AT&T adds an activation fee for new Next subscribers

A new $15 fee will apply to AT&T's contract-free plans on August 1, and on-contract activations are getting pricier as well.

att logo

Joining AT&T is about to get more expensive, thanks to a new fee on the carrier’s contract-free plans.

Starting August 1, new subscribers to AT&T Next will have to pay a $15 activation fee, regardless of whether they buy a phone from the carrier or bring their own. If you sign up for a new line of service with Next, you pay the fee.

For now, existing Next subscribers won’t face any new fees, The Verge reports, and AT&T has yet to add any fees when upgrading to a new phone on the Next plan. However, AT&T’s website no longer specifically says that upgrade fees don’t apply, as it has in the past.

With AT&T Next, subscribers are not locked into a contract and pay a lower monthly price for wireless service, but must pay full price for the phone itself. AT&T once advertised the lack of activation fees as a selling point—subscribers could walk out of an AT&T store with a phone for no money down—but apparently AT&T would rather just have that money now.

Subscribers with one- or two-year contracts are also getting hit with higher activation and upgrade fees. Starting August 1, the cost to set up a new on-contract phone with AT&T will rise from $40 to $45, making for the highest activation and upgrade fee among all the major carriers.

Why this matters: Even if you don’t subscribe to AT&T, the new fees are probably bad news, because wireless carriers—and especially AT&T and Verizon—tend to copy each other as they invent new ways to extract money from customers. Case in point: AT&T hiked its on-contract activation fee from $35 to $40 last year, and Verizon followed six months later. Don’t be surprised if Verizon Edge quietly gains its own activation fee before long.

To comment on this article and other PCWorld content, visit our Facebook page or our Twitter feed.
Shop Tech Products at Amazon