Yes, it's now possible to change cell-phone carriers without changing your number, but don't expect radical improvements. All five major American cellular companies―Cingular, Verizon, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Nextel―offer similar rates and deals, says James Hood, president of ConsumerAffairs.com, which covers consumer fraud. Where they vary is in their coverage in certain areas. "Seek out people who get good service―on the street, in the mall―and ask what company they're using," Hood suggests. Before switching, make sure your contract is up or you'll be hit with an early-termination fee, which may be as much as a couple of hundred dollars, says Jennifer Walsh, a spokesperson for Sprint. For a smooth transition, don't cancel your old account before your new one is activated. "Once you close it," Walsh warns, "your number goes back into a pool, and you can lose it." And don't trust the new company to cancel your old account for you. "Often," Hood says, "they say they'll take care of it, and they just don't."
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