How to Activate a Used Cell Phone

By Techwalla Electronics Editor

Cell phones are expensive to replace or upgrade. If you have ever lost or broken one, you know how much this costs, especially if there was no insurance coverage. Upgrades of these phones are also hard on the wallet and pocketbook. No matter whether it is a case of replacement or upgrade when you are in need of a new phone, you should purchase a used cell phone and activate it to use with your current provider.

Step 1

Contact your service provider first to make sure you can activate a used cell phone through them. Some companies don't do this, so it's important that you get in touch with them.

Step 2

Give the provider the used phone's Electronic Serial Number (ESN) to see if it is compatible with the provider's service. You can locate the ESN number by removing the battery. The number is on the phone underneath the battery, usually an 11 digit number. If the phone has a different service provider's name and logo on it, it is a locked phone and cannot be used with any other provider other than the one on the phone.

Step 3

Try switching out the SIM card once you have the okay from your service provider. A SIM card is a small circut board within your cell phone that has all your personal information on it and is linked with your service provider. Put the card from your old phone into your newly acquired phone. If that works, you're set. If not, move on to the next step.

Step 4

Call your cell phone company on a land line or different cell phone. Tell them you would like to activate a new phone and start an account or to replace your old phone. They will ask you some security questions and for the make, model, serial number and ESN, so have these handy. They will tell you what to do from there and walk you through it.

Tips & Warnings

  • Make sure your new used phone is fully charged so that it does not lose power in the middle of the activation process.
  • Certain phone service providers allow you to switch phones through their website.
  • Do not walk into a service provider's store to activate your new used cell phone. Usually, they aren't trained in this and will end up calling the customer service center. Also, they are salespeople and want to talk you into buying one of their new phones.