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Samsung Galaxy S20 FE: Free at Verizon right now, but check the math first (Update: Expired)

I crunched the numbers to see if there's a cheaper way to get this great phone.

Rick Broida Senior Editor
Rick Broida is the author of numerous books and thousands of reviews, features and blog posts. He writes CNET's popular Cheapskate blog and co-hosts Protocol 1: A Travelers Podcast (about the TV show Travelers). He lives in Michigan, where he previously owned two escape rooms (chronicled in the ebook "I Was a Middle-Aged Zombie").
Rick Broida
3 min read
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Most people buy their phones from one of the Big Three carriers, a move that often ropes them into lengthy service contracts. Case in point: At Verizon right now (but ending Sunday, April 4), you can get the Samsung Galaxy S20 FE 5G for free with a new line of service. That service must include one of Verizon's Unlimited plans, and it must continue for at least 24 months.

Is that really a good deal? I broke out my calculator to find out.

The Galaxy S20 FE debuted last year starting at $700. This "Fan Edition" model scored lots of, er, fans and very positive ratings, including a CNET Editors' Choice Award. Bottom line: It's a great midrange phone.

Verizon's "free" deal works like this:

  • A single-line Unlimited plan will cost you, at minimum, $70 a month, not including taxes and fees. And that's if you sign up for auto-pay and paperless billing.
  • That plan includes six months each of Disney Plus, Discovery Plus and Apple Music, a combined value of around $140.
  • Port in an existing number from another carrier and you'll get a $100 Verizon e-gift card.
  • There's a $20 activation fee -- which is actually $20 off the regular price.

So, even if you choose the minimum plan, you're looking at $1,680 (plus $20) over the course of 24 months. You could use the gift card to pay down $100 of that, bringing your total to $1,600. (Again, that's not including taxes and fees, which will probably tack on another hundred bucks or two.)

If you like Verizon and plan to subscribe there anyway, there's nothing wrong with getting a free phone (and some streaming perks) out of the deal.

But can you do better? Maybe. Over at Visible, for example, which runs on Verizon's network, you can buy the Galaxy S20 FE for $600. That also nets you an Amazon Fire TV Stick and, if you're porting in a number from elsewhere, a $150 Samsung credit. No free streaming services, though.

Yes, you have to come up with $600 up front. But Visible's flat-rate, one-plan-fits-all service costs just $40 a month. And it's pretty easy to get that down to $25 a month.

Assuming you do that, you're looking at $600 for service over 24 months, for a grand total of $1,200. That's at least 25% less than you'd pay for Verizon's deal. Yes, there are a few other variables to consider, but I didn't mention the best part of all: You're not locked into service with Visible. If you want to take the phone elsewhere, you can (after two months).

All this is to say that before you lock yourself into a Big Three plan for the next two years, check your options elsewhere.

Your thoughts?

Read more: Cheap phone service: 8 affordable alternatives to the Big 3

Watch this: The Samsung Galaxy S20 FE is the midrange phone to beat

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