8 Phone Accessories You Should Never Buy From Your Carrier

No matter where you like to shop, it’s worth knowing what you should buy from where. For instance, there are a few things you should never buy from the Apple store, just as there are things you shouldn’t purchase from Best Buy. And there are at least a few things you shouldn’t buy from Amazon, too.

Similarly, there are a few things you shouldn’t buy from your carrier. Most of us don’t visit our carrier’s store often. But if you’re in the store to pick up a new phone, to have your current phone serviced, or just because you’re at the mall, there are all kinds of accessories that may tempt you. Don’t give in! Ahead are a few of the things we advise you not to buy from your carrier.

1. Smartphone cases

women with paper bags walking in the mall

Don’t buy smartphone cases from your carrier | iStock.com/shironosov

If you just got a new phone, it may seem like a good idea to put a case on it as quickly as possible. (We commend your responsibility.) But if you pick up a smartphone case at your carrier’s store, you’re practically guaranteed to be overpaying for it. It’s important to protect a brand-new smartphone from bumps and bruises. But if you can make it home, just do some research online and order what you need from Amazon or another retailer. You’re guaranteed to get a better deal, and possibly a case that’s better able to protect your phone in the event that you drop it. 

2. Screen protectors

smiling pretty woman reading a message on her phone

Screen protectors can be very expensive | iStock.com/DragonImages

The same logic that dictates you shouldn’t buy a smartphone case from your carrier also applies to screen protectors. Most people don’t bother applying these to their phones anymore. But your carrier is betting that consumers who do want them are going to overpay for them. Just avoid putting your phone in the same pocket as your keys, and wait until you get home to order one online. You’ll be able to check out reviews and see which brand’s screen protectors perform best. And when it arrives, you’ll learn that a screen protector isn’t nearly as difficult to apply as you think.

3. Extra chargers

Phone charging in a car

Your carrier probably charges a lot for chargers | iStock.com/Casezy

Whether you want another standard charger or are looking for one for your car, you’re probably better off not purchasing this item from your carrier. Again, the chargers you find at your carrier’s store will likely be overpriced, even if they aren’t manufactured by the same company that made your phone. You’re better off doing a little bit of research to find the right charger for you. (Do you need one with an extra long cord? One you can easily wrangle while traveling? How about one that features a braided coating that won’t split?) Just be wary of buying what are supposedly Apple-branded (or really any brand that seems too good a deal) chargers on Amazon, where almost all such chargers are actually knockoffs.

4. Headphones

young african american woman with afro listening to music

Your carrier will overcharge you for headphones | iStock.com/m-imagephotography

Almost every smartphone comes with a free pair of basic earbuds. You may think you spot something better at your carrier’s store. But you’re better off waiting and doing your research to make sure your money is well spent. You’d be surprised by how cheaply you can get a great pair of headphones these days. For starters, you can check out our list of the highest-rated Bluetooth headphones. And also read up on the cheap headphones you shouldn’t buy (which we hope aren’t the ones you almost bought at your carrier’s store). 

5. MicroSD cards

girl standing in a shop and choosing a new mobile phone

Wait to buy yourself a microSD card until you’ve left your carrier’s store | iStock.com/LiudmylaSupynska

Many high-end and mid-range Android phones enable you to expand the phone’s storage capacity with a microSD card.  It’s fine to make microSD support a factor in choosing which phone you want. But you really don’t need to purchase a card from your carrier as soon as you buy your phone. For starters, you’re probably not sure how much extra storage space you need. (You might want to download your favorite apps and get your music library in order before making that decision.) Plus, the microSD card options at your carrier’s store are likely to be limited. And they’re almost certainly going to be more expensive than the options a little bit of smart research will turn up.

6. Insurance for your phone

kneeling person in jeans and shoes picking up a broken phone

Phone insurance seems wise, but it can cost a bundle | iStock.com/mheim3011

You may feel pressured to buy an insurance policy for your phone, since with many carriers, you can only sign up for a policy when you buy a phone. But in most cases, the insurance policies offered by mobile carriers aren’t worth the cost. It’s a good idea to do your research on the specifics of the policies available to you and run the numbers on whether or not they’re worth it. If you decide, after you purchase your phone, that you do want an insurance policy, there are plenty of third parties that offer policies. Many of them may offer better benefits and cover more kinds of damage than the policy available to you at your carrier’s store. 

7. A mobile hotspot

Woman on a Wi-Fi connection on her smartphone in a cafe

A mobile hotspot can cost you a lot from your carrier | iStock.com/anyaberkut

A dedicated mobile hotspot can sound like a good idea if you do a lot of traveling, but you probably already know if you need one. And if you’re on the fence, you should know that purchasing this extra gadget really isn’t a good idea for most people. Some carriers still make you sign a contract to get a mobile hotspot, and many are pretty expensive. With most modern smartphones, you can tether a device or two to your phone to check your email or upload a file in a pinch. And if you only need a hotspot occasionally, using the personal hotspot feature on your phone is a much better financial choice than buying (and keeping track of) another gadget to do the job.

8. Your smartphone itself

Woman's hand typing on a smartphone

You can get a smartphone a lot cheaper when you’re not buying from your carrier | iStock.com/Blackzheep

Sure, it’s not technically an accessory. But we had to share our two cents about buying a smartphone from your carrier. It’s a much better buy to purchase an unlocked phone, which also has the effect of ensuring that you aren’t tied to a single carrier for multiple years in a row. If you don’t have the spare cash to buy the phone you want unlocked, it still pays to look around for sales, promotions, and even payment plans. Sometimes, you’ll find one that’s worthwhile at your carrier. But most of the time, you’ll want to look elsewhere for the best deal on your next smartphone. You can buy from another retailer, or even directly from the manufacturer, which may offer a payment plan of its own. Plus, buying a phone from the manufacturer often means faster software updates, which is a pretty big benefit in our book.