Avoid becoming a victim of excess data charges

It’s true, you love your smartphones and other smart devices. So much so in fact, that a new report has found at least one in every five Australians is going over their mobile data allowance, which is a real hit to the hip pocket.

Comparison website Finder.com.au surveyed more than 2,000 consumers and found that almost $260 million has been paid in excess mobile data fees over the last 12 months. That’s up on 2016 figures by $113 million, or 78 per cent!

While Australia waits for a telco to offer unlimited data packages, you have to take control of your data if you don’t want to curl up into a ball over the cost of your next bill.

Here are a few simple tips that can help.

Put a deadline on your data

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Most Australian telecommunication companies are obliged to send you a warning when your data use gets to 50 per cent, 85 per cent and 100 per cent of your plan inclusion. Sometimes, though this information doesn’t come through early enough and you get caught out. To overcome this frustration, set your own data usage alert using your phones software.

If you have an Android phone you can set a limit on your data by visiting [Settings] > [Wireless & Networks] > [Data Usage]. You can preset a data limit here and avoid a shock when your bill turns up.

If you have an iPhone, you can monitor the apps on your phone that use the most data by going to [Settings] > [Mobile] and then scrolling down to see each application and the data it uses.

Turn off your data

If you have a phone plan that doesn’t include much data, or you aren’t sure how to set the limits on your phone, turn off your data completely. This won’t restrict your SMS or call functionality, but it will restrict your data services — apps, internet access etc. — until you turn the data on again.

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Most iPhones have this under the ‘Mobile’ setting. You want to select [Settings] > [Mobile] > [Mobile Data].

For Android phones go to [Settings] > [Wireless & Networks] > [More Networks] > [Mobile Networks] and then check the box labelled ‘Mobile Data’.

Understand how different activities affect data use

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission says knowing how much data different activities — email, browsing the internet, streaming video etc. — use can also help you keep your data use under control. As a rough guide on how some apps use your data, it says:

  • Sending or receiving 40 emails without attachments would use roughly 2MB data
  • Visiting five different web pages would use 2MB data
  • Spending 10 minutes looking at Facebook would waste 3MB data
  • Listening to 10 minutes of audio content takes 10MB data
  • Streaming 10 minutes of funny cat videos from YouTube would use roughly 70MB data
  • Talking to your loved ones for 10 minutes on Skype (not a video call) is around 10MB data
  • Uploading 40 photographs uses 40MB data
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Use Wi-Fi

Instead of using the 3G or 4G data services, set up your phone so that it automatically connects to Wi-Fi networks that you use frequently, i.e. your home network, or take advantage of the free Wi-Fi hotspots around the place.

For Android users, go to [Settings] > [Wireless & Networks] then touch the ‘Wi-Fi’ text on the left-hand side of the ‘Settings’ app screen. You’ll see a list of Wi-Fi networks from which you will be able to choose. If prompted for a password, enter it and then touch the ‘Connect’ button.

If you have an iPhone, go to [Settings] > [Wi-Fi] then turn on Wi-Fi and your device will automatically search for available Wi-Fi networks. Tap the name of the network you wish to join. If you have been successful in joining that Wi-Fi- network you will see a blue tick next to the network.

Have you been stung with excess data usage charges on your mobile phone bill? Are there any tech issues you’d like more information on? Ask us.

Important information: The information provided on this website is of a general nature and for information purposes only. It does not take into account your objectives, financial situation or needs. It is not financial product advice and must not be relied upon as such. Before making any financial decision you should determine whether the information is appropriate in terms of your particular circumstances and seek advice from an independent licensed financial services professional.