T-Mobile has started charging customers who pay phone bills in-store a new $5 “Payment Support Charge,” plus tax. According to The Mobile Report, the new fee went into effect on July 19th, though prepaid customers will be charged the fee later on.
In a flier shared with The Mobile Report announcing the change to its employees, T-Mobile implies the reason behind the fee is to help “enable a digital-enabled future.” Yet, as Droid Life points out, employee time spent processing payments may mean less time for more profitable endeavors — like selling phones or add-ons to plans.
Plus, it’s a sneaky way to encourage more customers to sign up for AutoPay, which conveniently also offers a $5 per line discount if you pay your bill online — and only if you use a debit card. T-Mobile recently withdrew the benefit from customers who paid bills with a credit card.
Defending the fee, T-Mobile’s flier claimed most customers pay their bills online or via AutoPay anyway. While that’s likely true overall, T-Mobile ignored some of the most disadvantaged, like the elderly — a segment of the population that often isn’t computer savvy or doesn’t feel comfortable paying bills online. Many are already financially vulnerable, reliant on Social Security and retirement savings as their sole income. One poster noted on Reddit that some cards received from Social Security or retirement plans often have to be swiped as credit, possibly preventing them from getting access to the discount.
It’s not just the elderly but poor individuals of all ages who could also be hurt by the move. Some who may not be able to open a bank account and may need to pay bills in cash as a result now face an additional tax because of the money they don’t have.
The processing fees for automatic payment transfers can be a fraction of credit card processing fees or the costs of handling checks. That’s good for T-Mobile but a disadvantage for people who rely on credit cards or avoid setting up autopay that could bounce if there isn’t enough money available when the charge is processed.
Several angry customers have turned to this Reddit thread to air their complaints as well, suggesting T-Mobile underestimated how they’d respond. Some T-Mobile employees already report being yelled at about the extra charge, even though one commenter claiming to be an employee said they were excited they could devote more time to commissionable transactions.