AT&T Chicago store (interior 001)

AT&T has increased its activation fees for customers who opt for two-year contracts. The increase is only a couple of dollars, from $36 to $40, but when you consider that you have to pay that for every device, every upgrade, it starts to add up.

The move is part of a larger effort by the carrier to push more subscribers away from the traditional contract/subsidy model, and towards Next. The upgrade program allows customers to get a new device every year for $0 down, and zero fees…

FierceWireless has a statement from AT&T on the change:

“Customers looking for a great value can get it with AT&T Next and Mobile Share Value plans,” AT&T said in a statement. “With AT&T Next, customers can get a new device every year for $0 down, plus no activation, financing or upgrade fees. Customers choosing a 2-year contract plan will experience a four-dollar activation fee increase beginning June 8. Customers on 2-year plans choosing to upgrade to a new device will experience a four-dollar upgrade fee increase beginning June 8.”

These fees have become quite popular with carriers over the years—used as a way to offset some of the costs of subsidizing $700 smartphones down to $100-$200. Verizon charges $35 for activation on two-year contracts, and Sprint charges $36.

But the fees don’t typically apply to device upgrade programs—which most carriers are now pushing. First popularized by T-Mobile last year, these programs allow you to finance the full cost of a phone with little down and a small monthly payment.

AT&T, for example, will allow approved customers to get a 16GB iPhone 5s for $0 down and 20 monthly payments of $32.50. The plan also makes you eligible for AT&T’s discounted Mobile Share data plans, as well as an annual upgrade with trade-in.

The carrier says it expects around 3.2 million AT&T Next smartphone sales in the current quarter.

  • Framboogle

    AT&T will always waive you activation fee is you ask, so this is pretty pointless.

    • Nandan Desai

      not always. like when they have phones on online special, you can’t call/chat to waive that fee. one way or the other, they figure out a way to get a little more money from you.

    • Melvco

      As someone who has worked in the wireless industry before I can see a fee like this being waived once due to an escalation (when the customer gets really mad)—maybe twice. But every time? I highly doubt it. Why have the charge in the first place if no one ever has to pay it?

      We’ve been high RPU AT&T customers for more than 20 years and they’ve never said to us “oh, you don’t have to pay that if you don’t want to.”

      • Framboogle

        That is really odd. I have had AT&T since the original iPhone launched, and every time I bought an iPhone, they waived my fees.

      • Kurt

        What did you say? How did the conversations go?

    • Shisno

      Um no where have you been this past year? AT&T does not waive anything anymore they suck, they couldn’t even help with other problems to waive or such.

  • nazcorp

    Bring back unlimited true unlimited data, and I’ll pay any fees you’d like. Otherwise, tmobile works just as well. I miss having like 30mbits down and up – compared to tmobile giving me 1.5 up and 10 down. But I’d much rather the same monthly cost with no limits then your crap plans. Also, as noted I’ve gotten them to waive that fee every time by just calling. But I was a 10+ year customer so they might have given me special treatment.

    • Shisno

      I have Att but I hate them. 🙂 I am currently in a contract of 5 lines and three have data and of those two I am grandfathered into unlimited data. What does that mean though, bs unlimited, it means 5 gigs worth then they throttle you down to 30seconds to load one web page so why do they even call it unlimited?!!

    • Rowan09

      Where do you live? I get 25 up and 20 down on average with T-mobile in NY.

      • Antzboogie

        Me too.

    • Antzboogie

      I get 20+ in NYC T-Mobile.

    • kumar714

      i get 50 down and abt 25 up in Disneyland area

      • Jeremy

        Disney in Orlando, Florida or Disney in Anaheim, California?

      • CptObvious

        Disneyland is CA, Disney World is FL

      • kumar714

        Anaheim one

  • Darren

    No thanks. I’ll stick to paying $30 a month for unlimited (throttled at 2.5 GB- which is way more than enough) data, unlimited text, and 300 minutes on Virgin Mobile.

    • Kurt

      what’s your total bill you pay each month?

      • Darren

        $32.80 with taxes and fees

      • Kurt

        That includes voice and SMS? Wow that’s a great deal. Not sure who I will go with when I move back to the states but I’m so glad the prices have come down

    • OhSixTJ

      I blow through 2.5 gb in 10 days. No wifi where I work.

      • Darren

        That sucks. I can’t imagine what your phone bill looks like.

      • OhSixTJ

        $150/month capped at 6gb through Verizon. Also shared with 2 iPads that hardly use data.

      • Darren

        That’s insane.

  • oralarts

    I love it when people such as Cody suggest that AT&T can no longer “afford” subsidies. This is just one more way in which they quickly recoup said subsidy.

    Please pay us $40 to continue being our customer.

    We wouldn’t be seeing the more consumer friendly pricing (this being a notable exception) if not for John Legere and T-Mobile.

  • Tony Trenkle Jr.

    Greedy assholes! I agree with the others, bring back unlimited(which I’m grandfathered in) and then we can talk! Until then I’m sticking with what I got. Don’t like the throttling though 🙁 but I guess it’s what we gotta deal with

    • Jared

      I wonder how long until they tell us who are grandfathered that we will HAVE to switch to a metered data plan.

      • Tony Trenkle Jr.

        I know right?!

    • Dani Hayes

      I use on average 9gb a moth when I get throttled. Throttling users is stupid.

      • Tony Trenkle Jr.

        I don’t use that much lol but right now I’ve got almost 6 used and I’m feeling it 🙁

  • White Michael Jackson

    i remember when it was just 18 dollars

  • Merman123

    I guess I’ve gotten lucky ? I’ve never paid any fees. You gotta know how to talk to reps. I even remember them waiving them without me asking first. Small talk will get you far in life!

  • Juan Genao

    If your paying for the phone full price, do you still have to pay the activation fee?

    • chris125

      No, only if you get upgrade/reduced price.

  • Tony

    Keeping making people upset att you’ll see more people leave. Their next program is a freaking joke! I’ll pay the fee just to be able to upgrade my device and keep it for resale. Cant stand how I’m grandfathered in but they keep changing the rules for no reason at all. It costs to much to run bandwidth? Seriously? Not buying that one bit!

  • Nicholas Oldroyd

    Only suckers pay activation fees. If you know how to talk to and how to ask properly you can always get them waived. I’ve done it several times and always do it when I upgrade any line on my family plan.

  • U Kn0w What 1t 1s

    I have never paid an upgrade fee. The reasoning AT&T gives for charging you an upgrade fee is, “they are providing you with the newest device for the best price”. I argue everytime that they are not providing me with the best price for my device. By subsidizing my phone I still pay full price and if I went to say Fry’s electronics or Walmart I could get the same subsidized phone for a cheaper price. They can never argue with that and always credit my account. If you order it online you can get it waived by arguing that nobody activate the phone.