Amid the uncertainty of COVID-19’s spread, numerous companies have taken measures to help their customers make ends meet. For example, the four major U.S. cell carriers—AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon—announced they will stop charging late fees and early cancellation fees, and in some cases, won’t shut off service for accounts that are unable to pay their bill. Some are even offering free, automatic service upgrades for the time being.
Pledging to forgive late payments is generous (and necessary), but customers shouldn’t use this as an excuse to not pay their phone bill if they’re still able to.
In a report for Android Police, David Ruddock investigated each companies’ late fee forgiveness policies and found that they all require that customers contact support representatives (online or over the phone) in order to get at least some of the late payment and early cancellation consequences forgiven. This is critical: they don’t all simply happen automatically.
If you skip a payment and don’t make the effort of contacting your carrier and explaining the situation, you may still incur late payment fees, service interruptions, and even dings to your credit score.
To be clear, neither Ruddock nor I are saying that people should feel bad if they can’t pay due to the current global circumstances; If you’ve lost your job or having financial difficulties, make sure you contact your carrier and all other companies you pay bills to and explain the situation.
The point is that you definitely shouldn’t use this as an excuse to skirt responsibilities and potentially make things more difficult for yourself. These temporary changes are still early and could change at any time, much like the circumstances around the pandemic itself. Plus, big companies are prone to internal miscommunication and mistakes—especially when it comes to automated services like bill payments—and you don’t need to be gambling with your cell service or credit score right now. Pay your bill if you can. If you can’t, make sure you contact your carrier ASAP to make sure you know your options.