Stick to the plan: Aussies forking out millions on excess data charges

Posted: 6 November 2019 3:19 pm News

Woman on phone looking worried

Finder research shows that over the past 12 months, Aussies have wasted $152.6 million on excess data charges.

Thanks to smartphones, we now have the world at our fingertips. We can shop, stream, search and plan, all from the comfort of our couch, our desk – even the bus ride home.

But while this on-the-go Internet access makes life easier than ever before, it can also make it expensive – especially when we blow our data limit.

Each year, Aussies waste millions of dollars doing exactly this. A recent study by Finder found that over the past 12 months, we've forked out a collective $152.6 million for excess data charges.

One in five (20%) Aussies are guilty of exceeding their data limit 1-3 times per year, while 5% exceed it 4-7 times per year. A further 2% admit to blowing their data limit 8-12 times per year, at a national cost of $41 million.

While this may seem high, these numbers are hardly a surprise considering that a quarter of the population don't know how much data their current plan includes.

Finder analysis of ACCC figures found that between June 2018 and May 2019 Aussies consumed an extra 77,445 terabytes of data via their smartphones. This means we're consuming around 31% more data in just one year.

But as anyone on a postpaid plan knows, it's easy to underestimate your data needs when signing up to a new phone contract. The costs start to add up quickly.

Not only are you paying off your new phone (which can get expensive if it's the latest Apple or Samsung model), you also have the option to take out phone insurance. This can tack on an extra $10-$15 to your monthly bill.

Once these charges have been added, many customers will then opt for the cheaper plan with less data to save money.

When this happens, the chances of exceeding your data limit are increased and this can end up costing you more in the long run. Phone contracts generally last 2-3 years, so it's important to get them right.

How to avoid going over your data limit

Check your previous bills
If your contract has ended and you're about to sign up to a new one, check your last three plans to see how much data you're using. From here, you should choose a plan with slightly more data than you've been going through. You're locking yourself in for two, or sometimes three years, and you'll inevitably use more data as time goes on. It's generally cheaper to pay for a more generous data limit than face excess data charges.

Pay attention to texts from your telco
Telco texts might not be as interesting as a text from your best mate, but they serve a valuable purpose. Telco providers are required to notify customers when they're close to exceeding their data limit. If this is happening on a regular basis, it might be a good sign that it's time to upgrade your plan.

Check your app
Most telcos provide billing or usage apps that allow you to check how much data you've chewed through during your billing cycle. This is a great way to keep on top of your usage – as long as you make sure to check it regularly!

Stick to Wi-Fi where possible
The simplest way to avoid going over your data is to use free Wi-Fi wherever possible. Make sure you've switched your mobile data off, as well as any data assist functions. Just make sure you don't do any banking or make purchases on free Wi-Fi.

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