AT&T Ditching 2-Year Contracts At Walmart & Other Retailers

In the latest move to nudge new customers into paying full price for their phones, AT&T is going to stop offering 2-year contracts through third party retail stores like Walmart and others.

While two-year contracts lock a user into that provider for the 24 months, they also come with deep discounts on new phones because the wireless companies are subsidizing a good chunk of the retail price of those devices.

In recent years, most wireless providers have given customers an incentive to pay full price for their phones by discounting monthly rates for users who buy unsubsidized phones. Additionally, programs like AT&T Next allow users to spread out that higher price through monthly installments rather than pay up front.

Of course, these programs ultimately have the effect of a contract, as the user is locked into that provider until the phone is paid off. Depending on the length of a plan and the cost of the phone, a customer could end up saving money in the long run, but you have to do the math first.

Droid Life was the first to report that, starting in June, local and national retailers who sell AT&T service would no longer be offering two-year contracts directly to customers.

FierceWireless then reported that it had obtained an internal Walmart document that puts a May 28 stop date on the sale of two-year AT&T contracts. That memo stated that the change is “not just limited to Walmart. It affects all national retailers.”

The only way to get a contract phone through one of these third-party stores is for the retailer to place a Direct Fulfillment order, but that means you’ll get your device shipped to you within a few days.

This change does not impact orders at company-owned AT&T stores, which will continue to offer the traditional two-year contracts. Additionally, these contracts will be available online through So there is still plenty of opportunity to get a less-expensive subsidized phone — you just won’t be able to do it at the same spot where you get your groceries.

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