HomeCell PhoneHow To Get Ridiculous Phone Upgrade Fees Waived

How To Get Ridiculous Phone Upgrade Fees Waived

When I upgraded to the iPhone 5, in addition to the cost of the phone ($200+tax), there was also a $36 upgrade charge on my AT&T bill. $36 for what?

According to AT&T, it’s for the “costs associated with selecting and activating your new equipment.” That sounds kind of silly considering that all they do is stick a new SIM card into your phone (and in some cases, you are just putting your old sim card into a new phone)!

This fee sounds even more ridiculous when you go to an Apple store and have them do it all for you, without even taking the phone out of the box. So why is AT&T charging customers so much? Because they can.

The upgrade fee used to be $18, which I still think is very high, but the good news is that there’s a pretty easy way to avoid paying those pesky $36 fees each time you upgrade. When you have 5 plans on a family plan, that can add up very quickly.

I called AT&T and simply told the customer service representative that I saw the charge and that when I upgraded, the store manager told me that it would be waived. After looking at the notes (and not finding anything, obviously), the customer service rep told me that it wasn’t there, but that she could refund that fee for me.

Is it wrong to lie to AT&T to save money? Maybe. But is it wrong for AT&T to charge me $36 for an upgrade that they had no interaction with? I think so.

I tested with a few others, including Lauren’s family, which had 3 upgrades on the same bill. The result? No problem, $108 was removed from the bill. That’s a big deal!

Readers, what do you think of the $36 upgrade fee? Do you think it’s ok to use my tactic?



  1. I’ve been wondering the same thing! Hmm I’m not sure what I would do. If you truly went into a store, you could be getting the person into trouble.

  2. I was with Sprint for years and always got this removed just by asking, and never bothered to lie about it. I would agree with Michelle, they could go back and challenge the person working at the store.

  3. Lying is NEVER good. You teach by doing.

    Why not just ask the person when you are purchasing the phone to waive it, and if she/he says no, ask them to call the main office and get approval.

      • @Daniel, You are trying to justify a lie.

        If you have children, then you should not ever hold them accountable when they tell lies to you or teacher or anyone else, because they can find ways to justify theirs, therefore, making it ok, according to dear ole Dad.

  4. I definitely wouldn’t just outright lie to them. I would call and ask them to remove it or threaten to say bad things about them to my friends and family and to move to a different provider when my contract is up.

    They set the price of their services and you choose whether to pay them or not. AT&T didn’t lie to you and say activation would be free and then try to charge you after the fact. You agreed to pay the activation fee, and then later lied to someone at the company to have it waived.

    I really don’t see how you can morally justify your actions.

    • @Kevin @, the charge is such a ridiculous one and their justification is so weak that I don’t feel bad at all.

      How is threatening them any better? If I can simply call and ask them to remove it and they do, then the fee is really indefensible.

      Have you ever seen the show Leverage? I’d like to think of it like that.

  5. I don’t think you did anything wrong. But that’s probably because I did something similar with my cell phone plan – I told them I’m a student, and received a $40 upgrade discount, and get 10 times the amount of “free” data per month.

  6. I’ve called Sprint when they charge their $25 activation fees before. I ask them to waive them because I think they are stupid and they do eventually. I usually have to get transferred to a manager. And yes, I do use the words “Please remove that $25 charge because I think it’s dumb and I’ve been a customer for more than 8 years.” :-D

  7. How about the fact that AT&T charges $350 for early termination of your contract? That’s criminal. Verizon also charges the same fee, I believe. Now, I’m not a “serial” cell phone changer…but sometimes things happen (illness, disability, lay-offs, etc…) and to gouge a customer for $350? That is wrong, flat-out.

    • @Kristin, if you don’t like the cancellation fee then don’t sign the contract. When two parties enter into a contract with full knowledge then it’s never “wrong”. If you allowed yourself to get swindled that’s your fault.

    • @Kristin, They have to have the high early termination fee so that you don’t get an iPhone and then leave before they make their money back on the subsidized cost of the phone.

      If you really have something that you need to cancel for, I would do everything in my power to let me off the hook early.

  8. This is pretty sleazy, man. It’s one thing to call and ask that they waive it. It’s another thing to lie about the reason why, especially when it involves what salesperson X told you on what date.

    I’m not sure what you do for a living, but let’s suppose you worked in sales. Would you be happy if your customers routinely called into support to lie about their conversation with you?

    You have no idea what metrics any given cell phone provider tracks, or how that information funnels down through operations. Is it okay to impose a risk on someone else’s job to save $36? Pretty selfish move.

  9. Another thing to think about: You say that it costs AT&T $0 for Apple to activate your phone, but that’s entirely not true.

    AT&T had to pay a developer to create software that can handle a person changing phones. They had to pay someone to design a SIM card that can be moved from one phone to another. They have to pay call center people to troubleshoot any issues with new phone activations. AT&T might even pay Apple some amount of money for each activation they do in store.

    To say it costs AT&T nothing to activate your new phone would be the same as me saying that I should get to advertise for free on your website because it costs you nothing to put a link in your sidebar.

  10. When I bought my phone through AT&T directly their Rep said they would waive the fee. It still showed up on my bill so I called and they waived it. My parents upgraded and then said well you waived my son’s fee so you should waive mine too and they did.

    Just say you were told they would waive your fee. Don’t say who and if they ask you can tell them Lance said so. It is true, and they never asked if Lance worked for AT&T.

  11. I agree with Lance. Whenever I renewed through Sprint the person said the fee would be waived and then it magically appeared. I know several people who have worked for cell phone companies and they all say they have the power to waive the fee but don’t tell this to the customer. It’s one of those fees that only people who don’t ask have to pay. I am probably also guilty of calling in and saying the service person said the fee would be waited because half the time they actually did say it.

    Cell phone service is one of the biggest ripoffs out there and I don’t know how most people continue to be ok with $100/month per person bills and then whine and bitch about gas going up 10 cents. Switch to Straight Talk and don’t get suckered into all the fees and ridiculous taxes that cell phone carriers drop onto your bill. $45/month for unlimited everything. No cancellation fees. Done.

  12. I also got that fee when I upgraded into a smart phone. I didn’t ask for a refund, instead I changed my phone into an older one and stopped using my smart phone. Wish I knew about this earlier. Now, I’m going to try your technique.

  13. I probably would have done the exact same thing. Most of the time when you ask them to remove outlandish fees, they say that they are required. While in this case, you can tell them that they shouldn’t charge you for something that they didn’t even complete, sometimes a little white lie won’t hurt.

    I don’t see any issue with pushing out little lies like this in order to deal with a company trying to screw you. If you give them an inch, they will take a mile.

  14. Here’s the thing, justify one sin, and soon we will be justifying them all.

    Doubt it? Those that think its ok to tell a “white” lie have other areas that they justify getting around.

    Like I said earlier….how can you teach your children to not tell you lies? According to your standard you will just laugh if off because it is not that big a deal. And hey, they had a good reason to do so.

    Open the door, then put in a toe, then the foot, then the whole body is in. It won’t be long before you are approving of “black” lies and even worse. Even Charles Manson could justify what he did….He was abused as a child, terribly….Or Hitler, or the kid that stole a pack of cigarettes.

    But in the end, there is no justification to do wrong. We would all do well to remind ourselves of this.

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