Virgin Mobile iPhone Monthly Discount

by Doug

I wanted to share something great about the Virgin Mobile iPhone and their automatic payment discount, as well as a very frustrating experience that hopefully others will find useful. I initially loathed the idea of paying full price for a phone just to avoid a contract, especially a smartphone as expensive as the iPhone. However, once I started comparison shopping for the various iPhone plans out there, I quickly came to the understanding that if I could stomach the upfront cost ($550 for the iPhone 4!), the long term cost savings of a much lower monthly plan on prepaid was beyond obvious!

So for postpaid plans that cost $100 or more, I can basically get the same plan for $50-$55 on prepaid. And then I discovered Virgin Mobile's monthly plans (i.e. not their unlimited plan) that allows me to pay as low as $35 (300 min, unlimited everything else). When I look at how much I actually talk on the phone (who does that anymore anyway?!), I'm thinking that this plan may be enough for me. Or I can get the $45 plan for 1,200 min. And best of all, is that I can change between these plans (or the unlimited $55 plan) whenever I want. This seems like the best plan options for iPhone out there on prepaid or postpaid!

Now comes the monthly bonus for using a credit card. If you setup your account to pay your monthly cost automatically with a credit card, debit card, bank account, or PayPal, they give you $5 off EVERY monthly forever! So you could actually pay $30 per month for unlimited SMS and data on an iPhone; wow! I have to say, though, that how the credit works is very confusing, at least initially until you see how it actually works yourself.

What I mean is that I thought that I would get the $5 discount immediately upon enrolling in automatic payments. Unfortunately, it didn't quite work out that way. I talked to Alex (their virtual phone system), live reps on the phone, people in stores, and read about it on their website. Many people were simply confused or straight out didn't know how it worked, while others were adamant that I would get the credit right away for my first payment. Even on their website FAQs it says: "You can enroll in Auto Pay at any time, but you will only receive a discount on your monthly plan if you are enrolled BEFORE making the plan payment."

So I enrolled before making the first payment, and yet they still charged me the full price for my first payment. I found this a bit irritating. It seems like a very straightforward question that anyone should be able to answer or at least lookup. Basically, once you signup for automatic payments, they show you that you're enrolled for your NEXT payment when you look at your account online. The FAQ should simply say that!

This seems so trivial, and is only five bucks, but that said, I still found the experience of trying to figure this out to be very frustrating. More than the cost of the five dollars, it makes me question whether I'll get the service I'm paying for, and if I have more complicated questions or issues, whether Virgin Mobile will actually be able to help me. In other words, I've barely just started with Virgin and my trust and confidence in them is low. However, given the low cost of the plan, it seems worth trying anyway!

My credit card gives me the benefit of allowing me to make a claim if a retailer won't take a return within 90 days, so that gives me three months to test their service with relatively low risk. Anyway, I hope my experience helps people save money!

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Nov 20, 2012
by: Doug

So, I have an important update! As it turns out, because I had registered my credit card, and "promised" to pay for my monthly paying going forward with that card, I got the discount for the first month! And I actually paid for my first month with cash!

This is good news, but even more frustrating in that Virgin Mobile and its staff and stores don't seem to understand how their own products work!

So their FAQ seems to be right, and at least one rep was correct about how the program works. All-in-all, there's just way too much confusion and lack of clarity; does it really need to be this hard to understand?!

Nov 14, 2012
Check Your Credit Card Claim Return Policy
by: PrepaidWirelessGuy

Thank you for your feedback; this is amazing information! You certainly hit the nail on the head regarding the savings you can realize with the lower monthly plan. The major issue most people have is forking over $500+ dollars for the actual phone. Ironically, long before smartphones, people would pay that kind of money for a Palm Pilot and not think twice about it, but now we all want the latest technology for free!

One thing to keep in mind regarding the return protection that you mentioned that your credit card provides is to check the details. My American Express card offers similar protection, but says: "If you return a designated item within 90 days from the date of purchase and the merchant won't take it back, American Express MAY refund the full purchase price, UP TO $300 per item....". Note that I added the capitalization for emphasis.

So it may not be totally risk free for you. $250 (+ the total amount of tax you paid) is not a trivial amount of money. So, if you don't like the phone/service, you're better off trying to comply with the store's refund policy.

Again, thank you for the amazingly insightful and helpful post!

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Cricket Wireless Autopay Discount Promotion

by PrepaidWirelessGuy

I've received some inquiries and read complaints online regarding Cricket's Autopay (they call it Automatic Bill Pay) $5 discount promotion. People have been asking who's eligible, how it works, why it's not working, and even reporting that they called Cricket to get it and it were denied. This post is to help clear up any misunderstandings that are out there. I've had the opportunity to read the FAQs on their site, talk to store reps, as well as actually test it, so hopefully this summary will help with some of the confusion.

The promotion started on November 4th 2012 for customers enrolling in autopay. You don't have to be a new customer to Cricket, but you do need to be new to autopay. What that means is that if you already have Auto Bill Pay (or ABP) on your account, you won't automatically get the discount added to your account. HOWEVER, you can still get it by unenrolling and re-enrolling in ABP anytime after the program start date.

Some customers are upset because as loyal ABP customers they feel that they shouldn't have to go through this hassle to get it. I completely understand, and no doubt the folks over at Cricket understand that. However, getting $5 off of your bill every month in perpetuity is very expensive. Of course it has a benefit to the company, otherwise they wouldn't be doing it. Though converting all existing ABP customers at one time could prove to be extremely costly, and the reality is that they would lose money on that. Obviously promos like these are to get people using autopay. Giving money to a customer who are already using it is simply leaving money on the table.

That said, while companies across all industries do promotions only for new customers, it's still annoying and even infuriating for some. Some companies will allow existing customers to get promos if you call to complain. Some make it a simple conversation, while others require that you escalate to various levels of supervisors. In Cricket's case, it's kind of a hybrid where you don't have to argue for it, but you do have to re-enroll to get it. Not really a big deal when you think about it, but some people will certainly find this annoying.

Another annoyance is that you can't get the credit for a month. In other words, if you enroll in ABP this month, you won't see the discount until next month. Some people have found this to be confusing as well. It has to do with their billing process. Yes, Cricket actually has bills, but I won't get started on that aggravating, non-industry standard process! Needless to say, wait one month and you'll get it. Even if ABP is working on your upcoming bill, you won't see the discount applied until the second month.

Virgin Mobile launched a similar program in mid-2012 when it launched its iPhone 4/4S. Their autopay discount program is, however, only available on the iPhone, while Cricket's applies to any phone and any plan they have; so long as you enroll in ABP, you're good to go. That's certainly a competitive advantage over Virgin's offer. You can read more about the Virgin Mobile Monthly Discount.

Another thing to note that if you're on Cricket's PAYGo Monthly Plans, and you enroll in their autopay program (called Auto Topup), you CANNOT get the $5 discount. They treat their Cricket Wireless and PAYGo Monthly plans differently. Another sore spot not to get me started on! If you want to understand the difference between these programs, let me know and I'll post another discussion to help untangle that mess!

Lastly, I wanted to note that there are a number of ways that you can game (i.e. defraud) the system to get the credit without ever doing auto payments. I won't, however, get into those details. If others want to share your experiences with this, you're of course welcome to do so.

Here's a link to the Cricket Auto Bill Pay FAQs.

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Nov 11, 2013
Cricket ABP Discount Update NEW
by: Anonymous

As a Cricket dealer, I can tell you that as of this past weekend, you can now get the discount on your next bill following enrollment instead of waiting for the second month out. Also, new activations enrolling in Automatic Bill Pay get an immediate $5 off. This is great news for customers interested in this discount.

In addition, if you signup for ABP, so long as you pay your bill prior to the charge date (which is the day before your Due Date), you can remain enrolled in ABP and still get the discount. In other words, you can pay in cash in a store each month, and still remain an ABP customer and get the discount. Of course, you'll still pay the $3 service fee in stores, however, you're $2 ahead by taking this approach!

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