While carrier ads might make it seem like anyone can pop into a store and walk out with a shiny new smartphone and great rates, the reality is less pleasant. Unless your credit is pristine, there’s a good chance you’ll walk in and face a hefty deposit--if you qualify for a monthly plan at all.
As reported by The National Post, a 2017 report from the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission found many plans from Canadian mobile carriers cost more than comparable plans from carriers in the US, UK, France, Germany, Italy and Japan!
Plans ranked in the top two in cost across nearly every category.
With the cost of mobile service so high as is, what do you do if you have bad credit and need a mobile phone? Before you pay that deposit, consider these no credit check phone plans and alternative ways to get a phone without having to empty your piggy bank!
In this guide...
Editor’s Note: This post has been updated for 2020
In the last year, carriers realized that many people simply could no longer afford their services. By the time you consider the deposit, the phone costs and monthly service, you’re potentially talking about thousands of dollars per year.
While you might find that these smaller carriers offer a few less features than the big names--and most don’t include device subsidies--they are a great option for basic service. Better still, many offer plans that don’t require a credit check!
NOTE: Device subsidies are the discounts many carriers offer in exchange for a contract agreement. New flagship smartphones can exceed $500 or more when purchased upfront! Unless you own a phone already--or don’t mind using something from the last generation or two--you might not a save at all on a new mid-to-high-end phone versus paying a deposit.
The plans offered by the these carriers run the line between PAYG plans and monthly plans. While you’ll pay for them in advance like a prepaid plan, most don’t meter things individually unless you exceed your monthly allotment.
Carriers with prepaid monthly plans that don’t require credit checks include:
A few years ago, hearing the word prepaid triggered thoughts of crazy per-minute rates, horrible coverage and crappy phones. Today, prepaid service quality and device options through carriers are on par with the offerings available to monthly plan subscribers.
For most of these, you must bring your own device or purchase one upfront. However, most kiosks and stores include a few affordable options--especially when compared to the deposit fees you might face at bigger carriers.
Better still, there’s never any worry about overages or extra charges. If you run out of time or data mid-month, you can top off your account. Many carriers have eliminated physical cards and make it easy to top off using an app or online purchase.
Choose a carrier below to compare prepaid options:
If you have a friend or family member with an old phone from any of the major carriers, there’s a good chance you can use it on their prepaid services. This means no hassles with unlocking and you might save over buying a new phone!
If you’d prefer to have service through a major carrier and skip the prepaid options, many will let a friend or family member co-sign on your new service agreement.
How this impacts your service differs between carriers. For most, the account will be in the co-signer’s name and you’ll have rights to change plan features or settings.
Keep in mind, while this gets you up and running with ease, the fact that the account is under someone else’s name means you won’t see the benefits of a recurring monthly payment on your credit report.
Additionally, should something go wrong, the co-signer’s credit will take a hit and they might find debt collectors hunting them down. Not exactly ideal for keeping a happy relationship.
This option has the same pitfalls as the co-signer option. However, the person who’s plan you’re joining can potentially reap rewards.
Most major carriers now offer a family plan. As lines are added, the per-line cost typically decreases. This means if you and your friends all pay equal parts of the bill, you’ll all pay less!
However, with the shift to multi-line plans, many carriers also shifted to shared data and minute pools. Before finding a group plan, make sure you’re intended or typical usage won’t put them over limits and incur additional charges.
With deposits ranging from $100 to $1000+ dollars depending on your needs, they’re not always easy to fit into your budget. However, most carriers will refund the deposit--many with interest--once you’ve met certain conditions. In most cases, this means maintaining service and making payments on-time for 12 to 24 months.
While you’re paying for your monthly service, you’re also working to improve your credit and establish a history of payments with the carrier. This might lead to better offers in the future and eliminate the need for deposits with other business!
Many carriers issue the refund as a credit to your bill or in-store gift card instead of check. Most will also limit the amount of the refund or cancel it entirely if you’re late even once on a bill. This can cause issues if you’re planning to apply that boost of cash to something else and it never arrives.
With the tips in this guide, you should be able to find a quality cell phone carrier that offers the service you need.
Did we miss anything you’ve use to find no credit check phone plans in the past? Have a question we missed or have a different experience finding a no credit check plan? Leave the details in the comments below!
P.S. Most carriers that don’t require credit checks either meter your data usage or offer lower caps that the major carriers. If you’re looking to keep your bills low and get the most from your mobile data plan, our Data Savings Guide offers tips to help!
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