Most cell phone companies want to avoid customers skipping out on their bills, so many carriers will check your credit to evaluate how you manage your finances and your ability to pay your bill each month.
If you’re a savvy shopper, you don’t have to go without a cell phone if your credit history is questionable. Below, we offer some viable ways that you can get a cell phone without having to worry about a credit check.
But first: check your credit score
Before you consider any of the no-credit-check cell phone options, it’s a good idea to first check your credit. You’re entitled to a free copy of your credit report from the three major U.S. credit bureaus–Equifax, Experian and TransUnion–once every 12 months. To check your credit, simply visit AnnualCreditReport.com and follow the steps to get your three free report.
You might be surprised to find out that your credit isn’t actually as bad as you thought it was, which means you could qualify for a cell phone plan using your current credit score. If you spot any errors, you can dispute them with creditors and the credit bureaus. Having any errors removed from your report can significantly improve your score.
If everything looks correct but your score isn’t where you want it to be, examine how you might be able make improvements. Could you bring down your credit utilization ratio, for example? Changing the mix of accounts in your name could also help. By improving your credit history, you may be able to use your credit to acquire a cell phone plan in the future.
Did you know?
You can use your international credit history to apply for a U.S. credit card with no credit and without a Social Security Number
Credit history used to stop at the border—until now. Your existing international credit history could help you get credit in the United States. No SSN is required to start your credit history today.Learn More
How to get a cell phone with no credit check
Even if you need to work on your credit score, there are still several ways you can get a cell phone with no credit check.
1. Use a prepaid carrier
Instead of signing up for a traditional plan with a cell phone company, work with a prepaid carrier. Credit checks aren’t required for prepaid cell phone plans because you’re paying for the service upfront. That means there’s no risk for the service provider. In some cases, prepaid plans are less expensive than standard cell phone plans and you won’t have to commit to a contract. So, if you decide that you want to switch to a different company, you can do so without having to pay costly fees.
You can get a prepaid plan with major cell phone carriers, including AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon. Alternatively, there are several reputable providers that only offer prepaid cell phone plans, such as Boost Mobile, Cricket Wireless, Sprint Prepaid and T-Mobile Prepaid. Most providers offering prepaid-only plans are owned and operated by larger carriers, such as Verizon and AT&T. That means they offer the same quality phones and operate on the same reliable networks.
2. Sign up for a family plan
Joining a family plan is another way you can get a cell phone with no credit. The majority of carriers offer family plans that allow a primary account holder to add extra lines to their account. While the primary account holder will be subject to a credit check, additional line holders typically aren’t subject to these same conditions.
Family plan account holders are the ones held responsible for payments, so it’s important to make payments on time. Otherwise, you could jeopardize both the cell phone and the credit of the account holder.
3. Consider a security deposit
Many reputable cell phone carriers will offer plans without running a credit check if you pay a security deposit. In other words, you’ll pay for the service up-front instead of at the end of a billing cycle, which means there’s no risk to the carrier.
However, your credit may be checked to determine how much of a deposit you need to put down. Security deposit amounts vary from carrier to carrier.
4. Get a co-signer
Lastly, you can get a cell phone plan with no credit if you have a co-signer, just like with a loan. The way it works is simple: someone who has good credit acts as the co-signer, and the account is placed in his or her name. You are then added to the account.
However, since the account is in the co-signer’s name, they will be held responsible for any late or missed payments, so make sure you pay your bill on time and for the full amount.
The co-signer can transfer the plan into your name down the line.
5. If you’ve recently moved from abroad, use your international credit history
Nova Credit has built technology to translate credit data from countries like Australia, Canada, India, Mexico, the UK and more into a U.S.-equivalent score that newcomers can elect to share with U.S. companies when they apply for credit products here.
This means that newcomers to the U.S. can now apply for credit cards, apartments, loans and other credit products by using their international credit history. Once you use your international credit history to get a credit card or other credit product here, you can start to build a U.S. score.
In the United States, a credit score is important for many services, including cell phone plans. If you have no credit or bad credit, there are ways that you can get a cell phone plan without undergoing a credit check.
While the strategies mentioned here are certainly viable ways to get a cell phone, it’s still a good idea to work on building your credit—not only so you can go the traditional route of getting a cell phone plan, but also so you can secure other services that require good credit, such as credit cards and loans. Keep building your credit score with these resources and guides from Nova Credit.
Recently moved to the U.S.?
Put your international credit score to work in the United States
Check if you're eligible to use your international credit history to apply for a U.S. credit card, even without an SSN.
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