Photo: Fox

Photo: Fox

AT&T has announced incentives worth up to $450 for T-Mobile customers who switch to their service. The move is being made in response to T-Mobile’s Uncarrier offers, after AT&T recently said that it too expected to move toward separating device and service charges.

Proving the old adage that there’s no such thing as a free lunch, the deal of course comes with strings. First, $250 of that is the maximum you’ll receive in return for trading in your existing T-Mobile handset. To get the full $250, you’ll need a recent handset in good condition – in which case you’d almost certainly get more selling it privately … 

Second, the balance of the $200 you receive just for switching is dependent on you buying a new AT&T handset outright at full retail, or activating your own unlocked phone. You’ll only receive that credit when you’ve been paying your AT&T bills for 90 days.

Finally, AT&T is not waiving its standard $36 activation fee, so you’ll have to pay that before you start seeing any money back. Oh, and it’s time-limited offer, but AT&T hasn’t yet said when it expires.

As a British sitcom character once put it, the small print taketh away what the headline giveth.

T-Mobile is believed to be planning to announce its own switching incentive at CES next week. While that too will no doubt come with catches of its own, renewed competition between the carriers can only be good news for consumers in the long run – though after AT&T’s failed bid to buy T-Mobile, it’s looking like Sprint may be next in line.

Update: T-Mobile CEO John Legere shared the following response to AT&T’s announcement on T-Mobile’s Media Relations site

Executive Statement

This is a desperate move by AT&T on the heels of what must have been a terrible Q4 and holiday for them. I’m flattered that we have made them so uncomfortable! We used AT&T’s cash to build a far superior network and added Un-carrier moves to take tons of their customers – and now they want to bribe them back! Consumers won’t be fooled…nothing has changed; customers will still feel the same old pain that AT&T is famous for. Just wait until CES to hear what pain points we are eliminating next. The competition is going to be toast!

-John Legere, CEO of T-Mobile USA

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8 Responses to “With T-Mobile? AT&T will give you $450 to switch … kind of”

  1. Ben, good article, nice to see you “punch back” (so to speak) against the AT&T “hype”/marketing. I appreciate it, I’m sure others do as well. AT&T needs to feel the pain, or the mobile situation in the US isn’t going to improve.

  2. luxlamf says:

    After 8 years of ATT I finally had enough last week and took my iPhone 4S T-MOBILE and switched over to their service (and $50 cheaper per month). 1st I stopped by ATT to compare plans and the ATT agents where nothing if arrogant and dismissive (tried to explain to me they have offered no contract plans for years) and now I cannot understand why I didn’t do it sooner, was Stuck with ATT for a long time when Apple teamed up with them only for 5 years but now I tell everyone I can to stay away from them.

    • @luxlamf my experience leaving AT&T was similar, “arrogant and dismissive”. All I asked, since I had been out of contract for more than 2 years and did not want to buy another phone or enter another contract, was for AT&T to price match their OWN GoPhone service price (at the time) of $50 for unlimited talk and text (no data). I was then paying $39.95 for 450 rollover minutes and $20 for unlimited texting. It would have saved me about $15 a month, with taxes and fees. They tried to spin it as me trying to make it about competing with Sprint, which had the Unlimited Anything plan (or whatever) for $59.95. I simply stated, “I want what AT&T is willing to give to a Walmart customer who shows no loyalty.” Snidely, the agent replied, “You’re free to go to GoPhone any time you want…but I notice you have an iPhone and you won’t get data on GoPhone.” I had her verify my account was unlocked for porting, said “You’re wrong about the data thing, I’m much smarter than the average Walmart customer, I could get data if I wanted. But now I’m done with AT&T. I’ll pay less, I’ll get more, and AT&T will lose a 15 year customer. Thank you, you’ve helped me make a better choice.”, and hung up. Moved to StraightTalk/Net10 utilizing AT&T’s network for ~$50 a month and haven’t looked back.

  3. I have an answer to AT&T: Nope. :-)

    T-Mobiles US$70/month unlimited plan is especially a great deal if you can “bring your own phone” to the service. Thanks to the Google (LG) Nexus 5 and the Motorola Moto X and G, buying an unlocked phone is a lot less a financial drag than before, which makes T-Mobile’s plan even more enticing.

  4. Nice try guys. Back on T-mobile & loving every minute of it.