Tiffany’s Google Fi warning. Time to retreat?

Earlier today, Tiffany at One Mile at a Time posted “Why I Can No Longer Recommend Google Fi.”  In that post, Tiffany described a number of issues with her latest Pixel phone and with Fi support.  None of those issues were deal breakers though.  The deal breaking humongous issue was with Google Pay.  And it made me nervous…

When Google ran a one day spectacular sale on new Fi phones back in November, Tiffany’s husband bought a Pixel 3.  For an unrelated reason, Chase declined the initial transaction and that led to a series of events that resulted in a nightmare outcome: Google froze his Google Pay account.  With Google Pay frozen, he was unable to pay his monthly Fi bill and so now his phone service is frozen too and they won’t even let him port his number to another service.

Why this scares me

Years ago, Google Pay was called Google Wallet and there was a time when they allowed person to person payments, by credit card, for free.  This was awesome because I could use a credit card to pay a friend lots of money.  And he could use a credit card to pay another friend lots of money.  And she could use her credit card to pay me lots of money.  And we all earned tons of points and miles in the process.  Everybody was happy, except for Google.

Then Google froze our Wallet accounts.

I’m not complaining.  I was clearly taking advantage of Google Wallet services in a way that was not intended.  They had every right to shut me down.

With Google Wallet frozen, I couldn’t use the Google Play store or any other pay services from Google.  It wasn’t a big deal, but at times it was inconvenient.

A few years later I found a way to appeal the decision and my account was re-instated.  I wish I could remember the details about how I submitted the appeal so that I could tell Tiffany.  I think it may have been through Google Play (not “Pay”) support that I found the option to appeal.

Even though the circumstances of our account freezes were completely different, Tiffany’s husband’s experience makes me nervous.  Google Fi is great because it’s far cheaper than most alternatives for high speed international roaming.  But, you know what?  I’d rather pay more with another service than have even the very small possibility of losing service due to Google’s overzealous Google Pay security team.

I’m staying with Fi… for now

As I reported before, I bought the $999 Pixel 3 XL during the fantastic one day sale (see: iPhone withdrawal symptoms when switching to Android Pixel).  In order to get the promised gift card of equal value, I need to keep my phone and Fi service until approximately mid-April.  At that point I’ll probably sell the Pixel 3 and buy a different phone.

But will I then ditch Fi phone service as well? 

I don’t know.  In general, for me, service has been very good.  Plus, I have a number of international trips planned (or soon to be planned) where Fi service will be very helpful.  Most likely what I’ll do is keep Fi for a while, but also keep my eye out for “switch to T-mobile” deals.  T-mobile offers free international low-speed data with most of their phone plans and one can optionally buy a day pass for faster service as needed.

I don’t have any reason to think that Google will ever freeze my Google Pay account again.  That said, as long as I have Fi phone service, I’ll be a little bit nervous.  Is cheap high speed data worth it?  What do you think?

About Greg The Frequent Miler

Greg is the owner, founder, and primary author of the Frequent Miler. He earns millions of points and miles each year, mostly without flying, and dedicates this blog to teaching others how to do the same.

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Sergey
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Sergey

Do you really need to keep the phone in order to get a gift card? I’m thinking to insert sim card to my old phone, keeping service active and sell the phone right away. Do you think it is not allowed?

alcwj
Guest
alcwj

well if all these trobles are real why still sticking with them ? at least i’m happy with my t-mobile one plan with internatinol data and text plan covered

CaveDweller
Guest
CaveDweller

Sell it then wait a year till the new stuff wash’s out then look again .U need your Communication Gear to work 100% 0f the time ..Mine like 99% and 5g is coming up and time is money ..

CHEERs

tro
Guest
tro

Wow. Don’t service providers have to let you port your number by law? She said they are refusing because his bill isn’t paid, which I assume is allowed under the law, but if they then refuse to give him a way to pay the bill that’s obviously not reasonable.

Just as bad or worse, if this goes to Collections and shows up on her husband’s credit report.

Tom
Guest
Tom

T-mobile has really degraded their free international “slow” data. Slow is one thing … unusuable is another. It used to be slow—now it is unusable. When one can’t use google maps on their ‘slow data’ to pull up local transit info (even with the local map already downloaded), then it’s pretty much unusable. My problem disappeared, of course, once I bought their 5$ data day pass. Now I’m on one of the older ‘simple choice’ T-mobile plans which T-mobile seems very anxious to get me off of… maybe this is part of the problem.

CaveDweller
Guest
CaveDweller

I would love 3g upgrade for a month on T-moble but my GPS works so that’s it..But look at skyroam for just data .I just got 5mb for $30 for a month GC….Just let it run in ur BP…CHEERs

mallthus
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mallthus

This is a very real issue. My buddy and I were recently in Germany and Austria. He has T-Mobile and I have AT&T. Without the $5 day pass, his device was basically unusable. Even with the day pass, his connection speeds were routinely much slower than I had with my $10 International Day Pass. Now, I’ll admit, my AT&T service was twice the cost, but my connection speeds were better than what I get at home in the USA, so I was gladly willing to pay. He was also under the impression that he couldn’t tether without incurring an additional fee. I don’t know if that’s true, but I had no issues or additional fees tethering with AT&T.

Ryan
Guest
Ryan

I wouldn’t panic over one person’s experience (and maybe a handful of other DPs). It’s not like there aren’t horror stories of one kind or another with every big company. People have had FFPs hacked and miles stolen, with no luck in recourse. FFP accounts have been incorrectly frozen for fraud and closed. Are you going to give up (say) AA miles because of it? No. Crap happens, unfortunately.

I’ve had zero problems with Fi and love it – just can’t beat it, at least for my needs.

RJS11
Guest
RJS11

Google Fi customer service is horrendous and incompetent. That’s been my biggest issue so far with switching over. Once the statement credits, gift cards, etc promos don’t actually post to everyone’s accounts, even more people will see how frustrating Google Fi is to deal with.

Tom
Guest
Tom

Three years on Google Fi. The service and support has gotten much, MUCH worse in the last month. Google just isn’t up to the job, I’m afraid.

Charlie
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Charlie

I have talked to hundreds (if not thousands) of Fi customers over the years and have found mostly happy people. I do admit that getting access to customer service since they dropped the “Project” or “beta” phase of the program has been overwhelmed but I think this is more to the thousands of people who signed up without really knowing much about it. I think this will drop off in the next two months as people cash out from the deal.
I have been a Fi customer since the beginning and only ever had to speak with customer service once because it just works (same with others) so I can’t see Tiffany’s situation becoming a widespread problem. I don’t think there is any reason to panic yet, but the way Google has their payment solutions locked up is the disturbing part.

mojo
Guest
mojo

Definitely *not* thousands.

Ryan
Guest
Ryan

Agreed, the payments setup is a problem. What might help, along with FCC complaints, is for users who have had this issue to find a news media source that would run a story – especially one that might get picked up by other media. Complaints on specialty blogs and reddit won’t do anything to get public pressure up – which is what it will take.

Acker
Guest
Acker

I got so screwed – or screwed myself – by using one email address to buy the Pixel and another email to activate my fi. Who the hell knew that would make a difference – I figured since it would be a work phone I’d activate it on one of my work emails. I bought it using my personal email. Seems you must use same email account. wth?? After activating I figured I’d make sure I met the qualifications, chatted and phoned google and they told me I wouldn’t qualify for the gift cards. Of course I HUCA and all that. So I returned the damn thing and don’t currently have good things to say about fi.

Stephen
Guest
Stephen

i use Google FI only when i travel internationally ,i have an old Nexus 6 i used to activate then i put sim in my Samsung s8. I pause when i get home you have to unpause every 3 months then repause. i don’t care about using my regular number when i travel but i could use google voice to route my Verizon number if i chose to.

David L. Hanson
Guest
David L. Hanson

Google FI I definitely worth it if you travel overseas. Only their international roaming data is cheap if you want to use your USA phone number overseas. We are staying in SE Asia 5 months this year on holiday and it helpful to be able to talk to financial business’s with our regular cellphone number.
But I have a second phone with a local SIM which I use daily. The LTE 4G data on it is only $1 per gigabyte vs FI’s $10.
For the best USA domestic data, I recommend Mint Mobile – their LTE 4G data is just over $2 per gb on their 12 month prepaid plan. Just don’t use them for international roaming where they charge $200 per gb for slow speed data that can be unreliable also.

CaveDweller
Guest
CaveDweller

Try SkyRoam happy so far only bad thing whatever u buy is only good for 30 days @ most No carry over. @ a Airport ect u Lock On put it ur bag done to $$$ for video.

StammesOpfer
Guest
StammesOpfer

If you are happy with T-Mobile and using low enough amounts of data that Fi is a good deal then you might check out Mint Mobile. Then get a local SIM or have some other backup for international. The savings is probably worth it.

Michael
Guest
Michael

It’s good that people touch on how monopolistic these Big Tech companies have or can become. As they have many tentacles in crucial parts of our lives, if you abuse or are accused of abusing terms of service, what’s to stop them from shutting you down completely with all services they provide you? Not much. The hassle to recover or switch to another company anew would make most people take pause. These companies are letting you use their services and can be very heavy-handed when you do or are accused of doing something they don’t approve of. Good luck trying to get ahold of a real person to even hear you out if that happens in today’s environment as well.

Paul
Guest
Paul

Anybody have trouble calling the US from overseas on Fi? I just returned from a trip to Singapore (a Fi country) and almost every call was routed cellular. When I turned on airplane mode, I would get a popup saying I had to turn off wifi to complete the call — which meant it was switching to cellular and not free. Interestingly, I could make free wifi calls using Hangouts.

Frog
Guest
Frog

A lot of public and hotel WiFi block VoIP (Voice over IP) ports or reserve them for their own carrier’s VoIP service. Some carriers and governments do not allow 3rd party VoIP contractually or legally, and will detect and stop WiFi calls. Locations where single carriers dominate the market often have this issue. (Singtel provided WiFi in Singapore, for example) Even private WiFi in the US (like with Verizon FiOS & Verizon provided router) can have have this issue.

I haven’t tried Google Fi WiFi calling in Singapore but I’ve used it successfully in the UK, Japan, and Hong Kong in home WiFi networks. Public WiFi often doesn’t work even in the US.

Paul
Guest
Paul

That’s helpful to know Frog. Thanks.

mallthus
Guest
mallthus

Yet another good reason to have a VPN option installed and ready to go on your phone BEFORE overseas travel. All sorts of potentially good uses.

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[…] best deals of 2018. That said, my experiences with Fi haven’t been overwhelmingly positive (though I should probably consider myself lucky compared to some). I love my Pixel 3 XL and the photos it takes, but I’ve found a number of instances where my […]

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[…] thing to keep in mind: a locked Google Payments account can turn Fi into a mini-nightmare (See: Tiffany’s Google Fi warning: Time to retreat?). That’ll be less of an issue here since you only need to be able to activate rather than […]