Are These “Deals” Really Deals?

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Taking a look at the latest bunch of deals from the big 4 cellular companies leaves most consumers dazed and confused. Everyone has some kind of deal, whether it’s one rate without any taxes or fees or 50% off the other guy’s bill. The bottom line is, desperate times call for desperate measures, and when you only have a pool of 300 million lines, you’ll say almost anything to get more than your share of them. To help you out along the way, here are the four majors and the promotions they are running, along with the actual cost per month – with a device, or 4 for the family plans.

T-Mobile offers up their latest uncarrier deal with the elimination of taxes and fees. Well, not exactly eliminating them, but actually treating your line like a prepaid line and building in the taxes and fees you would normally pay into the standard rate that they charge. Now, typically, fees can range anywhere from 5% to 20% of your bill. Depending on your location, this can be a huge savings, or no big deal. For example, the old $60 unlimited plan actually cost $72.60 in the Seattle area due to taxes and fees. Now, it’s just a flat $70 for the single line. See those savings adding up yet? Yes, T-Mobile raised their prices and now include tax. Your single line cost with an Apple iPhone 7 will be $96 a month instead of $98.60. A family of four will run $264 a month with four of those new iPhone 7’s.

Sprint continues to confuse the universe with their 50% off you current bill promotion and their unlimited for all deals that just seem to strange to figure out. The problem with the 50% deal is that you really don’t save a ton on the service, usually about $30 a month, but the phones will cost more. For example, the 4 line Verizon plan that costs $170 a month will only cost $65 a month with autopay. This is a pretty spectacular deal while they honor that pricing, but a phone payment is required to take advantage of that deal, so add that $110 a month to that plan for the new iPhone’s you wanted and you are right at the $170 price point, but getting 4 new phones. Their single line unlimited plan will set users back $60 a month and that same iPhone 7 will cost $27.09 on monthly payments from Sprint. This means your monthly cost actually settles at $99.69 in the Seattle area. A family of four will be looking at just over $300 with taxes and fees, or about $35 a month more than T-Mobile’s family offering with the taxes and fees included.

Verizon continues to step up the pressure by increasing offerings, but pricing seems stuck in crazy town compared to the first two value carriers. The lowest cost plan is $55 for 2GB with phone access. You then work in $27.08 per line for that same iPhone 7 and you will have a single line monthly bill of $93.63. For families, $160 will score you four lines with 20GB of shared LTE data. The data rolls over monthly and is only slowed to 2G speeds if you go over that limit. Add in the $108.36 for those new iPhone 7’s again and your monthly bill for four lines will be a scalding $301.96 after taxes. Fortunately, that’s not much more than Sprint’s deal, but with only 20GB of data (keep in mind that Sprint limits each line to 26GB of data before slowing) it’s about 1/4 the available data that Sprint and T-Mobile offer for less.

Finally, AT&T has the same old, same old running again this month. The 1GB, $50 plan is their low end offering, but you still need to add a smartphone payment to this to make it functional, which will set you back another $21.67 a month for that iPhone 7. That brings the total to $82.17 a month, but remember, that is with just 1GB of data. Bumping that offering to 6GB of data will cost you $118.47 a month for a single line. Of course, a family gets a bit better rate in that they can grab 25GB of data to share for $229.90 a month. Add 4 of those iPhone 7s again, your total comes out to $316.58.

Overall, if you are not getting “generic” phones, or another way to put it, “freebies”, you are going to be staring at a $300 phone bill no matter what the carrier says. The difference will be what amount of data do you actually get. Starting with T-Mobile, you have unlimited LTE data that is slowed at 28GB. Sprint matches that as well, but with a 23GB limit. AT&T offers a similar deal with their 25GB plan which does not end your data stream when you reach that limit, but instead, slows your connection down to 2G speeds. Verizon, despite what you read on sites like T-Mobile and Sprint, does the same action of slowing to 2G data once your cap is reached with their new Safety Mode. You also can carryover your unused LTE data from month to month to keep that built up for when you need it. Here’s the catch, every single carrier has a better deal when you purchase a lower end device and use their prepaid service instead. Even better, check out options like Cricket Wireless (AT&T), Total Wireless (Verizon), MetroPCS (T-Mobile) and Virgin Mobile (Sprint) for even lower rates and a better device selection for less money.

 

This post does not contain any links to any specific carriers. By clicking a link to the right of this article, this blog may receive a commission on that sale.

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