Tips and tricks to avoid excessive data costs
Everyone loves reliable cell service, but few like seeing overcharges on our bills. It’s okay to budget for the expected. Still, if you’re constantly incurring excess charges on your phone bill, especially for data usage, that budget can sometimes fly out the window and take the hard-earned contents of your wallet.
How bad is the problem of excess data charges? Our research on finder.com.au suggests that Australians spent as much as $146 million on extra data costs in 2016. That’s a lot of money spent in situations where careful use or monitoring could have saved you money instead of wasting it. With our appetite for data-intensive services such as video messaging, Netflix streaming, and online gaming only growing, this figure could likely rise if Australians don’t get smart and save their mobile data when needed.
So how do you best manage your mobile users to avoid overcharges? In a truly nuclear sense, you could always completely disable data usage on your smartphone, but that’s a radical move that would limit the use of your existing subscription in downright unacceptable ways. The point is, you don’t have to be extreme. Follow these simple tips to take control of your mobile data usage.
1) Find out which apps are consuming your data. Did you know that your phone tracks your mobile data usage per app? For iPhone users, head to Settings > Cellular Data to see which apps are the biggest culprits regarding data usage. Android users will find the same information in their Settings app, usually under Mobile networks and then Data usage. However, this varies a bit depending on your handset and Android version. If you find apps you no longer use that are eating up your data, delete them! For apps, you still want to use, keep an eye out for any data spikes and consider limiting their background data usage so that they only consume data when you’re using them.
2) Go offline for apps when you can. Many Australians are big Netflix fans, and it’s not hard to see why. The problem is that data usage on Netflix can easily eat up all your data. Rather than live streaming on the go (where you can still run into buffering issues if you go into a tunnel or hit a very busy cell tower), consider using Netflix’s offline viewing option to watch episodes of your favorite Netflix Original series. Preload. Before you leave. Competitors Stan and Amazon Prime Video offer this feature for a wide variety of TV shows and movies.
3) Use public wifi (but use it smartly). Plenty of shopping malls, cafes, and other public attractions now offer Wi-Fi to lure customers through the door. Why not use their free services instead of your paid data? The only caveat is that you shouldn’t do private tasks like online banking or sending photos on such networks, as you can never know who else is snooping on your mobile traffic. A VPN, or at least websites that use HTTPS, is a must if you want to browse privately.
4) Make sure you’re on the right plan! If you always reach your data limit before the end of the month, instead of paying the extra cost every time, check out some higher plans. Yes, you pay more upfront each month, but if you always exceed the cheaper limit and spend too much, upgrading your project can be cheaper in the long run. It’s also worth checking for features that make it easy to drop data usage for your subscription into your current billing cycle and pay attention to usage alerts as they come in.
Alex Kidman is the Tech & Telco Editor at finder.com.au.