There was a time when every other story on the TV shows that pass for "current affairs" was about bill shock. The stories were simple. Someone signed up to a mobile phone plan and when the bill arrived at the end of the month it was much higher than expected. The customer would would shake their fist saying the carrier ripped them off while the service provider said it was up to the user to make sure they understood the contract they had signed up for. Thankfully, there have been improvements but many people are still being hit with excess charges. However, it seems they just don't care as much.
My monthly mobile bill review starts by looking at the bottom line. If the amount is the same as the contract rate then I simply pay the bill and move on. Occasionally, it's a few dollars over but as long as the difference is less than 10 percent of what I expect I don't bother arguing.
According to a survey conducted by finder.com.au, 11 percent of the 2085 people they surveyed experienced mobile phone bill shock in the last year. What's interesting is that they only seem to care when the bill exceeds $216 - almost five times the level of the average mobile phone plan which Finder says is $44 per month.
The main reasons for higher-than-expected bills are excess data charges, exceeding call allowances, and texting or calling from overseas.
So, what can you do to avoid this?
1 - Understand your contract: It's important to look at the fine print on your mobile phone deal. Some carriers allow calls and texts to overseas numbers while other don't. And different carriers calculate call rates in different ways. While two carriers may say your plan includes $200 with of calls, how that value is calculated could be very different.
2 - Understand your usage: iOS and Android make it easy to see how much data you use each month and what apps are using the data. For iOS, you'll find the information in Settings | Mobile. Android users will find similar information at Settings | Wireless & Networks | Data Usage. Armed with that information, you'll be able to choose a plan that matches your needs.
3 - Look for smarter overseas roaming options: If you're a frequent traveller, it's worth looking at what options your carrier offers. The plan I'm on, with Telstra, includes 1.5GB of data when I'm overseas. But all the carriers now offer roaming data packs which offer some data for a moderate daily fee.
4 - Check you bill: Carriers do make mistakes on bills. This is one of the reasons I prefer to not have automated bill payments as, if there's an error, they've already got your money before you've had a chance to dispute the charge. If the bill amount is different to what you expect, check it.
5 - Look at pooling plans: Some carriers will allow you to combine the call, text and data allowances for multiple users in your business or family. That can be a handy way of getting the most from each user's account.