Keeping your mobile bill under control

Ringtones, text alerts and multimedia messaging are becoming more popular. But before you know it, the costs start adding up and you'll end up with a bill that could push you into debt

Choosing the right tariff

Whether you're buying your first phone or looking to save some money on your bills, it's important to choose the right tariff for your lifestyle. Mobile operators have a wide range of talk plans that offer different amounts of free talk time, text messages and internet usage every month. To choose the best deal for you, think about:

  • when you'll spend the most time on your phone
  • what networks your friends use
  • how many texts you'll be sending a month
  • how often you think you'll be accessing the internet through your phone

Also, keep an eye out for any new offers advertised by mobile phone companies. Your circumstances may change to suit a different type of contract or deal. It's easier than you think to change your talk plan, so don't hesitate to change if you think you'll save some money.

Dangers of downloading to mobile phones

Downloading a ringtone is a very popular way of personalising your phone and making it more individual. There is a huge amount of adverts trying to persuade you to add a tone, wallpaper or new game to your mobile, but a simple download is often not the only thing you'll be charged for.

In some cases, when ordering a tone, you've often agreed to join a mobile club which means you might get text messages offering you more content for your mobile. What many people don't realise is that you might be charged a premium rate for every message.

If you do want to order a tone from a club, it's important you know how much you'll be charged for everything you receive and how you can unsubscribe if you want to stop being a member. You'll be able to find this information in the small print at the bottom of any advert. If you're having trouble understanding it, ask an older relative to help you out.

Using your multimedia services

The majority of phones now allow you to access the internet from your handset, allowing you to check your emails and surf the web while you're out and about. Although you may think that doing this is just another phone call, it's not.

Costs vary according to your price plan, but if your contract doesn't mention it, you may be charged by the amount of information you send and receive every time you access the web on your phone. Even looking at a few pages can lead to a charge that you may not have been expecting.

If you do want to use your mobile like this, look for tariffs that include internet and WAP usage in the cost of your monthly line rental.

Text alerts

Most mobile phone operators offer to send you the latest news headlines or football results as a text alert direct to your phone.

Although this is a service from your provider, you are charged for these separately and they're not always included as part of any free text offers you may have as part of your contract.

If you no longer want text alerts sent to your phone, make sure you cancel the service straight away. Your provider or phone instruction booklet should tell you how to do this.

Multimedia messaging

It's always fun to send your mates photos and videos to let them know what you're up to. But it's important to remember that these sorts of messages are not included in your monthly free text allowance and are charged on a per message basis.

In fact, multimedia messages can often cost double the amount of a normal text message.

If you think you're likely to send a lot of photo or video messages, find out whether your mobile company sells monthly multimedia 'bundles'. This can save you money on the cost of every message and can help keep your bill down.

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