Carriers keep increasing connection fees — here are some tips to avoid them

Connection fees are as much as $60 now!

Connection fee discount listed on a carrier website

It feels like Canadian carriers and wireless providers are constantly increasing their ‘connection fees.’ With the latest round of hikes, the Big Three and their flanker brands now charge customers a $60 connection fee when they sign up.

Despite what carriers may say about these fees, the high costs can be frustrating for people and can disincentivize switching carriers — something Canadians should definitely do more of to get better deals. Thankfully, there are a few ways to avoid connection fees. Here are some tips from someone who regularly switches carriers but hasn’t paid a connection fee in years:

Buy online

The most surefire way I’ve found to avoid connection fees is by purchasing online. Almost every provider waives the connection fee or offers an equivalent bill credit when customers shop online.

Unfortunately, shopping online doesn’t work for everyone. Plus, carrier websites can have confusing layouts and language that make it hard for people to understand what they’re buying. Still, if you can figure it out, it’s one way to save money.

One word of warning with providers that offer bill credits for the connection fee: watch your bills like a hawk. Typically these providers won’t add the credit until your second or third bill if they remember to do it at all. For example, when I switched to Fido on Black Friday last year, I was promised a bill credit would show up on my third bill. But when I got my third bill from Fido, there was no bill credit — I had to call and argue with a rep to get it.

Watch for special offers or deals

Similar to the above promotion, providers often bundle connection fee discounts and credits with other offers. One example of this was during Black Friday 2022 when several providers offered a $45/50GB plan. During that promotion, several providers were very upfront about waiving connection fees for customers.

Pick providers with cheaper (or no) connection fee

Not every Canadian provider charges a $60 connection fee, so it might be worth considering signing up with one that charges you less. At the time of writing, Freedom Mobile charged $45 for its connection fee. While not cheap, it’s certainly better than $60. Meanwhile, Telus-owned Public Mobile doesn’t charge a connection fee, though it does charge customers for their SIM — it’s $10 for a regular SIM or $5 for an eSIM (plus tax). There are other options out there too, so look around before you buy.

If all else fails, ask

Sometimes all you can do is ask the sales rep if they can help you out. The worst thing they can do is say no. This is the route I’ve gone with a few times, and I’ve had some success, but it really comes down to the sales rep and your situation (in my case, I was already getting a win-back offer, so it wasn’t a big stretch to waive the connection fee too).

Ultimately, you won’t always be able to avoid paying the connection fee. However, in most cases, there’s a way around it if you look for it.