Virgin Mobile iPhone Monthly Discount
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!
Cricket Wireless Autopay Discount Promotion
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.