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Phoning it in

Maybe you keep a sharp eye on your utilities bills. But have you been turning a blind eye to your mobile bill?

Don’t wait for a bout of bill shock before you consider whether your current plan is working for you.

Kenny McGilvary, spokesperson for phone and internet plan comparison site, WhistleOut, says data roaming overseas and excess usage charges are two areas that often contribute to bill shock.

“However, the main reason people spend too much on mobile bills is they are not using a plan that fits their usage habits and needs in the first place.”

The market changes frequently and people can often benefit by switching plans.

“The same phone plan that someone got a couple of years ago could easily cost 30-50 per cent less today,” he says.

Here are six ways to make sure your plan is serving you well.


1. How do you use your mobile?

Get to know your mobile usage. How many calls do you make each month; do you mostly call landlines or other mobiles; do you make international calls; do you use a lot of data or download music or videos? If your plan includes some data and you overestimate your usage you won’t use it up and if you underestimate you may end up paying for excess data.


2. Do you have a phone or do you need to buy one with your plan?

A new handset can increase the ongoing cost of your mobile plan and lock you into a contract for 24 to 36 months. Consider buying a new phone outright if you need a new one and check if it is locked to a particular network.


3. Could a pre-paid plan work for you?

If you don’t use your phone much or make lots of calls sporadically it might be cheaper to go for a pre-paid plan. You can easily keep tabs on your call credit status and some plans will let you roll over any unused call credits for up to 12 months.

Even if you BYO handset it is possible to get a post-paid SIM only plan. Many offer unlimited calls and texts within Australia as standard and often they have extra data compared to a pre-paid plan.


4. Are you travelling overseas?

International roaming can be very expensive even if you’re only receiving calls. If jet-setting is on the cards check whether a plan offers international roaming and how you’ll be charged. Some providers, such as Vodafone, now offer a roaming deal for compatible post-paid plans where you pay $5 a day while overseas and use your plan the same way you would at home. If you’re taking an extended trip it may still be cheaper to buy either a dedicated roaming SIM or a local SIM at your destination.

International calls can also be a point of differentiation. Make sure your destination is on a reduced or even free call list with a plan provider.


5. How much data do you use?

Exceeding your data allowance can be a one-way trip to bill shock. It pays to be aware of how much data your favourite apps use. Facebook instant messenger might use 150MB per hour, for instance, whereas Netflix HD video streaming uses about 3GB per hour.

To cut down your data usage, use Wi-Fi access and roam to a personal network or wireless hotspot. Other tips: change settings so videos don’t auto-play on social media; turn off auto updating on apps; install ‘light’ versions of apps; and if you watch TV or movies via your phone download SD rather than HD versions.


6.  Can you get a discount?

There can be discounts for seniors if you bundle your mobile plan with a landline and internet.