Photo (cc) by 22n
Up until recently, T-Mobile has done things a bit differently from its competitors in the cell phone business.
Like any provider, T-Mobile offers post-paid cell phone plans with a two-year contract – or prepaid cell phone plans with crazy-high rates without a contract. But T-Mobile also had something in between. They were called FlexPay plans – and, under certain conditions, they were better than almost anything the competition could offer.
How so? With “regular” FlexPay, you got the same monthly rates as a post-paid plan without having to sign a contract agreement – and without making a deposit. With FlexPlay “Plus,” you got all the benefits of FlexPay, a discount on handsets, and you only had to sign a one-year agreement with T-Mobile.
I first heard about T-Mobile’s plan to end the FlexPay programs back in March from The Droid Guy, but when months went by without word from T-Mobile, I chalked it up to an Internet rumor – until I received a text message from T-Mobile ordering me to switch to a regular plan. So far, I’ve called customer service four times and looked at about a dozen T-Mobile user forums – and no one seems to be able to answer the all-important question: When will FlexPay perish?
A few experts declared that FlexPay would stop completely at the end of the year. But I still have my FlexPay. Other people think we’ll have until as late as February to make a decision. But one thing is clear: The FlexPay days are over for everyone. If you currently have a FlexPay plan, you’ll have to switch to a regular post-paid plan if you want to stay with T-Mobile. If you want to switch to T-Mobile, you’ll have to go with a post-paid or prepaid plan. Here’s what to expect when you do…
The biggest benefit to FlexPay was service without a contract, but those days are over now. When you make the switch to a regular post-paid plan, you’ll have to sign a two-year contract. If you’re a regular FlexPay customer, you’ll have to sign a full two-year contract. If you’re a FlexPay Plus customer, you can roll the rest of your one-year contract into your new one.
When you make the switch, you can choose to keep your existing plan or switch to a new one – which could save you some money. T-Mobile currently has two sets of plans: classic and value. Check out both before calling in to switch – just to make sure you don’t get suckered into a higher-priced plan than you need.
In the future, you can make changes to your plan without having to pay up front. For example, on FlexPay, you have to pay the cost of adding a new service (such as texting) the day you sign up. Once you join post-pay, T-Mobile will apply the cost of your new service to your next month’s bill.
How you pay your bill will work differently. On FlexPay, you pay for each month of service in advance. On a post-pay plan, you’ll receive a bill at the end of the month with a grace period to pay. However, you can keep (or sign up for) paperless billing and autopay with your new plan.
Current FlexPay customers don’t have to pay a deposit to switch to a post-paid plan. However, The Droid Guy reported that new customers may have to pay a deposit ranging from $50 to $400 depending on their credit score.
FlexPay Plus customers were eligible for a phone upgrade every two years. Once you make the switch, you’ll still be eligible for your upgrade. T-Mobile will roll your current upgrade status into your new plan. For example, if you’ve gone seven months without an upgrade, you’ll be eligible for the full upgrade price in 17 months.
Fine without Flex?
While I wasn’t thrilled with all the changes or about signing on to a two-year contract, I still think T-Mobile has a lot to offer smartphone users…
Phone selection: OK, so they don’t have the iPhone. But T-Mobile does have a pretty impressive selection of Android devices, including the G2 and the Galaxy II – both solid smartphones. And T-Mobile also carries a large selection of lower-end smartphones (including some free ones) for people who don’t want to spend $500 on a handset.
Minute plans: T-Mobile has one of the cheapest monthly unlimited plans – $59.99 for talk and text. Compare that to Verizon Wireless – which costs $69.99 a month for unlimited minutes and $20 a month for unlimited text– and you’re saving $30 a month.
Data: T-Mobile also has one of the better data packages (not including Sprint’s unlimited data, which will probably end soon itself). You can get an unlimited everything plan that includes 2 GB of high-speed data and unlimited lower-speed data for $79.99 a month.
Coverage: Granted, coverage varies depending on where you live, but I haven’t had trouble with T-Mobile in the two-plus years I’ve been a customer. In fact, I have better service than AT&T- and Sprint-carrying friends.
But if you’re dead set on that iPhone, now’s the time to switch – because if they lock you into a two-year contract, you’ll have to wait it out or pay the hefty cancellation fee.