A couple of years back, AT&T offered select customers a $25 prepaid MasterCard to switch their billing over to autodraft. Soon, Verizon Wireless will be following Sprint's footsteps and charging you for every month that you aren't using that very system. Tactical differences aside, the leaked memo shown above details what has to be one of the most consumer-unfriendly policy changes since the carrier boosted its early termination fee for "advanced devices." Effective January 15th, any customer that opts to pay their wireless bill online or over the phone will be charged an extra $2 each month, and the only way to sidestep it is to sign up for AutoPay or to pay by electronic check, where there's no credit card fee passed on to the carrier.

For those unaware, AutoPay automatically drafts the most recent amount from either a linked checking / savings account or a credit card on file, and while we can understand VZW's desire to better control when it's getting paid, charging customers to make it happen is just downright ludicrous. Here's a thought, Verizon: enforce stricter penalties on late payments, or just offer those that shift to AutoPay a small discount for going out of their way to make your life a little easier. Or, you know, for all those hours that your network has been down during the holidays.

Update: Verizon has officially confirmed the change to its policies and the $2 surcharge you'll be hit with each month if you're not using autodraft or some other small subset of payment options. Head after the break for all the details straight from the horse's mouth.

[Thanks, Alex]
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Customers Encouraged to Use Options to Avoid Single Payment Fee That Starts Jan. 15

Verizon Wireless offers customers numerous free and simple payment options and we encourage customers to use those options. Starting January 15, a new $2 payment convenience fee will be instituted for customers who make single bill payments online or by telephone. There are a couple of exceptions. See below. The fee will help allow us to continue to support these single bill payment options in these channels and is designed to address costs incurred by us for only those customers who choose to make single bill payments in alternate payment channels (online, mobile, telephone). It is waived for those who pay by electronic check or enroll in AutoPay -- we encourage customers to use those or other payment options that incur no fees. [See complete list below.] The telephone and online single payment fee, which takes effect January 15, will be disclosed up-front and throughout the transaction.

There are numerous payment options available to our customers where the fee is waived or where no fee applies. They include:

1. Electronic check online (My Verizon Online, My Verizon Mobile/Handset). Fee waived.

2. Electronic check via telephone. Fee waived.

3. Enrollment in AutoPay using credit/debit/ATM card or electronic check; fee does not apply

4. Online from the customer's home-banking service provider website; fee does not apply.

5. Credit/debit/ATM card, electronic check or cash at a Bill Payment Kiosk, Panel or with a representative at a Verizon Wireless Communications Store; fee does not apply.

6. Use of a Verizon Wireless Gift Card or Verizon Wireless device Rebate Card to pay a bill in-store, online or by telephone; fee does not apply.

7. Paper check or money order mailed to the VZW remit address on customer's bill; fee does not apply.

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Leaked memo details Verizon's $2 fee for paying your bill; autodraft or ACH the only way out (update: confirmed)