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 the 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 canceled.
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. Bonus note: Each of the major cell phone providers also offer military discounts.
Contact your cell phone provider if you use a company 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.
Pause Cell Phone Service with 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 must inform the AT&T customer service rep that you are suspending or canceling 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 canceled and you’ll lose your number.
- More information about the AT&T Military Discount
Pause Cell Phone Service with T-Mobile:
While all the major cell phone companies offer discounts, T-Mobile offers one of the best military cell phone discounts. Active duty service members can suspend their T-Mobile account for up to 39 months during a deployment. Contact your customer service department for more information.
Pause Cell Phone Service with 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.
You can also use the same phone numbers to verify your eligibility for a U.S. Cellular military discount.
Pause Cell Phone Service with Verizon Wireless:
Verizon offers active duty military members (as well as activated Guard and Reserve members) the ability to suspend their service if they are 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.
48 months is a long time to suspend your service, so you want to ensure Verizon Wireless will hold your number for you for the time your service is on hold.
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 they want to get out from under the contract they signed.