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Cricket Cuts Late Fee Grace Period to Just One Day

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AT&T's Cricket Wireless is fairly unique in that it's one of the few prepaid operators that pays all taxes for users. Customers on Cricket's $40 plan pay exactly $40 per month even if they are in a state or city like San Francisco or Chicago that imposes 20%+ taxes on prepaid airtime.

Although Cricket is tax-free it's not fee-free. Cricket charges fees for things that most other prepaid providers don't including a $15 fee to change your phone number, a $5 fee for making a payment by calling Cricket, as well as late payment fees. That's right, unlike virtually every other prepaid operator in the world, Cricket charges you a fee to reactivate your service after you miss a payment. Currently there's a $5 charge if you are three to 29 days late renewing your service  and a $15 fee if you are 30 to 59 days late. As with most operators if you let service lapse too long (60 days with Cricket) your account will be cancelled and your number lost.

Effective June 16, 2016, Cricket's $5 late fee will apply to payments received more than 24 hours late. In other words, Cricket is shortening the payment grace period from two days to one.

Late fees are basically a tax on being poor or absent minded. I believe the most common reason why customers miss a payment is that they simply don't have the money. Losing phone service because you can't afford to pay is bad enough, but adding a $5 or $15 fee for late payments seems greedy and unnecessary. Sure, there are costs involved with handling account suspension and restoration, I doubt they are anywhere near five, let alone 15 dollars. Cutting off service when an account doesn't have the funds needed to renew and restoring it when a payment is made is surely handled by software, rather than a human. There are costs associated with writing the software code but at $5 per occurrence that that should be covered after 10 thousand or so late charges. After that late fees are pure profit. AT&T, you promote your Cricket on its value and all-in tax-free pricing, but why the sleazy late charges?

For customers who can't afford to make a full payment before their due date, Cricket does offer an option they call BridgePay that lets them keep their service active with a partial payment.  It lets you get seven days of service by making a partial payment, plus a $5 BridgePay fee. The partial payment is $10 on the $25 and $40 plans, $15 on the $50 plan, $20 on the $60 plan and $35 on the $70 plan. You must make the rest of your monthly payment within seven days after the first one. BridgePay seems overly complicated and there's still that $5 fee, but it does give cash strapped customers a little more time to come up with their full monthly payment.

Source Cricket Wireless via Howard Forums, Image: Facebook

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29 comments:

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  1. On carrier prepaid plans, Ive never heard of late fee. I guess its a Cricket thing!

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  2. MetroPCS pays your taxes too

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  3. Can someone explain to me why exactly do I need to use Cricket, over H2O for example??

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  4. I like the ones where Dennis actually writes them and it is not pure press release from a company. Cricket has great value... but but... this draconian grace period bugs me. It would be too easy to be caught in this by system glitches or simple mistakes, as opposed to what it was before (where you had to be a deadbeat in order to miss payment)

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  5. "Can someone explain to me why exactly do I need to use Cricket, over H2O for example??"

    For larger volumes of data, h2o is MUCH more expensive. Hugely, in fact.

    Cricket doesn't give an option for low use, paygo. There, h2o is the better bet.

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  6. This is actually penalizing auto-pay customers because when your payment method expires you're guaranteed to pay that penalty because they don't send you any warning. I suspect Cricket realized that 2 days was too long because most people made their payment within 48 hrs, but 1 day means you're guaranteed to pay the penalty. The penalty is unnecessary on prepaid, sadly Boost has a better policy in this regard (now if they would just have a better BYOD policy).

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    1. Why would someone's payment method expire? If they got a new debit/credit card, they should update it on Cricket's website before their next billing cycle.

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  7. Dennis -- Cricket is the best example going of the Prepaid, cost saving model. For those who can get 5 people to form a Group Save and pay their bill on time, not change their phone numbers all the time (???), etc., Cricket is a great network operator for a great price. Obviously, their business model is based on people paying up front so they are never left holding the bag -- a frequent occurence with postpaid accounts.

    Having said that, it does seem that some basic level of "lifeline" type of cellphone service (limited voice and text, only?) should be provided to everyone -- to the unfortunate, or even to those who haven't planned adequately. It's almost impossible to even FIND work and get on your feet without a phone -- that only locks people in poverty, which benefits neither individuals nor society.

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    1. Well... I don't know which State you live in, but in California, if you make less than $14K a year, you can get $880 a month Section 8 housing assistance, $212 food stamps, free cell phone with unlimited talk text and 1GB of high speed data, free health insurance, and depends how many kids you have a minimum of $650 a month welfare, all tax free.

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    2. Yes... and look at whose economy is booming.

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  8. I agree with you Dennis 100% Annoyance hammering of customers is pure greed. Yes impose a fee but dont be plain ugly while doing it with 1 day late charges 2 days was fine, why be extra mean when doing it ATT???

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  9. I love this graphic to accompany this story.

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  10. I don't hold it against Cricket.

    Unlike credit card late fees, where you may simply forget which reward card you used for what during this or that month, there's really no excuse for forgetting to pay your one and only cell phone bill for the service you probably use every day, especially if you're too poor to afford home phone service with all those taxes and fees tacked on.

    They even offer to take that $5 off your bill if you set up autopay.

    Then they throw in generous phone and plan discounts that bump the minimum price of a group plan, which any schmucks can sign on to, down to $20/mo.

    That's not even counting their ongoing phone discounts, referral bonuses and port credits that lower the cost even more.

    The only way you could get cheaper service was on glory-day RingPlus, using almost no service on a cheaper/paygo plan, or by qualifying for an Obamaphone.

    Anyway, while lotteries and a number of other fees are more of an actual tax on poor people, including actual taxes which the wealthy are known to get a good rate on, Cricket has bent over backwards to compete at the lowest rungs of society by offering solid coverage, subsidized devices, cheap plans and reliable data speeds.

    The fact is that if you can't afford to save even $20/mo for phone service, it's because your poverty is the result of your own reckless fiscal irresponsibility (which warrants a budgeting seminar), or simply because society itself has failed you so horribly that a cell phone bill is the least of your problems (which probably isn't the case if you could afford a cell phone and service to begin with).

    The real tax on poor Americans is actually that there's a greater supply of desperate, cash-strapped, low-skilled labor than there is a valuable demand for it.

    Poor people are poor because they're easily replaced, and they have no adequate sway or leverage over employers.

    And the problem only gets worse when cheap labor sneaks across the border, becomes available through automation, or is outright imported/exported by corporations.

    Getting rid of a self-inflicted $5 late fee won't solve any of those problems.

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    1. The irony is that you'll still wind up dealing with an employee when the automated systems fail.

      Still, automation has its uses as long as there's a human fallback for when thing go wrong.

      Case in point, Cricket auto-pay.

      The late fee wouldn't be an issue if everyone just automated their cell phone payments.

      After all, there's nothing wrong with reducing the amount of work you do when you're not getting compensated for it anyway.

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    2. "Anyway, while lotteries and a number of other fees are more of an actual tax on poor people, including actual taxes which the wealthy are known to get a good rate on, Cricket has bent over backwards to compete at the lowest rungs of society by offering solid coverage, subsidized devices, cheap plans and reliable data speeds."

      I don't agree with this. Cricket's offerings are rather poor on the low-cost end of things, and there are many other carriers who trounce them in this area.

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    3. "Anyway, while lotteries and a number of other fees are more of an actual tax on poor people"

      I disagree, because words have meanings.

      A tax is "a compulsory contribution to state revenue, levied by the government on workers' income and business profits or added to the cost of some goods, services, and transactions."

      I know of no lotto, lottery, or any such game where participation and/or purchase is compulsory (or even anything close to compulsory). This is an important part of the definition. If you know of any such lottery programs, please let us know...

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  11. Go with Cricket only if you love the idea of living in a jungle of "gotcha" fees. Use the URL below to see the virtual mine field of Cricket fees. Cricket is the junk fee capitol of the prepaid cellular world.

    https://www.cricketwireless.com/support/account-management/charges-and-fees/customer/charges-and-fees.html

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    1. Yet, by putting our Group Save plan on auto-pay (even with no $5/account discount), I have never paid any "gotcha" fees... not one. We just get reliable, economical, and flexible service.

      Pay your bill and be responsible, and you won't get dinged.

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    2. "Go with Cricket only if you love the idea of living in a jungle of "gotcha" fees. Use the URL below to see the virtual mine field of Cricket fees. Cricket is the junk fee capitol of the prepaid cellular world."

      I've lived with it for a couple of years, and have never paid a one of those gotcha fees. It's not a mine field at all. If you want an analogy, it's more like these fees are in a locked room in an out of the way corner of the house with a "KEEP OUT" sign on it.

      "Pay your bill and be responsible, and you won't get dinged."

      Yes, John... generally. it is deadbeats beware. Still, this grace period is very short even if you ARE responsible and have a credit card change. etc.

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  12. Set it up on autopay and move along.

    Not possible? Go back to Ringplus or beg for your Obamaphone...

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    1. How many times has the damn Autopay system, weirdly taken me off and seriously every month I have to switch back to auto pay to get that credit. They don't want you to get that credit!!

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  13. Dennis, I applaud you for exposing the issue of Cricket's junk fees by publishing your excellent article. You hit the nail right on the head when you said "Cricket charges fees for things that most other prepaid providers don't". Indeed, even Cricket's own sister company, GoPhone does not have Cricket's extensive array of junk fees.

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    1. Most of them are not junk fees, actually.

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  14. How can you forget your phone bill is due? Put it in as an appointment in your calendar. The same people that are short when the plan is due probably bought a case of beer the night before.

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    1. That brings to mind the massive problems of people using their welfare checks on illegal drugs....

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    2. The people who bought a pack of beer the night before are the ones who already auto-paid their bill.

      What else is there to do other than kick back, relax and enjoy the taste of America?

      If anyone's ever short, I'd say it's the people trying to live well above their means.

      After all, you can't rely on auto-pay if you don't know whether your bank account will be empty or your credit cards maxed out.

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  15. Cricket's fees and data throttling are the reason why I went to GoPhone. With Callingmart's autopay, GoPhone ends up being only $5/month more than Cricket and I can walk into any At&t store for support. Cricket is definitely a good deal, but sometimes a few dollars a month more can be worth it.

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    1. The Cricket fees really are no worry: I'd have to actually go out of my way to incur any of them. But you are right, Gophone has the better experience on the AT&T network.

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  16. "Losing phone service because you can't afford to pay is bad enough, but adding a $5 or $15 fee for late payments seems greedy and unnecessary."

    I Agree

    *edit some typos in post?

    ...For cusTOmers who can't afford to make a full payment before their due datE, Cricket does offer an option they call BridgePay that lets keep service active with a partial payment.

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