interface directly with store representatives who know workarounds. Explain your situation and ask about alternative options beyond prepaid plans.

7. Pay Security Deposits When Possible

Paying a deposit shows major carriers you’re dependable financially. After several on-time monthly payments, carriers typically refund your deposit amount. If you can swing the upfront deposit, it vastly improves your long-term service prospects.

8. Activate New Lines of Service Only

Your chances improve dramatically if you apply for a new line of cell phone service rather than transferring service. Carriers get nervous about porting numbers from accounts in collections since it may saddle them with bills you didn’t pay another provider. Start fresh with new service whenever possible.

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Rohit Mittal

Rohit Mittal is the co-founder and CEO of Stilt. Rohit has extensive experience in credit risk analytics and data science. He spent years building credit risk and fraud models for top U.S. banks. In his current role, he defines the overall business strategy, leads debt and capital fundraising efforts, leads product development, and leads other customer-related aspects for the company. Stilt is backed by Y Combinator and has raised a total of $275M in debt and equity funding to date.

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