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08-05-2013, 09:54 AM #1
AT&T Credit Check for iPhone and Samsung Galaxy: Everything You Need to Know
If you're in the market for a new cell phone, you'll probably need to submit to a credit check, regardless of which carrier you select.
AT&T requires credit checks for new lines or new customers -- not those just upgrading their phone -- and [B]AT&T has a reputation for having the highest initial security deposit of any carrier.
Why Does AT&T Perform a Credit Check?
Wireless carriers perform credit checks because it's rather easy to run up a high bill on a cell phone versus, say, a landline. Individuals with poor credit are at a higher risk of defaulting and paying late on their bills, so imagine what would happen if someone who has a long history of running out on bills was approved for 5 cell phone lines with no deposit.
While it may not seem fair to assume that everyone with bad credit will run up a high bill and fail to pay it, AT&T hedges their bets like any other carrier and a cell phone line is just like a loan.
When AT&T checks your credit, they're looking for the same things as anyone else. They want to know how much you currently owe, whether you make your payments on time and how quickly you could get into debt, which means a look at the limits and balances on your credit cards.
Step 1: Check Your Own Credit Scores
Important Note: Before applying for wireless service with AT&T I recommend that you check your credit scores. Verify that your scores are 720 or above which is considered good to excellent credit.
If your scores are below that there is a good chance you will be required to pay a deposit.
You can see your credit scores here.
Step 2: Estimate Your Deposit Using Our Calculator
Once you have your current credit score, you see your estimated deposit using this Wireless Service Deposit Calculator.
This tool can estimate your required deposit using historical data and is good to use before signing up for new service. You can also use the tool to calculate the required deposit of different carriers - which can amount to hundreds of dollars in potential savings.
What Happens If I Have Bad Credit?
If you have bad credit and apply for wireless service with AT&T, one of three things will happen:
- You will be denied for service entirely.
- You will be required to pay a security deposit.
- Or you will be encouraged to try a Pay as You Go plan.
It seems most people with a credit score in the low- to mid-500's WILL get approved for service, but a security deposit will be required. The same is true for applicants with no credit history. If you've declared bankruptcy recently and your score remains below 600, your chance of being denied is fairly high.
AT&T has the highest initial security deposit of $100 and it may be as high as $1,000. It seems most people with bad credit are required to pay between $450 to $750, though, so don't count on that $100 deposit.
You can have your deposit refunded, which is generally done after the 12th month of active service, provided you have not had your account suspended for nonpayment during those 12 months and your account has remained current. In some states, interest will accrue on your deposit if the law requires it.
If you want to skip the credit check entirely because you're sure you'll be told you need a deposit, AT&T does offer the Pay as You Go plan.
Their GoPhone service has no annual contract, no credit check or deposit necessary and you'll get a choice of phones. They have a few plans to choose from, including a smartphone monthly unlimited plan with data down to a basic plan with 250 minutes per month.
Tips for Minimizing or Eliminating the Deposit
If you don't want to go with AT&T's prepaid plan, which requires you choose one of the specific phones that go along with it, there are a few steps you can take to try to minimize or eliminate your deposit.
1. Try a Lower Plan
It seems the deposit amount is based not only on your credit but also the cost of the plan you're trying to sign up with. Try starting with a more basic plan to minimize the deposit you're required to pay.
2. Order through the Apple Website
This option applies if you're after an iPhone. Some people find success by ordering their phone through the Apple website, instead of AT&T, and then setting up an appointment to pick up the iPhone at an Apple Store. You may be able to get service through AT&T without submitting to a credit check or paying a deposit.
3. Go Under a Family Plan
AT&T does not allow co-signers, so you can't add someone else's name to your account to guarantee payments. If your credit is poor and you can't afford a deposit, you may need to join a family plan instead of getting service under your own name until your credit improves.
Clean Up Your Credit First!
The best way to ensure you get approved for service without a deposit is cleaning up your credit report before you even apply. This takes some time, however, so you'll need to start the process at least a few months in advance.
Start by looking for any errors or mistakes on your credit report, such as credit cards or public records that don't belong to you, and dispute them with the credit bureaus.
Next, identify potential red flags on your file, such as missed payments. If you have past late payments showing on your credit report, you may be able to get them removed by contacting the lender and requesting a goodwill adjustment if you've had a good track record with them.
You can also try to get credit limit increases on any existing credit cards, which is a much better option than opening a new account, which will only decrease the average age of your accounts.
Work to pay down your debt to decrease your debt-to-credit ratio and, if possible, try to add a new type of loan to your credit. Having a nice mix of credit accounts makes up 10% of your credit score, and examples of credit types include car loans, student loans and store credit.
Remember: Any changes to your credit report will take at least 30 days to go through, so you need to start this process as soon as possible.
Unfortunately, AT&T is one of the most stringent companies in terms of credit, and it's fairly hard to get around their rules. Because their security deposits are so hefty, consider their prepaid plan if you're set on the carrier, or choose another carrier with lower deposits and credit requirements.
Last edited by CreditDave; 09-19-2014 at 12:07 PM.
- You will be denied for service entirely.
09-26-2013, 05:12 PM #2
Just wanted to provide an update on this - AT&T still requires a credit check for new customers who are interested in an Apple iPhone 5S or 5C. The only way to get around the credit check or deposit is to go with a prepaid plan and buy the phone for the full retail price, instead of through a contract.