Tag Archives: cell phone

How To Get Ridiculous Phone Upgrade Fees Waived

getting phone upgrade fees waivesWhen 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 in 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 for a few others, including Lauren’s family, which had 3 upgrades on the same bill. The result? No problem, $108 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 use my tactic?

Reevaluating Your Wireless Service

Back in the sixth grade, my reading teacher Mrs. Wheaton assigned the book “Cheaper By The Dozen.” You may be familiar with the title, thanks to the 2003 movie starring Steve Martin; the original book by Frank Gilbreth Jr. and Ernestine Gilbreth Carey, however, is dramatically different. In the biographical novel, the two siblings recount their father’s life as an efficiency expert. The elder Frank Gilbreth increased the efficiency not only of businesses, but of his own household as well, streamlining everything from his 12 children’s morning routines to how they prepared dinner and everything in between.

These days, though, I can’t help but think how Frank Gilbreth Sr. would be turning over in his grave if he knew about the cell phone plans employed by my friends, family members, and colleagues.

Meet The Customers

Let me start by reviewing the cell phone plans of three key people in my life – I’m not naming names in order to protect the innocent, because chances are, at least two of the people I’m describing here read this blog (You can thank me for my discretion later).

* Person A – This person is a Verizon wireless customer. He currently has one of the cell phone plans his carrier recently eliminated: a package of 750 anytime minutes plus 250 texts a month for $59.98. As long as he doesn’t change his plan, he’ll be grandfathered into it, meaning Verizon will allow him to continue using their wireless service under the same terms.

* Person B – This person is the head of a household that includes a spouse, a teenager, and a ‘tween. Mom and Dad are on one family plan that includes talk, text, and data to accommodate their smartphones; their kids are on another plan that gives them only talk and text capability. Both are family plans, and both are available through T-Mobile for a combined cost of $188.97.

* Person C – This person is an AT&T customer, who uses the company’s wireless service for her iPhone. She pays for nationwide unlimited calling and texting, as well as a mid-range data plan; in all, she pays $119.98 a month.

On the surface, none of the above wireless plans sounds like that bad of a deal… until you examine how each individual is using their cell phone.

Monthly Usage Habits

Person A has a limited number of minutes and text messages to use month to month. That may leave you to think that he is fairly disciplined with his cell phone use – but he isn’t. In fact, he recently complained to me that he’d gone over his monthly minutes six months in a row, with every additional minute costing him $0.45. He pays a $0.20 overage for every text over his monthly limit of 250. Even though his basic service plan costs him just $59.98, he estimates he’s spent an average of twice that over the past six months. So why doesn’t he switch? He’s stuck on the price tag for a now-retired deal; he’s loathe to change it, since he knows once he does, he’ll never be able to get it back.

Person B is actually paying for two family plans through T-Mobile. The first is for he and his wife; they have Droids, and spend a lot of time talking, texting, and surfing the web on their phones. They pay for an unlimited plan for themselves. They have a lower-cost plan for their two kids, restricted to just text and talk; they say their children don’t need the Internet access. However, their kids’ plan doesn’t have unlimited talk and text, and the two children routinely go over their 500 shared monthly text messages (they do just fine with the shared 1000 monthly voice minutes; apparently kids don’t talk on the phone anymore).

Person C has the iPhone 4S as well as the fancy monthly data plan to go with it, which as you know, is totally cool with me since she can afford it. Yet, she rarely uses it. She also has a separate smartphone through her job, with her company footing the monthly bill for it. She really only uses her personal phone on the nights and weekends, and rarely at that, since she hates the idea of being tied at the hip to her phone.

The Right Person, The Wrong Plan

Each of these cell phone plans works – just not for the person who is currently using it.

Person A and Person C should switch cell phone plans. Person A is already paying $120 a month for text and talk, and he’s pining after a new smartphone that would let him surf the Internet. Person C, since she already has a work smartphone, wouldn’t be inconvenienced by a less bulky wireless plan that better-matched her habits. She might not be able to get the retired plan Person A has, but could still nab a 900-minute plan for $59.99 a month.

What about Person B and family? Many wireless carriers have been working on new family data plans, including Verizon and AT&T, who may roll out the shared-data option as early as this summer. Person B would be an excellent candidate for this, since they could allot a certain amount of data for each phone. Even if they didn’t, combining under the parents’ family plan makes more sense than what they’re currently doing. T-Mobile and just about every other major carrier out there right now allows plan owners to restrict Internet access (as well as phone and text access) to individual numbers on family plans, meaning Person B could still surf the web even if his kids couldn’t.

Adding a 500 minute, unlimited text plan for each of their two kids under the parents’ plan would bring their monthly bill to $159.98, saving them nearly $30 a month.

This is even worse than my brother’s $900 AT&T bill. In that case, it was a one-time fee (that we got removed), in these cases, people are throwing money down the drain month after month.

Reader, are you paying for more wireless service than you need? Or are you clinging to a plan that isn’t big enough under the guise that you’re saving money?

Another One Bites The Dust – AT&T Revises Its Unlimited Data Plans

You can kiss your AT&T wireless unlimited data plan goodbye. I’ve always enjoyed my AT&T service, and at one point last summer, I was using over 4GB of data a month, mostly to stream MLB.TV to my iPhone.

AT&T came into the month of March roaring like a lion, springing new guidelines on subscribers who had previously been able to use a limitless amount of the network’s wireless spectrum with little or no consequences.

The Nuts and Bolts

AT&T’s new “limited” unlimited data plan policy goes like this:

  • If you subscribe to 3G service, you’ll receive a text message once your monthly data consumption nears 3GB; if you use AT&T’s LTE platform, you’ll get that text message as you approach 5GBs of data usage.
  • Once you go over that limit, you’ll still be able to use your phone to talk, text, upload and download videos, pictures, and songs, as well as access various applications.
  • However, your data speed will be drastically slower until the start of your next billing cycle.

AT&T estimates these new data usage guidelines will only affect the heaviest five percent of smartphone customers. It definitely could affect me (and would this summer), but I’ll be more careful with my usage not to go over the 3GB. Still, it’s a bit annoying to be promised unlimited data and then have the rug pulled out from under you.

The Reason Behind The Change

AT&T had previously phased out its unlimited data plans for new customers nearly two years ago, but allowed customers – mainly iPhone users who bought the device between 2007 and 2010 – to remain grandfathered in to the unlimited tier. A year later, Verizon also dropped its unlimited plans,

leaving Sprint as the only major U.S. wireless carrier to offer unlimited data to new smartphone customers.

Why are so many wireless companies dropping these data plans? The reason can be summed up in two words: wireless spectrum. Although wireless spectrum is an intangible resource – it’s definition is the infrastructure over which wireless communications of all kinds flow – it is, much like AT&T’s revised unlimited data plan, is quite limited. The Federal Communications Commission says America’s current spectrum surplus could evaporate into thin air as early as next year.

Unlimited talk, text, and data plans have played an enormous role in the consumption of wireless spectrum in the United States. Innovation Space, an AT&T blog, reported last month that data traffic on its network has exploded over the last five years to nearly 20,000 percent of its pre-iPhone levels. While AT&T’s newly-clarified “unlimited” plan won’t stop smartphone subscribers from draining more of the wireless spectrum, the company hopes that by slowing down data speeds for the heaviest users, it will become less desirable to do so.

Wireless Spectrum And Your Bottom Line

A 2010 study by J.D. Power and Associates found the average American spends $78 a month for their wireless service – that’s per person, not per family or household. That number could climb even higher if our country’s wireless carriers can’t figure out a way to reign in our rabid appetite for data usage.

How? The reason is twofold:

1. Simple supply and demand: the less wireless spectrum available, the more valuable it becomes.

2. Fewer wireless carriers: as large providers buy up smaller ones in search of more wireless spectrum for their networks, the number of competitors will drop. You don’t need to be a student of Adam Smith to know that a lack of competition on the open market leads to higher prices for all.

And what will you get for a higher price on even the most basic data plan? Even less than you’re getting now. Two additional side effects of a wireless spectrum crunch would be slower data speeds and a less-stable network, leading to more dropped calls and failed data transmissions.

Reader, what does your current wireless data plan look like? Do you – or have you – subscribed to unlimited data plans? What do you think about providers’ attempts to pull back on your data usage?