Cell companies want to give you a free iPhone 13, but should you take it?

If you’re in the market for a new iPhone 13, chances are you’ve come across TV commercials or internet ads for free phones from the big three cellphone companies.

I’ve had more than one person ask me, “What’s the catch?”

The catch is time.

Each of the three big cell companies, AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile, are offering great phone deals, but they’re doing it to keep you as a customer.

These deals are pretty similar — if you buy an eligible iPhone 13 on an installment plan, you’ll receive up to a $1,000 credit.

This credit is paid out monthly over the duration of the installment agreement.

Let’s take AT&T as an example.

To receive up to $1,000 off the iPhone 13 and iPhone 13 Pro models, customers will need to be on one of AT&T’s unlimited plans, which start at $35 per month.

They will also need to trade in a smartphone with a trade-in value of $180 or higher.

The phone needs to be in good working condition and you have to send it in within 30 days of activation.

Eligible phones to trade in include any iPhone 11, iPhone 12 or any iPhone XS.

You can trade in a long list of Samsung phones including the Galaxy S20 family, S21 family, Note 10+ or Note 20 and the Flip or Fold models.

You can also trade a Google Pixel 5 or a few others. You can see the entire list at AT&T’s website.

There are also lesser trade-in offers for older phones. There is an $800 trade-in credit for phones like the iPhone X, XR or XS as well as the Galaxy S10 family and Google Pixel 4 models.

You can get a $350 credit for iPhone 7 or 8 models and Galaxy S9, Note 8, 9 or 10 and Google Pixel 3 phones.

The credit is paid out monthly for the duration of the agreement, which is 36 months for AT&T.

If you choose the iPhone 13 Pro, the monthly payment is $27.78 for 36 months.

With the full $1,000 trade-in credit, AT&T will credit your bill $27.78 for the duration of the agreement.

So you get a free iPhone 13 Pro if you stay with AT&T on the unlimited plan for the next 36 months.

I’m not going to get into as much detail about similar trade in plans from Verizon and T-Mobile.

The differences are the list of eligible trade-in phones and the credit amounts they’ll offer.

The length of the agreements can also differ.

These free iPhone 13 plans are displayed prominently on the top of each company’s home page. Check with your cell company for specific details.

If you’re happy with your service and will be a customer for the next 24 to 36 months, these offers will bring you a free iPhone 13, but you do have to trade in a pretty nice phone to get it.

Jim Rossman writes for The Dallas Morning News. He may be reached at jrossman@dallasnews.com. Visit The Dallas Morning News at dallasnews.com

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