How To: Are You Eligible to Upgrade to the Latest iPhone? Here's How to Check

Are You Eligible to Upgrade to the Latest iPhone? Here's How to Check

With new iPhone models out, you'll have updated cameras to try out, a faster processor, and new colors to choose from. The only thing that could stop you from picking one up yourself is, well, your current iPhone. Here's how to check if you're eligible to upgrade to iPhone 11, iPhone 11 Pro, iPhone 11 Pro Max, or any other iPhone still being sold.

Buying a smartphone now is a little different than it was for much of the iPhone's history, as well as the history of most smartphones. In the past, carriers would subsidize the full price of the iPhone, so we'd pay a fraction of the total cost while enrolling in contracts that typically lasted two years. Now, we pay the whole bill right away, get a loan, or join a financed upgrade plan and pay monthly.

How Your Current Upgrade Plan Works

If you recently bought a phone, either through Apple or your cellular carrier, and you didn't pay in full when you first got it, you're likely in a financing plan. These plans break down the cost of the iPhone over 24 or 30 months. Some of these plans may just be for the phone alone with cellular service (like with Apple's iPhone Payments), while the majority will be attached to an upgrade-capable plan.

Example: For an upgrade plan, if a phone costs $1,000, you may have been paying either $41.67 over 24 months or $33.33 over 30 months. However, you would have the option to upgrade your device after 12 months or 24 months of payments are met, respectively. Typically, insurance (like AppleCare+) is required to be purchased too and included in the monthly payments, so the actual monthly bill would be higher. Your specific upgrade plan may vary.

If you are a part of Apple's iPhone Upgrade Program and want to update to a new model, before you can upgrade to a new device, you'll need to have paid off 12 full months of payments on your Citizens One loan. Your account needs to be in good standing with the bank, and you have to have had AppleCare+ for the entirety of the loan. (View the full terms.)

Some iPhone XR Owners Will Have to Wait or Pay More Now

Because the iPhone XR was released on Oct. 26 last year, most of you who purchased one will have no more than 11 months of your contract paid up before 2019 iPhone preorders launch.

For instance, if you bought the iPhone XR right when it came out using Apple's iPhone Upgrade Program, you'll need to pay one month's payment on the Citizens One loan before you can even preorder the new device. For those of you who bought it in October or later, you'll need to fork over more money out of pocket right now before preordering a new device.

Method 1: Check Upgrade Status Apple or Your Carrier

Apple and phone carriers all have their own way for customers to verify their iPhone upgrade status, but if you're a part of the iPhone Upgrade Program, you'll have an easier time checking your eligibility. The method below will also tell you how many payments you need to make before you can upgrade your device.

However, if you are no longer using AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, or Verizon with your current iPhone, you will not be able to continue with the iPhone Upgrade Program. You will have to buy a new iPhone outright or apply for the Barclaycard option for zero percent financing until after a certain number of months, where you'd then get stuck with a high interest rate. Also, you are still responsible for paying off your loan on your current iPhone, whether you trade it in or not.

If you didn't use the iPhone Upgrade program, check with your carrier. You can call them or check your status in one of their stores, but the methods below are more convenient.

  • AT&T: Call *639# and then follow the link sent to your phone. You can also sign into MyAT&T to check your eligibility.
  • Sprint: Sign in to Sprint's eligibility checker with your Sprint account information.
  • T-Mobile: Sign in to your T-Mobile account online or in the app. If you are eligible to get a new phone, there should be an "Upgrade" button visible. (More details.)
  • Verizon: Enter your phone number into Verizon's upgrade checker. You will likely have to enter your Verizon account's password to proceed. (Texting #874 may also tell you if you can upgrade.)

Method 2: Try Ordering from the Apple Store Online

This works both ways. You can simply do this whenever preorders are available for the iPhone 11, 11 Pro, or 11 Pro Max (or any future model), or you can do it now with any iPhone available online in the Apple Store (without completing a purchase, of course). It's probably best to test drive it first with an iPhone you don't want because preorders can sell out very quickly.

When you go to buy an iPhone on the Apple Store online, you'll have to select the iPhone model, carrier, color, internal storage, and payment option. Afterward, whether you chose the iPhone Upgrade Program or a carrier-specific financing option, you'll be presented with an eligibility checker at the end of the process.

The information you will need to provide on this page varies:

  • Apple: Choose the iPhone Upgrade Program, then just sign in with your Apple ID and password to see if you can upgrade or not.
  • AT&T: Choose an AT&T specific plan, then enter your current phone number, and the last four digits of your social security number when prompted. Or, if you think you paid off your AT&T upgrade plan and want to join Apple's, select iPhone Upgrade Program, then enter the same info to make sure you can switch.
  • Sprint: Choose the iPhone Upgrade Program, then enter your current phone number and zip code when prompted. This option is only if you want to join the iPhone Upgrade Program since you can't choose Sprint financing from Apple's website. Your Sprint financing plan must be paid off completely to switch to Apple's version, and you'll see right away if you can.
  • T-Mobile: Choose the iPhone Upgrade Program, then enter your current phone number and the last four digits of your social security number when prompted. This option is only if you want to join the iPhone Upgrade Program since you can't choose T-Mobile financing from Apple's website. Your T-Mobile financing plan must be paid off completely to switch to Apple's version, and you'll see right away if you can.
  • Verizon: Choose a Verizon specific plan, then enter your phone number and account PIN when prompted. Or, if you think you paid off your Verizon upgrade plan and want to join Apple's, select iPhone Upgrade Program, then enter the same info to make sure you can switch.

With these steps, you should easily be able to check whether or not you're eligible for an iPhone upgrade at this time. If you're not eligible, chances are your carrier would love to explain how much you can pay to become eligible. For that and other concerns you run into while attempting to discover your upgrade status, give your carrier a call — they set the rules for your contract, so they'll be able to tell you exactly what you need to do to get your hands on a new iPhone soon.

Cover image via EverythingApplePro/YouTube

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