How to Move Contacts from On My iPhone to iCloud

Last Updated: Nov 02, 2020

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On My iPhone

In this post, I’ll describe a quick and dirty way to move contacts from the famous “On My iPhone” account to iCloud.

On My iPhone

I’m sure you have seen those dummy accounts called “On My iPhone” or “On My Mac” when working with Contacts, Notes or Calendars. Or maybe, you have wondered why some of the contacts are visible on your iPhone but not on your Mac or iPad (or vice-versa), despite having iCloud enabled.

Almost every time I re-install iOS or OS X those dummy accounts appear, and sometimes they are set as the default account.

On My iPhone
OS X: On My Mac

Yesterday, my wife asked me why some of the contacts she has on her iPhone are not visible on her iPad. I went into Settings –> Mail, Contacts, Calendars and noticed that “On My iPhone” was set as the default account under Contacts. As a result, every contact she added on her iPhone went into the “On My iPhone” account, and not into iCloud. That’s why those newly added contacts were not synced to her iPad.

How to Move Contacts from “On My iPhone” to iCloud?

Moving contacts from one account to another is easy on macOS. All you have to do is open the Contacts app and drag and drop the contacts over. On iOS, you cannot do that. However, the solution is just as simple:

  1. Disable Contacts under Settings > iCloud
  2. Choose to keep the contacts on your iPhone or delete them. See note #1 below before trying the “delete” option!
  3. Re-enable Contacts under Settings > iCloud
  4. Confirm to merge all contacts with iCloud

Step #4 moves and merges all contacts from your “On My iPhone” account into iCloud.

That was easy!


Note #1 – If you’ve tried the “Keep on My iPhone” option before re-enabling iCloud Contacts and the contacts in question didn’t get merged into iCloud, choosing “Delete from My iPhone” is likely not going to work either. That’s because the actual merging is done when you re-enable iCloud Contacts (step #4).

If you do decide to try the “delete” method, make sure you first create a backup of your contacts via iTunes. Some readers have reported losing data. I don’t see how that is possible unless there is a bug in iOS.

Note #2 – The “Default Account” under Settings > Contacts may not be visible if you don’t have any contacts outside of your cloud-based accounts.

Note #3 – If you chose to delete the previously synched contacts in step #2 but failed to enable iCloud Contacts in step #3, you’ll likely see an empty address book. If that’s the case, don’t freak out. Instead, go to Settings > iCloud and enable Contacts. That will synchronize all of your iCloud contacts to your iPhone and merge any contact that’s stored in “On My iPhone.”

25 thoughts on “How to Move Contacts from On My iPhone to iCloud”

  1. The merge option didnt work for me either like most of you here. A work around that worked for me was

    on ipad , settings —> contacts —> add accounts —> sign in to your account that has your accounts saved.

  2. So . . . I just got a new phone and decided it would be best to have ALL of my contacts saved in iCloud. I’ve had no luck following these directions – there are still contacts on my phone that are not in iCloud.

    So I had the idea that I could manually delete a contact on my phone if it was already on iCloud and then I would know how many were just on my iPhone. And then I noticed iCloud doesn’t (or at least I can’t fine) any place to save Ring Tone or Text Tone. Is that true? So does that mean I can’t use iCloud for all my contact storage if I want to have a special ring tone or text tone for some contacts?

  3. Next day rested, I figured out that on the settings of my new iPhone SE, contacts were syncing with both: iCloud and Gmail.
    Removed Gmail contacts in accounts, leaving only the contacts from iCloud and the problem was resolved.
    Thank you for the clues to solve this issue.

    • I am just so scared to do this as I fear all default list iPad contacts will be lost when I disable contacts in the account (it warns that previously synched contacts will be deleted) – which maybe means it is OK to disable as the ones that aren’t synced are the ones I want to keep – is this why its ok to disable it? Feeling very apprehensive

  4. Like many others, I tried several times without success. I have contacts on the iPhone that will not move to iCloud.
    Gave up.

  5. Help. I have tried yours steps numerous times and it not working. For some reason every time I try it after hitting “merge” if I go back to default account its reverting back to Yahoo and not staying on iCloud.

  6. Hi Michael,

    is there a way to move contacts from an email account onto icloud? i tried your suggestion above and nothing changed

    • The easiest way is to do it on a Mac or Windows computer. Using a Mac, you can just add all your accounts to the Contacts app and then drag and drop them over from one account to the other. I don’t know if there is an easy way (without a third-party app) to do it on iOS.

  7. I have an iPhone se 32 gb through straight talk and my contacts still did not merge. I know I can go to gmail and see them all but not iCloud. I really want to simplify it so all are at iCloud when i upgrade my iPhone. I have tried everything. Also I use my yahoo mail for my iCloud account. Should I switch my iTunes/icloud to my icloud email? Help please….I am not tech savy.

    • Hi Holly,

      The contact merge trick does only work if you have your contacts stored locally on your iPhone. Based on your description, it seems like your contacts are stored in your Google account. If your only concern is to not lose them when you upgrade your iPhone, then don’t worry because having them in Google is practically the same as having them in iCloud.

      In other words, you don’t have to do anything :)

  8. Thanks MK. It worked perfectly following your step by step. Apple support instructions paled in comparison to yours. Cheers mate.

      • I see the merge button. Have gone back and forth several times. It doesn’t work!! What’s especially frustrating is that I can’t get “Exchange” to stop becoming the default contacts account automatically; the second I turn off contacts in iCloud. It’s as if it just takes over. I’ve played with the order of directions you’ve outlined above, to no avail. Nothing works.

        • Hi Rob,

          If you turn off contacts in iCloud, of course, the default account changes – to the next available one in your list, which it seems like, is Exchange. That’s expected. When you turn contacts in iCloud back on, you’ll get an option to merge your local (not Exchange) contacts. Once done, make iCloud contacts the default account and it will stay that way unless you turn it back off. The method I described will not merge your Exchange and iCloud contacts. You can only do that on a Mac or PC, but not from your iPhone – at least not without the help of a 3rd-party app.

  9. That worked quickly and easily on my wife’s iPhone 7plus.
    So glad to have avoided third party apps, importing vcards etc.
    Thanks Michael


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