Posted by Chuck on September 9, 2016
Credit Cards

Published on September 9th, 2016 | by Chuck

105

All you need to know about Citi AT&T $650 Phone Offer

[Originally posted on 3/10/16. Reposted on 9/9/16 due to the iPhone 7 release. Note: the AT&T Access More credit card is currently unavailable for signup.]

The AT&T Access More card from Citi offers a signup bonus of a free phone worth up to $650. In this post, we’ll clarify the various aspects associated with this bonus, and how to efficiently maximize the phone offer.

Signup Bonus Requirements

To be eligible for the $650 phone credit, you must spend $2,000 within three months (or slightly longer).

  • The phone can be purchased whenever you’d like; it doesn’t have to be done right away.
  • The $2,000 spend must be done within the first 3-months, regardless of when you plan on buying the phone.
  • You can buy the phone right away, even before doing the $2,000 spend, and you’ll get the $650 credit after meeting the spend.
  • The purchase of the phone will count toward the $2,000 spend requirement. For example, you can buy a phone costing exactly $650, then spend another $1350, all within the first 3-months, and you’ll get the $650 phone credit.
  • The $650 does not count any taxes, fees, shipping, or wireless service.
  • “$650 credit will post within 3 to 4 billing cycles.” In practice, for me it posted on the second statement closing date after the spend was met, i.e. slightly over a month after meeting the spend.
  • The phone can cost more of less than $650; the credit will equal the cost of the phone or $650, whichever is less.
  • Some phones may have extended delivery promises based on available inventory, and those are fine to order as well.
  • Signup bonus is only eligible when paying for the phone fully at the time of purchase, not on a 2-year wireless agreement, nor on a pre-paid or AT&T Next.

Before signing up for a Citi card, read 16 Things Everybody Should Know About Citi Credit Cards.

How to Buy the Phone

Use the link found in your Citi credit card login, provided to you in an email from Citi, or shown to you immediately at the time of account approval. It will take you to the ATT site to buy a phone and signup on a service plan. The link allows Citi to track the purchase information so that the $650 credit will hit automatically.

If something goes wrong with that tracking, Citi has been known just to ask for verification on the phone and service purchase, and they’ll manually credit your account with $650.

Similarly, reports indicate that you can actually buy the phone in an AT&T store and get the $650 manually credited by Citi by faxing in your name, account number, and a copy of the receipt to 1 866 799 5591. This is particularly helpful for phones which aren’t available for purchase online or to partake in some other promotion which needs to be done in an ATT store.

Once again, the credit won’t come automatically, but you should be able to get it credited manually.

Maximize the $650 Value

To get the full value of the bonus, any phone over $650 will work.  See all the phone options here and more details in this post.

If you want a phone close to the $650 range, take a look at the iPhone 6S with 16 GB which costs exactly $650. Or look at the Galaxy S6 with 32 GB which costs $685.

Selling or Giving Away the Phone

According to the experience of a friend, it’s possible to do the whole phone deal without ever having to open the package. The phone can thus be sold as new or given away as a new gift.

The ATT service will begin on its own when you signup, and after 15-days you can cancel service without ever having to open the box.

Sales Tax

Bear in mind that there is sales tax on the phone purchase. Sales tax is excluded from the signup bonus so you won’t be able to get that paid for with the bonus, even if you buy a cheaper phone.

Sales tax ranges from 0% to 10%, so a $650 phone will have between $0 and $65 added for sales tax.

Note that the sales tax is based on the state where the phone is shipped, not the billing address on the plan (personal experience).

Monthly Phone Service Fees

To get the $650 bonus credit, you need to signup for a phone plan with AT&T and keep the service for at least 15-days. No contract is necessary since you are buying the phone outright, but you must signup for ATT service and keep the service for 15-days. After 15-days, you can cancel the phone service.

The cheapest plan offered by AT&T is for $45 per month (add a few dollars for taxes and fees – mine are $4). This plan is for 300 MB data which is the plan with the lowest data; there are no plans with no data at all.

The cost of this 300 MB plan is broken down as follows: $40 phone line + $20 data – $15 discount = $45. The second-to-cheapest plan is $55 per month for 2 GB of data, an extra $10 for the added 1.7 GB.

My experience was that the monthly service fees began from the date that I ordered the phone and plan, even before the phone came in the mail. It came quickly, though.

Cancelling Mid-Month

Updated 9/18/16

Reps give out conflicting information regarding getting a prorate for cancellations in mid-month.

The correct information, I believe, is that they will not prorate once the month started, and you’ll pay for the full month.

Early Termination Fee

A lot of people get thrown off when they see mention of a large Early Termination Fee (ETF) for closing the phone line within two years. In fact, there is no EFT at all; the fee is only for someone who signs a contract, usually because they aren’t paying for the phone outright.

With this Citi deal, you buy the phone outright and pay for it fully with your Citi ATT credit card, you aren’t under any contract at all. The 15-day service requirement is just a provision from Citi in their signup bonus offer; on the ATT front, you are under no contract or obligation at all, and the line can be canceled as you wish.

Two Hard Pulls

We’ve discussed in previous posts (here and here) that when doing this $650 phone deal, there will end up being two hard pulls on your credit report. One, the pull when signing up for the Citi credit card (this one was Experian for me). Two, an Equifax pull when signing onto the ATT phone plan after you get the credit card.

If you are an existing AT&T post-paid customer or if you add yourself to someone else’s post-paid plan you’ll save the second pull as we’ll discuss below.

Existing AT&T Users

Existing AT&T customers are eligible for the $650 phone credit as well. They do have to keep the phone line for 15-days, just like new customers. Click to AT&T using the special phone offer link, and use the phone upgrade option in your AT&T login to order a new phone.

Existing AT&T customers have the big advantage that they won’t get a second credit inquiry for phone sign up, as noted above.

Signing up as an Additional Line

Many people ask about getting the free phone as an add-a-line on the plan of family or friend. This idea does work, and it’s probably the best way for non-ATT customers to take advantage of the phone offer.

When an existing customer adds a line, no hard inquiry is done. If you have a friend/family who can add you to the plan and work with you on ordering the new phone, this is an excellent option. Click the special phone link from Citi, and buy the phone there while adding yourself to the plan. Or add yourself first and then use the upgrade option to purchase a new phone.

Aside from sparing you the hard pull, using this option will also save you money versus starting as a new customer. Since you are adding a line on an existing data plan, you won’t need to pay any data costs, only the add-a-line cost.

The cost of adding a line should be $15 and will save money over getting a new plan yourself.

Mixing Names

If John has the ATT credit card and Jane has an ATT phone, can they upgrade Jane’s phone using the phone offer from John’s card?

I don’t know.

I would venture to guess that it would work automatically based on the link tracking, but if something goes wrong with the automated tracking, you won’t be able to convince Citi to credit you. This is all just a guess, though.

Activation Fee

The Fine Print on the credit card application mentions,

Activation Fee: $15 per line.

In practice, I got the $15 fee credited back to me, for reasons which aren’t clear.

Screen Shot 2016-03-07 at 2.43.26 PM

Unlocking the Phone

AT&T and TMobile phones use GSM while Verizon and Sprint use CDMA (more info here). Since the free $650 phone is purchased through ATT, it will be GSM and will only be usable for ATT, T-Mobile, or another carrier who uses GSM. Newer model phones come both GSM and CDMA enable, reportedly.

The other issue to keep in mind before switching to another carrier is that you’ll have to get the phone unlocked by ATT; carriers often lock phones to their service.

When paying full price for the phone (as we do with this Citi-ATT deal), you have full rights to get the phone unlocked immediately. I chatted with a couple of reps, and some thought that it needed a 60-day wait, but – in the end – all agreed that when full price is paid it can be unlocked immediately.

One report indicates that when paying full price, it comes unlocked automatically. However, most people find that it needs to be manually unlocked ATT upon request.

A couple of reports suggest doing the unlocking before even activating the phone, and this helps it go smoothly (more info here). I would recommend doing so as I tried unlocking afterward and it wasn’t so easy. In fact, I’m not sure if the phone ever ended up getting unlocked at all. I’m sure I can get it done if needed; it just hasn’t been necessary for me yet.

Shopping Portal & Bonus Offers

When you buy the new phone, it’s supposed to be done through a special phone link from Citi, as noted. This link tracks your purchase and gets the $650 credited automatically.

Since you are using the special link, it won’t be possible to take advantage of lucrative phone signup offers; there are some hefty portal bonuses for signing onto such a plan, as much as $150 from Ebates or other portal bonuses. There may be other switch offers and Plenti offers as well, see this Milestomemories post for some stacking ideas. These bonus offers typically require that you lock yourself in for 2-years, and most of us don’t want to do that.

If you are new to ATT and are willing to lock yourself in, there may be a roundabout way of getting these bonuses while still using the correct link from Citi. First, signup for a new ATT service plan directly using any portals or signup offers. Then, buy the new phone using the link in your Citi credit card login, and choose the phone upgrade offer, as discussed above. I haven’t tested this out, but I don’t see why it wouldn’t work.

You may end up paying for an extra week or two of service, but you’ll be able to take advantage of all the lucrative offers.

$95 Annual Fee

When putting a value to the signup bonus, we’d typically say that it’s worth a maximum of $650 minus the $95 annual fee, or $565. However, remember that there is an annual bonus of 10,000 Thank You points, which is worth $95+ to most.

Since you already spent $2,000 to meet the signup bonus requirement, it would require an additional $8,000 in spend by year’s end to get the 10k bonus. The card has a lucrative 3x category for many online merchants, and also for ATT purchases; read my experiences in the post Testing Out My Shiny New AT&T Credit Card.

If you want to cancel the card at year’s end, you should be able to get the 10,000 bonus before cancelling since Citi usually gives a 30-day leeway to get the annual fee refunded.

If we’ll assume the annual fee is offset by the annual bonus, we can put the value of the signup bonus at pretty close to a full $650. Even if you don’t use ATT service, the only fee involved is the cost of one-month phone service, around $45 or $50, leaving a $600 bonus.

Final Thoughts

Many people find some of the aspects to this bonus confusing, and hopefully, this post will help with that. For someone who needs a new phone, $650 is a nice value to get from a signup bonus.

One interesting note is that we usually assume that the banks are suckers, and we get the better of them by doing various bonuses. Yet, I signed up for the card five months ago, and I’m still on ATT now. I do plan on switching soon, but, still, they’ll have gotten their $650 back from me and won’t end up at a loss. Not a bad customer acquisition cost. I wonder who foots the $650 bill, Citi or ATT.



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105 Comments on "All you need to know about Citi AT&T $650 Phone Offer"

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Been waiting to see an updated, concise post on this. Thanks for putting this all together, very helpful

A couple of points:

I have been an AT&T customer for 5 years and unlocked a couple of iPhones already. It is not difficult at all. There is a website where you can input your phone info then if you don’t owe anything on the phone it’ll be unlocked within a day or two.

I have asked for manual credits of the activation fee several times. All successful.

The new iPhone 6s & plus are compatible with both GSM and CDMA.Both Apple store employees and my experience can confirm it. I don’t see why iPhone SE, 7 & plus won’t be the same way. iPhone 6 & plus are not however.

If I have At&t landline service, will there be a hard pull when I activate this line?

FYI: I signed up on the 27th and then cancelled the following month. A couple of things happened… First, I was billed for the remaining days of the first months and received an bill for the whole next month. It took a few billing cycles to get that straight. Secondly, When I call to cancel, the rep cancelled just a day over in the following month. AT&T specifically said that the customer is responsible for the whole month. I know DOC mentioned proration but in the two opportunities I have had to cancelled service with AT&T I was billed for the whole month.

great post Chuck, thanks for putting this together.

I also got the same Q as Dave, if anyone might have insights. currently a U-verse customer. my brother also has ATT wireless service, but his is a corporate phone/line, so not sure if he can add another line (me) via that route.

As an ATT customer, I was able to purchase the phone under one name and use the phone for a different person on our plan. Also, having linked my ATT account to Plenti, I did receive the Plenti points for my purchase. I would definitely recommend this card for any ATT customers wanting a new phone.

Greg,
Could you please describe how did you go about it? My wife has the card but no att account. I was hoping for her to get the phone and use it on my att account but any color would be good on how to go about this.
Thanks.

“AT&T and TMobile phones use GSM while Verizon and Sprint use CDMA (more info here). Since the free $650 phone is purchased through ATT, it will be GSM and will only be usable for ATT, T-Mobile, or another carrier who uses GSM.”
This bit is incorrect. The phone is usable on any carrier. Although AT&T does sell a different model, it has to do with an additional LTE antenna and not CDMA/GSM.

I’m sorry, I wasn’t clear, this isn’t true for *all* phones. Take for instance the iPhone 6s.

I’m having trouble ordering the phone and adding it to an employer’s AT&T Premier account. Anyone know how to accomplish this? It doesn’t work to log in through the “existing user” link in the portal.

Regarding “Use the link in your Citi credit card login or provided to you in an email from Citi or shown to you immediately at the time of account approval. It will take you to the ATT site to buy a phone and signup on a service plan.”:
There is no such link neither in my citi account nor in my SO’s account, who also signed up for att card. Anyone else have this issue?

Yes no link exists if you have a Citi checking account also in the same profile as you ATT credit card. Primary relationship is the checking account and it dominates the online profile setup. Unlink the ATT card from this username and register it for online access with another different username. The said link will show up in the 2nd username profile prominently on right hand side.

At ATT store I was told that I can use ATT prepaid plan as well, just use it and you don’t have to recharge for next month.. Please let me know if this will work as well, I got the card and phone on prepaid plan this month

Hi,
Could you please explain a bit more on this – getting a prepaid line?
thanks

For the cheapest AT&T plan mention above, does it require SSN to open the account?

Regarding unlocking a new iPhone purchased under this offer: When the iPhone is shipped it is NOT yet activated on your AT&T service account. Upon receiving the device, do not turn on or setup the device yet, go to AT&T device unlock page https://www.att.com/deviceunlock/#/ and request unlock as a “Non AT&T Mobility customer”. Submit your unlock request. Wait for the unlock instructions (it can take up to 2 days, but mine was immediate). For iPhone there is no code, the instructions simply say phone has been unlocked. When you connect the phone with USB cable to iTunes first time, you will see a pop-up confirming the unlock. Now you can setup and activate device on AT&T service line.

So if its ok to not open the smartphone box, do I still need to insert the sim card into another phone and keep the line up for the 15 days period? Or I could get away without powering up the sim card at all?

Typo in first link “T&T”

I’ve done this deal 4 times and the first 2 times I got the15 credit for activation. The last 2, I didn’t.

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