How to save on your mobile phone bill
In the world of shiny gadgets, the mobile phone holds a special place as a beacon of necessity – no matter your budget. However, busting a call cap or being reduced to tears over the extra data charges from streaming Pandora on the train home everyday might make you think differently. Here’s some of the industry’s tips to stop your phone burning a hole through your pocket.
Avoid the hype
You may have a silent (or out loud) chuckle watching the tech tragics line up for the latest and greatest phone, but your mirth could also be saving you cash. By staying one model behind the curve you can save hundreds without compromising on technology.
“As the smartphone industry matures we are not seeing the kind of quantum leaps in technology with each new release that have occurred previously, and much of the innovation is happening in software,” the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN) says.
While the new iPhone 5S retails for about $900, the iPhone 5 is now $670 – with a similar story for Android and Windows phones.
Virgin Mobile director of proposition and strategy Derek Cummins agrees: “There are often alternative handsets available with attractive price points and inclusions and, most importantly, lots of availability.”
Big is not necessarily better when it comes to finding a telco that works for you. ACCAN advise shopping around. “Don’t only consider the big name telcos as typically smaller players have more competitively priced offers.”
Pre-paid may seem like the realm of teens, but ACCAN says to avoid long-term contracts with a phone. “Handset subsidies have been going down in recent times and you may find it cheaper to buy your device outright and find a flexible plan which meets your needs. There are plenty of competitive month-to-month prepaid plans on the market.”
Choice also recommend pre-paid plans for youngsters, and say they “tend to be the cheapest option for people who don’t make many calls”. It also warns that credit does expire so “use ’em or lose ’em”.
If you can commit
If you bring your own phone, long-term contracts can be cheaper – at Virgin by up to $10 per month. Virgin’s month-to-month plan allows flexibility to increase or decrease payments to suit your usage.
While Choice says postpaid plans tend to have cheaper call rates, especially for medium to higher usage plans, it warns that costs can escalate out of control.
Be sure to read the fine print. Some plans may be advertised as unlimited but actually exclude things like data and certain types of calls and texts, potentially leaving you with large unexpected bills.
“You can blow the annual difference between the lesser plan and the unlimited plan in just one month when calls or data get out of hand,” says ACCAN.
In line with a new industry code, consumers must also be given critical information summaries (CIS) before they commit to a new phone plan to combat the ‘confusopoly’ of charges and caps that confront consumers.
While mobile phones, new apps and 4G are making it faster and easier to access the internet on your phone, data allocations included with mobile services have generally been decreasing (and data prices increasing) over recent months.
“Current allowances of 1GB or 2GB a month are paltry, particularly for small business users who are often using tethering features to share their data connection with laptops and other devices,” ACCAN says.
“Paying for extra data blocks if you burn through your allowance is much better than going over and getting slugged with excess usage fees.”
This is one area where a small saving can mean a big loss.
Some providers, like Virgin, offer add on data packs which you can use on a month-to-month basis. Derek Cummins adds that it might be wise to cut back on old apps: “Consider removing unused apps from your phone as they may be sending and receiving data which will be cutting into your data inclusions each month (as well as taking up valuable memory space on your phone).”
Get to know your mobile
Finding a plan that works for you is the best way to save – and it’s easy to find out more about yourself.
ACCAN advise requesting a record of your current usage for free from your existing telco, which will give you an idea of your average usage over a month. Enter this data into a website such as WhistleOut and it will give you a list of plans which fit your current usage.
Choice also recommend working out what you use, suggesting using a pre-paid plan temporarily to work out which contract might be the best option for you.