T-Mobile USA has announced that it will be making changes to its pay as you plan effective August 17. The changes are:
- A flat rate of 10¢ per voice minute or text.
- A $3/month minimum charge.
- New data passes: $5 for 500MB good for one day, $10 for 1GB good for 7 days. LTE data will be available using these passes.
The bad news is that the new $3 monthly minimum will be deducted from the account every month regardless of use. So someone who uses exactly 30 minutes or texts and someone who uses no minutes or texts at all will both have $3 deducted from their balance.
This is a bad deal for very light users. Currently T-Mobile pay as you go users are only required to top up every 90 days. Once a user has added $100 in airtime they achieve "Gold Rewards" status and only have to top up once a year. The minimum refill is $10 so the minimum monthly cost is $3.33/month or 83¢/month for Gold Rewards customers. With current plans there are no charges for non-use and funds in the account rollover and never expire as long as a refill is made every 90 or 365 days. This has made the pay as you plans popular with those who only need T-Mobile service intermittently, including regular international visitors who are in US off and on. One can build up a balance during periods of little or no usage to be consumed when needed.
Data is currently not available on T-Mobile pay as you go so the new data packages seem like a positive step. However there's a catch. Right now users can freely switch between pay as you go and T-Mobile's $2/day and $3/day unlimited talk, text and data plans. Data on the $2 day plan is throttled to 2G speeds but the $3 day plan includes 200MB of high speed data. So a person who only needs data while traveling or special events can build up a balance by adding $10 every three months and switch one of the day plans when they need data.
Hopefully for light users the old pay as you go plan will coexist alongside the new one. But T-Mobile's announcement makes it sound like the new pay as you go plan will replace the current one. T-Mobile has traditionally grandfathered discontinued plans so if you are on the old pay as you go plan before Aug 17, you can probably keep the plan indefinitely. But if you switch from a grandfathered plan there's usually no switching back. Jumping back and forth between a data-less grandfathered pay as you go and a day plan for data will probably not be possible.
Update 8/12: A T-Mobile spokesperson has provided me with additional details regarding the pay as you changes:
- Effective August 17, 2014, the new 10¢/minute or message flat rate Pay As You Go plan with $3 minimum monthly charge will replace the the current Pay As You Go plan with a 33¢ to 10¢ per minute rate but no monthly minimum.
- Current Pay As You Go customers will be grandfathered on the existing Pay As You Go plan. Their service offering will remain the same as it is today including any Gold Rewards benefits. If they want to migrate to the new plan they can contact customer care.
- If grandfathered Pay As You Go customers switch to a different plan, including the $2 or $3 day plans, they will lose their grandfathered status and will not be able to switch back to the old Pay As You Go plan.
Related: Prepaid Operator Profile: T-Mobile