So you've signed the contract for your new mobile phone, and are all good to go. That is, until you get a phone bill that claims you've gone over and above your mobile tariff allowance. But where has it come from?
Firstly, you're not alone – in fact, more than four in ten (42%) of us have spent an extra £40 per year on out-of-tariff mobile costs, according to comparison website uSwitch.
The most common reasons are exceeding mobile phone data limits (39%), which would suggest many mobile phone customers don't realise how much data they are using, and premium rate calls and texts (23% of mobile customers).
How can you make sure you're not stung by your mobile phone bill?
Mobile phone data charges
It is easy to underestimate your data usage. Some providers will send you a text when you're approaching your limit, so it's worth seeing if yours will do the same. If it's proving difficult to stick to your limit, see if you can switch tariffs to a more suitable one.
You could also switch your mobile phone tariff if you're out of contract. Seven out of 10 people could save £159 a year by switching to a mobile phone contract that better suits their needs, according to consumer publication Which?
If you're regularly exceeding your limit, another option would be to explore pay-as-you-go – which may prove cheaper than going over your contract allowance.
Conversely, if you find you're not needing as much data as you've paid for, it may be worth seeing if you could swap onto a lower and cheaper tariff.
To check your tariff, look at your past bills, or speak to your provider. You can also use an Ofcom-approved website like Mobilephonechecker and Billmonitor, to see whether there is a tariff out there that could better suit your needs.
Of course, if you are still in contract, you must check first to see whether you're liable for any costs, or whether you will be breaking your contract – the fees for this could be large.
Mobile phone contract understanding
A lack of understanding about contracts could also contribute to these higher bills. Over a third (37%) are unaware of the difference between SMS and MMS messages, which costs almost two in ten (19%) of mobile users in additional charges.
MMS messages could include photo messages, texts containing emoticons and messages sent to more than one recipient – so think carefully before sending an emoticon-laden message to multiple people! uSwitch say these are usually charged separately, and can cost up to 45p each.
Remember, if you're happy with your contract, you could just swap onto a SIM-only deal once you've paid off the price of your phone.
This article is provided by the Money Advice Service.