Make sure you read the fine print.

If you're a Sprint customer, you may have noticed a random charge on your monthly bill that seems a little out of left field. It's called a "term access charge," and it's a little misleading as to what it's actually for.

What is a term access charge?

From the wording, you'd think an "access charge" would be the cost of accessing Sprint's mobile network, which it should be by definition.

It's not. Or, at least, it doesn't seem that way.

For Sprint, the term access charge is applied when you buy a phone from them at a discount, buy one outright, lease one, or buy one on the Easy Pay plan.

A charge of $15 to $25 is added to your monthly bill. The charge varies depending on the phone and the amount of data you have in your plan.


You think you can just buy a phone at a discounted price, sign a multi-year contract, and then not have to pay for the rest of the phone? Preposterous!

That's right. You have to pay off the "balance" of whichever phone you buy.

Watch out

Do the math. If by the end of your contract you end up paying more in term access charges than the phone is worth, talk to Sprint. If you sign a two-year contract and pay $25, per month, that's $600. If you pay $100 for the phone up front, then that's a $700 phone.

If the phone doesn't regularly retail for that price, you could be be getting taken for a bit of a ride… to the cleaners.

You might also get hit with a term access charge if you add a line to your family plan, so pay attention to every bill.