Can I Get a Cell Phone With Bad Credit?

Written by
get a cell phone with bad credit

Cell phones have become a staple of everyday life, whether you’re making and receiving calls, sending messages, or handling work emails. In the market for a cell phone, but your lousy credit score is standing in the way? If you’re wondering whether you can get a cell phone with bad credit or what it’s like getting a phone with bad credit, fear not. You absolutely can sign a phone contract with bad credit without putting yourself in a bind. We’ll explain how.

What do cell phone companies consider when evaluating your application?

Cell phone carriers, also known as mobile service providers, are just like any other company: They want payments coming in. A fast way to go out of business is by allowing customers to rack up too many unpaid bills. Because of that, carriers often take your credit score into account when considering whether you qualify for a contract — even if you don’t have a credit score.

What do these companies consider a good score?

There’s no standard minimum credit score needed for a cell phone contract. The guidelines for a good or bad credit score rating are typically: 600 and above is good; 700 and above is great.

A number of factors can impact your credit score, either negatively or positively, and your score is always subject to change. These criteria include payment history, credit history, amount of credit use, and credit mix. A bad credit score can suggest to mobile carriers that you have trouble paying your bills, making getting a phone with bad credit challenging.

Difference between a soft credit pull and hard credit pull?

Not all inquiries into your credit status will affect your credit score. That’s the difference between a hard credit pull and a soft one. In contrast to a hard credit pull, a soft credit pull doesn’t show up on your credit reports and doesn’t affect your scores. Soft pulls are checks carried out by a lender to preapprove you for a loan offer and also by some cell phone companies.

When you apply for any type of loan, the creditor checks your credit through a hard inquiry. Limiting the number of applications will keep your credit score from being dinged too often because each hard pull remains on your record for two years.

Tips for getting a phone contract with bad credit 

Have poor money decisions crippled your credit score? We’ll tell you how to help raise your credit to the credit score needed for a phone contract and which some of the best cell phone plans are for people who do have bad credit. 

1. Prepaid plans 

Unlike traditional cell phone contracts, prepaid plans allow you to pay a fixed amount to your cell phone provider each month. Paying in advance means there is no risk for the service provider, so you don’t need a credit check.

2. Pay as you go

Pay-as-you-go plans are another good option because they allow you to keep from overspending. If you aren’t going to be able to afford your phone that month, that allows you some flexibility with your priorities.

3. Month-to-month

A month-to-month contract is a great way to get a phone contract with bad credit . You get plenty of data allowance, plus unlimited texts and minutes. You’re not tied to a contract, and you can change carriers at any time.

There is a drawback to paying month to month — it may cost you more upfront because you have to pay full price for your phone. But month-to-month plans can save you hundreds of dollars over a few years because of their customizable options. 

On the other hand, some long-term cell phone contracts allow you to pay for the phone gradually as part of your monthly payment. Those may encourage you to upgrade to the newest phones as they come out, allowing you to pay in installments, rather than shelling out hundreds of dollars at once for the new phone. 

4. Join a family plan

If you’re worried about the minimum credit score for cell phone contracts, you can get a cell phone without having credit or while having bad credit by joining a family plan. Family plans have a primary account holder with a good credit score who adds extra lines to their main account. The additional line holders’ credit scores aren’t considered because they aren’t responsible for the account. You can affect the primary account holder’s credit if you don’t pay on time. 

The family plan option typically offers the best rates. You can split the bill with other people in the plan and pay low-rate flat fees for unlimited services.

5. Pay a security deposit 

If you’re able to fork out some cash in the form of a security deposit, a good credit score isn’t necessary. The amount of a deposit needed for a wireless carrier to hand you a contract will still depend on your credit score. If your score is in the tank, you may need to shell out hundreds of dollars per line. The good news is you typically get your deposit back after a year if you are consistent and timely with your bill payments.

Prepaid or month-to-month cell phone plans:

If a prepaid or month-to-month plan is more suited to your needs, here are some of the best options for your needs

Best Deal: 

Mint Mobile

  • Plan: Mint Mobile 12-Month Plan
  • Price: $30 per month
  • Key features: Unlimited talk, text, and data; 35GB high speed, then continued service at 3G

Best Prepaid Plan:  


  • Plan: AT&T Prepaid
  • Price: $30 per month
  • Key features: Unlimited minutes and text messages; 5GB high-speed data

Best Coverage: 


  • Plan: Verizon Prepaid 15GB Plan 
  • Price: $35 per month with autopay 
  • Key Features: 5G nationwide coverage, International texting, Mexico and Canada talk, text, and data 

Best Unlimited Plan: 


  • Plan: Visibile
  • Price: $25 per month 
  • Key Features: Unlimited talk, text, and data, 5G nationwide and 4G LTE, and Unlimited mobile hotspot 

Get a cell phone even with bad credit

You can still get a cell phone with bad credit if you know where to look. The plans listed above are great alternatives to long-term cell phone contracts and may be cheaper in some cases. If you eventually want to go for a contract or if you’re after the latest iPhone iterations, your best bet is to improve your credit score

Here are some ways to help raise your credit quickly:

  • Pay down your revolving credit balances.
  • Pay your bills on time.
  • Have negative entries on your credit report removed if you’ve paid them off.
  • Add regular payments like utility bills and phone bills to your credit report.
  • Dispute inaccurate information.
Sign Up
Sign Up

Build your credit and save

Join Credit Builder Plus to get a loan up to $1,000, credit monitoring, exclusive rewards, access to 0% APR cash advances, and more. Over half of members raise their credit over 27 points within 60 days!

Sign Up