I enrolled in the iPhone Upgrade Program last year. How do I upgrade to the iPhone XS or XS Max?
Apple's iPhone Upgrade Program allows you to make monthly payments on your iPhone and upgrade every year, without having to be locked into a two-year carrier plan. It also enrolls your new iPhone in AppleCare+, so you can get a cracked screen fixed or replace a broken device at a reduced price. If you like getting a new iPhone every year, the iPhone Upgrade Program makes it possible for you to do so without having to pay any extra costs.
If you enrolled in the iPhone Upgrade Program last year, you are eligible to upgrade to the iPhone XS or XS Max. Here's how!
Make sure you are eligible
If you enrolled in the iPhone Upgrade Program last year when the iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus, or X launched, you are eligible for an iPhone XS or XS Max. Although you signed a 24-month contract, you can trade in your old iPhone – in good condition – for a new one with no extra fees.
You will, however, need to sign a new 24-month contract. So, keep that in mind if you are thinking about getting out of the program.
You can also trade in your old iPhone for the new model if you've only been in the program for 6 months, but you'll have to pre-pay the next 6 months before you can upgrade. So, basically, you'll have to have paid for 12 months of the program before upgrading to the iPhone XS, no matter what.
If you aren't sure about your eligibility, visit Apple's iPhone Upgrade Program Eligibility page and enter your iPhone's serial number and the last four digits of your IMEI number, which can be found under Settings > General > About on your device.
Get pre-approval for your new loan.
Note: Apple has begun rolling out iPhone Upgrade Program pre-approval for the iPhone XS as of Sept. 13. If you aren't able to follow the steps for pre-approval right now, try again later.
Citizen One, the banking organization that takes care of the iPhone Upgrade Program accounts, will also run another credit check to make sure your credit is still in good standing. If your credit has taken a dive over the past year (or two), you may no longer be approved by the bank to continue. Check your credit score (I use the Credit Karma app) as soon as possible. If you know your credit has gone to the dump, you should consider another way to purchase your new iPhone.
In order to expedite the process of getting your new iPhone, Apple has implemented a pre-approval feature that you can get started with right now. If you're upgrading from the iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus, or X, you can get your new loan application processed ahead of time, 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. 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.
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 agencies must lift the freeze within three business days of your request.
Fees usually 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.
Make sure your iPhone is in working condition
Your "Financed iPhone" (as Apple calls it) has to be in good working condition for Apple to take it as a trade in. An Apple employee will check it out and make sure it qualifies for an upgrade. Apple's Terms & Conditions for the condition of your iPhone are as follows:
For a Financed iPhone to be considered in good physical and operational condition, the Financed iPhone must:
Power on and hold a charge;
Have an intact and functioning display;
Have no breaks or cracks; and
Have Activation Lock disabled (you may be asked to disable at the time of upgrade)
If your iPhone doesn't meet the qualifications for trade-in, you'll need to pay either $29 for a cracked screen or $99 for a broken device through your AppleCare+ to fix it. If you have used up your two incidents, you will have to pay an Apple Authorized Service Charge to fix it (which could cost $200 or more). If your iPhone is unrepairable by Apple, your iPhone won't qualify for the upgrade program and you'll have to continue paying it off, though you can enroll for a second iPhone at that time.
Be prepared for re-enrollment and trade-in
You can either visit an Apple Retail Store in person or re-enroll online via Apple.com or the Apple Store app. If you choose to re-enroll in person, bring your current iPhone with you so you can have it assessed and trade it in right away. If you re-enroll online, Apple will send you a trade-in kit so you can mail in your old iPhone after receiving your new one.
Note: Someone else can upgrade your iPhone on your behalf; however, that person will be responsible for starting a new iPhone Upgrade Program loan agreement. So don't send your 16-year-old kid or someone with poor credit.
What to do if you've had your iPhone replaced for hardware issues
If you have had your iPhone replaced for hardware issues in the past year, it is possible that the serial or IMEI number on the replacement device was not updated for your account, showing that you are not eligible for an upgrade. Make sure to check your eligibility right away so you know whether or not everything is in order and speak with an Apple support representative if there is an issue as soon as possible.
What to do if you can't pre-order through the iPhone Upgrade Program
If you try pre-ordering your iPhone X through the iPhone Upgrade Program at 12:01 a.m. on Sept. 14 and were thwarted by limited stock right away, you might still be able to get your desired model, color, and storage size after all.
Apple has a footnote on the upgrade reservation page asking customers to call 1-800-APPLE and mention the iPhone Upgrade Program in order to be connected with a support operator that will "help you find the model you want."
Even if you, disappointedly, went ahead and preordered an iPhone that wasn't your first choice, you should call. You might be able to change your order to get the model, color, or storage size you want.
Pop them into the comments and we'll help you out.
Updated Sept. 2018: Updated for the iPhone XS and XS Max.