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How to beat mobile bill shock

Does your monthly mobile phone bill read like a horror story? Here's how to keep everything under control.

If you think bill shock is a thing of the past, think again! There are still many Australians who get an unwelcome jolt when they check their mobile bill each month.

If you would rather keep money in your pocket instead of sending it to the bank account of your service provider, there are a few simple ways to keep your usage under control and ensure you're not paying extra on your mobile phone.

At home

This may seem obvious, but if you have Wi-Fi at home, you should be using it. There are a few reasons why you might not be doing this.

Perhaps your network got set up so long ago, you've forgotten the password. Or maybe you've accidentally turned off Wi-Fi on your phone without realising it. Because your phone is still getting Internet access, you might not have even noticed the icons at the top of the screen.

Once you're connected to your Wi-Fi, make sure you're using it and not mobile data when you're downloading updates for your app or your operating system. Luckily, most phones will warn you if you're about to download using your mobile data, so pay attention to those warnings.

Out and about

When you're away from home, you're usually using your mobile data allowance. If you're with Telstra, you might have access to the Telstra Air hotspots around the country, which let you use your normal home data allowance, or access to a free Wi-Fi hotspot. If you use the latter, be careful. These can be okay for browsing, but be very careful about using secure services such as net banking on them.

One great trick is to set a data limit. On Android, click on Settings and find Data Usage. This will show you how much data you've used. You can set your own warnings, but you can also set a hard limit, where your phone will just stop getting Internet access after a certain amount of data use.

On iOS, you can't set a hard limit, but you can control which apps can access data so you can turn off the hungry ones, especially anything with music and video streaming.

On holidays

This is where many people get caught out and it's not surprising. When you're travelling overseas, you're often desperate for Internet access and it's easy to go overboard when global roaming. Generally, you're also charged a lot more for unexpected data use when roaming.

With some carriers, you can purchase roaming packs. Vodafone, for example, has a flat fee for simple roaming in many countries. Call your carrier and see what they have available.

Otherwise, make sure that your data roaming is turned off, which it usually is by default. You can often buy a local SIM card at your destination with much cheaper data rates than any roaming fees.

Watch those apps

Even when you're being careful, some apps can still suck down mobile data. One of the biggest offenders is Facebook, which likes to automatically play videos that appear in your timeline. This can add up to a lot of data use even if you're not watching them.

Head into the Facebook app settings and change Autoplay to either "never" or "only over Wi-Fi".

Change your plan

If you're consistently going over, then you might have the wrong plan for your needs. Find out what you really want from a phone plan and pick a new one that suits the way you want to use your phone.

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