How to Check if an iPhone has Unpaid Balance or Outstanding Bills (Free Check)

(Last Updated On: June 17, 2020)

Are you planning to buy a used AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint or Verizon iPhone? Here’s how to check for its status as it may have a bad ESN/MEID/IMEI.

Check if an iPhone has Unpaid Balance or Outstanding Bills

Introduction to Unpaid Bills iPhone

If you’re residing in the US, you can always get cheap deals online on used mobile phones which sometimes may be too good to be true.

Must Read: How to remove AT&T iPhone in-contract or unpaid bills status for a free unlock

About two years ago, we wrote an article on 5 Tips on Buying Used iPhone Online on eBay or Craigslist to Avoid Scam.

Although the article may be old by now, but it still applies for everyone because many people are constantly being cheated or scammed when buying a used iPhone or any device.

We highlighted these mistakes on another blog post which we wrote a few months ago.

What’s ESN or IMEI?

There are several third party checkers available online to check for a device’s status. If a device is still under contract with a carrier but the bill is not paid or has outstanding balances, chances are the carrier will blacklist the device which will make the ESN go bad.

ESN or the Electronic Serial Number is a device unique ID. Most people in the US would say a device has a ‘bad ESN’ if it has been blacklisted by a carrier. Other countries around the world refer ESN as IMEI or MEID.

Third Party ESN / IMEI Checkers is a free online device status checker. Most of the time the results are accurate. However, users outside of USA are restricted from using this free tool.

Initially, Swappa only returns a result if the device is blacklisted or otherwise. Recently, it also shows if it has unpaid balance or outstanding bills. This is extremely useful for potential buyers in the US.

Unfortunately, this free tool doesn’t provide accurate result for devices which are purchased or sold outside of USA.

Verizon also provides a free checker on their website. The checker is very easy to use simply by entering your 15-digit or 14-digit ESN.

AT&T has a free checker available to check any AT&T locked devices. Please be sure to choose the correct device type such as phone, tablet or other.

Sprint devices don’t have an official checker available, although on Sprint website it has the option of to bring your own device.

T-Mobile also provides an instant checker which will return a result to determine whether a device is blocked or financed.

Non US-based users can use paid checking services to identify the status of any iPhone or device.

A generic checker is available via This allows you to do similar check but most of the results are not detailed or not 100% accurate.

How to Check if an iPhone has Unpaid Balance or Outstanding Bills

1. Open the link below using your favorite browser:

2. Enter your 15 digit IMEI/ESN and click Check ESN.

3. You will see a spinning wheel with a partially cut Android’s head as shown in the image above.

4. If the ESN is valid and the device has unpaid balance, it will show the result below:

Device is not eligible for resale (financed).
This device is being financed and has an outstanding balance that must be paid.

NOTE: This checker will only work in USA. Those who are located outside of USA may not be able to use this free tool.

A financed device simply means it has outstanding balance that is not settled with the carrier. This is not a high level blockage or in other words it is only blocked on its original carrier. If you can that device unlocked, you can switch to other carrier.

If the device is reported lost, stolen or missing it will return the result stating the device is not eligible for activation with a black background.

While this free tool is extremely useful for buyers who scout for used device, it won’t guarantee that a device won’t go bad after using it for a certain time frame as the seller can always report that the device is lost or has gone missing.

Just for your information, AT&T iPhone that has unpaid bills or under contract can still be unlocked using this service here and it allows you to switch to any US carrier or any international network.

A good tip when buying a used device is to let the seller sign an agreement that he/she won’t do anything that might jeopardize your purchase and the status of your device.

Why Checking iPhone Status is Important

It’s very crucial to check an iPhone status before making any purchase to avoid any trouble or issue. Although the discounted price for used devices is very enticing, you may end paying for a high price to be able to use device.

iPhone with unpaid bills are normally blocked on its original network and possibly on all other network. When it’s blocked, it’s also known as blacklisted.

Most people won’t use the paying option due to the fact that it will cost them more instead of buying a new, full-price and fully unlocked iPhone.

There are available options to remove the unpaid bills or blacklist but it’s best to get an device that has a ‘clean’ status from the beginning. That means you don’t have to deal with this trouble and spend hours online just to get your device working.

What Can You Do with a Financed iPhone?

The are multiple things you can do if you have a financed iPhone. Here are some of the things you can try:

Unlock the iPhone 

Just like what we stated earlier, a financed iPhone is only blocked on its original network. If you can get it unlocked you can switch to another carrier. Unlocking your iPhone also helps to increase its selling price because it will work on any GSM carrier worldwide.

Remove the financed status

If you don’t intend to switch carrier, you can remove the financed status by checking one of the available services here. Once the financed status is removed, you can use it back on the original carrier. Experts recommend that you get the device unlocked as soon as possible.

Pay the bill in full

This is by far the best and the most reliable solution for you. Getting it fully paid will prevent any future problems on using your device. It will be very unfortunate if the used iPhone has high outstanding balance.

Sell it

It’s not the best option but it will help reduce your loss. Others may want it and use one of the methods mentioned here. Here’s a rough estimation of how much a used iPhone would cost on eBay (as at Q3/Q4 of 2018):

  • iPhone 11 – US$800
  • iPhone X – US$800
  • iPhone 8 Plus – US$650
  • iPhone 8 – US$600
  • iPhone 7 Plus – US$500
  • iPhone 7 – US$400

The above prices are for guidelines only.

Take it apart and sell the parts

You can dismantle the iPhone and sell them as parts. There are always people looking to buy the iPhone parts to get their devices fixed. Each part has different value and you can get the most from the screen and logic board. A rough calculation shows if you can sell all the different parts, you can get up to $400-500.

What if it has iCloud activation lock enabled?

Another common issue is that people tend to purchase a used iPhone that has the iCloud activation lock enabled. This is a tough situation to be in but not impossible to be resolved.

This security feature was activated by Apple due help reduce thefts with iPhones. Once the lock is activated, there’s no way to bypass it unless you know the iCloud email and password that belongs to the original owner.

There’s a way to get the email address or phone number associated with the device if you intend to get in touch with the original owner. As this is not always the intended purpose, removing the iCloud activation lock completely can be done remotely.

The success rate depends on the history of the device. Normally, a ‘clean’ status iCloud locked iPhone has better success rate. This means it’s not reported lost or stolen and has never been any attempt to remove the iCloud activation lock before.


It’s highly recommended that you check the iPhone status before making any purchase. You should advise your family and friends as well because it will pose a huge challenge to get a device working again if it has unpaid bills or blacklisted.

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