Verizon will soon implement a new $20 upgrade fee for many of its customers, but with a little bit of effort you can avoid the fee entirely.
The $20 fee goes into effect on April 4 (the day after WrestleMania, if you're keeping score at home), and will apply to most customers who haven't moved on from a legacy two-year contract. (Those poor souls must pay $40 to upgrade their device.) That means if you're on one of those newer plans where you pay off the cost of the device in monthly payments you can look forward to a $20 fee the next time you want to move onto a new device.
Verizon says the fee helps cover its "increased support costs."
You can, however, get around this upgrade fee by purchasing your device outright from someone other than Verizon (like Amazon or eBay), then asking the carrier to add that device to your account. People who bring their own device to Verizon are exempt from the upgrade fee because they fall under the category of "Customer Provided Equipment."
Of course, not everyone has the resources to spend several hundred dollars outright on a mobile device, but the option is there if you plan accordingly.
Verizon is hardly the only US carrier that charges this kind of upgrade fee, with AT&T charging $15 and Sprint charging $30. T-Mobile, led by a CEO who now has his own Twitter emoji, doesn't charge an upgrade fee.