Mobiletips.org.au

Manage your mobile spend

 

Here are some tips for managing how much you spend on your mobile:

1.            Consider pre-paid

If you are concerned about how much you will spend on your mobile, are not sure what exactly your needs are, and do not want to sign a long-term contract, consider the pre-paid option first.Getting a pre-paid first will help you understand how much you’ll use your mobile. You can always change to a plan at a later date, and your experience using a pre-paid can provide you with useful information to help you evaluate what type of plan would match your needs. Note that some pre-paid plans (often where a handset is included) tie you down for a minimum period of time. This may mean you can benefit from cheaper call , SMS or data costs, but be aware that if you leave before the specified time, you pay a penalty. Look for details in the terms and conditions. You may see the phrase ‘SIM unlock’ fees - this refers to a fee you may need to pay to unlock your mobile so that you can use it on another service provider's network. Also be aware that many pre-paid phone cards have an expiry date – you use them until all your credit is used, or until the card expires (whichever occurs first).

 
2.            Choose a plan to suit you
 
Whether you opt for a pre-paid or post-paid contract, you’ll find there’s a huge choice of options available to suit many different needs.
 
Going for the plan with the lowest monthly rate or lowest basic call costs may not necessarily be the best or cheapest option for you – it’ll also depend on how much you use other services, such as SMS, voicemail, data (accessing the internet),19-SMS mobile premium services or international calls.
 
 
If you use SMS more than voice, you might find, for example, that there is a plan which charges slightly more for voice, but less for SMS – providing a cheaper service for you overall.
 
And if you intend to use your phone for accessing the internet you will need a data plan with adequate allowance and need to be aware of applicable charges for when you exceed your allowance or limit.
It’s also worth taking the time to consider when you use the phone, and whether you can benefit from plans which allow you free or cheaper calls or texts at certain times of day, or to certain people.
Make sure you are aware of all the charges that may apply under you plan. Call rates can vary depending on the number called and some services are charged at higher or premium rates. For example, calls to 13/1800 numbers are sometimes charged at a higher (timed) rate from a mobile than from a fixed phone.
Make sure you understand what is included in any allowances, “caps” or included value in your plan. Know any limits that may apply to data usage and be aware of any excess charges that may apply if you exceed your limit.
 
Finally, be wary of phrases such as ‘Free’, ‘costs zero dollars’ - is it really free, or are you paying for it somewhere else? Also, make sure you understand exactly what ‘unlimited’ includes for your particular plan. If you see the words ‘conditions apply’, read what conditions apply – the offer may not sound so tempting once you understand what it excludes. Remember: If an offer sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
  
3.            Monitor your mobile spend or credit
 
Some mobile companies have options to help you keep track of, and manage your spend. They may have a website where you can access your account details and track your usage. Or they may have a number you can text or call to find out how much credit remains on your prepaid service.
 
And some service providers will send you an SMS alert when you reach a pre-determined usage or spend limit. Talk to your service provider about how to set up automatic alerts.
 
If you are using your phone to access the internet, it’s very important to make sure you have a data plan that suits your usage pattern and that you monitor your usage to avoid any excess charges that may apply if you exceed your limit or included allowance.
 
4.            Call barring
Keep your bill down by limiting the numbers called from your phone by using call barring. For example, you might want to bar international calls, or calls to 19-SMS mobile premium services numbers. Some carriers also allow you to preset certain numbers to allow your phone to be used to call only certain numbers – talk to your carrier about the options.
 
 
5.            Stop others using your mobile phone
 
It’s sensible advice to treat your phone as you would your wallet; in fact, with smartphones you may actually have replaced your wallet with your smartphone and you have likely stored valuable data on it. So, even if you got your handset as a ‘$0 upfront deal’, this does not reflect its true cost or value to you.
 
Smartphones can be expensive and if purchased yours on a contract and it is lost or stolen you will have to continue making your monthly payments until you have paid for the phone. 
 
So be careful and:
 
o    Never leave your mobile in the car;
o    Keep your mobile on you - never put it down in a public place or leave it unattended;
o    Switch to vibrate mode in circumstances where a ring tone might attract the attention of a thief;
o    Make use of your mobile's security features to stop others ‘borrowing your phone’ (eg PINs, SIM locks, code locks – see your user guide for details);
o    Limit the amount of damage someone can cause by borrowing your phone without permission by utilising call barring (see above);
o    Don’t assume your phone is covered in your home contents insurance – check, and consider insuring it separately, if necessary. Remember that even if you got the phone for ‘$0 upfront’, this doesn’t mean it was free – it means the cost was absorbed in the overall contract price. You may not be able to get a replacement phone for $0 upfront.
 
Reducing your phone’s appeal to thieves, and assist in its recovery if it is lost or stolen, by:
 
o    Notifying your network carrier AND the police immediately in the event of loss or theft;
o    Engraving your initials and driving licence number on the phone;
o    Recording details of your phone, including its make, model and its International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI) number, and keeping the details in a safe place. The IMEI number is a 15 digit number independent of your phone number, and is usually written underneath the battery or on the back of the handset. You can also find your IMEI number by dialling *#06# on your mobile handset. Your carrier can use this number to block your phone from all networks once you report the phone lost or stolen, rendering it useless to any thief.
 
6.            Don’t sign a contract for someone else unless you’re prepared to pay all their bills
 
Remember that whoever signs a contract is ultimately responsible for ensuring that the terms and conditions of the contract are met. That means if you sign a contract for a friend (or child), and they don’t pay their bills, it’s YOU who must cover the costs.
So unless you’re completely happy to cover someone else’s costs, don’t sign a contract for them. Help them choose an appropriate pre-paid service instead.
 
7.            Other tips to save you money
 
Voicemail. If you have a voicemail service, ensure you’re clear what it costs. It may be included free as part of your package, or you may be charged when you listen to your messages. If this is the case, clear your voice mail quickly: every time you re-listen to old messages it’s costing you.
 
SMS. SMS messages are usually charged at a flat rate per message of up to 160 characters. If your phone allows you to write a single message over 160 characters, be aware that you’ll get charged for an additional SMS. (So an SMS with 161 characters will cost you twice as much as 160 characters.) Also, depending on your handset, using certain symbols or emoticons (e.g. happy face or dot point) will sometimes take up more than one character space and mean you pay more for sending an SMS.
 
Voting and competitions. Ensure you understand the cost of calls to 19xx numbers or 19-SMS when entering competitions/voting, etc. These are usually mobile premium services and attract higher charges than your usual SMS or phone call.
 
Cost calculations & 19-SMS mobile premium services. Be aware that there are various ways you can be charged for the services you choose to use. For example, SMS may be charged at a flat rate ($X per SMS sent); call charges may be calculated on a time-used basis ($X per minute); and some newer content services* may be charged on a subscription basis ($X/week), or on a cost per message received basis ($X each time you receive a message). Before signing up for any service, make sure you understand how the charging works: how much it costs, how often and what the total cost to you will be. And should you choose to subscribe, take note of how to cancel your subscription at the time you sign up – while it’s front of mind.
(*Egs of content services include: ringtones, horoscopes, news & sports updates)
 
Call or SMS? Consider whether it might be cheaper on occasions to call someone rather than SMS them. Or visa-versa.
 
Pre-paid credit. If using a pre-paid, make sure you know if and when the credit expires, and whether you can extend the credit period by ‘topping-up’/re-charging the card.
 
8.            Don't ignore a bill! Get in touch and work it out!
If your circumstances change (e.g. sudden job loss or illness) and/or you are having any financial or contractual problems, contact your service provider straight away. It is not in their interest to have customers in financial difficulty any more than it is in yours. Ask your service provider about options or arrangements they have for customers experiencing financial hardship. Your servcie provider can also provide advice on how to control your spend and manage your bill before the problem becomes too big.

 

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