Thinking about getting that fancy new cell phone for your someone special this Christmas? Great idea! But before you head to your local cell phone store, there are a handful of important tips you should know so that you don’t spoil the surprise or hit a roadblock.
As an ex-employee of a major cellular carrier, I’ve seen it all. People walk through the door expecting to purchase a cell phone for their loved one, only to walk out with nothing. Why does this happen and what can you do about it? And, how can you find some ways to save money on your purchase?
1. Make sure you’re an authorized user on the account.
This is by far the biggest roadblock. And no, just because you’re married to the person listed on the account, doesn’t mean you’ll have access to it. You’ll only hit this roadblock if you are trying to by a phone on contract, which you’ll probably want to do to get the lowest (and widely advertised) price.
How do you gain access to the account without your loved one expecting they’re going to get a cell phone for Christmas? One workaround is to add yourself as an authorized user using online account access – but you’ll have to know the username and password!
If all else fails, and you don’t want to give up the surprise, you can typically buy the phone outright by going into the store. But if it’s a popular phone such as the iPhone, expect to pay hundreds more than the widely advertised price. One side benefit of this is that the recipient won’t be locked into a 2-year contract.
2. Find out if there is an available upgrade offer.
Again, if you’re wanting the lowest price on a cell phone, it’s best to sign a 2-year contract. But sometimes you’ll find that there isn’t an upgrade available on the account. Remember to ask your carrier representative if there are any available upgrades on the whole account. You just might find that out you can use another line’s upgrade offer for the intended line. People trade upgrades all the time, so don’t feel like you’re asking for something out of the ordinary.
You’ll also want to ask if there is an early upgrade offer. Sometimes carriers will allow you to upgrade a cell phone a bit early, but many times you’ll have to pay more. It’s just one more option to consider.
3. Ensure the new cell phone will not be activated too soon.
If you’re going to be purchasing the cell phone in the store, it’s very important that you make it clear you’re giving it as a gift. Specifically ask them to not activate the phone yet, or they might do it out of habit. If you don’t say these things, you might find your loved one without cell phone service and wondering what’s going on.
The new cell phone can be activated at home after the gift has been opened. You’ll want to make sure that if your carrier uses SIM cards, that you have an unactivated, new one to use when you call your carrier to activate. Your carrier can explain if this will be a factor in the process.
4. Ask the representative to not send the recipient a confirmation email or text message.
What a way to ruin the surprise, right? If the recipient’s email address is on the account, they might receive a “change of service” confirmation. Likewise, it is possible that the recipient will receive a text message confirmation. Simply ask the representative to configure the order so that the recipient isn’t notified of any changes.
5. Pay close attention to what phone you’re purchasing.
Remember that some cell phones come with different amounts of storage and other features. While they might look the same on the outside, you might, for example, accidentally purchase a 16GB unit when what you really want a 32GB unit. Think through these options before you make the purchase, and you’ll be more likely to get your loved one something they’ll enjoy for years to come.
6. Understand the return policy inside and out.
Before you purchase the cell phone, make sure you understand the return policy. Cell phones can have strict return policies that might leave the recipient with a model of phone they really don’t want. Ask the cellular representative exactly how the return policy works.
7. Beware of getting them a case.
Store employees are trained to bring cell phone cases to the counter in a move to pressure you to buy an accessory. Don’t fall for it. The last thing you want to do is get your loved one a case that they really won’t like. Cases are very personal in nature, and most people are finicky about what kind of case they’ll receive.
Only purchase them a case if you know that they’ll absolutely love it. Otherwise, skip the case or get a gift card so that they can buy their own.
8. Consider purchasing online for a great deal.
Before you step foot in a cellular store, consider purchasing online to save some money. You can find some fantastic offers through Ebates.com (see a review of how Ebates works). You might even find some deals on your carrier’s website! Use these deals in conjunction with a cash back debit card, and you’ll be saving a lot of dough.
Also, don’t forget to take a look at Amazon Wireless for more great deals!
If you end up choosing to purchase online, make sure that you call your cellular company so that you can ask them questions and correctly place your order.
There you have it. Those are the main points you’ll need to know before purchasing a cell phone for Christmas. Follow those pointers, and you’re sure to surprise your loved one with a fantastic gift! Now go shoppin’!
Are you going to be gifting someone a cell phone this Christmas? Have a story about gifting a cell phone? Leave a comment and let us know!