How to keep your cellphone costs down

2013-12-01 10:00

Nashua Mobile’s chief executive, Mark Taylor, shares his tips on keeping your cellphone bill to a minimum

Stamp out subscriptions

1. When you download a ringtone, you probably ignore the fine print warning that it’s a subscription service with a regular bill. Many only cost R5 a month, but some cost a scary R20 a day. That’s a mighty expensive piece of music.

“Before you use your handset to purchase anything, read the fine print,” Taylor says.

Check your bill. If you’ve signed up for something by accident, unsubscribe immediately.

Overseas and overpriced

2. International roaming inflicts horrendous bills. Before you travel, ask your service provider to set an affordable limit.

Also, turn off data roaming. Rather look for free Wi-Fi networks in coffee shops or at your place of accommodation to use the internet and send emails.

Your phone normally defaults to using a Wi-Fi network even if your cellular data option is still switched on, but you will need to log on to the Wi-Fi network first.

If you need to make local calls at your destination, buy a local SIM card.

Don’t bungle the bundle

3. Smartphone users must buy a suitable data bundle, otherwise automatic downloads made by devices including the Samsung?S3 and iPhone?5 can easily cost R2?000 a month.

“A smartphone without apps is pretty boring, but the apps you download update automatically. If you’re on a budget, set your phone so that it does not update automatically and only do it when you can get on to a Wi-Fi network,” says Taylor.

It wasn’t me?...

4. If a thief grabs your SIM card, he can run up massive voice and data bills within hours. Report and block a stolen phone immediately.

Sim cards can also be taken out and stolen from cellphones or least cost routers without anyone realising – until the bill arrives.

Make sure your devices are secure. Have a call limit set on your SIM card to prevent fraudulent use.

Switch the apps off

5. Ensure that you close apps properly when you are not using them. These include ones like Facebook and Twitter, or your weather apps, live sports apps and GPS or location-aware apps.

If not closed properly, the apps continue to run in the background and can drain your data.


6. Consider how old your phone is and decide whether it’s worth insuring.

If it is, compare the cost of a mobile insurance package from your cellphone provider versus the cost of insuring your phone under the all-risks section of your household contents insurance policy.


7. If your cellphone package has a limited amount of “free minutes”, try to keep track of how many minutes you have used so that you avoid exceeding your allowance. While your usage might not be cut off, you will pay a premium for “extra” minutes that you use.

Whenever possible, make calls during off-peak hours – usually between 7pm and 7am, and on weekends.

If you are constantly exceeding your “free minutes”, then it may be time to switch to another package that is more suited to your purposes.

Text services

8. Reduce the number of texts you send. Make use of free messaging services like BBM (which is now also available on Android and BlackBerry phones) as well as Whatsapp. If you have no access to these services and have to use SMSes, it might be worth your while to buy an SMS bundle. For example, a R50 SMS bundle from MTN will allow you to send 200 SMSes.

Check your bills

9. Your cellphone provider offers you detailed billing. Take advantage of this and check your bill regularly – with a fine-tooth comb. Look out for calls made to ShareCall numbers.

Avoid entering competitions. SMSes to these numbers are usually charged at premium rates and can cost you up to R7 a message.

While you might not think R7 sounds like much, it adds up to a considerable amount if you enter more than once. For example, 10 entries will cost you R70.

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