How to Unlock Your Cell Phone in Canada for Free: 5 Easy Steps (2022)

An unlocked phone gives you more freedom, as it allows you to use your mobile device with any service provider of your choosing.

In the past, cell phone service providers used to charge their customers a surcharge to unlock phones, resulting in millions of dollars of additional revenue for cell phone companies.

Thanks to a recent change in regulation, it’s now 100% free to unlock your phone.

Below, I’ll show you how to unlock your cell phone in Canada, so you’re not stuck with the same wireless provider.

What Is Phone Unlocking?

Prior to 2017, the majority of phones sold by any network provider were locked. This means that the cell phone was internally locked so that it was only compatible with the service provider’s network.

For instance, if you purchased a brand-new iPhone from TELUS, it could only work on the TELUS cell phone network unless a network unlock was performed. The same went for phones on Rogers, Videotron, and other major carriers in Canada.

An unlocked device doesn’t have any carrier restrictions and can be used with the same carrier or can a different carrier, if you choose to switch carriers.

In short, an unlocked phone:

  • Can be used with any cellular data network or wireless carrier
  • Allows you to receive phone updated directly from the manufacturer
  • Allows you to sell it to anybody, regardless of their existing cell phone company

How To Unlock Your Cell Phone For Free in Canada: 5 Steps

As long as you follow the steps, it should be a relatively quick and painless process.

Step 1: Back Up Your Phone’s Data (Just In Case)

Unlocking your phone shouldn’t affect your data, storage, or personal settings. However, I always lean towards the side of caution when it comes to things like this.

For this reason, I recommend backing up your phone’s data, just in case the worst happens.

If for some reason, the phone unlocking process causes you to lose any data, you’ll be able to easily restore it and start the process over again.

Step 2: Find Your Cell Phone IMEI Number

Now, it’s time for the fun part – accessing your phone’s settings and obtaining your unique IMEI number.

Universal method:

  1. Open your phone’s keypad
  2. Type in the following sequence: *#06#
  3. Your phone’s IMEI number and a barcode should instantly appear on the screen along with the phone’s serial number from the factory

Alternative method for an Apple phone:

  1. Navigate to ‘Settings’
  2. Select ‘General’
  3. Tap ‘About’

Alternative method for an Android Phone:

  1. Navigate to the main ‘Settings’ menu
  2. Scroll to the bottom and tap ‘About phone’ or type ‘About’ into the search feature

If those all didn’t work, then don’t worry. You should also be able to find the IMEI number by removing the back panel of your phone and removing the battery.

Most phones will have the 15-digit code stamped onto the inside of the device or printed on a sticker.

I recommend writing this number down on a sheet of paper, so you can easily access it once you call your carrier to process your unlock request.

Step 3: Pull Up Your Account Information

Next, you’ll need to gather the information about your account. If you’re the account holder, then the only thing you should need is the account number associated with your cell phone plan.

However, if you’re on a corporate or family plan, then you may need to contact the primary account holder and get the information from them.

As far as corporate plans go, you may need to hand your phone over to the IT department or your boss for this part, as some of the data can involve sensitive information.

Step 4: Contact Your Phone Carrier

Now, it’s time to begin the process of unlocking your phone.

Given the new CRTC regulation, all carriers are legally required to unlock their customers’ phones.

You must call your carrier’s customer service network and navigate through the automated options until you get a representative on the other end.

As long as you don’t have any outstanding debts and the representative doesn’t suspect that you’re a phone thief, there shouldn’t be any issues here.

The representative will either do one of two things here:

  • Provide you with the carrier unlock code and give you instructions on how to unlock your phone.
  • Perform the phone unlocking service remotely

When it’s all said and done, the most difficult part should be the time spent waiting on the phone for customer service to pick up the line.

Step 5: Reboot Your Phone

Often, after entering the unlock code, you’ll need to reboot your mobile phone to finalize the settings. Now, with your mobile phone unlocked, it should work with any SIM card from any network.

If you want to test everything to make sure the network unlock was performed correctly, you can test your phone by inserting a friend’s SIM card who is on a different network provider than you.

How To Unlock Your Phone With Your Wireless Carrier

Unlocking your phone through your wireless carrier should be simple and easy. Plus, you’ll save money that you’d otherwise have to pay for third-party unlocking services.

Additionally, many cell phone carriers also provide a simple, easy-to-use unlock tool online (see the links below). You can enter your phone’s information into the tool to receive your unlock code and instructions.

Here’s all of the wireless carrier contact information that you need to get your wireless code and start processing your unlock request.

TELUS

Videotron

Rogers

Freedom Mobile

Bell

Eastlink

Virgin Mobile

What Is Needed to Unlock A Locked Phone?

What Is Needed to Unlock A Locked Phone?

If you purchase a mobile device directly from the manufacturer, it shouldn’t have any restrictions or a carrier lock on it.

However, phones sold by Canadian networks prior to 2017 may need to go through a SIM unlocking process before they can be used with another network.

To unlock a phone, here’s what you need:

  • Your phone’s IMEI number
  • Your cell phone plan account information

In some cases, you may also need to borrow a SIM card from another network to test whether or not the unlock process was completed correctly. Here’s a brief rundown of each of these elements.

The Phone’s IMEI Number

The most important thing that you need to unlock a phone (both Android devices and Apple devices) is the phone’s IMEI number. This unique international mobile equipment identity number is embedded into the hardware of every single mobile device from the factory.

Every device has a 15-digit IMEI number that can never be changed, replaced, or deleted.

The purpose of the IMEI number is to ensure that the phone can be traced in the event that it’s ever stolen (as today’s smartphones can be quite expensive). Now, somebody just needs to create a tracking system for lost wallets!

Without this number, it’s impossible to unlock a phone.

Thankfully, obtaining this number is fairly easy, and I’ll show you exactly how to find your IMEI number below.

Your Mobile Carrier Account Information

Since Canadian cell phone companies are legally required to unlock your phone, the process is relatively simple. However, the company will still want to verify your identity to ensure that a thief hasn’t gotten a hold of your phone.

To ensure that the process goes smoothly, make sure you have all of the account holder details, including:

  • Their full name
  • Phone number
  • Address
  • Email address
  • Account number
  • Account holder’s security password

Without these details, phone carriers may not perform a carrier unlock.

SIM Card From Another Carrier

The first thing you’ll want to do after performing a SIM unlock is to test your mobile phone and ensure that the phone unlocking process was performed correctly.

The easiest way to do this is to borrow a SIM card from a friend or family member who has a different network than you do.

Simply pop their SIM card into your phone, and have a third person try to call their phone number.

If the phone was unlocked correctly, then your phone should receive the call intended for your friend’s phone. If it’s still a locked device, then the call won’t go through.

How To Unlock An iPhone

How To Unlock An iPhone

If you own an iPhone, then you’ve probably caught onto the fact that they’re a bit different from Android phones. The process for unlocking an iPhone is almost the exact same as unlocking Androids:

  1. Obtain your iPhone’s IMEI number
  2. Gather your cell phone account information
  3. Contact your cell phone service provider to unlock your device

Above, I mentioned that you could enter the code *#06# on your phone’s keypad to obtain your IMEI. I’m not 100% sure if this works with iPhones, but you can still try it.

Otherwise, you can follow Apple’s steps to obtain your iPhone’s IMEI number:

  1. Navigate to ‘Settings’
  2. Select ‘General’
  3. Tap ‘About’

This should bring up a long list of information about your iPhone, including its serial number, IMEI code, and display the current version of iOS that it’s running on.

How To Unlock An Android Phone

How To Unlock An Android Phone

Unlocking an Android phone involves the same steps as unlocking an iPhone:

  1. Obtain your Android’s IMEI code
  2. Collect your cell phone service plan’s account information
  3. Contact a representative from your carrier to unlock the phone

To obtain the IMEI code for your Android, you just have to enter *#06# into the numerical keypad. Alternatively, you can also follow these steps:

  1. Navigate to the main ‘Settings’ menu
  2. Scroll to the bottom and tap ‘About phone’ or type ‘About’ into the search feature

This should show you all of the critical information about your Android phone, including its IMEI, model name and number, serial number, phone number, and other software documentation.

How Do I Get The Unlock Code For My Phone?

If your phone was sold to you prior to 2017, then it may be network locked. Each cell phone company typically has its own unique unlock codes that can vary based on your device.

To get the unlock codes for your phone, you simply need to contact your carrier and follow their unlock instructions.

Canadian carriers are required, by law, to provide you with instructions to unlock your phone or to unlock your phone for you. If you purchased a brand-new phone after December 1st, 2017, then it should already be factory unlocked.

An Unlocked Phone Gives You More Carrier Freedom

At this point, you may be thinking, “What if I’m happy with my current wireless service provider?

If you’ve purchased a new phone since December 1st, 2017, then it should already be unlocked, so you don’t have to perform a SIM unlock if you ever want to change carriers.

Let’s just say that your phone isn’t already factory unlocked, though. Should you still unlock a phone?

I would say Yes. For one, if you ever try to sell your phone in the future, nobody’s going to want to purchase a locked phone. Secondly, it will make switching carriers far easier in the future, if the need ever arises.

The ability to easily switch between carriers gives you the power to save money if you ever feel like your existing plan is no longer fair.

It’s a Legal Right to Unlock Your Phone in Canada

Often, the network carrier would lock a financed phone until the customer had finished paying it off.

This made it easier for the carrier to ensure that the customer didn’t run off to another provider after getting a great introductory rate on a new phone model.

After the phone was paid off, customers could make a quick phone call to the service provider to get the device unlocked.

This all changed in 2017.

The updated CRTC Wireless Code went into effect in December 2017. According to the updated regulations, any new phone sold after that date must be unlocked. Additionally, carriers were banned from charging customers for unlocking phones.

This means that anybody can get their cell phones unlocked by their current carrier for free.

FAQs About Unlocking Your Phone In Canada

To wrap things up, here are a few quick answers to some of the most common questions I’ve seen about the phone unlocking process in Canada.

Are Canadian Phones Unlocked?

Prior to the CRTC code update, many cell phone plans sold locked devices to their customers to keep them locked into using the same provider. This, of course, resulted in a host of complaints from Canadian telecom customers.

Thankfully, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) heard our complaints. As a result, the CRTC updated its code requiring all new phones sold by Canadian phone carriers to come unlocked.

This code went into effect on December 1st, 2017, nearly five years ago. Unless you purchased your phone prior to this date or purchased a used phone, your Canadian phone should already be unlocked.

If for some reason, it’s not unlocked, all you have to do is contact your service provider to have it unlocked.

Can My Service Provider Deny My Unlock Request?

Legally, your phone carrier cannot deny your unlock request. The only reason why your request may be denied is if the representative you’re speaking with has reason to suspect that you stole the phone. This is why you should always have the account information associated with the phone on hand.

Can You Unlock Your Phone On A Corporate Plan?

If your device is part of a corporate phone plan, then your phone should already be unlocked. That being said, your company likely has its own restrictions to prevent you from taking their phone and putting it under a different plan.

Can I Unlock My Phone Even If It’s Not Paid Off?

In the United States, phone carriers are allowed to deny an unlock request if the phone has not been paid off or if the customer has an outstanding debt with the carrier. However, the same is not true in Canada.

According to the CRTC code, all carriers must honour your request to unlock your phone, if it’s not already unlocked.

Can I Unlock My Phone Myself For Free?

If you don’t feel like waiting on the phone to speak with a representative from your cell phone company, you may be able to unlock your phone by yourself for free.

After the updated CRTC code passed in 2017, some carriers released their unlock codes to the public or created a free online phone unlock tool designed to help you find the code.

Can I Unlock My Phone If I’m Not The Original Owner

If you recently purchased a used phone in Canada and it’s not been unlocked yet, then you’ll want to get it unlocked. Usually, this process is simple enough. The only problem that could arise is if you unknowingly purchased a stolen phone.

Once a phone has been stolen, the original owner should have contacted their cell phone service provider to inform them of the incident.

To prevent the thief from using the phone, the carrier should have blacklisted the IMEI to prevent it from being activated again.

If this is the case, then you may be out of luck, and may even be asked to turn the phone into the authorities. This is why I generally don’t recommend purchasing cell phones from non-authorized retailers.

How Much Will It Cost to Unlock My Phone?

Nothing. By law, Canadian cell phone companies can no longer impose a surcharge on customers to unlock their devices. If your device was not factory unlocked, then your carrier must unlock your phone for free in Canada.

Final Thoughts

How to Unlock Your Cell Phone in Canada for Free

The majority of people reading this post likely already have factory-unlocked phones.

However, if your phone isn’t unlocked, then all you need to do is obtain your IMEI number from your device and contact your service provider to get help unlocking your phone for free in Canada.

Breaking free from your wireless company is great, but have you considered breaking free from your 9-to-5 job?

Keep on reading to learn the four steps to becoming a freelancer.

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Author Bio - Christopher Liew is a CFA Charterholder with 11 years of finance experience and the creator of Wealthawesome.com. Read about how he quit his 6-figure salary career to travel the world here.

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