AT&T And Others Make You Pay For The Privilege Of Paying Your Bill

Want to pay your wireless bill in an AT&T store? That’ll be $2 extra for the “privilege” of handing it to a clerk. Want to pay your credit card bill over the phone? That will be $15.

The disparate impact of policies designed to discourage consumers from paying in cash–like the AT&T’s in-store charge–falls squarely on the poor, many of whom do not have bank accounts. (Bank accounts are not particularly useful if you never have any money to keep in them.) AT&T says the poor should just suck it up and get pay-as-you-go phones.

But these policies are also an indication of how many companies really make their money these days: not from providing the service they purport to provide, but by nickel-and-diming customers with fees at every turn. Heck, some credit card companies have chucked all but the pretense of lending money and turned entirely to generating fees.

Maybe AT&T was just frustrated with its customers who paid their bills on time, and decided this was a good way to squeeze a bit more money out of them, too.

Comments

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  1. fostina1 says:

    raping the poor has always been the “American Way”

  2. jonathan. says:

    AT&T charging $2 isn’t as bad as Sprint charging $5 or more to pay your bill in cash.

    Which is really crazy when your bill is only $35 every month.

  3. xmarkd400x says:

    This article is written under the pretense that a cell phone is something that people “need.”

    If you don’t want to pay for a cell phone, don’t own one.

  4. pmathews says:

    Wasn’t it also sprint that used to charge to talk to customer service?

    I use AT&T, I like the fact that their customer service is in Canada so they are open during US holidays.

    • RandaPanda says:

      @pmathews:
      Actually, most of their call centers are in the United States. I myself worked at one that was based in Joplin, Missouri. There were also others in Paramus, NJ, Houston, TX, Bothell, WA, and various other places across the country.

      A little off topic, but not entirely when it comes to calls going to Canada…try calling the Geek Squad. You have a 50% chance of being routed to a Canadian call center, considering they only have 4 call centers that take calls, 2 in the US, 2 in Canada.

  5. Skellbasher says:

    Years ago, an ex-girlfriend of mine had Cricket cell phone service. They did the exact same crap with fees for the privilege of paying your bill.

    They were especially bad in my opinion. The only fee-free payment method was Visa/MC/AMEX through their web site. However, there was a 3 day lag time in making the payment and it making it’s way to your account. Clearly designed to generate more late payment fees and charges.

    Trying to pay on the phone cost something like $10, and if my memory serves it cost $1 to check your minute balance too.

    It’s offensive that they’re allowed to get away with this kind of nonsense.

  6. Skellbasher says:

    @xmarkd400x: Are you aware of the significant trend of consumers only having a cell phone, and no land lines?

  7. xirian says:

    as far as I know, they let you pay over the phone free, they only charge you if you insist on using a live person to pay instead of typing your credit card number into the automated system.

    Also, atleast with sprint, you can pay for free in store if you use the payment machine, which I believe takes cash.

  8. Milstar says:

    I don’t know about the at store fee’s for pymt, but there is little reason to pay over the phone or even in store. Anyone with online access can easily pay online & that’s 70% of the US population right there. The rest can pay with their pymt slip by mail. So really those nickle & dime fees are just at the procrastinators who are to lazy to make a payment in a timely manner & need the extra help & that extra help should be billed.

  9. shan6 says:

    I have to pay $5 if I want to pay my energy bill over the phone. And $5 if I want to pay through their website. I am not sure about paying cash in person though. This practice is getting scary.

  10. Diet-Orange-Soda says:

    @Skellbasher: Or the fact that you almost *do* need a cell phone now. What are you going to do when your car breaks down? Find one of the three pay phones left in the city?

  11. chrisjames says:

    @Skellbasher: A trend does not imply need. What we need here are some “You don’t need it” stickers.

  12. unravel says:

    @xmarkd400x: Your comment is written with the pretense that you’re in a position to tell people what they need. You’re not.

    I got my first cell in ’04, after moving into this apartment, and going through complete hell with Verizon. I was eight months into a high risk pregnancy, and I needed a phone. Those incompetent scumfucks lied, and over the course of two weeks, I begged and pleaded, skipped doctors appointments to be there when they said they’d show (and didn’t), cried, begged, pleaded, and finally sucked it up and had my husband add me to his cell plan. I will have a cell as long as Verizon is my only option for landline, because I would rather die in a fire than attempt to deal with them again.

  13. EGBTMagus says:

    Wow nice Biased way of writing there… You do know that EVERY at&t store has a paystation that accepts all forms of payment. This is the reason we (yes I work for at&t) recommend you use it rather then the RSCs in the store. It frees them to help other customers.

    If for some reason you cannot make a payment at the paystation due to problems with the account or it is out of service then the payment fee will be waived at the register. Every RSC has the ability to waive the payment fee at his station.

    So WE DON’T FORCE YOU TO PAY A FEE, There are alternate ways to paying you bill.

    I love this site but when you write BS one sided articles with ignoring alot of information it makes me not want to visit.

  14. Murph1908 says:

    Ok, I’ll open myself up.

    To staff a payment center to accept cash payments costs money.

    To staff a call center to accept payments costs money.

    An automated system to collect your payments costs money too, but not as much as staffing a human.

    If the people who use these services don’t pay for them directly, we all would pay for them indirectly through higher rates. What’s wrong with making those who want to use a service pay for it?

    I have always been on the fence about fees for extra bags on airplanes, but this is pushing me to the ‘in favor’ side.

    I am flying tonight, with only a carry-on. I won’t be paying an extra bag fee. But if other people on my flight had extra bags, and didn’t pay the extra bag fee, I’d be paying for their extra baggage weight in my fare.

    I hate the ‘nickel and dime’ aspect of it, but in some cases, it makes sense to charge the people who need the extra service/luggage/support instead of making the rest of us pay for it for them.

    And don’t bother with the ‘affects the poor’ argument. Cell phones and airfare are luxuries.

  15. Nytmare says:

    How does one pay one’s credit card bill over the phone?

  16. tcp100 says:

    @xmarkd400x: What is this, 1989?

    Cell phones are not “luxuries” anymore. They are not “status symbols”. The are necessities for many people.

    Would you tell a single parent with children that a landline phone is a “luxury?” I certainly hope not. For many people – especially those where everyone in the household HAS to work or is constantly out trying to make ends meet, their cell phone is the ONLY phone.

    This isn’t 1958 where wifey is at home with the kids, sitting by the phone waiting for Daddy to call at 4:45 to let her know to have dinner ready by 5:15 sharp.

    People have hour and a half commutes, and have to pick up kids at day care, run errands, and maybe even leave in the evening to a second job – or go take care of an elderly parent or take a sick kid to the doctor.

    I know a lot of people on Consumerist pat themselves on the back for eschewing materialism and living a spartan lifestyle as a way to ‘stick it to the man’, but a cellphone, in 2008, is NOT a luxury, and paying a 15-20% “fee” for the privilege of paying in cash is ludicrous.

  17. chrisjames says:

    Hmmm, the bill is for the previous month’s charges, isn’t it? Where does that fall under not accepting legal tender for goods or services rendered?

  18. bohemian says:

    Verizon wireless uses those pay station kiosks and I find them to be more useful than trying to pay a real person. I had to use them a few times when we were in transition between houses so everything was chaotic. It posted to my account within minutes and they didn’t charge me a fee.

    I think all of this could be solved by having Congress put some sort of law into play that bans companies from charging you a fee to make a payment.

  19. BigElectricCat says:

    Just another reason why my wife threw AT&T’s cell service under the bus just this month.

  20. tcp100 says:

    @chrisjames: You’re under the common urban-legend misinterpretation that everyone has to accept any form of “legal tender” payment without condition, that is not the case.

    If accepted, any form of “legal tender” is proof of satisfaction of that debt – but there is no federal law whatsoever forcing anyone to actually do the accepting of that currency.

    It is perfectly legal for me to draw up a contract saying “you will pay me $100 a month, in $20 bills only.” This is why it’s perfectly legal also for any establishment (such as a mechanic, doctor) to put up signs saying they don’t take bills larger than $100, for example.

    If, however, I did not preclude that in a contract, and you DID pay me in pennies, and I accepted, I can’t come back and say you did not satisfy the debt because you paid me in pennies and they turned out to be a pain to deposit. I accepted the payment, you paid in legal tender, end of story.

    I do believe sprint and at&t’s contracts spell out the fees (albeit in fine print), making them legal.

  21. bohemian says:

    @tcp100: I find it tiring also. Cell phones are a pretty basic communication tool these days. Since pay phones are almost non existant, people are rarely home and the cost of a cell phone is many time cheaper than a landline that idea that cell phones are a luxury is outdated and false. The same goes for a flat panel TV. I hear that brought up any time any issue involving money issues by certain people. OMG people have flat panel TVs they are mismanaging their money. Ugh. I don’t think you can even buy anything else at some retailers any longer. If you can a tube TV is usually about the same price as a flat panel. Flat panels are priced about where tube TVs used to be. So they are really no longer a luxury any more than just having a TV is a luxury.

    But there are some people who see anything beyond living in an empty concrete one room apartment eating white rice to be spoiled irresponsible living. Well at least when it comes to others.

  22. jamar0303 says:

    @Murph1908: Airfare is a luxury? Love to hear your justification for that. When you need to cross one of the major oceans every so often to visit family it doesn’t seem like such a luxury anymore (cruise ships aren’t really in the same ballpark if you’re just trying to get from point A to point B trans-Pacific or trans-Atlantic, especially if you’re poor). Same if you’re trying to get to South America.

  23. Nytmare says:

    “Although that particular aspect is a very basic function of the service, I don’t happen to use it, so I say screw the people that do. Nevermind the increased navigation required every time another company throws up a new fee maze wall.”

  24. gnubian says:

    When I was still using Qwest + At&T for my phone service, there was a recurring monthly fee of $3 .. to receive my billing statement showing how much I owed.

    My last qwest bill that pushed me into voip was a $45 phone bill .. $18 of that was AT&T charges .. the one rate plan .. a single 4 minute phonecall .. nice .05/minute charges on that one ..

    We were using autopay for the qwest bill. When we switched, the final qwest bill auto deducted from our account and we had a zero balance .. a little over a month after the switch to vonage, we got a standalone bill from AT&T for long distance service … there was one legit charge for a long distance call I had made, but some additional charges that were processed AFTER my landline service had been terminated .. $5 or $6 .. I spent about 3 hours on the phone (just teh principle of it all) and finally got a CSR who was willing to take the charges (other than the LD call) .. That got us down to ~$2.50 for the call .. we forgot to pay .. a few days ago, we received another AT&T bill in teh mail .. the balance was reduced to $0 .. LOL

  25. tcp100 says:

    @bohemian: “But there are some people who see anything beyond living in an empty concrete one room apartment eating white rice to be spoiled irresponsible living. Well at least when it comes to others. “

    Amen, so well said.

    There seems to be this odd idea as of late that unless you’re living in squalor, you have no right to say anything about money.. Unless you’re filthy rich, in which case you shouldn’t mind being endlessly ripped off, either.

    You know what? Even if someone is poor, yet works hard day in and day out, I really don’t have a problem with them indulging in some “luxuries” – and if they do so, it doesn’t mean they revoke all rights to complain about being ripped off.

    I find it amazing how quickly people can judge someone’s financial status and needs and then declare what they deserve to have. Please.

  26. TheUncleBob says:

    It saddens me that America has gotten so materialistic that cell phones are no longer considered a luxury.

    Hell, IMHO, a land-line phone is a luxury.

    Food, Water and Shelter are necessities. Anything else is there to make your life easier. I’m not against people having a phone (or television, or a car, or whatever), but just recognize that they are not necessary for you to survive – they’re just there to make things easier.

  27. mac-phisto says:

    @xmarkd400x: i don’t see the pretense of need at all in this article.

    regardless, that is irrelevant to the discussion. whether it is a need or a want, the article still points to a business practice that is unfriendly to the consumer.

    isn’t that the whole point of this website? *checks url* yes…it’s still called the consumerist.

    now sit down & stfu.

  28. chrisjames says:

    @tcp100: Ah, yes, the US Treasury actually covers this. Sounds good enough then.

  29. tcp100 says:

    @TheUncleBob: Uh, ok. So, what do you do when your house catches on fire?

    Run around outside and yell? Wait for someone to drive by in hopes that they have a phone?

    What about when someone in your house has an accident, or you need to call poison control because your kids swallowed something funny?

    A landline phone isn’t a necessity?

    Maybe it isn’t air, water, and food – but it certainly isn’t a luxury.

    Do you live in a hut?

  30. Murph1908 says:

    @jamar0303:
    Sure.

    You don’t NEED to cross the ocean.

    And as far as cell phones, just because something become ubiquitous and is owned by a majority, doesn’t take it off the ‘luxury’ list. Cable TV, iPods, etc. are luxuries.

    You don’t need a cell phone to maintain a ‘reasonable standard of living’.

  31. Dobernala says:

    @tcp100:

    Using the automated payment stations in many cell phone stores is free (and accepts cash).

    Putting money into your checking account is free. Most of the cell phone companies offer auto-draft or one-time bank/card payments. Writing a check and putting a stamp into an envelope only costs you the time, the envelope, and the stamp it takes.

    In short, this article is downright stupid because there are a multitude of ways to pay without getting charged a fee.

  32. lowercase says:

    Chase Mortgage is far worse. You can make fee-free payments on their website, but they have a 2 business day lag time, ending at 3 PM on a given day. So if, for example, your payment is due on the 15th and it’s a Sunday, you have to have your payment sent through the website by 3 PM on the 12th, Wednesday. If you forget, or you get paid on that Friday and would rather wait, you’re paying at least $12 to pay by touch-tone phone, $20 if you need to speak to a human.

    (I know, the same group who doesn’t need cell phones pays their mortgages 2 weeks ahead of time. That’s wonderful for you.)

    Chase doesn’t have a brick & mortar presence in my area. To top it off, I never asked for Chase- they bought my mortgage from a company with 1/3 the fees. But that’s ok Chase, keep your $12, I’ll just never sign up for any of your other products.

  33. calvinneal says:

    What a lie. The entire premise is a lie/ These companies including ATT have enough stupid and customer punitive policies in place. Is it really necessary to mischaracterize some of them and present them out of context. Place your complaints with your local congressmen. Congress can put an instant end to this bullcrap. Thats right, congress works for ATT.

  34. Saboth says:

    There should definately be laws in place to prevent this. You can’t render a service or product then charge extra for paying the bill…especially not with cash. I can understand charging extra for ‘express payments’, but if you are early, just trying to pay your bill…

    Companies are looking to nickel and dime everyone to cover increasing costs, but they had better look other places than bill payment. The government won’t allow that for long.

  35. TheUncleBob says:

    @chrisjames: Payments are made a month in advance.

    @bohemian: Cheapest “box” TV at Wal*Mart is about $100. Cheapest Flat Panel is about $250. And since when do people *need* a TV?

    @jamar0303: Create me a story where someone *has* to travel overseas for a live saving medical procedure, then I’ll concede that airfare is not a luxury. Seriously, I’m fairly well off and have never *had* to go overseas.

    @bohemian: Simply because someone recognizes the difference between a necessity and a luxury doesn’t mean they think spending money on luxuries is mismanaging money.

    @mac-phisto: The pretense of “need” in the article comes from the “Oh, the poor, the poor…”

    @tcp100: What happens if terrorist come and attack my house and try to kidnap me? I guess some automatic machine guns are necessary as well.

    People lived in houses for many, many years before phones were invented. Those houses caught on fire. People survived.

    Don’t get me wrong – a phone (a cell phone) is nice. I have one. But the goal of the cell phone is simply to make life easier. Nothing more.

  36. easy2panic says:

    @jamar0303:

    “you need to … visit family it doesn’t seem like such a luxury anymore”

    Visiting family seems like a luxury to me. I don’t need to visit my Grandma every other summer.

  37. tcp100 says:

    @Dobernala: Putting your money into your checking account is not free.

    Checks cost money, (albeit not much), and very few checking accounts that are free have no minimum balance and no fees. As the article explains, the people that use these services usually are the ones without checking accounts or credit cards.

    I have never used such a service, and I wouldn’t. Then again, I have the “luxury” of a checking account and credit cards (aha, see how this turns around!)

    Those without checking accounts must get a money order (which adds another fee) to pay by mail, and few without checking accounts would have a credit card.

    If you read some of my posts, I’m not exactly always against the big bad company. However, in this case, I cannot see how it’s justified. If it doesn’t cost me something to call up and have you check why my calls are dropping, I don’t see why it should cost $2-$5 for you to process a payment (which often uses the same web interface that people can use to pay online for free.)

    The article is useful perhaps to some, because perhaps they did not realize all the alternative ways to pay. The elderly would be an example other than the poor or misinformed..

  38. SpenceMan01 says:

    @TheUncleBob: I was thinking precisely the same thing. It reminds me of Spaceballs where Lonestar tells the princess to take “only what she needs to survive”. In regards to her hair dryer, she says “I can’t live without it!”.

    I think there is a great value to the things we have in America and almost take for granted. Not too long ago, it used to be if you were stranded on the side of the highway, you were at teh mercy of passers-by or you were walking to the nearest gas station. Now, with cell phones, people can get assistance quickly, easily and safely. Without discounting the value of cell phones, it’s sad that people have bought into the marketing and have allowed a perceived need to be created.

  39. jamar0303 says:

    @Murph1908: Mmm? Well, I suppose that’s along the lines of “you don’t NEED to see any of your family once you leave the nest” (which is why I cross the Pacific ocean every so often), which while technically true, is rather callous. It also hardly accounts for those who come to the US because they are missing one of the three necessities at home.

  40. K-Bo says:

    @Diet-Orange-Soda: Have one of the 100 people in site with cellphones make a call for you. It might be less convenient, but it’s still better than the days when you had to find a pay phone.
    @tcp100: You will not die without a cellphone, yes they are nice, and yes I have one, because I have no home phone. But I HATE that anyone can bug me at any time, since it is always with me, and have considered switching back to a home phone only. My parents made it 20 years as a 2 income family working 60 hour weeks each driving 30 mins each to work without cellphones…. I reiterate, you will not die without a cell.

    That said, if you only have the money for 1 phone, probably makes more sense to go cell than home for most people.

  41. tcp100 says:

    @TheUncleBob: “People lived in houses for many, many years before phones were invented. Those houses caught on fire. People survived.”

    I of course do not know for sure, but I would absolutely put money on the fact that before telephones, fewer people survived in such situations.

    Today, that would be even moreso – last time I checked, the fire watchtowers were unmanned and the water cisterns at every corner had been removed, and the town crier has long since retired.

    You say “luxury doesn’t mean they think spending money on luxuries is mismanaging money” – but in this context, labeling a cell phone as a luxury implies that.

  42. Dobernala says:

    @tcp100: So what about those payment stations that are free?

    If you can have a cell phone with a monthly bill, I don’t see why you can’t have a checking account with a minimum balance or a credit card (you had to qualify with some kind of credit check to get the phone).

    AT&T doesn’t even *have* to accept your payment in person or over the phone with a live operator, yet they offer it as a luxury and you complain.

  43. tcp100 says:

    @K-Bo: “Have one of the 100 people in site with cellphones make a call for you. It might be less convenient, but it’s still better than the days when you had to find a pay phone.”

    You do know not everyone lives in NYC, right?

    There are still many places in this country where people work and live everyday where there are no people walking around, no payphones, and no places to stop and use the phone if you need help.

    “But I HATE that anyone can bug me at any time, since it is always with me”

    Is it still under warranty? I do believe that power switch can be repaired.

  44. tcp100 says:

    @Dobernala: I would agree with you here about the monthly bill — for people in this situation, a prepaid cell phone is probably a better option.

  45. hi says:

    @EGBTMagus: You obviously didn’t read the article: [redtape.msnbc.com]

  46. tcp100 says:

    @Dobernala:
    “AT&T doesn’t even *have* to accept your payment in person or over the phone with a live operator, yet they offer it as a luxury and you complain.”

    I don’t complain personally – I have never used such a service. I always pay online.

    I just find it a bit annoying, since 10-15 years ago, paying your cell phone bill via the phone was commonplace and free (Sprint had an automated, free system back in the day – not sure if they still do.)

    The argument is that these fees are a recent phenomenon, and in line with the trend of companies adding fees at every corner for every “service” they offer.

    I left a bank that charged me $2 to make a “teller transaction”. I don’t like depositing large sums at the ATM, and being able to bring such a deposit to a teller is what I’d consider a core service of a bank. To have them charge me for that was just plain out of line.

    I can see where this is a bit different because a bank exists to take deposits whereas paying your bill is ancillary to a cell phone company, but the point I’m making is that people are becoming more and more complacent to fees for everything, which makes it easier for more and more of them to creep in.

  47. K-Bo says:

    @tcp100: I don’t live in NYC, I’m from a small town in NC called Kernersville. Just as tiny and out of the way as it sounds, but there are still people with cell phones everywhere, and were even 10 years ago when I was driving a crappy car and had no cell, so yeah, i’ve had to ask to borrow a cell before, and you can do it pretty much anywhere.

    As for the power button, there are 3 people who need to be able to get me at any time, because of health reasons. I just wish I had a home number I could give everyone else so they wouldn’t bug me.

  48. Hanke says:

    Yeah, I love those conveinience fees. I just bought three $5 tickets for an upcoming Mets game. Direct from the mets, online. Each ticket carries a $2 fee. Fine, I expect that. But then there is a $4.50 ‘order charge’. And if I wanted to print the tickets at home on my own printer with my own paper? Another $2.50. If they mail me the tickets? No aditional charge.

  49. BrainFreezer says:

    I’ve gotten almost to the end of the sale on the phone and when the cust. reps say that there’s a $10 (or whatever) handling fee, I refuse to pay it. I demand that they wave the fee- the reps are trying to make quotas anyway and I tell them I will not pay today if it requires me to pay a fee. I am 1 for 1 on this strategy and hoping that a small sample size doesn’t destroy my point.

  50. highmodulus says:

    Interestingly, this forces increased utilization of debit and credit cards for everyday payments- which benefits banks, credit card companies, and AT&T if you use their branded cards.

    For those without credit cards or debit access, or those you pay back check via the mail, the risk of rebate-style payment “breakage” increases. This is a margin maker for AT&T.

    I imagine this is part of a overall “revenue maximization” scheme designed to turn the payment process into a revenue generator through fees, which do not show up on price quotes.

    Kind of clever is a way- but only works in a semi-monopolistic business environment.

  51. lindyman77 says:

    Adding insult to injury, Geico penalises you for paying your car insurance bill in automatic “eBilling” payments. This is after they have guilted you into switching to eBilling because it saves one more tree from being turned into your monthly paper bill. As a Geico customer I have the privilege of paying $4 every time my bill is automatically deducted, paying on time and without paper. Thanks Geico for screwing the good guys. (You were still cheaper than Progressive though and I thank you for that.)

  52. Diet-Orange-Soda says:

    @K-Bo: I saw a “need” in there.

  53. Scuba Steve says:

    @Murph1908:

    These costs are called: “Ongoing costs of doing ” and companies already factored these costs into the payments that you make to the company for the service.

    No, these fees are simply companies’ way of punishing customers who pay their bill a certain way in order to create more revenue.

  54. consumersaur says:

    Jesus effing christ. Cell phones aren’t a luxury. Next time there is a post about gas prices, I’m going to chime in with how cars are a huge luxury and that anything beyond hoofing it everywhere is a luxury that you shouldn’t complain about.

  55. Scuba Steve says:

    What pisses me off the most is all the fees/charges, and variable ways companies can raise their income and still get away with lying about low rates or prices.

    It’s fraud. Plain and simple.

  56. failurate says:

    @fostina1: Actually, the U.S. is one of the few countries where you can still start off dirt poor and with work, education, and some luck, actually land in the middle or upper class. Harder than it used to be, but absolutely still possible.

  57. cac67 says:

    This poorly written blurb on a subject that the consumerist has already covered [consumerist.com] nearly 6 weeks ago has created a problem that doesn’t exist. As has already been posted, you are only charged a fee for a LIVE HUMAN BEING to handle the payment for you. If you go in to a store to make a payment with cash, walk up to the payment machine, put in your cell phone number, stick the cash in, take your receipt and leave. No fee. If you take the time of a representative to do that for you, you pay a fee. Same thing on the phone. If you use one of the many ways to pay that do not involve a person doing it for you, there is no fee.

    Lets make a little list:
    Mail a check, no fee.
    Pay by website, no fee.
    Dial *pay and use the automated system, no fee.
    Dial 611 and use the automated system, no fee.
    Use autopay, no fee.
    Use Text to pay, my method of choice, no fee.
    Go to a store and put your cash into the paystation, no fee.
    Go to a store and wait for a rep to process the payment for you, $5.
    Call 611 and have customer service process the payment for you, $5.

    Paystation broken? No fee for the rep to process. Automated system transfers the call to customer service for some reason and they process for you? No fee. Note that this last one will autogenerate a note on your account that the system failed your payment and transferred you in, so you cant just claim that and get it waived. No note and they’ll offer to transfer you to the automated system to make your payment free.

    And for all you legal tender idiots, they’re not charging you a fee to take cash, nor are they refusing to take cash.

  58. bravo369 says:

    @lindyman77: that $4 charge is an installment charge. If you pay by check with a paper bill, you still get charged. If you pay your bill in full then you get a $4 credit on your next statement in 6 months.

    i think it’s funny with fees that it’s like playing a game now with companies to be able to pay your bill and ONLY your bill without additional fees that go into their pocket. I have been pretty diligent to remove these fees from my spending and it’s amazing how much you can save. $15 to pay AT&T, $15 to pay someone else, tack on $48 geico charges ($4 per month per installment) a couple bank fees and you just spent well over $100 for nothing.

  59. Squeezer99 says:

    BOA does the same thing, $15 if you wanna pay your CC balance by phone.

  60. Murph1908 says:

    @Scuba Steve:
    I disagree.

    AT&T wants to keep rates low, so they charge these fees to those who use the additional services.

    Exactly the way airlines are doing it with luggage. To ensure their advertised fare is as low as they can get it, they add fees to the extra baggage.

    By your logic, dry cleaning at a hotel would be included as ongoing costs of doing business. So those who utilize this service should be getting it for free, and we all should pay for it with an additional $10 a night on our room rate.

    The hair dryer and the iron? Yes, their costs are included in your room rate. Putting your socks in the plastic bag to have housekeeping wash them? That is not.

  61. K-Bo says:

    @Diet-Orange-Soda: They need to be able to contact me, not necessarily by cell. If I had a home phone, they could call me there. And truth be told, it’s not like I’m going to save their life if they call, so you could say it’s not a need at all. It’s more of a want that if my 93 year old grandmother takes a turn for the worse, I won’t miss making it to her side in time just because I turned my cell off to avoid someone who was annoying me. The word need is misused on a daily basis, because much like my niece who tells me she NEEDS me to let her have candy, we all seem to think it’s this magical word that makes things come true. Most of the needs I hear people talking about are actually wants. I’ll be the first to admit that I’m a spoiled brat who has many of her wants, but I’m not going to tell you oh no, my life would fall apart without them.

  62. Cingular does the same thing except I think it is $4 (or was at one time). I warned them if they didn’t credit my account the $4 for dropping off the check i would switch services and I did, was with them for a good many years. Nickle and dime me, and I go elsewhere to spend my money.

  63. Scuba Steve says:

    @Murph1908:

    I’m sorry but dry cleaning is not something that is an “opt-out” service. These people have to go out of their way to pay a certain way or they owe more.

    And that’s not even counting the countless tax/”regulation” and general no-name fees that phone,internet,cable, rent, power, water and other companies tack on just to maintain the illusion that the 96.00 bill you just paid costs 39.99 a month.

  64. camille_javal says:

    @TheUncleBob: On phones – all right, how about when you work a job that has shifts, and your employer needs to be able to call you to cover someone else’s shift periodically? This is often the case with lower incomes, and being able to pick up an extra shift is a good thing.

    There are some areas where a cell phone can be cheaper than having a landline, unfortunately; with as many taxes and fees as end up on your cell phone bill, the taxes and fees I used to have on my landline bill literally doubled the entire bill.

  65. chartrule says:

    here you can just go to the bank and pay your telephone/internet/mobile bill as well as utility bills

    and they don’t charge a fee to do it

    I’d check with the bank you deal with if you can do the same

    (no i do not work at a bank)

  66. BigElectricCat says:

    @Murph1908:

    Airfare’s not a luxury if you have to travel for work. I did it for years, and travel via car, bus or rail simply wasn’t an option most of the time.

    When your boss calls you at home at 2 PM on a Sunday and tells you to have your butt at a new client site on the other side of the country at 8 AM on Monday, suddenly that airfare isn’t quite the luxury you might think it is.

  67. chartrule says:

    here you can just go and pay your bills at the bank

    including phone/internet/mobile/utilities

    and they don’t charge a fee

  68. chartrule says:

    sorry about the 2nd posting

    my first one didn’t appear and then they both did

  69. katylostherart says:

    actually they should do the pay as you go phone.

    you are denying them the ability to overcharge you anything.

    you are denying the ability for them to lock you into a contract.

    you are denying them the ability to charge you deposits based on a credit score rating along with the fee to do the credit check.

    you are denying them the ability to basically fuck with your finances the way most phone companies do.

    i have a pay as you go, i can text on it. i don’t have a picture phone but i can’t say i really care because i have an actual camera.

    i put money on it when i need to in increments of $15 and still have free nights and if i want to pay more i can have free weekends but i don’t really care. i also still get in network calls free at all times. i don’t have rollover minutes but at the same time i never under or over spend. i get exactly my money’s worth.

    if it isn’t a business expense, learn to live without bullshit extras like twitter and mobile instant messaging. no matter who you are, or who you think you are you are, you are not so interesting where you need to be in contact with everyone EVER 24/7.

    and before anyone says anything about “for emergency use”. you can ALWAYS call 911 from a cellphone as long as it’s got a battery charge. and from there they ask if it’s an emergency, if it’s not they transfer you to someone who can help you like the local police who can help you if you’re stuck on the side of the road.

  70. katylostherart says:

    @camille_javal: how many seconds does it take to call someone and say “hey can you fill in the shift?”

    seriously, bad excuse. pay as you go for $15/mo or contract for $40+ for a one minute call. you don’t think very far ahead if you think that’s what most people’s phone bills are made up of.

  71. SacraBos says:

    I usually pay at the kiosk in the store. It’s a business line, so I CAN’T pay on-line. The kiosk was down, so I had to pay at the counter, and they “waived” the fee. Damn well better. I’m not under a contract, so changing carriers will be a small inconvenience with no ETF.

    Preposterous. You already have a bill, and now you have to pay extra to pay your bill?

  72. xirian says:

    @Big Flicker: ATT is Cingular.

  73. LatherRinseRepeat says:

    Back on topic..

    Use the payment kiosk. Every corporate owned ATT Wireless store has one. It looks like an ATM. Just enter your wireless number, insert money for payment, get receipt. You can even refill your prepaid phone here. No fees.

  74. dragonfire81 says:

    “But these policies are also an indication of how many companies really make their money these days: not from providing the service they purport to provide, but by nickel-and-diming customers with fees at every turn.”

    This is what’s wrong with America and in a larger sense, the world in general. Businesses are now making all their money by screwing us with all these fees.

  75. Corydon says:

    @consumersaur: I’ve got news for you: cars are a luxury for a great many people in this country. They are perceived to be a necessity by people who have chosen to live in McMansions out in the middle of nowhere.

    It’s perfectly possible to live close to transit and within biking or walking distance of pretty much every business you need. And that’s not just in cities like New York, Boston and Chicago. I live in Denver, and somehow I manage to avoid driving more than once or twice a month.

    Likewise, cell phones are not a necessity. I managed to get by just fine without one for thirty years. They are a status symbol, a means of telling everyone around you that you are so important that you cannot be cut off from your work and friends. They’re also expensive.

    Pretty much the only thing they are good for is for making a call in a real emergency (like you were just in an accident or your house is burning down). Pay-as-you-go plans are perfect for those situations.

    Finally, addressing the topic at hand, no-one is so poor that they cannot afford a checking account. WaMu offers free checking that doesn’t even require direct deposit and gives you free paper checks and a free debit card. You can pay your bill the old fashioned way for free (by mailing a check), or you can pay online for free, either from your home or from the library if you don’t have internet access.

    There are an awful lot of people here buying into the marketing that all of these accessories are necessities. There are actually very few true necessities in life: food, clothing, shelter and that’s about it.

  76. Murph1908 says:

    @BigElectricCat:
    In this case, air travel is a luxury for your company. They have the option of putting you on a plane and getting you to a client site in a short amount of time.

    It is a convenience, but it is NOT required for a reasonable standard of living.

    @Scuba Steve:
    AT&T provides many ways to make a payment without a fee. Don’t want the fee? Pay in a different way, or don’t use the luxury.

    Just don’t raise MY rates to pay for your special payment method because you think you can afford a cell phone, but can’t afford a bank account.

  77. JohnMc says:

    So many undertones in this piece. First not having a financial service is the reason many poor are ‘poor’. I use a Credit Union putting my money in the account SAVES me money. I have to think about what I am going to do with it before the withdrawal. If its in my pocket spending increases.

    As to the fees they are all of course ripoffs. I am surprised that if you send in by mail and check they don’t start charging for that as well. Go figure.

    Nor is there anything wrong with a pay as you go phone. I used on my daughter as a budget training exercise. I increased he allowance an amount to cover a certain number of minutes. If she went over she have to cover it. She learned pretty quick. A lot of the other parents are coming around to that thinking after seeing $300 line charges…

  78. Buran says:

    @K-Bo: You could get a pager…

  79. Buran says:

    @Corydon: Unfortunately, this isn’t Europe where you really can get by in most places without a car. Places like that exist here in the US, but they’re a minority and you’re lucky if you live where there’s widespread reliable safe mass transit.

  80. K-Bo says:

    @Buran: I thought about saying that, but I figured someone else would start into a whole tirade about paying your pager bill, or some other stupid can of worms.

  81. portus says:

    No surprise there. I used to work at Radio Shack, where we would push to sell you a Sprint cell phone… then when you came back to make a payment on uour bill – there was a $5 charge. With practices like that; I quit out of embarrassment.

  82. Buran says:

    @Hanke: One reason I haven’t gone to any games yet here this year. The local team does the same damn thing.

  83. katylostherart says:

    @Corydon: “Finally, addressing the topic at hand, no-one is so poor that they cannot afford a checking account.”

    a lot of banks, including large ones like bank of america have had some odd requirements. i remember i tried to get an account a couple years ago and they wanted two forms of id but my ss card and military id didn’t count. so i had an out of state driver’s license and they wanted me to get a state id or passport to prove i was who i am. a lot of banks also run credit checks and charge for checking accounts and savings accounts with minimum deposits or only free with direct deposit. which is ridiculous because your money is nothing more than digital numbers on a screen that almost immediately get loaned out to someone else anyway while you earn a fraction of the interest they get paid on those loans.

    chase bank refused to cash my first paycheck so i could START a bank account with another bank because i did not have a bank account after moving across the country and too far away from the nearest navy fed. even though the check was drawn on their account they wanted me to put an account number on the back in case the check turned out to be bad so they could take the money back from me (and from the account it was drawn against, funny how that works). i had to cash the check at a walmart and use the cash to open an account at another bank.

    you can be too poor to have a checking account. you apparently just haven’t scraped the bottom of the barrel as far as income goes.

  84. mac-phisto says:

    @tcp100: thank you for a rational argument. i don’t agree with the fees, but you present a valid argument for them & i can appreciate that.

    it doesn’t matter whether cell phones are a luxury – this is just tiresome. “don’t want to pay the fees, don’t get a cellphone”. grow up. there’s more answers in life than do or do without.

  85. unravel says:

    @Corydon: Try patting yourself on the back for not needing a car when you don’t live in Denver. While it may not be Boston, or NYC, it is a fairly large city with (going only on quick Google results) fairly decent public transportation. You even have light rail.

    Many of us, who live in smaller cities do not have the luxury of public transportation, and cannot afford the cost of living in large, metro areas, or can’t bring ourselves to deal with the substandard quality of living in the sections of those metro areas we might be able to afford. It was only last year that they really rolled out bus service in my area, and even so, it’s lacking.

  86. mmstk101 says:

    @Murph1908: agreed.

    a car may not be a luxury for everyone (if you have to drive to work).

    a cell phone may not be a luxury for everyone (medical condition, whatever).

    a flat-screen TV might not be a luxury for everyone (if you have . . . i dunno, non-flat-screen-itis or something).

    But, if you don’t like the fees, change companies. If all companies charge the same fees that you can’t stand, don’t buy the product.

    I don’t have a cell phone, or a car . . . and I’m using the money I’m saving to go on vacation. A luxury? Absolutely, but one i’m absolutely willing to pay for.

  87. @xmarkd400x: Also, for people who are quite poor and have housing uncertainty (either outright homeless, crashing, or moving frequently), a cell phone can be a major job-hunting tool that allows you to have a stable point-of-contact and doesn’t have your potential employers calling the homeless shelter to find out. It lets you disguise your situation to present a more professional front, which is important.

  88. consumersaur says:

    @Corydon: What if you live in one of the many states that doesn’t have much mass transit, like here in Oklahoma?

    The point: Things aren’t a “luxury” just because YOU think they are extravagant and just because you can live without it.

    You probably don’t own a goat or regularly purchase machetes, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t needed items in another country/culture.

  89. BigElectricCat says:

    @Murph1908:

    “In this case, air travel is a luxury for your company.”

    No. It is a business cost.

    “They have the option of putting you on a plane and getting you to a client site in a short amount of time.”

    Right. That’s called a business cost.

    “It is a convenience,”

    No. It is a business necessity. And a deductible one, too. Necessary business costs can be deducted. Frivolous and unnecessary ones cannot.

    “but it is NOT required for a reasonable standard of living.”

    “Standard of living” is an irrelevancy in this case, your capitalization notwithstanding. You fail to recognize the distinction between costs borne by individuals (and their relative necessity) and the costs borne by businesses (and their relative necessity). In this case, you’re essentially claiming that an apple is an orange.

  90. BigElectricCat says:

    @consumersaur:

    Word.

  91. camman68 says:

    @Corydon:
    Simply because YOU didn’t have a cell phone for the past 30 years does not automatically make them a luxury for everyone else! In fact, they are a necessity for quite a few people. My 92 year old grandmother and 70 year old parents also live in Colorado – Holly to be exact. They have not “chosen” to live in a McMansion in the country. They are from this area – as are most of the other farmers. Everyone else has chosen to move to the “big cities”.

    The hospital is 30 miles away. The ambulance is staffed by volunteers. The electrical system in the town is very unreliable. They have lost power 3 times this week. They were completely without power, phone service, utilities, etc after last year’s tornado. If it wasn’t for cell phones, they would have been completely cut off. I believe that MANY lives were saved during and immediately after the storm because of the cell phone.

    What do you recommend in this situation? Maybe I should pack up my family and move them to Denver. I’m sure it would be cheaper for my grandmother to walk to the corner and take the bus to the doctor. Of course, her other living expenses would skyrocket.

    Somebody has to live in the rural areas – or else YOU wouldn’t be able to eat! But, using your reasoning, grocery stores must also be a luxury. After all, they are not necessary for life support. You must grow your own rabbits and zucchini to feed your family.

  92. Corydon says:

    @unravel:
    @camman68:

    So understand that the choices you make in life have consequences. If you choose to live in a rural area, then you’re not just going to miss out on seeing the latest plays and eating at fancy restaurants. Your transportation expenses are going to be higher as well, not to mention that it’s going to be harder to get to the hospital. There’s a reason why housing in places like that tends to be cheaper.

    I haven’t lived in big cities all of my life. I spent plenty of time living in a small city of about 23,000 people with no public transport to speak of. Guess what? There are still transportation options other than the car. It was incredibly easy to get around by bicycle and run my errands that way. As a matter of fact, it was even easier than it is in Denver, because the city was more compact and the traffic tended to be less insane.

    And yes, grocery stores are a convenience when you get right down to brass tacks. It’s more convenient for me to take advantage of their distribution network than it is for me to grow everything I need myself (although as a matter of fact, I do grow my own zucchini, but that’s because I think it tastes better).

    The point is, I choose to avail myself of certain modern conveniences. But I’m not a slave to them. I like owning my truck. It gives me options that I would not have otherwise. But I’m not a slave to it, and if I had to get rid of it, I’d still get by.

    I like having a cell phone. It provides me with options for staying in touch with work or family that I wouldn’t otherwise have. But if it disappeared tomorrow, I’d still get by.

    I like being able to fly to visit my family for holidays. I like using a computer and the internet to keep in touch with people from around the world. But it’s not a necessity. My computer at home is currently not working while I’m waiting for a new part to arrive. Is that the end of the world? Of course not.

    The point is there are very few true necessities out there. Most things are merely nice to have. You prioritize the nice to have things and recognize that some choices (like a pretty farmhouse out in the country) will impose restrictions on other choices.

    I wish everyone could have everything their hearts desired. But that’s not the way the world works.

  93. katylostherart says:

    @Corydon: choose to live in a rural area???

    do you have any idea whatsoever what it costs to have the most basic existence in places like chicago, san francisco, new york city??? do you realize that those costs radiate outwards for more than a hundred miles in most cases? that people have a 2-3 hour commute for a subisistence living with or without public transportation?

    do you have any idea what it is to have 70-80% of your income go to rent and then be told “yeah sure if WANTED to you could get another job”?

    are you that blind? i am ten miles from my job and i can’t even take a bus to it and i don’t live in the boonies. so the response to that is sure, get a bike. ok fine i have a bike, now what do i do when it’s winter and there’s 3′ of snow and ice on the ground and i’m going 20mph on a 45mph road with snowbanks that took of 10′ of the road’s width.

    in america, these things are not luxuries. they are necessities for what our culture defines as a basic existence.

    this isn’t india, this isn’t taiwan, this isn’t china, this isn’t zimbabwe or guatemala or nicaragua. this is america. phone service and your own form of transportations is considered basic. generally the people that lack the ability to have those, not MAKE THE CHOICE not to, actually do need them. there’s a difference between being able to afford a moral choice and not having it an option at all.

  94. stacy75 says:

    @Corydon:

    I am in Real Estate. Most people in my line of work NEED cars and cell phones (Realtors, contractors, appraisers, inspectors…); if we did not have them, we’d be out of jobs.

    How is that a “luxury?”

  95. WraithSama says:

    1st Financial Bank does this. Paying over the phone costs $12 or $15 extra. Paying *online* incurs a $9 fee. Of course, these fees are added after your payment is applied to the balance. Trying to pay your balance in full? The $9 online payment fee will be added after the payment is posted, so you’ll still have a $9 balance.

    The part about this that really pisses me off is that they don’t disclose these fees anywhere, even on the website. I had a 63 cent balance (interest) left over after I mailed a payment by check. I tried to pay the balance online, only to discover that after the payment was applied, my balance is now 8 dollars and some change. Yes, paying my balance actually *increased* my balance by THIRTEEN TIMES from 63 cents to $8.37. Assholes.

  96. redsonia7 says:

    Although this is slightly different from what AT&T does, Entergy New Orleans requires me to pay a $2.95 “processing fee” if I want to pay my bill over the phone using a credit card. They make it clear that this fee goes to some processing company called Bill Matrix, and indeed the bill amount and the fee show up as two separate charges on my statement, but I just don’t understand why they have to do this. Why am I able to pay my cell phone bill and my internet bill over the phone using a credit card without paying anything beyond the billing amount but Entergy insists on funneling money off to some other company for a “processing fee”?

  97. Murph1908 says:

    @BigElectricCat:
    It was the poster I was responding to that compared my apple (personal travel) to an orange (business travel).

    I agree. Business in the modern world would suffer severely without air travel. Luxury is not the right word in this case. I extended my argument to far.

  98. BigElectricCat says:

    @Murph1908:

    Thanks for the clarification. I appreciate that you took the time to do that. :) ^

    FWIW, I’m not a frequent business traveler any more; that kind of gig stopped being fun and started being a chore right after 9/11.

  99. S-the-K says:

    People who can’t afford to keep money in the bank have no business having an iPhone and an expensive wireless plan!

  100. hexychick says:

    @katylostherart: You took the words right out of my mouth!

    @Corydon: “no-one is so poor that they cannot afford a checking account.” It has nothing to do with affordability. You can be denied a bank account for bad credit or having mucked up at another bank account in the past. My credit was so bad at one point that I was denied a debit card!

    @xmarkd400x: This has nothing to do with affordability either. In many cases, a cellphone is cheaper than a landline just due to outrageous zone charges and where lines get divided. The whole point of the article is the bogus surcharge for paying in cash, not for inability to pay entirely.

  101. camman68 says:

    @Corydon: No one said anything about a “pretty farmhouse out in the country”. Holly has about 1,000 residents so I don’t think it is comparable to the size of town that you lived in. My parents have a modest modular home (paid for) in the middle of town. My grandmother rents an old house down the street. Because of her $40 cell phone, she is able to live very inexpensively and be more self sufficient.

    Maybe back in your day, doctors made house calls. Either that, or people just got sick and died. Therefore, hospitals and doctors office’s are really a nice luxury to have – as are penicilian – and the reduced rates of “consumption”.

    This is no longer the case. In this area, it is cheaper for people to own a car and I firmly believe that a cell phone is a necessity.

    My grandmother paid cash for her 1993 grand marquis. (Before anyone jumps me about the age, she got the car in 1992.) The car is 16 years old and just turned 70,000 miles. Her only expenses are gas, maintenance, tags, and insurance. I’m sure this is quite a bit less than the additional taxes she would have to pay for the services that cities like Denver provide (Bus, Train, parking, etc).

    If cell phones disappeared tomorrow, my family would still get by. However, I would probably have to put my grandmother and father in an assisted living home so someone could keep an eye on them.

    I think we need to “agree to disagree” about having “everything their hearts desired”. In your circumstance, a cell phone and a truck is a luxury. By living in Denver, you agree (and are forced) to pay for items such as public transportation – even though you may not use it. In other words, you are forced to pay for other people’s luxury items.

    P.S. The next time my Grandmother needs to get her knees or hips examined, I’ll ask her if she wants to take my bicycle for the 60 mile round trip to Lamar. Wednesday, the wind was blowing 60 miles an hour! She would have gotten there in jiffy but it might have taken here a little longer to get home. Other options? Maybe she could hitch a ride on a combine! They are a little faster than bicycles but they are a bitch to maneuver around a clinic or a Target Store parking lot.

  102. Scuba Steve says:

    Alas, I guess we’re just going to agree to disagree.

    I expect companies to work with honesty and respect, these fees are simply a way to generate more revenue from customers who they wish to get rid of. It’s disgusting, and I’m never to think otherwise.

    But hey, blame the victim. I’m sure that helps keep prices low. (and profits high)

  103. redpeppers20xx says:

    @Milstar : So how long have you worked for AT&T?

    I was charged $2 to pay w/ cash at an ATT AGENT but have never been charged at a corporate store.

    Either way it’s BS. Those clerks are paid $8,9 an hour,whatever it is to stand there and provide CUSTOMER SERVICE…whatever that may be. I’m a good customer who is coming in on the 28th of each month to pay my bill in a timely manner…F you if you think I should pay extra for this ‘service’. It’s a basic part of doing business.

    Should a restaurant charge you $1 for the service of taking your cash at the register?

    If those clerks can hound you the moment you walk in the door and if they can get your new $500 phone from behind the counter and if they can print off your new contract and if they help you decide what case to buy… all duties that are expected to be performed each shift then they can certainly take that $50 bill from my hand,place it into the drawer… and hit ‘PRINT’ for my receipt.

    This is just more proof of how lazy and greedy our world has become.

    Hmm,$5 X 12 = $60. $60 is about what my bill is each month,so ATT is getting 13 months of payments per 12 month’s of service. Nice.

  104. chrylis says:

    @nytmare: By calling the card’s customer-service line and requesting an ACH payment from a bank account.

  105. camthegreat says:

    I used to work for a cell phone company (in Canada). We did take payments in store, but some of the competitors didn’t. To deal with cash did have a higher expense than debit or credit (counting, balancing, deposit bags, armoured car service to the bank) vs. opening an account with a debit company and hitting “close” at the end of the night. I don’t agree with the fee though. I know my company used to give a discount if you paid online.

  106. TheUncleBob says:

    Okay, first off, a lot of people are missing the major point that many posters are bringing up – you can pay your bill plenty of ways without being charged a fee. You’re simply being charged a fee if you want someone who works for AT&T to help you.

    These people who work for AT&T need to be paid. By refusing to use any one of the numerous automatic methods provided, you’re taking the employee away from a customer who really needs help with something that customer *cannot* do on their own (say, buy a new phone).

    If you don’t want to pay the fee, use one of the other services to pay your bill without a fee. It’s pretty simple.

    Second, to all the people that keep attempting to explain that a cell phone is not a luxury – I haven’t really seen one argument that can’t be summed up in “If I want to keep my standard of living, I need my cell phone.” That’s fine. Nothing wrong with that. Just realize that you don’t *need* to keep your standard of living in order to live.

    Cell phones are nice. I have one and I love it and I’d be sad without it… but all it does is make life easier.

    There’s nothing wrong with wanting your life to be easier.

    Finally, for “the poor poor” who can’t afford a checking account, but “need” a cell phone for emergencies – look at it this way… Most cell phone plans start at $40/month. Add taxes/fees on that, you’re up to, say, $50. One year cost: $600 (assuming you get a free phone with contract).

    Now, you can go to Wal*Mart and buy a TracFone for less than $10 (let’s say 15 on the high end of tax). 3 months of service for $20 (let’s say $25, again, on the high end of sales tax). One year cost: $115.

    Savings going pre-paid over contract for “emergency use” $485/year. Anyone know a decent bank that requires *more* than a $485 minimum account balance?

    (and before someone brings up the fact that some banks do credit checks before signing someone up for a checking account – *ALL* Cell phone companies do credit checks. If your credit sucks too bad to get a decent checking account, it probably sucks to bad to get a cell phone without a $400+ deposit)

  107. thejynxed says:

    Wow, you guys get to use payment machines. Where I live, there is no such thing as a payment machine for cell phones in any of the stores. You either A) pay online B) pay by phone C) pay at the local grocery store D) pay via service rep at the Verizon or AT&T stores (we have no Sprint/Nextel or any other service here) or E) pay by mail. So, unless you pay online (and sometimes even then), you get charged a fee for paying your monthly bill.

  108. katylostherart says:

    @TheUncleBob: you don’t need a credit check to get a pay as you go. so not only do you not pay the fee for the check you don’t pay a deposit.

    you just refuted your own argument that the ability to have a cell phone means you’re eligible for a bank account.

  109. TheUncleBob says:

    @katylostherart: Sorry, I should have clarified – if you have a *contract* phone, they’re going to do a credit check. If you have a pre-paid (‘pay-as-you-go’) phone, they don’t do a credit check. But then, again, most pre-paid customers buy pre-paid cards (at the Wal*Mart, Target, Gas Station, etc…) – they don’t go pay cash, in person, at an AT&T store.

  110. Northwood says:

    here is a funny thing… T-Mobile charges you that same price $4.99 for coming in the store and paying your bill and not having them take the money right out of your account each month. its called a control fee.

  111. Baron Von Crogs says:

    Wow wow wow. Too many people here are coming off as elitist and need to stop watching “Fight Club”

    There ware WAY too many names to call out everyone on their bullshit so I’ll just make some general comments.

    Too many people here are playing semantics. Oh you dont NEED! that. Bullshit, this is a modern society we live in. We have a alot of crap that our great-great- grandparents didn’t have and yes they got by fine. Society progresses, it evolves.

    Production costs go down and luxary items that were once only for the rich are now open to everyone. Did they NEED that? No, not in ever sense of the word but once they have something that makes their life easier it beens a necessary for them to have it in order to maintain their current quality of life.

    Could we as humans live in caves again and hunt? Sure, but why.the.fuck.would.we? Just becuase all we need to LIVE is “air, water and food” doesn’t mean its a life worth living.

    So really, stop trying to look all hardcore and act like you’re so above materialism as you fucking post your ideas on a computer using the internet ok champs? Stop pretending like modern technology hasn’t become so ingrained in our lives that ‘making life easier’ != necessary.

    Because guess what, it does. To everyone here who is all “Oh people dont NEED a cellphone” you don’t need more than half the shit you own. Sell everything you own, forge tools out of rock and knock down trees. Make your own house and hunt/cook your own food.

    You don’t NEED anything but water food and air right?

    Also to people who are: I’m annoyed by having a cellphone, people can reach me at anytime.

    No shit, thats sorta the point. The great thing is you can IGNORE calls so this is hardly an issue.

    To people who go “well its legal”. No shit, leagl != right. It is *insnae* to make people PAY for the privilege of PAYING their bill. I don’t see why that is so hard for people to understand. Having other methods of payment that don’t charge fees doesn’t make it right. If anything using the goddamn machines should cost you a fee since SOMEONE has to pay for maintenance on that damn thing. But a fee for asking the clerk to process your payment? A fee for an employee to DO HIS FUCKING JOB?!?

    Ugh, some people here are just so frustrating to read. Really, stop trying to act like you’re so above everyone. Stop playing semantics and trying to be uber technical and try to find ways to justify this bullshit.

  112. TheUncleBob says:

    @BaronVonCrogs: First, using a payment machine to take payments doesn’t prevent employees from helping customers who actually need help doing something that cannot be done by their self. That’s why you’re not charged a fee for using it. Think of it this way, in the 5 minutes it takes for an employee to process a bill payment, three other people could get in line. The first two want to pay their bills as well. That’s another five mins each. The third wants to, say, buy a cell phone… but, instead of waiting 15 mins in line, they decide to just leave. Now, that retail rep (who works on commission, mind you) just lost a sale, the store just lost a sale and that carrier just lost a customer. All because people who “need” cell phones can’t use a frickin’ machine to pay their bill. Now, repeat this several times a day.

    >”To everyone here who is all “Oh people dont NEED a cellphone” you don’t need more than half the shit you own. Sell everything you own,”

    You fail. No one is saying that everyone should get rid of their cell phone. No one is saying we should all live in caves and forage berries. There’s just some of us who recognize the fact that (with a few possible exceptions) no body *NEEDS* a cell phone. It simply makes life easier.

    Put it this way, I don’t need a private helicopter… but man, I’d sure love to have one… Imagine how nice it’d be to skip over all the traffic in the morning…

    “necessary for them to have it in order to maintain their current quality of life.”

    “Current quality of life” That’s the key phrase. So, once I have my private helicopter, it would be necessary because I’d want to maintain what became my current quality of life…

    Anywhoo, back to my earlier point – if you really *need* a cell phone for emergency use only, you can get a pre-paid TracFone and save nearly $500/year. No one is going to convince me they *need* a contract phone that requires going to an AT&T store and paying their bill to an employee.

  113. richcreamerybutter says:

    @consumersaur: Exactly…I manage without a car, but I also live within proximity of excellent public transportation. Not everyone can do this. I could also go on about how home ownership is a luxury too, but given the current foreclosure crisis I’m sure people could call me an asshole. Americans seem to think home ownership is a “right.”

    @Corydon: I managed to get by just fine without one for thirty years.
    Yet more anecdotal old-timey evidence…did you walk to school uphill both ways in the snow with cardboard boots as well? I’m willing to bet you don’t live anywhere near Brooklyn, where the abysmal land line service and price are proportionately increasing. I went to cell only several years back, and a weight was lifted off my shoulders.

    @JohnMc: Credit Unions are awesome, but not always readily accessible to regular folks. In some areas you have to be a member of a particular union, college alumni association, ethnic group (no “one drop” rule), etc.

  114. Baron Von Crogs says:

    Oh so you have to pay a fee for an employee to help you do somthing that “can be done yourself”. Alot of questions that these clerks get can be found by using google. You can buy a plan online. You don’t even need a sales clerk to be honest, why even have the stores? There isn’t ANYTHING they can do for you that you can’t do for yourself.

    If you had a life where you functioned with a private helicopter you would need it to keep the current quality of life you had. People NEED their cellphones in order to keep their quality of life. So yeah, people do NEED it. I don’t have a house phone, if I can’t make it to work I have to call my boss to call in sick.

    How do you suggest I get in touch with my friends if we’re planing on meting someplace and as we’re in our cars someone needs to change plans? Drive back home, phone ahead to the place that everyone was going to show up at and ask the manager to relay a message? Yeah, how fantastic.

    Again, we’re playing a game of semantics. Just becuase you don’t NEED it in the sense of absolute survival really isn’t the issue becuase you know when people say they NEED it is becuase they mean the NEED it to keep their current quality of life.

  115. TheUncleBob says:

    I don’t know if it’s as much an issue of semantics as it is an issue of knowing the English Language.

    From the American Heritage Dictionary

    Luxury: Something inessential but conducive to pleasure and comfort.

    Necessity: Something necessary (The necessities of life include food, clothing, and shelter.)

    So, again – (most) people can “need” a cell phone to keep their lifestyle, but they don’t “need” the cell phone to keep their life. And the ones that do “need” a cell phone to keep their life for emergency calling can, again, get a pre-paid cell phone for about $500/year less that doesn’t require paying in person at an AT&T store.

    If you want convenience, that’s great. But you’re going to pay for it.

  116. e.varden says:

    @nytmare:

    Via your bank. Ask how there. I can pay all my bills via my bank either: in person; via ATM; via phone; via on-line.