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How To Buy A New Smartphone With Bad Credit

Your smartphone’s kicked the bucket and you want to get a new one, but you have terrible credit. What can you do?

These days, everyone has a smartphone. So much of our modern society is built around having instant access to friends, family, and data. Unfortunately, smartphones are expensive and, if you’re low on cash and/or have a bad credit score, you might be worried about how you can possibly afford to replace this necessary tool.

Fortunately, there are options. In this article, we’ll outline how to buy a new smartphone with bad credit.

What’s a Credit Score?

Before we go into how your credit score can affect your ability to get a new smartphone, let’s talk a bit about what a credit score actually is. There are a lot of myths out there and we want to set them straight.

Essentially, your credit score is a three-digit number that’s scaled on a range of 300 to 850. The closer you are to 850, the better your credit score is. People with better credit scores are able to qualify for better loans and interest rates.

If your credit score is not so hot (typically, lower than 650), then you’re labeled as someone with poor or bad credit. Having poor or bad credit means that you won’t qualify for the same types of loans as people with good credit or you’ll qualify, but be saddled with insane interest rates.

There are three major credit bureaus that report credit scores: Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax. While each bureau calculates credit score in their own way, they all look at the same basic information: debt-to-income ratio, amount of revolving debt, repayment history, and more. Typically, your score will be in the same general range across all three bureaus. It would be rare, that is, to have a 300 with one credit bureau and an 850 with another.

Woman holding cell phone
If you have bad credit, it can be hard to buy a smartphone that has all the features you’re interested in.

How Can My Credit Score Affect My Ability to Buy a New Smartphone?

Many cell phone providers perform credit checks when starting a new contract. That means, if you have a poor or bad credit score, you’ll likely struggle to get a new smartphone at a good rate.

The cell phone providers want to protect their interests: they’re worried that you won’t be able to repay the phone if they sell it to you on a loan. However, have a low credit score doesn’t always mean that you’re irresponsible. A low credit score could be the result of job loss or fraud or other extenuating circumstances. No matter what the cause of your low credit score, it’s extremely annoying to be denied a phone when you really need one.

The Dangers of Running a Credit Check to Buy a Smartphone

If you have poor or bad credit, trying to buy a smartphone somewhere that’ll run a credit check could actually end up hurting your score. Most providers will perform what’s called a hard inquiry on your credit report.

Hard inquiries can ding your credit score a few points, meaning that you’ll be knocked even further away from your goal credit score. So, if you have a bad credit score, it’s a good idea to try to avoid anything that would damage your score even further.

How to Get a New Smartphone With Bad Credit

It can be hard to get a new smartphone with bad credit. That being said, you’re not totally out of options. There are a few ways that people who struggle with bad credit can buy a smartphone by themselves. Let’s take a look at several of them.

#1: Put More Money Down (Or Pay for the Phone in Cash)

The first way to purchase a smartphone with bad credit involves putting more money down upfront.

If you purchase your phone in cash, the store won’t do a credit check at all. The phone will just be yours. That being said, smartphones are extremely expensive: some can run close to $1,000. Not everyone has that much cash on hand.

If you can’t pay for the phone in full, you might still be able to get it by putting down a larger initial payment. If you are able to put down 50%, for instance, the company might be more likely to lend to you because you’ll have less to pay off.

Again, putting down that much cash isn’t a feasible option for many people. And, if you put down 50%, you’ll likely still have to undergo a credit check while the company determines what happens on the other 50%. That means your credit can still be affected.

Person holding blank iPhone
If you want to buy an iPhone but you have bad credit, a lease-to-own program can help.

#2: You Can Ask a Friend or Family Member to Cosign

If you can’t qualify for a loan by yourself, you can ask a friend or family member to cosign.

A cosigner is basically a guarantor: they say that they will pay for your device if you default (stop paying) on your loan. Providers like cosigners because they help guarantee that someone will pay for your new smartphone even if you fail to do so.

That being said, there are some downsides to cosigning. First, your cosigner will need to have better credit than you do. In many instances, cosigners need to have excellent credit in order to even qualify to cosign, as the qualifications for cosigners are stricter than the qualifications for people to take out a loan by themselves.

Second, it can be hard to find someone who will help you cosigning. You might not want to ask a friend or family member or they might want to help, but be unable.

Thirdly, you (and your cosigner) will still feel the negative effects of the hard credit check when you take out a loan by cosigning. You’ll both undergo a credit check when the provider decides to determine if you’re worthy.

#3: You Can Get Your Smartphone Through a Lease-to-Own Program

Lease-to-own programs, like the one offered by, can help you own your new smartphone without fronting a ton of cash or asking a friend to cosign. In fact, you can even get your new smartphone without a credit check!

Here’s how it works:

First, you shop for what you like. Most lease-to-own programs have an extensive inventory for products.

Next, you add the product you like to your cart. iPhone X, here you come!

Then you go the checkout and fill out an easy application. The application checks information like employment history. You do NOT have to do a credit check.

When you’re approved, you’ll start making daily or weekly payments based on your contract’s schedule. You can get the new product shipped to you or pick it up in a store. It’s up to you! You’ll make your payments until your device is paid off. If you pay it off early, it’s yours early!

The best part of lease-to-own? No credit check! So, if you have bad or no credit, you don’t need to worry about getting denied. If you have good credit but don’t want a ding to your credit score, lease-to-own can help you, too, by letting you avoid the dangerous credit score drop that comes from a credit check.

How to Buy a Smartphone With Bad Credit: Final Thoughts

If you have bad credit, it can be intimidating to think about how to buy a new device like a smartphone. That being said, you do have options! You can pay in cash, ask a friend to cosign, or work with a company like to get your new device right away.

Ready to start shopping? Head to our homepage now to see our extensive selection of products!