Sprint changes Premier handset program

Sprint splits its Premier program to Gold and Silver memberships.

Hot on the heels of its recent $10 increase for smartphone data plans, Sprint has announced another change, this time to its Premier loyalty program.

The Premier program is eligible to any customer who's been around for at least 10 years or who pays at least $69.99 a month for an individual plan and at least $99.99 a month for a family plan. One of the most lauded benefits of being in this program is the ability to upgrade a handset at the fully subsidized price after only 12 months under contract. Other benefits include discounts on accessories, various anniversary rewards, access to the online Premier Community, and "Just Because Perks."

After April 1, however, the Premier membership will be split into Gold and Silver memberships. Gold members are either customers who've been around for more than 10 years, or those who pay at least $89.99 a month for an individual plan and at least $169.99 a month for a family plan. Gold members will be eligible for all of the same benefits as the previous Premier customers. However, those who don't meet those minimum requirements will be downgraded to a Silver membership. Silver members will no longer qualify for the annual early upgrade; they will have to wait at least 22 months into a two-year contract. Other benefits remain the same.

Edit: To clarify, a Silver member is someone who pays between $69.99 to $89.99 a month for an individual plan, or between $99.99 to $169.99 a month for a family plan.

While we still think Sprint's Premier membership is attractive--the reward for tenured customers is unique, and the perks for Gold membership are pretty good compared with the competition--it's still disappointing whenever a carrier makes it that much harder to be a loyal customer. Thankfully, Sprint is not getting rid of its "New For You" program, that lets existing users have $75 discounts every 12 months.