Managing your money while on a deployment or during a PCS can be difficult. Thankfully, the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) has a few sections that help military members deal with legal issues while preparing to deploy or PCS. For example, the SCRA contains clauses that help military members get out of a housing lease or suspend or cancel their cell phone contract.
According to the FCC, Section 535a of the SCRA allows servicemembers to suspend or cancel long-term wireless/mobile phone contracts without penalties or extra fees when deployed for 90 days or longer or when permanently transferred if change of duty results in:
- An inability to use the service
- An inability to satisfy the terms of the contract
Keep in mind this will only apply if you are not physically able to fulfill the terms of the contract. In other words, deploying out of the country, or to an area without coverage, will qualify you. But PCS’ing to another state or location that has coverage won’t qualify you for account suspension or cancellation and you will be held to your contract.
Deploying vs an overseas PCS. Cell phone providers are only required to suspend cell your cell phone service, but many are willing to work with you depending on your circumstances. If you are going to PCS overseas, you can likely qualify to have your service cancelled. But if you are only deploying for a few months, you can usually only suspend your cell phone service. If you are still on a contract, you may be required to honor the terms of the contract when you return, often picking up the remaining time that was on your contract when you left the country. But this should still help you save money during your deployment.
Suspend Your Cell Phone While on Deployment
The following information lists the details and contact information for suspending your cell phone service during a military deployment if you are a customer of the following companies. We only listed the top 5 cell phone carriers by size, as they combine for over 95% of the US cell phone market. Contact your cell phone provider if you use a company which is not listed here. Additionally, I am not aware if it is possible to suspend any monthly minimums or other requirements for prepaid phone cards. Please contact your provider for more information.
AT&T: You can cancel or suspend your AT&T contract if you are deployed or transferred outside of AT&T’s coverage area for 90 days or longer. This is a free service, but you will need to inform the AT&T customer service rep that you are suspending or cancelling your account due to military obligations. If your deployment or transfer is less than 90 days, you can suspend your service. You are eligible for one of two types of military deployment cancellations without an early termination fee (Source):
- Cancel service without holding your number.
- Cancel service, hold on to your number, and reactivate your service within 39 months. After 39 months, your service is permanently cancelled and you’ll lose your number.
Sprint: Sprint customers can cancel or suspend their contracts free of charge if they are deploying or transferring to an area that doesn’t have Sprint coverage. You should be able to suspend your account over the phone, but you will need to provide a copy of your orders to cancel your account. Sprint also allows customers to cancel individual lines on a family or group plan without cancelling the entire plan, which is great when only one family member is deploying. For more information, call the Sprint Military Suspend Support Team at 866-954-0492 option: 4 Mon- Friday 9am-9pm CST.
T-Mobile: Active duty service members have the ability to suspend their T-Mobile account for up to 39 months during a deployment. Contact your customer service department for more information.
U.S. Cellular: U.S. Cellular offers active military members the ability to suspend their service without charge while they are deployed. You will need to provide proof of service and verify you will be out of the service area. Call 1-888-944-9400 or 611 from your U.S. Cellular wireless phone to suspend your account.
Verizon Wireless: Verizon offers active duty military members (as well as activate Guard and Reserve members) the ability to suspend their service if they will be out of the service area for more than 90 days. You can suspend your account for up to 48 months, with the option of keeping your phone number while your account is suspended. Source.
As with all legal contracts, make sure to get your cancellation or suspended service in writing!
Want to cancel your cell phone contract? Read this article on how military members can get out of cell phone contracts if you are looking to get out from under the contract you signed.