Your mobile phone could be costing your £100s a year

By Martin Lewis, August 9, 2012
Follow The JC on Twitter

Stop for a moment. Take a look at your mobile. Some view their phones as a shiny little pocket rocket of technology that acts as a mini-computer, while others see it as just a phone. The problem is that too few see it as a household bill that costs £100s a year, which can often be done for a fraction of the cost.
So let’s see if we can ring down some cost changes.

l Do you use all your free minutes?

If not, you are likely to be one of the 74 per cent of UK people that are the wrong contract and overpaying each month. If you regularly go above your free allowance, you are overpaying each month for the extra you use. Getting the balance right is not easy, but the BillMonitor.com tool speedily analyses your bills to find the tariff to match your usage.

2 Find the right tariff quickly

Do not focus on the handset, the key is the tariff — the amount you pay for minutes, texts and data.
There are comparison sites out there which can really make this easier: there is the aforementioned BillMonitor for breadth, and to include handset choice, look at MobilePhoneChecker.co.uk or MoneySupermarket.com. If you are after an iPhone, use the www.mse.me/iphone tool to find the right tariff.

3 “Threatened to leave, got 500 mins, unlimited texts & data for £5/mth.”

As this quote from a MoneySaver shows, anyone near the end of their contract is holstering a great weapon in the form of consumer loyalty. The key is to ask for a major reduction as technology changes generally mean mobile costs are deflationary. If you don’t get it, say you are considering leaving. You will then be put through to “disconnections”, internally known as “customer retentions”, which has much more discretion to keep you. Full tips on how to play this at www.mse.me/mobilehaggle.
To show its power, 76 per cent of users on my site who have tried to haggle succeeded with Vodafone, 68 per cent with T-Mobile, 70 per cent with Orange and 71 per cent with O2.

4 Using pay as you go — consider Giffgaff

If you don’t think you will pass a credit check and don’t want bills that will sneak up on you or a long contract, then PAYG is the main option.
Currently the easy winner for heavy data users is Giffgaff (which uses the O2 network), at £10/month. For that you get 250 minutes plus unlimited texts and data — and extra calls and texts are not costly either.

5 Smartphone insurance doesn’t have to be costly

Mobiles no longer just make calls. They are our diaries, contact books, games machines and more. Losing them can cause tears. Insurers play on this fear with hefty prices and unnecessary cover. Yet you can get cheap mobile, smartphone and iPhone insurance for £5 per month.
Before you do it though, check if your home insurance or bank account covers your mobile. If not, for price, Insure And Go is around £6 a month and cover limits are high enough for smartphones (£500). There is a £25 excess and you won’t get the next day-type replacement service the networks’ £12/month insurance can offer though, so you need to balance it.

6 Don’t flog mobiles to any old website

No one can have failed to see the adverts from the companies buying old mobiles. But do not fall for the branding. There are many of these sites out there. There can be huge variations in the amount they pay for each handset — and they change by the day.
The www.mobilevaluer.com tool compares 18 different sites and the differences can be startling. For instance, the price for a Blackberry 9700 Bold ranges from £40 to £87. Of course, while using these sites is the simple option, you can often beat it on eBay.

7 Text for free with special phone apps

If you don’t have inclusive texts or go over your limit, it can be costly. Yet Touch and WhatsApp work on many smartphones and let you message friends with the same apps worldwide for free.
Even on non-smartphones, if it has web, you can save with FishText and Vyke. You will usually pay for access to data, but it is normally just a fraction of the cost of texting.

8 Free wi-fi with your coffee, burger or beer

If you are out and about, don’t use up your mobile’s inclusive data unnecessarily — it may later push you over your data limit. Big chains like McDonald’s, Starbucks and Wetherspoons all offer free wi-fi, as do many smaller shops. Also check out My Hotspots, Free Hotspot, and Hotspot Locations for more free wi-fi areas.

9 Call freephone numbers for free from your mobile

Dial a freephone number and it can bizarrely cost up to 33pence/minute from your mobile — and it won’t usually form part of your inclusive allowance. Yet there is a trick to beat this so you can call for free.
The www.0800buster.com website will give you a special number to dial before calling the freephone number, which then effectively lets you call it as a normal geographic phone number. So if you have got free minutes, it will actually be free.

10 Don’t pay for voicemails

There can be a nasty catch to voicemails. Some tariffs charge a ghastly 35pence /minute for calling it if you have gone beyond your tariff, which can lead to mammoth bills. If you often go over, it is worth checking your voicemail costs — and perhaps even switching it off for certain periods if you have to.

    Last updated: 8:26am, August 9 2012