Update: Before applying for new service with AT&T or Verizon, you can now estimate the required deposit with our new Wireless Service Deposit Calculator. The calculator will estimate a deposit amount based on historical data and make recommendations for reducing your deposit.

iPhone 6 Update

Verizon: You can order the iPhone 6 here and a credit check may not be required for existing customers.

AT&T: You can order the iPhone 6 here and a credit check may not be required if you are an existing customer.

Want to apply for cell phone service but your credit isn’t so great? Unfortunately, this can get you into some trouble as most companies will require you to pay a down payment if your credit score is lacking.

Virtually all cell phone providers require a credit check before service is activated, and those with a credit score that fails to meet their internal checks must pay a hefty but refundable deposit.

There are some possible alternatives, although you may be stuck paying a deposit ranging anywhere from $50 to $1,000. Here’s a look at both AT&T and Verizon’s approach to bad credit applications and what you should expect.

Important Update: Verizon is now offering a new pre-paid plan called ALLSET that offers 4G LTE service with no annual contract, No activation fee, and no deposit or credit check required.

AT&T Service with Bad Credit

AT&T has the highest initial security deposit, which usually starts at $250 and may go as high as $750. Your deposit will be refunded after 12 months of on-time payments.

With ATT, many people with a credit score in the low- to mid-500’s are approved with a deposit ranging from $100/line to $750 total. If you’ve declared bankruptcy and your score is below 600, you may not be approved at all. On the other hand, some people with a credit score in the mid-500’s received approval with no down payment necessary.

AT&T does offer Pay as Your Go plans, designed for people with bad credit. It has no contract, no deposit and no credit check necessary. You choose whether you want to pay by the minute, by the day or by the month.

  • Security deposit ranges from $250 to $750
  • Deposit is refunded after 12 on-time payments
  • Pay as You Go plans available with no credit check or deposit
  • Credit scores between 500 and 650 may require deposit of $100 per line to $750 total
Verizon Service with Bad Credit

The credit requirements at Verizon are similar to those at AT&T, although their security deposits start at $125 and then go past $400. As with AT&T, your security deposit is refunded after 13 months.

Many people report approval for Verizon wireless service with a credit limit around 600 and up with no deposit. Like AT&T, Verizon also offers a Pay as You Go plan intended for individuals with bad credit.
There is no credit check or hidden costs and you can choose among prepaid 3G smartphones and tablets.

  • Security deposit ranges from $150 to $450
  • Deposit is refunded after 12 on-time payments
  • Pay as You Go plans available with no credit check or deposit
  • Credit scores above 600 may not require a deposit
Two Possible Solutions to Avoid Down Payments

1. Want an iPhone? Many people have reported success by ordering their iPhone through the Apple website — as opposed to starting with AT&T — and then setting up an appointment to pick up the phone at a local Apple Store. With this method you may be able to get your phone service through AT&T with no deposit required.

2. Choose a prepaid or pay-as-you-go plan that doesn’t require a credit check. Many companies offer prepaid plans, including T-Mobile, AT&T and Verizon, with the ability to chose among a range of smartphones.