News Advisor Avoid bill shock: how to spend less on phone data

Avoid bill shock: how to spend less on phone data

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‘Data creep’ could be catching out more than one in 10 Aussie phone users, a small telco has warned.

Phone company Amaysim estimates that 11 per cent of phone users expect to exceed their monthly data allowance.

These internet slip-ups are even more likely among Gen Y users, with as many as one in five (21 per cent) expecting to go over their limit, the company has found.

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Amaysim spokesman Ged Mansour says changing lifestyles and faster phones are driving up data use “exponentially” every year.

“As a nation, we’ve dived into using more data and we’re really embracing smart phones, which is awesome, but a lot of the time we don’t do the research to see what these things mean in terms of data use and therefore the hip pocket,” Mr Mansour says.

These results match a study conducted last year by the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN), which found that 35.9 per cent of unexpectedly large phone bills may be caused by excess data charges.

“If consumers don’t keep an eye on their usage they could end up with a bill that’s much higher than their regular monthly payment, which can see some consumers getting themselves into debt,” ACCAN spokesman Luke Sutton says.

Ditch the automatic, drive a manual

Keep your eyes on the road… and on your data usage. Photo: Shutterstock

If you’re with Optus or Vodafone, once you use up your monthly allowance you are automatically charged approximately $10 for an extra gigabyte of data.

Virgin, Telstra and Amaysim have similar options to add extra data to your plan, but these have to be added manually.

To prevent a nasty bill shock, consider a plan that doesn’t automatically give you more data.

Know the true cost

Mr Sutton says customers can easily chew through data because they don’t know how much it is worth.

“Often it’s not well understood by consumers how much data applications actually use,” he says.

A handy guide estimated by ACCAN is that downloading a five-minute YouTube video uses 2.5 per cent of a gigabyte. So if your monthly plan is 2 GB, you wouldn’t want to watch more than 20 of these clips a week.

Don’t fall for creative accounting

Many telcos do not count your internet usage exactly down to the kilobyte (KB), counting by megabytes (MB) instead, which are a thousand times bigger.

For example, if you visit an internet page that costs 10 KB and then immediately stop browsing, your data charge may in fact be charged for 1,000 KB.

“Kilobyte charging is much better value because it doesn’t round up each session to the nearest megabyte, meaning that consumers can get a lot more out of their data plans,” says Mr Sutton.

When comparing plans, be sure to ask your provider how they measure data usage and factor this in.

Disable ‘vampire’ apps

Many apps are decidedly less sexy Draculas, drinking data not blood. Photo: Getty

Tech expert Paul Lin, CEO of Buuna, tells The New Daily that many smartphone applications can drain precious megabytes if left open and running in the background.

“Ensure you close apps once you have finished using them. While there are some you may like to keep open, leaving apps running will drain data, not to mention battery,” Mr Lin says.

Some apps always run in the background, such as currency converters, weather apps and push notifications for social media, email and GPS.

So-called ‘free’ apps can also cost far more in data because of the advertisements they download to your phone.

Scunge off everyone else

Amaysim’s Ged Mansour recommends connecting to someone else’s wireless internet wherever possible.

For example, connect to free WiFi at work, in cafés and fast-food restaurants, and always use your home’s internet router.

“If it’s there, why not make use of it,” Mr Mansour says. “It’s a good way to save a fair bit of data every month and not tap too much into your allowance.”

Track your progress

By law, telcos must send you an alert when you’ve used 50 per cent, 85 per cent and 100 per cent of your monthly allowance.

Read these alerts closely, but keep in mind that these alerts can be delayed. Most smartphones also offer in-phone data trackers, which might be a more accurate way to plot your usage.

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