iPhone tip: Upgrade and swap numbers on AT&T Family Plan


Despite the overwhelming demand for the iPhone 5(s AAPL), not everyone feels like they need to upgrade each time Apple comes out with a new device.  If you happen to have a family account with AT&T(s T), you could schedule each of your upgrade opportunities so that one line is always eligible for an upgrade each year.  The question is, who will be the one that actually gets the new iPhone?  For some time, AT&T has supported what is known as the “upgrade swap.”  This is when the line that is eligible for an upgrade does not belong to the person on the family plan that wants to upgrade their phone.

iPhone Upgrade Support from AT&T

In the past, you may have considered swapping out the SIM cards to accomplish the same thing.  This may have worked due to the fact that previous phones used a micro-SIM card.  The iPhone 5 uses a nano-SIM card, however, and the older SIM card that comes with previous model iPhones will not fit.

If you are not comfortable doing an upgrade swap over the phone, you can go into an AT&T retail store and someone there will assist you.  While I successfully did this on Friday morning, be warned that AT&T is in no way obligated to swap your phone number.  I purchased an upgrade for the iPhone 4S on my own line back in November 2011. Friday morning I went to an AT&T retail store with my unopened iPhone 5 that I pre-ordered with another line on my family account that was eligible for the upgrade to have them perform the upgrade swap.  The process was quick.

The line that was used to purchase the upgrade, and the contract associated with it, will reset to two years.  There is no way to get around that.  If  line that was used to purchase the upgrade is not the line that you intend to use with the new phone, you can also handle the upgrade swap over the phone with the following steps:

  • Upon receiving the new phone, you can take it out of the box, but do not turn it on and do not attempt to activate it yourself.
  • Call AT&T customer service at 1-800-331-0500 from a phone other than the two phones in question.
  • When prompted, choose the option to activate your phone on a line other than the one used to purchase the upgrade.
  • A customer service representative will then assist you to make the switch.
  • Once the switch has successfully been made, turn on the new phone and follow the on-screen instructions.
Micro vs Mini Sim Card


Madison Rose

Will this work on me, because I have the same problem, but I got the Samsung Galaxy s3 without knowing they would ask for a micro Sim. I took my dad’s upgrade thinking I could just swap Sim cards, I was wrong. But will this method help as well?


Really helpful – of course I read this after I activated the 5 on the wrong account – but now I knew what I had done wrong and how to fix it. Saved me a lot of time!

Mike Ely

I spent an hour on the phone with a great ATT rep and we got stuck but she hung in there, called Apple and we got it done. The key is don’t activate the phone on the wrong phone number. Let them switch SIM card card first. The phone number will appear incorrect on the iPhone 5, but go ahead and put in the billing zip and SSN numbers. It will finish up and then the swapped phone number will appear.


Do you need the billing zip and SSN no. of the original incorrect phone no. or the new phone no.?


I did this today via AT&T Wireless chat support. Took them 45 minutes but it finally worked. The rep hinted that the process was a really hassle for them.


I used my iPhone’s Apple Store app to purchase the new iPhone 5 with my credit card, but I’m not the primary account holder on our AT&T family plan. The shipping information lists the primary account holder’s name instead of my name. Do I need to call AT&T to activate the phone on my line?

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