Facebooking holiday snaps costs Mum £20k

Helen Christie

Helen Christie took a short break to Turkey with friends, and thought it would be a nice idea to put a few photos up on Facebook while she was there. It was only when she returned to find a phone bill of £20,000 that she realised what she'd done.

The roaming charges worked out at £2,700 a day. So how can you protect yourself from this sort of disaster?
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Christie, a 40-year-old accounts manner from Woolwich in south London, told the Mirror: "I just thought it might be nice to put a few pictures on Facebook. I didn't have a clue what on earth had gone on."

Her mobile phone company, EE, insisted that the bill was correct, but after being contacted by the Mirror it agreed to cut the charges 95% to £875. Christie told the paper that she still couldn't afford to pay it, so would have to meet the phone company in court.

So how can you protect yourself?

Ironically, Christie told ITV that she thought she was protected. She had signed up to 'Travel Saver' bundles at £6 a day, which gave her some roaming at 10% of the standard charge. However, she went way over her allowance, and had not opted to cap the potential charges.

If you are travelling it's worth taking steps to protect yourself.

Within the EU, you have protections negotiated by the EC, which means you can't be charged more than 24p/min to make a call, 7p/min to receive a call, 8p to send a text and 46p/MB for data.

However, these are still very steep charges, so it pays to be aware of the cost when you make a call or use any data. By 2016, the EC will scrap roaming charges within the EU - but there are a few years to get through first.

It's also worth taking extra precautions if you are holidaying outside the EU - in places like Turkey.

In most instances it makes most sense to turn off data roaming, and take advantage of free wifi while you are out and about. This will protect you from data roaming surprises - and will stop your phone automatically running up charges by updating apps in the background.

Package

It may be worth signing up to a roaming package if you plan to use your phone for calls, texts or using data. However, you'll need to check the small print to see what you will be charged and what you'll be covered for.

Some packages include data, while others won't: some let you receive calls for free, and some will include calls within your monthly allowance, while others will provide a specific allowance each month. Make sure you know exactly what you are covered for, and take care not to exceed your limits.

If you are using data on your package, take care not to do anything which burns through data - like downloading video or music, or uploading photos onto social media. Also be careful about opening emails with large attachments.

Talk to your provider about voicemails. All the providers will charge you to listen to a message, but some will charge when messages are left too. If this is the case, you can ask for your voicemail to be disabled while you are away and ask friends and family to text instead.

It makes sense to call your phone company and agree a cap on charges too just in case something goes awry.

If you are planning to use your phone a great deal, even with a package you could face significant costs. In this instance you may be better off buying a SIM for the country you are visiting. This will mean using a different number, but the costs will be much lower. Check with your phone company whether you can put the overseas SIM into your phone or whether you will need to buy a cheap handset overseas too.

Turn off

There's always the possibility that we could turn the phone off altogether - and use the holiday to get away from it all - rather than just bringing it all with you.

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Beware the small print
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Facebooking holiday snaps costs Mum £20k

It is reasonable to assume that if you take out a mobile phone contract at £30 a month for 24 months that's exactly what you'll pay unless you exceed the tariff. Yet mobile phone providers have come under fire for a snag buried in the small print – a clause to allow mid-contract price rises.

Prices are rising by a median of 81p a month and 70% of consumers are completely unaware off this sneaky move, according to Tesco Mobile, so be sure to check any new contracts before you sign the dotted line.

Financial service providers always refer to 'typical APR' in advertising to attract customers with favourable rates of interest.

Yet the typical APR on loans and credit cards is only available for those applicants who have a squeaky clean credit record, everyone else could end up with a much higher rate. For example, under EU rules, credit card providers only have to provide the typical APR advertised to 51% of applicants.

So always consider this when applying for accounts and products, and if approved – look out the actual APR that you will be charged.

The highest paying savings accounts on the market tend to come with a string of strict terms, which if you fall foul of, result in a drop in interest. Common requirements include paying in a set sum each month and not making withdrawals during a set period.

Make sure to fully understand these terms before opening a savings account and if you choose an account with a six or 12 month bonus, remember that this will plummet when the bonus period ends.

Cashback credit cards that pay you a small percentage each time you spend on the card are full of loopholes in the small print. All have a maximum spend, but many have a minimum spend too.

For example, the Sainsbury's Cashback Low Rate card advertises that it offers users 5% cashback for the first three months. However the 5% cashback is capped at £50 a month. A further 5% cashback is subject to you spending £500 a month on the card (£250 of that at Sainsbury's).

Attempt to repay your mortgage early and you may be greeted with a hefty fee in the form of an early repayment charge. These penalties vary from lender to lender and even deal to deal, but are typically be around 10% of the outstanding balance.

Details of any early repayment charges should be clearly outlined in your mortgage contract but it is worth double-checking with your lender before you try to make a payment.

Insurance is an incredibly complex area of personal finance and different forms of cover are riddled with different hitches that make it crucial to read the small print. Failure to do so could lead you to pay for a product you would be never be able to claim upon, or unknowingly do something that invalidates your claim.

Always buy the right level of cover for your needs and pay close attention to any exclusions in the policy wording. For example, many travel insurance policies for winter sports won't pay out for treatment of injuries incurred while under the influence of alcohol.

Think a credit card can't do any damage at home in your drawer? Think again. Some credit and store cards charge a dormancy fee if you don't use them regularly.

For example, all Santander-issued store cards, including Topshop and Laura Ashley cards among others, charge a fee of £10 if you remain in debit for three consecutive months.

Exceed the monthly usage allowance in your broadband deal and you could be hit with a huge fee. Common with the cheapest broadband deals on the market, penalty charges for going over your contracted limit can push your bills up even higher than if you paid for a deal with unlimited usage.

According to Talk Talk, some households are being forced to pay an additional £40 per month for exceeding their usage allowance. BT for example, charges £5 per every 5GB extra used.

Familiarise yourself with the download limit in your package and the penalties for exceeding it, decide whether you are better off with an unlimited deal.

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