Sprint Imposes $5 Monthly Fee Because You Might Pay Late

If you have a spending limit on your Sprint account because of your credit history, or in order to prevent runaway data bills, as of today you’ll have to pay for that privilege. Sprint has imposed a $4.99 per month surcharge on all mobile phone accounts that have spending limits in place.

An Account Spending Limit (ASL) can be initiated by the user, or imposed by Sprint on customers with a shaky credit history or past late payments. Reader Brittney writes that she had a limit put on her account voluntarily, and she’s angry about the fee.

Sprint is now charging people $5.00 a month just to have an ASL (Account Spending Limit). I received a letter in the mail regarding the change (let me also note that the letter is dated for the 21st of December and I just got it today [January 9th]) and it takes effect tomorrow [January 10th].

I can see how Sprint might be trying to shake off some of it’s more problematic customers with this move, but to me, this is completely ridiculous. I spent an hour on the phone with customer service asking to have this $5.00 fee waived, considering that I always pay my bill on time and requested the ASL be applied to my account in the first place. I was basically given two options; enroll in automatic payments or try and get ASL removed from your account.

Whaaaaa? I asked for ASL to be on my account when I signed up so if my phone was ever stolen or went missing, I wouldn’t find it later along with a bill for $500 (or more) worth of charges from someone calling another country. And as someone who is self-employed with a sporadic paycheck, I would prefer to not have a hard-to-remove-or-stop automatic payment on my account every month.

It’s obvious Sprint is targeting low-income people here with this move, as they will more than likely have no choice but to pay this fee. If you’re low-income, chances are you might not have much credit built up, making it hard for you to get the ASL waived in the first place since it is based on your credit history. I can also see how not having a bank account could really make this impossible for someone as well, since setting up an automatic payment would be impossible without one. I am low-income myself, but I keep my finances in tight order, have credit, and always pay Sprint on time. I guess that means I should pay an extra 5 bucks a month for the privilege of keeping an ASL on my phone line.

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Brittney is right that this fee is an extra burden on Sprint customers who don’t have bank accounts and can’t set up automatic payments–and that group includes more Americans than you might think. Sprint may be using this fee as a penalty to get people who (statistically speaking) are less likely to pay on time to sign up for autopay, but is it fair?