How to survive your cellphone contract

Before you commit to a smartphone contract, ensure that you understand all the terms. (Duncan Alfreds, Fin24)
Before you commit to a smartphone contract, ensure that you understand all the terms. (Duncan Alfreds, Fin24)
Cape Town - You walk into the cellphone shop, keen to have the latest and greatest cellphone in your pocket, but before you sign, ensure that your smartphone dream doesn't have to become a nightmare.

For many South Africans, a contract represents the easiest way to get your hands on the latest smart device, but it comes with a catch: You have to carefully examine the contract so you know what you are paying for.

- Before even considering that new shiny smartphone that does everything save making coffee, first check affordability. Some phones cost upward of R400 per month on contract and are offered with only 100MB of data.

For those unfamiliar, 100MB of data may sound like too much, but it doesn't go too far when a smartphone is used to watch online videos. Also, particular social networking applications like Facebook consume significant amounts of data.

- Ensure that your contract allows easy top-up of data or you may be in for a nasty bill shock - especially when you consider online backup services and collaboration.

Contract clauses

- Ditto for voice calls and SMSes and you may consider using Wi-Fi networks to save operator data. A number of places offer cheap or (better yet) free Wi-Fi access.

- Remember not to hog your data, minutes and SMSes as you may not be able to retain them at the end of your contract. A number of people have complained to Fin24 that at the end of a contract, credit they have paid for just disappears.

- Of course, everybody doesn't rush mobile operator stores on the first of the month, and common practice in the industry is to charge pro-rata rates based on when you took up the contract. Check exactly what the terms are and stick to them or you may be penalised heavily.


Check your smartphone contract carefully or it could cost you in unforeseen expenses. (Duncan Alfreds, Fin24)

- Read your contract clauses carefully to ensure that you are not paying for services that you don't need. Don't let the consultant rush you, that phone will still be there tomorrow.

For example, if you have comprehensive household insurance, it may be better to insure your smartphone with you provider instead of a separate and pricey mobile insurance package. And get a phone cover, seriously.

- Cellphone companies also include penalties for late payment and cancellation fees that can cost quite a pocket so be sure that you're happy with all the details before you sign.

- And even though you're about to begin a contract, check on the procedure for ending it. Typically, operators require 30 days' notice and few timeously inform customers near the end of the contract, so mark that data in the phone's calendar and decide what action you will take.

Watch

- Make copies of your contract and watch your bill like a hawk to check that everybody is playing fairly and no surprise costs sneak in.

For example, if there is a fee to post the bill you, ask for it to be e-mailed instead.

- If you have a month where you find that you're using your phone excessively, be aware that you may be cut off, depending on your credit rating. Contact your provider timeously and negotiate terms so you can limit your bill.

If you have any tips to help people take control of their smartphone contracts, let us know.


- Follow Duncan on Twitter
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