iPhone X

The iPhone Upgrade Program makes it easy to upgrade to a new iPhone every year without having to drop nearly $1,000 all at once. It's been around for just a few years, but Apple has improved the trade-in process with each new year. This year, you can trade in your current iPhone for a new one in person or online. If you decide to re-enroll online, Apple will send you a trade-in kit for your current iPhone so you can send it to them once you receive your new iPhone.

Here are five things you need to know before trading in your iPhone under the iPhone Upgrade Program.

Step 1: Get pre-approval for your new loan.

In order to expedite the process of getting your your new iPhone, Apple has implemented a pre-approval feature that you can get started with right now. Whether you're new to the program or upgrading from the iPhone 7 or iPhone 7 Plus, you can get your new loan application processed right now, which I highly suggest you do.

Navigate to Apple.com and visit the iPhone section. Select the model you want to upgrade to. When you get to the step where you're asked, "How would you like to pay?" select the iPhone Upgrade Program, and then select I'm already part of the program. If you're just joining the iPhone Upgrade Program for the first time, select I'd like to enroll. You'll then begin the pre-approval process.

A note about credit report pulls

There's been a lot of confusion about whether Apple does a hard or soft pull on your credit report to approve you for re-enrollment. That's because each candidate for a loan is different. Apple's iPhone Upgrade Program overview states:

Citizens One reserves the right to perform a credit inquiry as needed to determine loan eligibility. Depending on your account performance and transactional history in the iPhone Upgrade Program, Citizens One may approve your new loan application without your credit being affected.

Basically, Citizen One, the banking organization Apple works with to process loans, may only do a soft pull on your credit report if it considers your previous activities in the iPhone Upgrade Program to be in good standing. If, however, Citizen One deems it necessary to research further into your credit data, it might do a hard pull.

A note about credit freezes

If you've put a credit freeze on your credit report, there are a few things you should know about applying for your iPhone Upgrade Program loan.

A credit freeze is a way for you to restrict access to your credit report to protect you from identity theft. If you've put a freeze on your credit report, it doesn't affect your credit score or keep you from being able to apply for loans. There are some caveats though.

  • If you are already signed up with the iPhone Upgrade Program, Apple will still be able to access your credit report for a soft check. The Federal Trade Commission states:

    Your report can be released to your existing creditors or to debt collectors acting on their behalf.

  • If you are joining the iPhone Upgrade Program for the first time, you can still have Citizens One run a credit check, but you'll want to first temporarily lift the freeze specifically for the credit report agency Citizen One will request your report from.

I spoke with a customer service representative with Citizens One who said that Apple will run the credit check when you first enroll in the iPhone Upgrade Program. All four credit bureaus will be contacted, starting with Equifax first. Then, Experion, Innovis, and TransUnion

The credit report agency must lift the freeze within three business days of your request.

Fees typically range in price from $5 to $10 but are different in each region.

Here are the numbers for the U.S. credit report agencies:

  • Equifax — 1-800-349-9960
  • Experian — 1‑888‑397‑3742
  • TransUnion — 1-888-909-8872
  • Innovis - 1-800-540-2505

You'll need to provide your name, address, date of birth, Social Security number and some other personal information.

Step 2: Back up your data

It's no secret that I'm a big proponent of securing your data by always backing up your device. This is my friendly reminder to make sure you back up everything, one last time, before heading out to your appointment. Apple won't be able to back up your iPhone before they take it away from you.

Step 3: Erase your personal data

The real reason you need to back up your data is that your old iPhone will be wiped clean, and I don't mean with a cleaning cloth. All of your data will be erased from the iPhone you are trading in. Apple can do this for you. But, if you do it yourself, you can be confident that your personal data is gone before it leaves your hands.

Note: You will have to turn off Activation Lock and disable Find My iPhone to wipe your iPhone.

Step 4: Gather your necessary paperwork

Whether you're re-enrolling online or in-person, you'll need a few things to make sure everything goes smoothly. Citizens One will run a credit check again to confirm your credit is still in good standing.

  • The iPhone you previously purchased through the iPhone Upgrade Program
  • Two forms of ID (only necessary for in-store re-enrollment)
  • A valid credit card
  • Your Social Security number (you don't need the actual card)
  • Your carrier's account login credentials (username and password)

If Apple determines that your iPhone has damage that is not due to normal wear and tear, you might also need to pay $29 or $99 (plus tax) if your iPhone is damaged. You probably know if your iPhone is damaged or not, but it never hurts to be prepared.

You will not need to trade in the Lightning cable, wall adapter, or EarPods. I confirmed this will Apple. The only hardware you need is the iPhone itself.

Step 5: Decide on your carrier

This is a great time to switch carriers if you are unhappy with your current one. If you do decide to switch, however, you'll have to do so in-person at an Apple Retail store. You can't switch carriers through the iPhone Upgrade Program online.

Bonus step: Breathe

Everything is going to be fine. Just make sure you have the things you need (See Step 3) and you'll make it through. You'll walk out of the Apple Store with a shiny new iPhone in hand.

iPhone X + iPhone 8

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