Make sure you do your research before going into a upgrade with Verizon head first.
Verizon upgrades used to be so simple. In fact, I remember when I got my first iPhone I paid the $499 (at the time) total cost of the phone, and then I just paid the monthly service fees for the cellular service. When it was time to upgrade, you could only do so when your contract was up. Now, the process has evolved so that more people can take advantage of getting newer devices sooner. Today, you can trade-in your existing phone and get credit for it. Today, you can send back your current device that is under contract and pay an Early Upgrade fee. Today, you can start with a brand new carrier and get a new phone that way. All of those options are indeed available and so is buying the device 100% although these days, that can be a huge burden to many people all at once. That is why companies like Apple and cellular carriers offer Device Payment Plans where you can pay for the phone over the course of your contract. Here’s the catch. It can make upgrading to the newest device a bitch. Here’s what happened to us today – iPhone 13 Preorder day.
We woke up at approximately 6:45 a.m. CDT. This is 15 minutes before pre-orders are supposed to start. Verizon is our carrier of choice, but we were willing to go through Apple if need be. The phone we were interested in was the iPhone 13 Pro in Sierra Blue with 256GB of storage. As it got closer to 7:00 a.m. – preorder time – we began refreshing both Verizon’s website and Apple’s website. Apple’s site didn’t go live for preorders until approximately 7:10 a.m. By that point, we had already gotten stressed out with Verizon’s site and had decided to forego the preorder process. Here’s what we went through.
We were logged into our account and clicked on the “Pre-Order” button on the homepage. I do applaud Verizon for making that front and center on the homepage. From there, you are taken to a screen that allows you to customize your iPhone 13 of choice. We entered our choices and then tried to ‘Trade-in’ our current phone. This is where the process gets a bit confusing because of the wording in the order process. NOTE: If you are a current customer of Verizon and your phone is on a Device Payment Plan (DPP), you are NOT trading your phone in. You are RETURNING your current phone to fulfill the terms of your DPP. This is what tripped us up early this morning. First, the phone we were working with was an iPhone 12 Pro. It was part of a DPP and it still had 14 payments left on it. For those math majors out there, that means it was only about 42% paid. Verizon requires you to have paid at least 50% of the device’s total purchase price before you are qualified for an upgrade. So, we ended up having two issues to deal with.
- The device wasn’t at 50% and therefore not eligible for a traditional upgrade, and
- We thought we were trading a device in and eligible for the promotional credit.
As I mentioned, by 7:30 a.m. we were so frustrated with the system continuing to tell us that we had to pay the current device off in full in order to upgrade and not being given the option to upgrade a specific line, that we gave up. About four hours later, we decided to pick up the phone and call Verizon support. We had always had the option to upgrade in the past simply by paying half the device off. We couldn’t understand why the system was so rigid and not offering that option. Aside from the hold times with Verizon, the people I spoke with were very helpful and were able to get the issues resolved. In total, I was on the phone for about 1.5 hours. Here are some lessons we learned and hopefully writing this out will help others figure out how to upgrade their line if they are having trouble and MAYBE Verizon will take note of this the next time they go through a website design system upgrade.
LESSON 1: Make sure you know the upgrade terms on your specific account. We actually did call the day before we tried to upgrade but didn’t get a knowledgeable rep. Had we known that payment would need to be made before the line was eligible for the early upgrade we would have done so days before to ensure the payment was reflected on the account. We tried to make a $91 payment on the day of the upgrade to bring the line up to 50% paid, but the payment wasn’t ‘posted’ to the account yet by the time we tried to upgrade.
LESSON 2: If your device is in the Device Payment Plan, you aren’t eligible for those sweet cash-back promotions that are always touted. The DPP is a promotion in itself and like most fine print states, “Only one promotion per customer.”
LESSON 3: Most of the time you don’t have to pay anything on the day of the upgrade. This was still true for us even though we had to pay an extra $91 payment. If the ordering system asks for a payment method, this only means that it will be charged to your account once the order is shipped. They don’t charge it immediately. Day of fees you could be charged might include Early Upgrade Fee, DPP charges (if applicable), and taxes. All three of those line items were part of our Day Of charges. They totaled $206.
LESSON 4: If you get trapped into a loop with preordering that tells you you have to pay your current device in full, call customer service. They have ways of bypassing that roadblock so you can still do an early upgrade. We found that screen online one time but didn’t see the option again after we navigated away from it so the system kept demanding $640 (the remainder of the current device purchase price) be paid off before the upgrade could take place.
LESSON 5: Trade-in and Return are not interchangeable terms. When you are part of the Device Payment Plan program you are essentially leasing the device from Verizon (or your carrier of choice) and have the option of returning it in order to fulfill the terms of the DPP. It is NOT considered a trade-in. It’s only considered a “trade-in” if the iPhone is 100% paid off and you own it. So, if you happened to have a second iPhone that was paid off, I suppose you could get credit for it, but few people have multiple iPhones laying around like that.
Personally, I think that Verizon’s website should be completely redesigned so that it is more user-friendly and so that things like upgrades aren’t such a painful, confusing process for current customers. A simple yes/no button option could have been employed to guide users to the correct path for their particular upgrade. Until then, we might be left calling to upgrade for the foreseeable future.