Why You Should Avoid These Free Offers From Verizon and AT&T


You may have heard about the offers from Verizon and AT&T for a free cell phone. Money expert Clark Howard says you probably should let these offers pass you by.

Clark loves free things, but as the old adage goes, the devil’s in the details. 

Free Phone Offer? Read the Fine Print

Clark says the reason AT&T and Verizon are extending these “free” offers is the overall state of the cell phone industry.

“AT&T and Verizon have both found themselves in a shocking and weak position in the marketplace,” Clark says. “The 98-pound weakling, T-Mobile, has ended up being the network powerhouse of the cell phone industry.”

“The only position AT&T and Verizon had to go was down because they are both suffering market erosion,” he adds. “So both of them are trying to retain the customers they have by doing very expensive phone giveaways.”

And both the AT&T and Verizon deals come with very big catches.

The Truth About the AT&T Deal

Free iPhone 12 at att.com
Screenshot via att.com

AT&T’s offer stipulates that you have to trade in your old phone.

And in the small print, the offer reads: “Req’s trade in of eligible device, $799.99 on 0% APR 30-mo. agmt. $0 down for well-qual. customers only.” 

The Truth About the Verizon Deal

Free phones at Verizon.com
Screenshot via verizon.com

Verizon’s free phone offers are displayed prominently on the carrier’s website, which features some of the latest iPhone models.

The details of the promotion read: “499.99 purchase on device payment or at retail price required. New line required. Less 499.99 promo credit applied to account over 24 mos; promo credit ends if eligibility requirements are no longer met; 0% APR. Taxes and fees may apply.”

Here’s the Catch

Did you catch that? AT&T’s free offer comes with a 30-month agreement. Verizon’s is paired with a 24-month contract.


Clark says in both of these cases AT&T and Verizon are “obligating you almost like the old-fashioned contracts: handcuffing you to them with supposedly free phones that only become free if you stay with them for the two- or three-year period.”

Bottom Line

Clark says when it comes to no-cost offers from AT&T and Verizon, “The free is not really free. The free is a tease to obligate you to them.”

With that being said, Clark knows that some customers are loyal to certain brands a fault, even to the detriment of their wallets. In that case, here’s his advice.

“Maybe you love Verizon or AT&T and you couldn’t imagine switching. In that case, yeah, take the free phone, but know that that phone has a very, very high cost.”

Looking for a phone for less? Here are the best cell phone plans and deals.

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