It’s become a lot easier to change up your smartphone carrier lately, as all four major US companies now offer no-contract plans. Some will even buy you out of your old contract.
That means you can generally change your carrier without paying a fee.
However, be warned: There’s a major hidden cost to casually switching between carriers.
I learned that the hard way this past Sunday — here’s what happened:
Until about a month ago I had T-Mobile service with unlimited data. It cost me $80 a month plus about $12 in tax.
At the beginning of last month, I decided to switch to Verizon’s 6 GB plan as an experiment. T-Mobile had worked great when I lived in the big, wide-open Midwestern city of Chicago, but in a dense urban jungle like New York, where I now live and work, its service is much more spotty.
(That could be because of a quirk of T-Mobile’s slice of the cellular spectrum that makes itpenetrate building materials poorly.)
I figured I could see if I could keep my usage under Verizon’s 6 GB cap, which cost the same amount as I was paying for T-Mobile’s unlimited. It would be a sacrifice of quantity for quality.
But it turns out I’m a voracious mobile user. I hit 90% of my Verizon allowance about midway through the month, and ended up paying extra to double my data to 12 GB. And I still struggled to stay under without incurring additional fees. So I decided to call it a failed experiment and switch back to T-Mobile.
After sheepishly crossing a Verizon picket line (assuring the picketers “No, no, I’m canceling my service!” and turning their boos into shouts of encouragement) to stop payments, I headed over to the T-Mobile store (no picketers, more fuchsia) and asked to return to my original plan.
Turns out, that’s impossible. The manager even called their central office to fight on my behalf, but with no luck.
Like many carriers, T-Mobile has raised its rates since I signed up back in September. That $80/month plan I’d signed up for and stayed blithely grandfathered into now runs $95/month before tax. I also paid $20 number transfer fees on both ends of the switch.
In other words, by the end of this year my brief tryst with Verizon will have led to me forking over an additional $140 to T-Mobile and $40 to Verizon above what I would have paid if I hadn’t strayed.
So, please, feel free to switch carriers. Competition is healthy, and it’s good to keep these mega-corps on their toes. But first make sure you really, really mean it.