How to unlock your AT&T phone

With more than 150 million subscribers AT&T is one of the largest wireless service providers in the world. And while there are tons of people who come to the carrier for service, there are plenty who may be looking to go elsewhere.

AT&T’s phones operate on a GSM-based network which means they can theoretically work with numerous other carriers. The catch, of course, being that the handsets need to be unlocked first.

Why do carriers lock phones?

One of the main reasons that carriers lock phones down is to get customers to purchase device through them. In some cases you’ll find a particular model that’s exclusive to a network. In other words, you must buy the phone through that provider if you want to use it.

READ: Where can I buy an unlocked phone?

The concept of exclusive phones was much bigger a few years back but it still happens from time to time with the top carriers. Nevertheless, you have the right to unlock your phone.

Why unlock an AT&T phone?

AT&T’s phones are GSM-based which means it can often be used with T-Mobile and other carriers around the globe. Moreover, unlocking an AT&T phone gives you freedom to take it to prepaid and MVNO brands like AT&T Prepaid, Cricket, TracFone, Straight Talk, Net10, FreedomPop, and Consumer Cellular.

READ: Cheap phone plans that use AT&T’s network

Unlocking AT&T phones: Prerequisites

AT&T makes it pretty easy to unlock your phone, but there are a few things you need to do first.  Before unlocking, ensure the following is in order.

  • The phone must be paid off – you cannot owe on an equipment installation program
  • Your AT&T account must be in good standing – no past due balance
  • The phone must have been active for at least 60 days for installment plans
  • If applicable, you must complete any contracts
  • The phone must not be reported as stolen, lost, or associated with fraud

How to unlock your AT&T phone

Head to AT&T’s website for unlocking your phone and fill out the form. You’ll need to have the following information handy.

  • Your phone IMEI – Here’s how to find your IMEI
  • Your AT&T account number
  • Your account password, or the last four digits of your SSN
  • The device’s phone number

Once you agree to the terms and complete the form you’ll receive a confirmation email with an unlock request number. Select the link in the email within 24 hours and confirm the request otherwise it will be cancelled. Your unlock request should be completed within two business days.