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Sprint 'Cut Your Bill in Half' promo won't work for everyone

The deal for AT&T and Verizon customers has complicated rules and requires a credit check

Last updated: February 06, 2015 10:45 AM

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Sprint, which got clobbered for value and data service in Consumer Reports’ most-recent cell phone service satisfaction survey, has a compelling offer for restless AT&T and Verizon customers. The deal, called “Cut Your Bill in Half Event,” promises defectors unlimited voice minutes, text messages, and a “comparable” monthly data allowance, including line access fees, at half the rate they were paying before (excluding phone-leasing or purchasing fees). What’s more, they’ll get up to $350 per phone line to cover the early-termination fees their jilted carrier will no-doubt fling at them. Sprint will also waive its normal $36-per-line activation fee. Not bad.

Not surprisingly the deal snubs T-Mobile customers, who already enjoy some of the lowest rates in the industry. But Sprint does offer defecting T-Mobile customers an ersatz consolation prize of $200 per line if they sign up before April 9.

Signing up seems simple enough. Here’s how it works:

  1. Upload your AT&T or Verizon bill for an estimate on what Sprint says it will save you. 
  2. Pick a new phone from Sprint’s phone selector.
  3. Turn in your old AT&T or Verizon phone(s) at a Sprint store within 30 days. Sprint can also send you a prepaid shipping kit in the mail if you don’t feel like schlepping to the store. Sprint promises to recycle old phones.  

Learn how to save money on your phone plan and get the best cell phone plan for your family. And find out whether small carriers outrank the big ones in our latest cell phone service survey.

Of course, as with most wireless offers, this deal comes with quite a few strings—and they're not obvious if you just look at Sprint's ads.

You need good credit. Customers with an unimpressive credit score won’t be able to participate in the Cut Your Bill in Half promo. This is an industry-wide gotcha that T-Mobile anemically addressed with its latest “uncarrier” move. (A Sprint representative declined to spell out what credit score it would take to qualify for the deal.)

You can get 'bounced' out of the deal. Not paying your bills on time can kick you into Sprint's higher regular rates. And once you’re out, you can’t come back. We originally reported that a phone upgrade for you or anyone in your family would end the deal, as well. Sprint then informed us that it was dropping that policy, although it said it would not guarantee that the plan would be available on all future devices.  

You won’t be able to sell your old phone. Forget recouping some bucks on eBay by selling your old phone. Even though your old AT&T or Verizon phone will never work on Sprint, the carrier requires you to turn in your old phone to participate in the deal (again, within 30 days). If you don’t get all of your phones in, Sprint will assess a $200 "Non-Returned Phone Charge" per line to your account. Sprint says the policy is part of its recycle program. Sure. This is just speculation, but could it also be insurance to prevent your from going back to your old carrier?

The check is not in the mail. It’s nice that Sprint will reimburse customers up to $350 per phone line to cover early-termination fees. But instead of a check—or just a reduction of your bill for a few months—Sprint will send you a prepaid American Express card. Prepaid cards are fine and they are accepted at most merchants, but they can’t be cashed and they’re easy to forget in your wallet. And you might have to wait up to 12 weeks for your card to arrive. If you don't spend it all within 6 months, you’ll be assessed a $3 monthly service fee. 

Bottom line: Carrier promotions offering to lower phone bills are always nice to see, but this half-off deal is hard to get and easy to lose, which makes it half as attractive as it could be.

—Mike Gikas

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