High early termination, activation, and upgrade fees hurt Sprint's standing, although the carrier gets credit for data overage charges assessed by megabyte rather than gigabyte. Sprint's newest plans also include an option for unlimited data, minutes, and texting for the life of the line, which eliminates overage fees.
Sprint is a venerable telecommunications provider whose fees exceed those assessed by T-Mobile and AT&T. The early termination fee for a Sprint contract starts at $350 and begins to drop after seven months (with a minimum $100 payment) compared with a similar starting fee at Verizon Wireless that gets pro-rated right away and lower fees at AT&T and T-Mobile. (New plans at T-Mobile don't require the usual two-year contract, so there's no cancelation fee.) Sprint also imposes up to $2.50 a month in administrative fees on top of a 40-cent regulatory fee. For late bill payments, Sprint has chosen to charge customers the maximum allowed by each state, which tops out at 5 percent of the total due; other carriers cap the fee at $5 or 1.5 percent of the balance.
There are bright spots in the world of Sprint fees, however. New Sprint plans, even the non-contract options, feature unlimited talk and text, which means customers don't have to worry about overage charges. Customers can also pay up for unlimited data but aren't severely penalized for sticking with a monthly 1GB allotment and then exceeding it. Unlike AT&T and Verizon Wireless, which charge by the gigabyte for data overages (T-Mobile may slow speeds, instead), Sprint fees are assessed by the megabyte (MB) -- 1.5 cents for each, which equates to $15.36 for a full gigabyte -- which is a good deal for users who occasionally go over the limit by small amounts. Sprint also doesn't charge extra for roaming, but if the bulk of a customer's usage has been off network, the carrier will request a change in calling/texting/data patterns or may choose to stop servicing that customer altogether. Note that the unlimited provisions apply only on the Sprint network.
Fees for international usage with or without a reduced-rate package are comparatively high. Sprint sells monthly data packages starting at $40 for 40MB, compared with $25 for 100MB at Verizon Wireless, $15 for 100MB on T-Mobile, and a starting price of $30 for 120MB in select countries with AT&T. Access to cheaper rates for talk time costs $4.99 a month, on par with Verizon. Without a monthly package, Sprint fees are still high but don't differ substantially from the competition. All that said, Sprint uses CDMA technology, which means customers won't be able to buy foreign SIM cards to get cheaper local rates and their phones may not work at all (except in a Wi-Fi hotspot) in some regions. For calls and texts originating in the U.S. but aimed overseas, Sprint's fees are competitive.
In sum, Sprint's new contract plans may be appealing, but its fees are less so.