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 XR. 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 XR. 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 XR, 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-approved for your loan.

In order to expedite the process of getting your new iPhone, Apple has implemented a pre-approval feature that is already underway and available for returning upgraders and newly enrolling customers.

Enrolling to purchase an iPhone that is already on sale

You can enroll or re-enroll at Apple's website to purchase an iPhone that is available now (not in pre-order) by visiting Apple's iPhone Upgrade Program page and clicking on Join Now or Check your upgrade eligibility to get started.

You can also enroll from the Apple Store app.

  1. Launch the Apple Store app.
  2. Select the iPhone model you want to purchase on the iPhone Upgrade Program.
  3. Select whether you are Replacing your current iPhone or buying a new iPhone on an existing carrier account.
  4. Select your carrier.
  5. Select your finish.
  6. Select your capacity.
  7. Select Apple iPhone Upgrade Program when asked how you would like to pay.
  8. Select I'd like to enroll if you are new to the program or I'm already part of the program if you are currently enrolled in the iPhone Upgrade Program.

You will then follow the instructions to complete your loan approval process to enroll or re-enroll in the iPhone Upgrade Program.

Enrolling to purchase an iPhone that is in pre-order

Currently, Apple only allows you to get loan pre-approval for preorders like the upcoming iPhone XR from the Apple Store app on your iPhone (not available on iPad).

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  1. Launch the Apple Store app on your iPhone.
  2. Tap View pricing or Preorder (depending on what the status of the preorder is).
  3. Tap Get Started at the top of the page under Get ready for pre-order now with the iPhone Upgrade Program.
  4. Tap Get ready for pre-order now if you are enrolling for the first time or Get a head start on your upgrade if you are currently enrolled in the iPhone Upgrade Program and follow the instructions to check your eligibility.
  5. Select the iPhone model you want to preorder.
  6. Tap Get Started.
  7. Select your carrier.
  8. Select your finish.
  9. Select your capacity.
  10. Select the AppleCare+ coverage you want (if you want to upgrade to AppleCare+ with Theft and Loss).
  11. Tap Confirm iPhone Preference.
  12. Tap Continue to go to the next section.
  13. Confirm your carrier. You'll need the wireless number for the phone you would like to replace and your 4-digit account PIN.
  14. Tap Continue.
  15. Tap Continue to go to the next section.
  16. Fill out the personal information needed to get loan approval for the iPhone Upgrade Program. You'll need to enter your Social Security Number, your billing and shipping address, credit card payment method, date of birth, and total annual income.
  17. Tap Continue to get pre-approval.

Your preapproval will last three days after pre-order begins. Once pre-order ends, outstanding preapprovals will expire.

Getting pre-approval for an iPhone pre-order *does not** reserve an iPhone for you. It is still a first-come, first-served basis. Going through the preapproval process allows you to select the model you want for faster checkout than starting from scratch.

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 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 (required for pre-orders). 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.

How to prepare to trade in your iPhone through the iPhone Upgrade Program

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.

Any questions?

Pop them into the comments and we'll help you out.

Updated October 2018: Updated for the iPhone XR and the loan preapproval process.

iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max, iPhone XR

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