Sprint tweaking Premier program April 1st; making early upgrades more elusive [Updated]

You know that saying, “give and take?” Someone should tell U.S. wireless carriers that ignoring 50% of that adage sort of makes you look greedy. BGR has learned that beginning on April 1st, U.S. wireless carrier Sprint will increase the requirements customers must meet to qualify for early hardware upgrades via the Premier program. This news comes just days after the company announced a new $10 “premium data fee” for all smartphone customers — set to take effect on January 30th. Hit the break for all the details.

Currently, customers who have an individual line costing more than $69.99 per month, or a family plan line costing more than $99.99 per month (before any applied discounts), are eligible for Sprint’s Premier member program. One of the largest benefits to program members is the ability to upgrade a handset, at the fully subsidized price, after just 12 months of service (customers who have been with Sprint for over 10 years automatically qualify for these benefits). But that all will be changing on April 1st. While the Premier program and its associated benefits will still exist — Sprint isn’t going Verizon-style and axing them completely – the requirements to qualify for the rewards are getting a little more stringent.

On April Fools’ Day, the Premier program will be divided in to two levels: gold and silver. Users will automatically qualify for Premier’s gold level if they have been a wireless customer with Sprint for over 10 years or have an individual monthly plan that retails for $89.99 or more before any applied discounts — $169.99 before discounts for family lines. All other Sprint customers will be given silver level Premier status.

Gold members will get all the benefits current Premier members receive: 25% off the purchase of 2 or more accessories, customer news letters, “just because” perks, first to buy offers, and the ability to upgrade a device after 12 months of service. Silver members will enjoy all the same benefits… with the exception of the early upgrade option — they will have to wait the full 22 months to upgrade. Furthermore, we’re being told that those currently enrolled in Premier will not be grandfathered-in to Premier’s gold level program once the changes are implemented in April. Ouch.

Give less, expect more. That seems to be the new mantra for U.S. wireless providers. Sound off in the comments and let us know what you think.

Thanks, Ninja #5!

Correction: We originally reported that the monthly plan requirement for Gold Premier status on family plans was going from $99.99 to $139.99. It is actually going all the way up to $169.99.

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