Much of the US is currently on some form of lockdown, and that means many are not working. Which is going to make it harder to pay bills during the COVID-19 Outbreak, luckily the US wireless carriers have a heart and will not be charging late fees or suspending service for those affected.
However, as is always the case with things like this, there are some caveats. So we are here to explain what's going on, how you can not pay your phone bill this month and not get a shut off notice from your carrier.
It's important to note that a lot of this is subject to change, as the Coronavirus pandemic is changing every day (in fact, it's by the hour). But for now, this all applies for the next 60 days or two months. And where more and more cities and even States are going on a full lockdown, forcing everyone to stay at home, this could last longer than two months. So this information could change, but we'll be doing our best to make sure it stays up to date.
These are the Wireless Carriers waiving late fees during COVID-19 outbreak
The FCC asked all carriers and ISPs to sign onto its Keep Americans Connected pledge, during this COVID-19 pandemic. Where the companies would not shut off anyone's service for the next 60 days. Once Chairman Pai put out this pledge, almost all carriers and ISPs signed on within 24 hours.
Currently, the list of wireless carriers include AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, US Cellular and Verizon. These carriers have all decided not to disconnect customers, and waive late fees. Normally, customers would get disconnected after not paying their bill for 60 days, so this is a very big deal.
It's still worth noting that if you do get hit with late fees during this COVID-19 pandemic, to make sure you get in touch with your wireless carrier. As these systems are mostly automated, and it's pretty likely that some might fall through the cracks during this time.
Which customers are impacted by this?
Customers who have been laid off or furloughed by their employer will be mostly impacted here. Right now, they estimate that around 20% of the US population is currently unemployed due to this pandemic.
This doesn't just affect individuals, but also small businesses. Since these small businesses usually don't have a lot of money in their pockets, and now that they are closed for the foreseeable future, they did need to be added to this list.
To be sure that you are eligible during this COVID-19 pandemic, make sure that you get in contact with your wireless carrier, before you encounter any late fees. As it could be harder to reverse it after the fact. And there's nothing wrong with trying to get ahead of the curve and getting all of your ducks in a row.
Will I still need to catch up on my bill?
Yes. While you are not being charged late fees from your wireless provider during the COVID-19 pandemic, you are going to need to pay for your service. Most carriers do, and will, offer payment arrangements if you can't pay it all at once. So once again, it's going to be a good idea to call your carrier and see what your options are here.
The good news is that you won't be having late fees compounded on your bill during this time, so you'll just be paying the usual amount.
It's also worth noting that your billing date is not going to be changing, due to this protection from late fees and service cancelation. Your bill is still due at the same time as usual.
If you are able to pay now, it's a good idea to do so. If you are still able to work (from home, obviously) then you should still pay your bill on time. That way you won't have a much larger bill to pay once everyone gets back to work, when this whole thing is over – hopefully sooner rather than later. And there's no need to abuse these policies if you don't need to use them.
What do I do if I can't pay right now?
If you are unable to pay now, you're going to want to plan ahead, and contact your wireless carrier. As mentioned before, the wireless carriers have committed to no late fees during the COVID-19 pandemic, but things can fall through the cracks. So getting in touch with your carrier is a great idea, and you'll be able to have them put a note on your account, and ensure that you don't get charged a late fee for not paying on time.
However, if you wait until after the fact, it might be much harder to get around not paying these late fees. As some employees may not understand the policy right away. Which is understandable, considering this isn't a normal policy and things like this don't happen often.
You can get in touch with your carrier by calling them, or talking to them via live chat, Facebook Messenger or Twitter. Using the live chat, Facebook Messenger or Twitter options will likely be the best bet. And remember that due to the Social Distancing thing, most of these carriers have fewer customer service reps working. So you may have to wait a bit longer than usual.
In the table below, you can see how to get in contact with each of the four major wireless carriers. You can also get in contact with them through their apps on iOS and Android, respectively.
|Phone Number||Live Chat||Facebook Messenger|
|AT&T||800-331-0500||att.com||AT&T on Facebook||@ATTHelp|
|Sprint||844-764-8361||sprint.com||Sprint on Facebook||@SprintCare|
|T-Mobile||800-937-8997||t-mobile.com||T-Mobile on Facebook||@TMobileHelp|
|Verizon||800-922-0204||verizonwireless.com||Verizon Wireless on Facebook||@VZWSupport|
Don't take advantage of these late fee waivers
If you are working, and are earning the same amount you normally would be, make sure you pay your bill. Don't take advantage of these carriers waiving late fees and shutoffs. There's really no need to do so, as you're going to be paying the same amount as usual anyways.
One thing you wouldn't want to happen, is to use this new policy from wireless carriers to waive late fees during the COVID-19 pandemic and then you not get the late fee waived. And if you were able to pay, well you just forced yourself to pay even more money.
This is one of the few times where the US wireless carriers are not being overly greedy and forcing us to still pay our phone bills, while a big majority of the country is out of work. So let this be a word of warning, don't take advantage of the wireless carriers being nice to its customers for once. The FCC isn't mandating these carriers waive late fees and suspend shutoffs, so they are doing this out of the goodness of their heart, fortunately. And if they think customers are taking advantage of this, that could quickly change.
What else are carriers doing during the COVID-19 Pandemic?
All four wireless carriers have either closed all, or a majority of its retail stores, thanks to the Coronavirus. Verizon has closed all of them. T-Mobile has closed 80% of their stores, with Sprint at 71% and AT&T at 40%. These carriers that only closed some of them, have done it strategically so that no customer has to drive more than about 30 minutes, to get to a store. Most of these stores will have different hours too. For example, T-Mobile stores will be open 10AM to 6PM local time, and AT&T stores will be open 11AM to 7PM local time. But if you don't absolutely need to go to the store, it's better to get in touch over the phone or live chat.
On top of that, call centers have also been rearranged, so that customer service representatives are able to practice social distancing. This means that there are less customer service reps working at once. Carriers have also granted leave to those that are high-risk or are feeling sick. So that they aren't getting their other employees sick.
Sprint will soon be able to roam on T-Mobile's network with no additional fees, to improve its coverage. T-Mobile and Verizon have also temporarily licensed more spectrum from Dish, Comcast, and others to add more capacity to their networks for the next 60 days. T-Mobile has licensed more 600MHz spectrum and Verizon more AWS-3 spectrum. So as long as your phone was released in the last couple of years, you should be able to connect to this new spectrum without any issues.
T-Mobile is also giving unlimited data to everyone. As well as giving an additional 20GB of hotspot data for unlimited customers. Its LifeLine customers will get an additional 5GB of data per month, and finally the EmpowerED student program gets at least 20GB of data per month.
Sprint has also opted to give everyone 20GB of hotspot data to all customers and those in the 1Million Project will get an additional 10GB of hotspot data until June 30.