Money Advice Service

Tariff and handset sorted? Find out how to keep your bills in check. According to uSwitch the average mobile user pays for a whopping 3.4GB of data they don’t use each month. That’s a lot of wasted cash that could be spent (or saved!) on better things.

Use simple tips and tricks to limit extra expense, avoid getting ripped off and make the most of your beloved smartphone.

Big tip

Midterm price hikes are one of the biggest issues for mobile phone users. Networks are allowed to push up prices in line with inflation or due to tax. Unlike other sectors where regulation says you can take your business elsewhere, you may face a fine to leave your mobile contract early. If you find yourself in this boat, it’s worth telling your provider how unhappy you are, as well as noting exactly when your contract ends, so you can switch to a better tariff.

What should you do with your extra money? Now that you’ve saved a few quid, we’ve a few ideas that will get you saving. Try them out here.

How long it’ll take: Quicker than a ‘quick chat’ with your aunt

Equipment needed:

    • Your mobile phone
    • Wi-Fi at home
    • Your phone manual

1. Don’t go over your allowance

Most mobile deals give you a bundle of minutes, texts and data to use each month. Use more, and you’ll pay big bucks for the extra. You can usually track how much you’ve used via your network’s app and many phones will let you set up an alert if you are getting close to your usage.

If you’re still struggling to keep within your allowance, it’s worth calling up your provider and asking them if they will set up a block that will stop you going over your limit.

2. Wait for Wi-Fi

You need to be smart because there are scammers out there, but using your home (or mates!) Wi-Fi to stream and download can help you save on your data allowance. Avoid using public Wifi. Your standard 3G or 4G connection is often more secure than the one in the coffee shop or restaurant.

Whatever you do, don’t go buying anything, internet bank or use websites

3. Shrink data by using your smartphone

Take simple steps to cut your data usage, and avoid extra expense. View mobile versions of websites where available. Close apps properly to prevent them running in the background.

However, some apps can be downloading even if they’re not open. If your phone keeps checking for Facebook updates, new emails or weather reports, or you use apps based on GPS, it can eat up huge amounts of data AND battery life.

Instead, check your phone settings. Disable background app refresh completely, or alter the settings for specific apps so they only update via WiFi, and not through your 3G or 4G data connection. Make sure photos and videos are only backed up when you’re on Wi-Fi.

Every phone is different, so check out your phone instructions which will tell you how to do this.

Just remember, if you restrict background data on apps like WhatsApp, Facebook or Gmail, you won’t get notifications about new messages until you actually launch the app.

Save on your child’s mobile - Giving your little darling a mobile can seem a great idea to keep them safe. Then not such a great idea, when they go over their allowances and use extras like oodles of emojis, picture messaging or calls abroad, and you get left to foot the bill. There’s also a risk of in-app purchases, especially with games.

Instead of a contract, consider a pay-as-you-go (PAYG) phone. It can cap costs and make your child realise what they’re spending.

Or try a capped contract, where once the monthly allowance has been used up, they can only use the phone by topping up like a PAYG phone.

Calling abroad can be pricey - Calling abroad from the UK is usually way more expensive than a local call, plus the person you’re ringing gets landed with charges too. Instead, make calls over the internet for free – so long as you and the person you’re calling are both online.

If you’ve got a smartphone with web access, you can use free apps like Skype or Viber to make free calls to people using the same apps. Just remember if you’re using the internet via 3G or 4G it’ll eat into your data allowance, so best wait for a secure Wi-Fi zone.

Roaming will cost you -If you’re heading abroad outside the EU, don’t get hit by a monster bill for roaming charges on your return.On the 15th June 2017 the law changed that meant you can use your monthly allowances of calls, data and texts while you’re sunning yourself in 28 locations in the EU for no extra charge.

If you’re heading abroad outside the EU, don’t get hit by a monster bill for roaming charges on your return.

Receiving a call, picking up a voicemail, checking email, posting a pic on Facebook or surfing the web can all be really expensive.

But it’s data charges that are the real killer. Most networks now have an automatic cap on data usage worldwide, but it’s still best to avoid streaming and downloading.

There are still ways to rack up serious data roaming costs if you are on holiday in the EU,

Cut your bills by switching off data roaming before you leave the UK, and then use free Wi-Fi hotspots (though never use internet banking, shop or enter passwords because there are scammers out there!) while away or try asking your provider if you can buy an add-on with allowances to use in the country you’re visiting.

If you really need to use a phone abroad, consider buying a local pay-as-you-go SIM card when you arrive. Just remember you’ll need an unlocked handset to use a local SIM, and you’ll face international phone charges when calling home.

A good rule of thumb is to call your provider before you go away and get them to advise you on your options.

Protect your phone - If the idea of losing your phone makes you panic, insurance can bring peace of mind, but make sure you’re not paying over the odds for a policy that won’t pay out when needed.

Small print can mean you’re not covered if you lose or damage your phone under certain circumstances, or don’t claim soon enough.

Check if your phone is already covered by your home insurance, or as part of your current account.

If your phone didn’t cost the earth, could you just buy a new one, rather than paying for insurance each month?

Still want insurance? Remember you don’t have to buy it from your mobile provider. See if a specialist insurer can provider better, cheaper cover.

Beware, you CAN use too much data -Think unlimited allowances will stop you busting through monthly data limits? Wrong. Some providers stick in fair usage policies instead. If so, check what the maximum usage is, and what happens if you go over the limit. You might get charged, or have your usage restricted, despite the promise of unlimited access.

This article is provided by the Money Advice Service.