Sprint offers $200 trade-in credit, $350 to cover ETFs for switching T-Mobile customers

To step up its efforts to fend off rising competition from T-Mobile (NYSE:TMUS), Sprint (NYSE: S) is offering to guarantee all T-Mobile customers a minimum of $200 in instant trade-in value when they go to participating Sprint stores and trade in their current working T-Mobile smartphone and switch to Sprint.

The offer is available for only one eligible T-Mobile wireless device per line, in-store only. Sprint said that the offer, available through April 9, can also be combined with a contract buyout offer, where eligible T-Mobile customers can get up to $350 per line via a prepaid or reward card to cover their outstanding installment billing balance on their current device or Early Termination Fees. The switching T-Mobile customers would then need to buy or lease a new Sprint phone.

Sprint also announced today Compass Intelligence, a market analytics and consulting firm, recognized the carrier's phone buyback and trade-in program as the best among all major U.S. carriers for the fourth straight year.

Last year, Sprint said it put more than $250 million back in customers' pockets with its trade-in program, Sprint Buyback. Sprint argues that its trade-in program is better than competitors' programs in many ways, such as providing an instant in-store credit that can be used toward a new phone purchase, accessories or as an account credit. Sprint also lets customers trade in up to three phones per line at any time and five in a calendar year. By comparison, T-Mobile only allows one phone trade-in per line, and that transaction must happen when customers are purchasing a new device.

In 2014, Sprint said bought back more than 3 million phones, and that of those phones collected, more than 80 percent were certified, pre-owned devices. Sprint's relationship with wireless device distributor Brightstar Corp. has aided its efforts to gain share in the phone trade-in and pre-owned phone market. Sprint and Brightstar Corp. are both majority-owned by SoftBank. "Our industry-leading program gives customers a clear and immediate financial incentive to turn in their old phone," said Chad Lander, director of Sprint's buyback and phone trade-in program. "We're able to target customers, like those from T-Mobile, offset any termination fees, and provide a far superior offering."

The new offer from Sprint comes as T-Mobile works to surpass Sprint in terms of total subscribers. Based on preliminary announcements of fourth-quarter results, T-Mobile ended 2014 with 55.018 million customers and Sprint ended the year with around 56 million. T-Mobile CEO John Legere has vowed that in 2015 T-Mobile will pass Sprint.

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