‘Free’ is rarely free.
There's more to these advertised savings for military members and veterans than meets the eye.
After seeing a TV ad from T-Mobile that appeared to offer veterans 50 percent off their plan, TINA.org reader Ralph G., a veteran himself, contacted the company to find out more.
“I called for this and was given a group of excuses that I am not eligible with my plan and the reduction is for active duty persons with a military T-Mobile plan,” Ralph told TINA.org.
TINA.org looked into the promotion for Ralph and here’s the deal: He’s eligible to get a discount (not 50 percent) but he has to switch cellphone plans.
“To get the pricing, eligible customers (active duty service members and veterans) sign up for the T-Mobile ONE Military plan,” a T-Mobile spokeswoman said in an email.
In other words, the promotion requires military members and veterans to switch plans, even if they are perfectly happy with the plan they currently have. The spokeswoman said there is no fee to switch.
But here’s where things get confusing — and mathematically annoying. Because it is only lines 2 through 6 under a family military plan that receive the 50 percent discount, and that discount is not what military consumers and their families can save by switching from their current plan to this new one, but rather the cost of the T-Mobile ONE Military plan compared to the cost of the identical T-Mobile ONE plan, which the spokeswoman described as the wireless carrier’s flagship plan. (Presumably, the savings would be the same if the current plan is the T-Mobile One plan.) Fine print in the T-Mobile commercial above sums it up like this:
Half off add’l line price for lines 2-6 vs. T-Mobile ONE; with AutoPay.
Now, you may be wondering — what about the first line? The answer isn’t great: According to the spokeswoman and a pricing breakdown on T-Mobile’s website, the first line under a family military plan — or the sole line under a single military plan — is only 20 percent off, for a discounted price of $55 a month. A second line costs an additional $25 and a third, fourth, fifth or sixth, an additional $10 each.
What this means for our reader, Ralph, who currently pays $90 a month for two lines on an “unlimited” plan, is that he would save only $10 on his monthly bill on the T-Mobile Military One plan. Over the course of a year, that’s $120, which isn’t bad. But Ralph was looking to cut his phone bill in half and, based on the marketing of the promotion, thought that was possible. And in the end, it didn’t even come close.
Find more of our coverage on ads that target military members here.