“Carrier Freedom” – Difference between new Device Payment scheme and ETF reimbursement explained


During the Uncarrier 9.0 announcement, T-Mobile revealed that it would be changing its “Contract Freedom” slightly and start including device payment plan reimbursements alongside ETF’s being paid. Now dubbed “Carrier Freedom”, there are a couple of differences worth noting between the two plan types.

With the ETF reimbursement – announced during Uncarrier 4.0 in January 2014 – customers get the final ETF balance amount on a prepaid Visa card. So, if you need to pay Verizon or AT&T $200 to end your contract with them early, that’s what you get. You’re also required to trade in your phone, but that’s a separate amount. There’s also a maximum limit of $350.

With the new scheme, ETF reimbursement stays the same. But if you have a device payment plan with another carrier (Next/Edge/Easy Pay/EIP), there is no limit to how much T-Mobile will give you per line. However, unlike the ETF reimbursement, the device trade-in value counts against your final device payment balance.

For instance, you owe Verizon or AT&T $500 to pay off your device payment plan and your phone is valued at $150 trade-in, T-Mobile will give you $350 on a prepaid Visa card. You still get the $500 you need to pay off your old plan, but part of it is the trade-in.

As with the ETF you’re required to trade-in and port your number to T-Mobile to qualify. You also need to purchase a new device, and it’s available for up to 10 lines. Full details, from an internal communication are below:

carrier freedom leak

Reimbursement is normally made within 8 weeks of submitting the request. So in many ways, it’s simply been adapted to suit the other carrier’s device payment plans better.

Let us know if you plan on taking advantage of the new Carrier Freedom, and if it really is as easy to switch as T-Mobile claims it is.

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  • Logan C.

    I don’t like this. The original contract freedom was a philosophy that T-Mobile decided to live by. This seems more like a kneejerk reaction to Sprint to grab customers.

    • Paul

      Unlike Sprint, who takes aim at Verizon and AT&T customers together and T-Mobile separate, T-Mobile takes aim at all other carrier customers. I don’t this is a kneejerk reaction, but I do believe it’s a reaction to what the other carriers have started doing.

      • Cam Bunton

        Exactly, it’s a response to the market as a whole. With more customers signing up for EIP-type deals with all carriers, it made no sense to exclude them from the “Contract Freedom” offer. It’s a natural response and evolution of terms.

        • brybry

          With ETF payment, you can trade in any phone working or not.

          Can you still do that ? Trade in any working/non working phone for the ETF or EIP payoff?

        • Walter Gordon

          I believe all trades now have to be in working condition now. Check with your local store.

        • Andrew Singleton

          you are correct. 3-point inspection: cracked screen, water damage, turns on.

    • Ben

      What’s not to like? The ETF version of this stays the same, but now there is an easier way for people to jump ship to T-Mo without worrying about paying off their old device. I’m not sure what you see wrong here…

    • MKashi

      Simple – When Sprint does it first its a temporary scam, when T-Mobile responds its a revolutionary natural evolution of terms.

      • Andrew Singleton

        i cant tell, are you being sarcastic? because that’s actually true haha

    • dtam

      No idea what you’re talking about. This is just allowing people who have EIP programs to also switch.

      • MKashi

        He meant Sprint has the same offer, launched it a few weeks ago.

        • dtam

          It seems like the natural progression since the market is heading towards that way. Why the dislike for it? Just because Tmo wasn’t first?

    • steveb944

      So you don’t like competition? EVERYONE has been copying T-Mobile lately. Data allowance, ETFs, etc.

  • Nairb

    One other key difference between the two programs is the device being traded must pass the three point inspection. If the device is damaged and you owe on it they must get the device repaired or replaced before trading it in for EIP reimbursement.

    Also it must be the same device that is financed that is being traded in. For the ETF reimbursement any device works whether it works or not.

    • Walter Gordon

      I think both have to have 3 point inspection Starting tomorrow. Check with your local t-mobile store to be sure.

  • Darrien Glasser

    Am I the only one experiencing awful autoscrolling? I was in the middle of the article, and dragged to the top to see a massive banner ad. After repositioning myself in the middle of the article, I was then dragged down to the “Sponsored from around the web.”

    • DeathByAds

      It has been going on for a week for me. Many of us have been complaining about the ads to Can and phonedog recently.

      The ads are extremely obnoxious to say the least.

      • Darrien Glasser

        Thank god, it isn’t just me. I hope a fix comes soon.

        • Me

          Everytime I click a tmonews link I get the delayed ad expansion of a massive banner ad at the top, usually after I scroll down into the blog article, then after a 6-8 seconds it shrinks causing the page to readjust. This causes the whole site to shift up and down leaving you very confused.

          Cam doesn’t experience the same thing. He suggested it was a targeted ad for the U.S.

          Perhaps it’s time for a few more entries in my HOSTS file. My sincere apologies phonedog and Cam, no more ad revenue for my visits until this is addressed.

        • Phil

          On mine on the PC, there is an white X on the top right that you can click on right away so you don’t have to worry about it shrinking while you are reading something. Mobile or tablet however, not sure.

        • Cam Bunton

          Guys, I’ve been asking repeatedly via many mediums (social/Disqus/email) I need you to send me screenshots of it happening so I can send this to the right people to fix it. Email me, anytime cam[at]tmonews.com. I want this fixed too, but I can’t see it in the UK.

        • Darrien Glasser

          Sorry about that, I don’t browse this site enough to know. I’ll see if I can get a screen recording of it, and send it over.

        • Cam Bunton

          Got it, thanks!

    • s38uqsid

      Any reason that you aren’t using an ad blocker with your browser? Personally, I find the AdBlock extention to Chrome great.

      • Darrien Glasser

        I like supporting websites. Using an adblocker on a free website is like walking into a store, taking an oven, and leaving. I feel like I’m taking their product, and giving nothing in return (which I kind of am, because that’s how they make money).

        If more websites did the whole Patron thing, I wouldn’t feel so bad about it, but few do, so I leave adblock off.

  • Matt

    I’m a fan of prepaid all of the way. It’s nice to want the latest and greatest devices but I don’t need them. I don’t like being tied down at all.

    • steveb944

      Well then you could buy a cheaper mid range or older device from the store. Reap post paid benefits and still have the option of leaving because your device is paid off.

  • AS118

    Already switched 1 year ago when they did the first ETF payment deal. From Verizon. Thankfully, my reception is almost equal and the speeds are faster. I pay about the same amount of money, but get MUCH more data than the paltry amount Verizon gave me for that price.

  • Bryck

    Would I need to show them an AT&T bill?

    • Andrew Singleton

      For what?

      • Judas

        You have to submit your AT&T bill after switching over before they send your visa prepaid card with your ETF of device payment balance on it

        • Andrew Singleton

          yes. switch2t-mobile.com and you can upload a scan yourself

  • VG

    I know this is off-topic, but has T-Mobile eliminated their Simple Choice Prepaid Plans? The monthly plans that don’t throttle your data speed to 8 Mbps? I was going to refer a friend of mine to one of these Simple Choice Prepaid plans, but they no longer appear on the T-Mobile web site. Anybody know something about this?

    • Eddie

      I work at T-Mobile and yes we still have them the only plans we don’t offer anymore is simple started plans

      • VG

        Thanks. Can you provide the link for your web site with the Simple Choice Prepaid pricing for the different tiers? I can’t find it anywhere.

        • Andrew Singleton

          cant find a link either. 50=1gb 60=3gb 70=5gb 80=unlimited everything

        • Tmobile Cam

          It’s actually differnet pricing on prepaid. 40=1gb, 50=3gb, 60=5gb, 80=unlimited data without throttle

        • Andrew Singleton

          Yes those are the simply prepaid rates with the unlimited rate. They Max at 8mbps and are not eligible for several other perks. I was listing the SC prepaid plans.

        • Cruz R.

          Tmobile sure is hiding the plans. But here’s how you view it. Once your in the link on the right top hand side click on “Compare our plans” . It will have a pop up and lets you print the plans. http://prepaid-phones.t-mobile.com/prepaid-phones?icid=WMD_PD_Q115CYRN_SSEYGTGLE11410

  • Laststop311

    Does t mobile still have the 30 dollar plan that is like 100 minutes voice unlimited text and 5GB LTE for 30 dollars a month?

    • Guest

      That is a prepaid plan and does not qualify for the etf/eip reimbursement.

    • j sizzle

      Only at Walmart locations

  • jim

    Tmobile is making it much too complicated for the average new customer. They should just offer a flat amount of transition assistance and let cusomers apply it as they want like Tmobile business sales does.
    These promotions do nothing to attract people without an ETF.

    • bob90210

      I think the ETF/device reimbursement is a great plan for T-Mobile since it increase the number their subscribers and reduces the competition at the same time. Also T-Mobile has eliminated contracts from their plans and the reimbursement is their way of eliminating the contract from other carriers.

    • Randall Lind

      You need to be a lawyer to understand this LOL

    • Paul

      If you don’t have an ETF or device payment plan, these promotions aren’t supposed to be what attracts you. The ridiculously cheaper plans are supposed to attract you.

  • Alex

    Can anyone confirm for the ETF-reimbursement program that you still do not have to trade in the actual device from the line that the ETF is being paid on? In other words, any device can be traded in and you will still be reimbursed?

    I understand that for the device-payment plan reimbursement, the actual device on the payment plan that is being paid off needs to be traded in.

  • SunnySD92101

    This is a total scam and a rip-off. Take into account my scenario: I currently pay $240 a month for 3 iphones, 1 flip phone, and 8gb shared data (plus the “bonus” data). I have 2 Iphone6-64gb, an iphone5s 64gb, and a flip phone. According to TMO, my new monthly service will be about $50 less per month (to have unlim data on 3 iphones). But I must invest almost $1k in equipment swapping (example: trade in $334 for old IP6, pay $750 for new…). Not to mention I’m on the hook for the ETF’s due within 30-45 days, whereas the reimbursement takes about 8 weeks from TMO. Total to switch would be almost $1500 and divide this by the savings of around $50 per month and the ROI is 30 months later.


    • Paul

      But you’re also going from 8GB shared to unlimited data. You shouldn’t be upset when that ends up not paying off immediately. Plus, I think you miscalculated anyway. I’m seeing closer to $90 savings per month with their current offerings (i’m giving the flip phone only 1GB a month, the iPhones unlimited each month). Plus, it’ll cost you about an extra $58 a month to pay off the 2 iPhones. So, you should still be paying $32 less per month minus whatever a new flip phone would be (which is less than $32). So, all in all, there’s no cost to really switch, except yes, you do have to float the EFTs for possibly a couple weeks or so (anywhere between 1.5 to 4 weeks, depending on if your ETF is due in 30 or 45 days). So, I’m not sure where you’re coming up with your calculations. My guess the T-Mobile guy messed up.