What to do when you're stuck in your cell phone contract

Have you ever found yourself stuck in a cell phone contract? Oh man, are they a thorn in my side. I haven't been under contract with a cellphone provider in a while and I kicked my provider to the curb in favor of a cheaper service.

I recently got a YouTube comment from a subscriber that I thought I would share with all of you. 

What do you do if you are caught in a contact for cell phones or cable and they will charge you $200+ per line if you cancel contracts because you lost a job or can't pay the bill? I am trying to go debt free and would like to cancel contracts but have 5 cell lines and they are talking about $350 per line to early cancel.

Wow. That's a tough one. Personally I think cell phone contracts are just a scam.

First, I want to point out that it's always wise to read the fine print before entering into a contract. When you sign up with a cellphone company you are agreeing to pay $350 (or whatever the provider charges) to get out of that contract.  

Now let's look at what you can actually do. I did a little Google search and this is the information I came up with.

1. Look at the terms and conditions. 

If your cell phone provider has changed the terms and conditions of their service, you might be able to cancel your service without an early termination fee. 

For example, if your provider is changing the price or length of their contract they are required to let you know. Read the fine print of your bill where these notices are often hidden. Cell phone companies are required by law to give you this notice BEFORE changes are made. They are also required to give you the opportunity to exit your contract. 

2. Put your service on hold

Call your cell phone carrier and see if they have a "seasonal suspension."

Sprint, Tmobile and Verizon ALL offer this (as of publication of this post).

Verizon does it at no charge, TMobile still makes you pay $10 a month. Sprint charges $8.99 a month. I don't know if AT&T offers this. I had a hard time finding any information from them. 

This doesn't fix your entire problem, but it might buy you some time to get your feet back under you. 

3. Transfer your service. 

Have you ever noticed the number of commercials you see for cell phone service providers? That's because they are all competing for your business. Some of them are savvy enough to know they can woo you by paying for your early termination fee. 

TMobile offers this service and, according to their website they won't make you enter a new contract. (This is not a TMobile endorsement.) Sprint also offers this on a promotional basis on occasion

In the future reconsider whether or not a contract will work for you. What sounds like a good idea to begin with might end up as a nightmare down the road. 

What about you? Have you ever had to get out of a contract?