As many of the regulars know, I didn’t have a credit history until recently. It wasn’t a bad one, more like a blank slate. When I first got a cell phone they told me “We’re sorry, but you don’t have any credit.”
I was worried. Until then, I’d held off on getting a cell phone, but my mom was in the hospital and I was at college without any easy way to call or, more importantly, to get calls.
Fortunately, they had a solution. Pay $120 up front and get it back in a year (applied to my bill). I didn’t have the cash on me and wasn’t sure if I had enough in my checking account. So I went to an ATM and made a savings withdrawal. I remember crying, because I was so tired, stressed, worried, and frustrated. And for a college student $120 is a lot.*
Once I gave them the $120, I was able to sign the contract.
So the moral of the story is…you don’t need a credit history to get a cell phone. At least not with Verizon Wireless in 2004. But you need to plan ahead because they may ask for a deposit upfront.
If you keep paying your cell phone bills, are generally responsible, etc, you’ll get the deposit back after the specified amount of time. Check with them when you’re setting it up. Ask how you’ll get it back, in my case it was applied to the cell bill.
Set up a reminder using Google Calendar, IWantSandy.com, or whatever your reminder system of choice for that period and then for a month after. If, a month later, you don’t see it showing up however you were supposed to get it (prepaid card, no bill, etc) then call customer service to talk about it.
It worked out just fine for me, they entered it in their system and it showed up automagically. But don’t let your deposit get lost in the cracks, that’s over a month of cell payments, perhaps more than 2 depending on your plan.
And, if you really need a cell phone and can’t find money for the deposit you can always get try a prepaid one.
*One of the great things about being a financially responsible college student is actually having enough savings that I didn’t have to borrow the money from my parents. I was also fortunate to have scholarships etc…I know some smart people end up in less fortunate situations, like one of my roomies. But I still think a large part was financial responsibility.