The More You Know: An Overview of the Major Carriers' Early Termination Fees


Turkey Day is just around the corner, which means that the annual American tradition season of losing one’s mind in exchange for slightly discounted goods will officially begin a week from today. Yes, I speak of the infamous day that is Black Friday. The very same day in which hundreds of thousands of Americans transform into penny-pinching-zombies who will do whatever it takes to score a cheap fix.

Anyhoo, I’m not here to judge. If you are brave (/crazy) enough to fight through out-of-control bargain-hunting mobs to save yourself an extra 20% on a product (that you never wanted or needed), then god bless you. Furthermore, if said object happens to be a new mobile phone, wouldn’t it be nice to know a little about each of the major carriers’ early termination fees ahead of time (instead of waiting for your post-Black Friday “hangover” to subside, only for you to realize that you’ve signed your entire family’s fortune away on a new mobile family plan that you actually didn’t want or really need)? We think so.

Without further ado, here is the 2009 Major Carriers’ Early Termination Fees Table-O-Fun:

Carrier Early Termination Fee (ETF) More Information
AT&T $175 ETF decreases by $5/month for duration of contract.
Sprint $200 ETF begins to reduce in the fifth month of the contract; fee goes down $10/month until it reaches $50.
T-Mobile $200* * T-Mobile USA’s ETF schedule is not exactly straight forward. As of June 28, customers with a one-year or two-year contract will see their ETF drop from $200 to $100 if they end their contract with 91 to 180 days remaining on their agreement. If they end a contract with fewer than 91 days left on it, they’ll pay an ETF of $50. Customers who terminate service in the last 30 days of their contract will either pay the $50 fee or their standard monthly charge, whichever is cheaper.
Verizon Wireless $350* * Originally $175, VZW doubled the fee on Nov. 15 for “advanced devices,” which includes smartphones and netbooks. The new ETF only applies to new contracts that started on or after November 15. Customers who signed a contract before November 15 keep the old $175 ETF. For example, new Droid customers who bought their phones the first weekend it launched will not be required to pay the $350 ETF if they terminate service early under these new rules. VZW will continue to prorate the ETF over the life of the contract, decreasing the rate by $10/month. Verizon’s previous prorate rate was $5/month. ** The ETA for non-“advanced devices” remains $175, and decreases by $5/month during the contract.

Please note – all of the information above is subject to change at any time. We just want to help everyone to make the most informed decision they can when selecting a new carrier (/device), thereby ultimately making for a happier (and possibly healthier) holiday and new year. Oh, and if you need any help picking out a new gadget for a loved one, don’t forget to give CrunchGear’s 2009 Holiday Gift Guide a once (or thrice) over. Cheers!

[via CNET]