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Reader Tip: How I saved over $200 on my phone

Jessica emailed in the following tip:

I recently saved myself $220 on a new phone after doing a bit of research.

I had dropped my cell phone in the sink — and while the SIM card (which contains all of my phone numbers etc.) still worked fine, the touchscreen no longer worked.

When I went to the cell phone store, I found that they did not have my older model available and that it would cost $270 to purchase a new phone without getting involved in renewing my contract.

Instead, I went online and found my phone for $50! Because it was made by my cell phone company and was the same model, all I needed to do was put my old SIM card into the new phone and voila! Brand new replacement phone, same phone number, all my information, for $50 instead of $270.

If you were to buy a phone not made by your cell phone company you may need to take it to be “unlocked” at a local store (small fee for doing so) or if your SIM card was damaged you may need to purchase a replacement. However, even this would be much cheaper than paying the price for a brand new phone at your local store! -Jessica

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    • Emily says

      It shouldn’t affect a contract at all. There’s no reason to even involve the phone company, really, if you can order your phone and switch out the SIM yourself. I washed my phone in the washing machine and did this same thing. No problem!

      • Andrea says

        If you have a problem with the SIM card and it is in a different phone, it very likely could result in the problems with your contract.

  1. says

    I’ve done this too. With US Cellular, does not affect the contract or anything. You can activate any USCC phone you own at anytime without being charged for it or having to sign anything.

    I actually did this because I didn’t like my phone but was no where near time for a contract renewal. So I found the one I wanted. I paid $80 on ebay instead of $250 in the store. No problems.

    • says

      Here is something I’ve done in a similar situation. My husband has an iPhone 3GS. He broke the screen and called customer service, since we have phone insurance. Since Apple is no longer making the 3GS, we would have to upgrade to one of the 4s. That would be $199. Still better than the $400 the phone costs outright. My husband called a guy on Craigslist that met my husband and changed out the screen in about 15 minutes. He charged $60.

      My husband came in and told me, “You could totally do that.” He knows I am handy with electronics. A couple of months later, he broke his screen again. This time I ordered the part off of eBay. It cost 7 dollars, and that included shipping and the repair parts. I watched some YouTube videos and replaced the screen in around an hour and a half. A couple of months later, guess what…yep, again with the screen. I ordered another repair kit for another 7 bucks. This time it only took me twenty minutes, because I wasn’t so scared. Then his screen started getting dim. I ordered an LCD off of eBay for around 12 dollars. It took about ten minutes to change that out. YouTube really is an amazing resource for saving money.

      • says

        That’s great April! I’m lucky that the hubby is so handy with that kind of stuff – just like you. You’ve inspired me to start spending some time on Youtube to watch some “how-to” videos. :) Thank you!

  2. Luna in Iowa says

    I’d just like to note that this tip will not work with Smart Phones as they are made without SIM cards now. Many of the newer model phones also have no SIM card.

  3. august says

    I think this is a good tip for people that have older model phones, but most people don’t have SIM cards any more. Actually, most phones had SIM cards back when I was in middle school and high school, but since I’ve graduated I only see prepaid phones or “dinosaur” phones that still use them.

    Another way to save is do like others mentioned and buy off Ebay. Then you can call your company and tell them you had to buy a different phone. They’ll set up that phone to have your number and you’re done.

    For example, we bought a blackberry from Ebay that was made for Sprint. We had Boost, so we called them, they unlocked the phone free of charge, and we saved a TON of money. We had smart phoes with unlimited everything for less tha $50 a month. As a bonus, every 6 months our plan goes down $5 until we get to $35. I’ve seen others do this with Iphones and Striaght Talk as well.

    • Kristen says

      “most people don’t have SIM cards any more” isn’t accurate. Anyone with a GSM cell phone (i.e. Tmobile, AT&T, Cingular) have a SIM card. Those with Sprint or Verizon don’t have a SIM card. It isn’t that SIM cards are old-school or “dinosaur” it’s that different cell phone networks use different technology in their phones.

      Many people prefer using carriers that use phones with SIM cards as you can easily switch phones just by moving the SIM card.

      This tip would have been more helpful if they shared what website they bought it from.

      • august says

        Actually, I don’t know a single person that uses any of the providers that you listed. Perhaps they’re more popular in other parts of the country, but here, it would be pretty difficult to find a phone that had a sim card that wasn’t a dinosaur phone.

        • Kristen says

          That’s odd. You must not have a lot of choices where you live. In Minnesota, we can choose from any of those providers. Most the people I know have Tmobile. In fact, AT&T was the only provider for Iphones for a long time – so you must know some people that have AT&T since you original comment mentioned Iphones.

          • august says

            No, my comment said that people do the same thing I did (buy a phone off Ebay and have it unlocked). People will buy Iphones off of Ebay, have them unlocked, and use them for Straight Talk.

            The last time I knew of someone with one of those providers I was a freshman in high school and I lived in a small town in KY. They were bought out by a different, bigger company. People have plenty of choices where I live in NC, it’s just that those companies aren’t around here because no one uses them anymore. The bigger companies buy them out or run them out of business.

              • august says

                Like I said earlier, it depends on what part of the country you live in. I have NOT seen any of those providers in years and don’t know anyone with them. I never said they didn’t exist.

      • Kristy says

        Verizon’s 3g network uses CDMA technology which means no SIM cards. However, their 4g LTE network and all 4g devices do have SIM cards.

  4. says

    I recently lost my cell phone. I bought a “replacement phone” from Best Buy on cyber monday that was marketed as a “no contract phone” for $200 off retail. When I got it in the mail yesterday, it was a “prepaid phone”. My husband took it to Verizon, and they told us that prepaid phones were different than contract phones and that it wouldn’t work with our plan. I returned the phone to Best Buy, and am still on a hunt for a reasonably priced replacement phone, ugh. :-(

    • says

      I found a Samsung Rogue (same as my previous one, which worked great) on Amazon from Just Cellular for $79 (retail price $279). Phone has clear ESN (Key to use with my existing contract…I just call Verizon and give them some numbers from the new phone and I’ll be all set up). Woot!

  5. Allison Voges says

    Be aware that if you buy a used phone or even a new phone off ebay, craigslist, etc, you might not be able to use it. I worked for Sprint and if a phone had been obtained fraudulently or reported stolen it would be “blacklisted” and there was no way for it to ever be activated. If that happens you’ll be out your money. I would recommend first hunting around through trusted sources who might have an old phone you can activate.

  6. Aleah Buck says

    This is a great tip, even if your phone is just up for renewal. My mom didn’t want a new “fancy” phone, but the Verizon store she went to didn’t carry any basic models. She went on their website and found a much simpler phone that was free with her upgrade! Just because it’s not in the store doesn’t mean you can’t find it online :)

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