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Financing options for cell phones
6 ways to get your hands on the latest iPhone, Galaxy or Pixel — possibly without paying interest.
Cell phones have gotten more expensive in the last decade — and the options to pay for them have grown. Financing through a carrier, retailer or the manufacturer often offers the best deals, especially if you have a phone to trade in. As a last resort, you can also apply for a loan or put the expense on a credit card.
How can I finance a cell phone?
You have a variety of options to make your cell phone more affordable if you can’t cover the sticker price up front.
Financing through your current carrier
If you’re happy with your current plan, many providers offer a few options to finance a new phone:
- Trade-ins. Trading in your old device can reduce the cost of your new phone to the point where you don’t even need financing — especially if it’s a newish model in good shape.
- Interest-free installment plans. Most carriers also offer interest-free installment plans, usually along with a two-year contract. Some require a down payment, though you can often cover that by trading in your old device.
- Leasing. Less common, some carriers allow you to lease a phone for two years. It works a lot like buying a phone and trading it in, only you won’t ever fully own it outright.
The downside is that you’re locked in with this carrier for two more years. This means you won’t be able to get another phone on that plan for that period of time. And if you decide to switch, you’ll be on the hook for the rest of the balance.
Financing through a new carrier
If your current plan is up and you don’t mind changing service providers, you might be able to qualify for a signup deal by switching carriers. These vary depending on the provider and the phone. Some might cover the full cost of a phone, while others might offer a reduced monthly cost on the installment plan.
You might also be able to qualify for a signup deal if you’re adding a new line to your current plan.
Prefer to buy an unlocked phone through the manufacturer? Apple and Samsung offer financing plans that you can sign up for, as do other cell phone manufacturers.
- Interest-free installment plans. Apple works with Citizens One and Samsung partners with TD Bank to offer 0% APR installment plans. You might have to pay interest if you’re unable to make repayments, however. And you usually need excellent credit to qualify.
- Credit cards. The Apple Card and Barclaycard Financing Visa both offer interest-free financing to cover the cost of your new iPhone.
Like with carrier financing, you can often trade in your phone to reduce the total cost.
Some retailers like Best Buy offer credit cards that give interest-free promotional periods of around two years to pay off the cost of a new cell phone. Others use third-party services like Affirm to offer personal loans you can use to finance your purchase at check out — though you’ll have to pay interest. Some also use companies like SmartPay to lease phones.
Typically, you need strong credit to qualify for 0% APR financing, though Affirm is available to a wide range of credit types.
If none of these options work for you, you can take out a personal loan from a separate lender to finance your new phone. Typically, rates run from 6% to 36% with terms from three to seven years.
While you need good credit to get the most competitive rates, there are personal loan options for all credit types. Make sure you’re working with a lender that offers loan amounts low enough to cover the cost of your phone — many lenders start at around $2,000.
As a last resort, you can also use your current credit card to cover the cost of your new phone. This is generally the most expensive option, since credit cards tend to have higher rates than personal loans. However, it might be worth it if you can qualify for a new credit card that offers 0% APR for a promotional period of 18 or 24 months. That way you won’t be tied to a carrier plan.
Compare personal loan offers
How much does a cell phone cost?
A new cell phone could cost you anywhere from $450 to over $1,000 depending on the model you choose:
OnePlus 7 Pro
Samsung Galaxy S10e
Google Pixel 3
Google Pixel 4 XL
iPhone 11 Pro
Samsung Galaxy S10+
Samsung Galaxy Note 10+
5 tips for cell phone financing
Before shelling out hundreds of dollars for a new cell phone, consider these tips to ensure you find the right financing for your needs:
- Trade in your old phone. Trading in your old phone can shave hundreds of dollars off the upfront or monthly cost, regardless of where you buy it.
- Consider your travel plans. Plan on moving abroad or traveling a lot over the next few years? You might want to think twice before locking yourself into a two-year contract.
- Finish your contract before switching carriers. This is especially important if you’re still paying off another phone — you might have to pay back interest for breaking your contract early, making it more expensive than if you saw it through.
- Have a plan before you swipe. Got a card with a 0% APR intro offer? Calculate exactly how much you’d have to pay per month to avoid paying interest once the promotional period is up.
- Read the fine print. Look at your contract for circumstances you could end up paying hefty fees or interest for before you sign.
You have a wide range of interest-free options when it comes to financing a new cell phone. Make sure you consider those first before turning to more expensive choices like personal loans or credit cards. You can learn more about how borrowing works by reading our guide to personal loans.
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