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Free yourself! How to unlock your phone from the icy hands of your wireless carrier

Your two-year contract is finally up, and you want to save some money by bringing your phone to a carrier with lower monthly costs. Unfortunately, odds are that your phone is carrier locked, which prevents you from jumping ship and using your phone on another network. Thankfully, recent legislation and some sweet talking by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) have made the process of unlocking your easier than ever before. More importantly, it superseded an earlier decision made by the Library of Congress that interpreted cellphone unlocking as a violation of copyright. Cellphone locking, in other words, is now legally permissible.

Related: How to avoid early termination fees and switch phone carriers like a pro

Just because unlocking your phone is legal doesn’t necessarily mean it’s easy to do, though. To that end, let’s dive into what you’d want to do if you were to unlock your phone and break free of your two-year cycle with your carrier. If you’re interested in how to unlock your phone after the two years are up, head to the next page.

What you’ll need

Before you set your mind on unlocking your phone, you’ll need to keep in mind that doing so isn’t a fast process by any stretch of the imagination. Unlocking your phone can take several phone calls and hours of work. In addition, unlocking your phone before you leave your current carrier would be wise, as the incentive to help you through the process won’t be as great.

With that in mind, there are a few nuggets of information you’ll need:

  • The account holder’s name and account number
  • IMEI of your device
  • Your phone number
  • The account holder’s social security number or password
  • A finished contract and/or device payment plan
  • Overseas deployment papers, if the nature of your inquiry involves you being in the military and wanting to unlock your phone before your contract is up

Now that you have that information by your side, let’s see how each carrier handles unlocking your phone.

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