A few months ago, I cancelled my AT&T service plan to transfer over to Google Fi.
Saving more than $60 per month on my cell phone bill while still using a high-tech device that exceeds my every expectation? I felt like I’d totally hacked the system.
I never thought to look back.
Then we shared the article on our Facebook page, and one of our readers clued me in to the gigantic financial mistake I may have made. (Thanks, Stephanie, for pointing out the pain in my wallet I didn’t know I had!)
Your Unlimited Data Plan Might Be Worth Hundreds on the Black(ish) Market
Having originally signed up for AT&T back in 2009, I’d been grandfathered into an unlimited data plan that’s been unavailable for years.
For $30 per month, I could use as much mobile data as I wanted, streaming videos and music and spending a truly obnoxious amount of time on Farmville. (Hey, it was 2009.)
Unlimited data plans, though elusive now, were not unheard of back then. But as smartphone usage has gotten more and more ubiquitous, the price of data has gone way up — and users who exceed their allotment have been hit with frustrating speed caps.
Many carriers have moved to a pay-per-GB model. Others offer what I can only call limited unlimited data, or unlimited data for specific usage only.
For instance, T-Mobile’s “Binge On” initiative, which allows users to stream video without touching their data rations. Similarly, AT&T has an unlimited data plan… but only for U-Verse and DIRECTV subscribers.
As a result, the truly unlimited data plans AT&T and Verizon rolled out circa 2008 have become extremely valuable.
I’m not kidding.
And a shocking 44 people are “watching” this grandfathered unlimited data plan for the iPad priced at $5,000.
You Probably Shouldn’t Buy or Sell Your Data Plan on eBay
Although these sales aren’t unheard of, it’s hard for us to imagine that cell phone carriers like them very much. They phased out the unlimited plans for a reason.
But sellers found a loophole of sorts.
They can complete a Transfer of Billing Responsibility request, probably created for changes in familial circumstance — for instance, a son or daughter moving off a parent’s family plan to start their own with a significant other.
Buyers just need an eligible device and, sometimes, to be open to changing their phone numbers.
But if you’re not quite ready to pull the trigger on what’s definitely frowned upon (good on you!), there are lots of other ways to make a quick buck. Check out these 103 ways to make money from the comfort of your own home, for a start.
And if your data usage leaves you facing an outlandish cell phone bill, you have non-grey market options.
Or, you can make like the rest of us and start counting those gigabytes. There’s WiFi pretty much everywhere now!
If you can’t keep your data usage down, you might need an intervention. Who knows? With the way things are going, technology-use rehab might soon be covered by insurance.
That $5,000 unlimited plan? Not so much.
Your Turn: Can you believe how much these unlimited data plans sell for?
Jamie Cattanach (@jamiecattanach) is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder. She doesn’t play Farmville anymore and never uses more than 2 GB of data per month. Put down the phone and walk away slowly. She believes in you.