If you get a receiver from someone else, can you just swap the access card?

You’ve been tempted, sure you have. You’ve seen DIRECTV receivers in thrift stores, on eBay, maybe you know a friend who discontinued service and never had to give back receivers. You’d like another receiver and you’re thinking this is a cheap way to get it done.

Don’t do it.

All DIRECTV receivers that have gone to customers since 2006 are considered leased, not owned, and just because DIRECTV doesn’t want it back doesn’t mean someone can legally transfer it or give it away. If you are actually looking at a DIRECTV receiver with a manufacture date before 2006, you could conceivably activate it but there’s stuff you need to know about that as well…

Look at the receiver. There’s usually a manufacture date somewhere on a sticker. If it was made before 2003 or has a manufacturer logo that isn’t DIRECTV, it probably won’t work.

If it’s an HD receiver made before 2006, it probably won’t get HD anymore due to DIRECTV using new satellites.

Don’t even try it.

If you call to activate a receiver you get at a thrift store, or one that’s given to you by a friend, it won’t work. It just won’t. AT&T won’t send you a new access card. Then they’ll flag the receiver so that it can’t be reactivated again. They’ll also put the previous owner of the receiver in the system and investigate whether or not they should be charged for that old receiver. Folks, it’s just not worth it.

Are ANY receivers owned?

There are a few cases where receivers are legitimately owned. For a few years select DIRECTV employees could own receivers, but that was shut down due to fraud. Also in most cases commercial receivers are owned. Commercial receivers look just like regular DIRECTV receivers but their ID numbers are tied to commercial accounts and they cannot be reassigned to residential accounts.

There are also receivers out there that are marked “obsolete” so AT&T doesn’t ask for them back. Instead, AT&T representatives ask the customer to responsibly recycle them. This includes pretty much any DIRECTV hardware before the H24/HR24 series. It also includes the original HR34 Genie, although other Genies are still very much in service.

Unfortunately, instead of recycling this old hardware, people donate them  to local charities or sold on auction sites. It can’t be re-activated, and it just ends up costing someone money, Sometimes, that someone is you.

Get the real story

If you have any question about whether or not you can get a new access card for an old DIRECTV receiver, you can call Solid Signal at 888-233-7563 or call 1-800-DIRECTV. You will need the Receiver ID which is usually on a green sticker on the receiver, sometimes behind the access card door. If the receiver doesn’t have a green sticker, it’s probably too old to activate.

There are actually a few cases where your only option is an access card swap. For example, suppose you buy a very old mobile satellite dish. You may find the dish uses a special receiver  and your only option is to use it. However, if you’re just trying to save a little money by trying to get a receiver on the secondary market you will almost always be disappointed. Instead, try calling Solid Signal. In many cases, there are discounts and upgrades available for existing customers. Of course it’s impossible to promise anything but it just may turn out that you won’t pay any more and you’ll be doing things right.

In the meantime, if you are looking to expand your DIRECTV system, why not do it right? Call the experts at Solid Signal, at 888-233-7563. Or, just fill out the form below and we’ll get back to you!

About the Author

Stuart Sweet
Stuart Sweet is the editor-in-chief of The Solid Signal Blog and a "master plumber" at Signal Group, LLC. He is the author of over 8,000 articles and longform tutorials including many posted here. Reach him by clicking on "Contact the Editor" at the bottom of this page.