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How to: Upgrade Phones at Verizon and Keep Unlimited Data

Continuing to hold on to your unlimited data plan at Verizon is becoming increasingly more difficult, assuming you want to upgrade to a new phone at some point. The options to upgrade are disappearing quicker than we can count, but there are still a handful of ways for you to pick up a new phone and keep living life without data caps. Unfortunately, the options that include discounted phones or reasonable monthly payments are either incredibly limited now or gone altogether. If you want to upgrade and keep unlimited data, your best bet is to pay full retail in most cases.

Since we haven’t talked about the methods for keeping unlimited data on Verizon in a while, we wanted to do that today. Many of you are considering your next phone as we head into a busy holiday season, so knowing your options can’t hurt the situation.

By our count, there are six methods for keeping unlimited data. Here they are. 


Method 1 – Buy a phone at full retail

Pretty simple, right? If you want to keep unlimited data at Verizon, the cleanest way to do so is by paying the full retail price for a phone. Verizon will sell phones to you at full prices without asking you to change anything with your service. You can do this in stores or online. During the checkout process, you should see your $29.99 unlimited data plan listed throughout.

Buying phones at full retail isn’t cheap, with most flagship phones carrying prices around $600, but it is the legitimate way to do it.

Method 2 – Steal an upgraded phone from another smartphone line.

Stealing an upgraded phone works exactly like the name suggests. If you have another smartphone line on your Verizon account that has an upgrade available, you can upgrade that line to a new phone, and then simply take the new phone to use on your unlimited data line. Let me explain that further.

When you steal an upgrade, you are essentially upgrading another line so that you receive discounted pricing on a phone, while also signing a new contract on that other line. You are doing this because Verizon forces you off of unlimited data and onto a tiered data plan if you take an upgrade and discounted pricing. If you upgrade another line, your line remains unaffected and continues to keep unlimited data. Just understand that you are forcing that other line into a tiered data plan.

Thankfully, Verizon uses SIM cards to activate service on phones, so all you need to do is take that new phone from the other smartphone line and swap in the SIM that is attached to your unlimited data line to use it without having to change anything about your line of service.

This is probably the method that most will use because it allows you to buy a new phone without paying full retail.

Method 3 – Steal an upgraded phone from a non-smartphone line.

This method is very similar to method 2, and actually works under the same idea. The basics are this – you upgrade a non-smartphone line to a smartphone to receive discounted pricing, before taking the new phone and using it on your unlimited data line.

The only difference here, is that if you upgrade a non-smartphone line as of August 24, you are forced to turn it into a smartphone line for the life of a contract (2 years). Before August 24, customers could upgrade that non-smartphone line to a smartphone, move the new phone over to an unlimited line, and then downgrade the non-smartphone line back to a non-smartphone. It was a loophole that many used, but Verizon has since closed it.

Method 4 – Add a line, buy a discounted phone, move phone over to an unlimited line.

This isn’t exactly the best method on the planet, as it adds additional cost to your monthly bill, but yes, you could in theory (if you really wanted to) add a line of service to your account to save unlimited data. By adding a new smartphone line to secure discounted pricing on a phone, you could then swap over the new phone to your unlimited data line, just like in method 2 and 3. But again, you are adding on an additional line of service that you will need to pay for for 2 years. Since you are adding a smartphone line, you will pay smartphone line pricing on that line for 2 years. Is that really worth it?

Method 5 – Transfer your upgrade to another line, steal the new phone.

Update:  This method may no longer work as the transfer not only extends the contract of your unlimited line, but it may also force you into a different data plan since you are technically using the upgrade on your unlimited line. I have heard that it works from some, but that it doesn’t from many others, including Verizon reps. If you try it, just keep an eye on the plans on all lines as you go through the process, especially your unlimited line. If Verizon’s site or a rep mentions that you need to give up your unlimited data plan, call it off.

Verizon will allow you to transfer upgrades between accounts. This comes in handy for this method should your unlimited data line happen to have an upgrade available. Since you know that if you use that upgrade on your unlimited data line you will lose your unlimited data, you can work-around it by transferring your upgrade to another line on your account. Once you transfer the upgrade to another line on your account, take to method 2 or 3 to upgrade and bring the new phone back over to the promised land of unlimited data.

Method 6 – Upgrade through a 3rd party, use current SIM.

Before we dive into this method, understand that I have not tried it and cannot confirm that it works, but there are countless stories across the internet that this has provided success for months. In other words, you will have to trust the internet with this one. It may be an option for those without multiple lines and upgrades that can be transferred around, though.

The basics are this – upgrade through BestBuy.com (Amazon and Costco.com may also work), swap in your current SIM before ever turning the new phone on, and you should be able to keep unlimited data.

To be more specific, the method requires that you follow an exact set of steps in order to keep unlimited data. This is how it would go, assuming Best Buy and Verizon don’t figure out how to close this down before long. This is technically a loophole, which they have shown no mercy to in the past.

  1. Purchase a new phone through BestBuy.com (Amazon and Costco.com may work as well).
  2. During the process, Best Buy may notify you that your unlimited data plan is no longer available, but you should still see an option to keep your existing data plan. Be sure to choose this option. Amazon may force you to choose a 2GB $30 plan.
  3. Ship the phone to your house – do not choose to ship to a store or buy a phone in a store. This is important because of the activation process.
  4. When your phone arrives, DO NOT TURN IT ON.
  5. Before ever turning your new phone on, pull out the SIM card that is pre-installed.
  6. When you are ready to fire it up for the first time, insert your old SIM from your old phone.
  7. Turn the phone on, enjoy your new phone with your unlimited data.

This method works because the new SIM card pre-installed in your new phone is the card carrying the change in data plans from unlimited to tiered. If you never activate that SIM and instead continue using your current SIM, then Verizon’s systems still think you have unlimited data or that you have simply activated a new phone on your current line and current SIM. From what I have been told, Verizon doesn’t allow 3rd party retailers to pre-provision SIM cards, so that’s why the changes don’t come across until after the phone is booted for the first time with the new SIM. If you never let that process happen by inserting your old SIM, you can see how this leads to the loophole.

Again, I cannot personally confirm that this works, but people have been upgrading this way for months. It is a loophole, so it likely won’t be around forever. It is also semi-risky. Who knows how Verizon will react to this upgrade method in the future or if they will patch it before we know that it has been closed and someone loses unlimited data.

Approach at your own risk. If you want to keep up on the latest with this method, hit up this 500-page Slickdeals thread.


And those are your methods for upgrading at Verizon and keeping unlimited data. Most aren’t great options, but they do work. If this list changes, we will do our best to update it over time.

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