AT&T canceled my phone by accident. Can you help me get back my trade-in credits?

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By Christopher Elliott

When AT&T cancels Jacob Flores’ phone by mistake, he loses his trade-in credits. Now, he can’t get them back. What should he do?

Question

AT&T canceled my phone by mistake, and I’ve lost my trade-in credits. The company fixed the problem and ended up crediting me for the full amount of the phone that had to be paid off. 

But I ended up paying off the balance of another phone. After all of this, the representative who helped me assured me that I would not lose my monthly trade-in credit as long as I didn’t cancel or upgrade the phone, which I have not. I just didn’t want my monthly bill to go up. 

But two statement cycles later, it did just that. I stopped receiving my monthly trade-in credit of $22 even though a representative confirmed that I still had 32 credit cycles remaining. 

Then, I reached out again via chat and attempted to speak with the same representative. He was not available. I spoke to several people and the last person I spoke with offered to credit me one time rather than as a monthly credit. Next, I called AT&T and spoke with someone who promised a manager would reach out to me within a couple of days. But I never heard back from anyone.

Can you help me get my credits back after this erroneous AT&T cancellation? — Jacob Flores, Harker Heights, Texas

Answer

AT&T offered you a credit when you traded in your phone. But when AT&T canceled your phone, it eliminated all of the credits, which effectively raised your phone bill. AT&T should have seen that and restored your credits, as it promised. 

I’ve dealt with similar problems with wireless carriers, and unfortunately, their systems are designed to zero out any bonuses or incentives. They also make it difficult for an employee to add the credits back. Usually, it takes the specialized knowledge or a supervisor’s access level to do that. In other words, someone couldn’t just flip a switch to fix this. (Related: I returned two iPhones. So where is my AT&T refund?)

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What to do if AT&T cancels your account by mistake

An accidental account termination can be a frustrating surprise. But you can resolve the problem — and get your account back. (Related: We lost our house in a fire, so why is AT&T sending us a phone bill?)

Contact AT&T immediately

The sooner you reach out, the easier it is to reverse the mistake. Call AT&T’s customer service department and explain the situation. Be sure to have your account information readily available. (Related: This AT&T phone never worked. Why are they sending me to a collection agency?)

Make sure you can prove it’s your account

In extreme cases, AT&T may delete data relating to your account. So have documentation like your account number, billing statement, or a copy of your contract. It can help expedite the verification process. (Here’s our guide to resolving your consumer problem.)

Get the reason why AT&T canceled

AT&T should be able to explain why it deactivated your account. This could be due to a billing issue, system error, or a human mistake. Reasons matter, especially if you’re asking for a credit.

Ask AT&T to reverse the cancellation

Obviously, you’ll want to let AT&T know that you want your account back. If the cancellation was an error, and if you notified it in a timely manner, then AT&T should be able to restore your service quickly.

What kind of compensation can you get?

AT&T may be able to offer some compensation, such as a discount or partial credit, especially if it canceled your account by mistake. Ask about that while you’re still on the phone.

A few notes about how to handle your complaint. Remain calm and professional and use the Elliott Method to resolve the problem efficiently. If possible, document the problem in writing (although you’ll probably do your negotiation by phone). You’ll need proof that AT&T goofed.

How did AT&T cancel your phone by mistake?

It looks like you called to cancel one of your lines, but a representative misunderstood you and canceled the wrong one. That can happen, and there’s very little you could have done to prevent it, except maybe ask the representative to repeat the phone number of the line that would be canceled.

I see that your first two attempts to resolve this problem were by chat. Good call! You had a terrific paper trail that proves AT&T tried to help you. But then a representative suggested that you call the company.

Unfortunately, when you do that, there’s no evidence of the conversation (unless you record the call, which may or may not be legal). Always get everything in writing. You can reach out to one of the AT&T customer service managers by email. I publish the names, numbers and email addresses of the AT&T executives on this site.

There’s another lesson here: If you get credits or have some other incentive or bonus for your phone, you don’t want to make any changes. AT&T and other phone companies have systems that will reset your bill without any discount. These systems are designed to ensure the carrier is always charging full price for their services — in other words, they’re helping the company make more money.

I contacted AT&T on your behalf. A representative reached out to you and acknowledged that AT&T had previously given you incorrect information. AT&T credited you for the missing months. 

“The representative was thorough and very knowledgeable and took a great length of time to make sure she addressed any issues I had,” you reported. 

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Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is the founder of Elliott Advocacy, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that empowers consumers to solve their problems and helps those who can't. He's the author of numerous books on consumer advocacy and writes three nationally syndicated columns. He also publishes the Elliott Report, a news site for consumers, and Elliott Confidential, a critically acclaimed newsletter about customer service. If you have a consumer problem you can't solve, contact him directly through his advocacy website. You can also follow him on X, Facebook, and LinkedIn, or sign up for his daily newsletter.

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