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Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Tips on managing your mobile spend

Managing any budget requires careful planning and monitoring. The guide to manage your mobile spend is designed to help make your job as easy as possible, with some useful hints to help you ensure your in control of your spend.   

  1) Consider pre-paid
If you are concerned about how much you will spend on your mobile, are not sure what exactly your needs are, and do not want to sign a long-term contract, consider the pre-paid option first.
Getting a pre-paid first will help you understand how much you use your mobile. You can always change to a plan at a later date, and your experience using a pre-paid can provide you with useful information to help you evaluate what type of plan would match your needs. Note that some pre-paid plans tie you down for a minimum period of time. This may mean you can benefit from cheaper call costs, but be aware that if you leave before the specified time, you pay a penalty. Look for details in the terms and conditions. You may see the phrase SIM unlock fees. Also be aware that many pre-paid phone cards have an expiry date you use them until all your credit is used, or until the card expires (whichever occurs first).

2) Choose a plan to suit you
whether you opt for a pre-paid or post-paid contract, you’ll find there’s a huge choice of options available to suit many different needs. The following points will help you choose one to suit YOU.

a) Cost of calls. Going for the plan with the lowest basic call costs may not necessarily be the best or cheapest option for you, it will also depend on how much you use other services, such as SMS, voicemail, etc. If you use SMS more than voice, you might find, for example, and that there is a plan which charges slightly more for voice, but less for SMS  providing a cheaper service for you overall.
Its also worth taking the time to consider when you use the phone, and whether you can benefit from plans which allow you free or cheaper calls at certain times of day, or to certain people.
If you use the phone a reasonable amount, the newer deals are also well worth considering. (Note: as with any other offer, ensure you are clear on any fair use policies and exclusions that apply.)

b) Select a service that allows you to check your mobile credit
Some mobile companies have options to help you keep track of, and manage, your spend examples include:
Spend alerts - you get a message to let you know if you’ve reached a certain spend within a given time period (e.g. a month). Applies to post-paid contracts.

Free call number to check account balance. (Applies to pre-paid and post-paid contracts)
Call barring - keep your bill down by limiting the numbers called from your phone by using call barring. For example, you might want to bar international calls, or calls to premium rate numbers. Some carriers also allow you to preset certain numbers to allow your phone to be used to call only certain numbers talk to your carrier about the options.

c) Consider the cost of the whole package. Be wary of phrases such as Free, costs zero dollars - is it really free, or are you paying for it somewhere else? If you see the words conditions apply, read what conditions apply the offer may not sound so tempting once you understand what it excludes. Remember: If an offer sounds too good to be true, it probably is

 3) Stop others using your mobile phone
Minimize the risk of losing your phone and/or someone using it without your permission by:
Treating your phone as you would any valuable item; even if you got your handset as a ‘$0 upfront deal, this does not reflect its true cost. Handsets are expensive: they can cost more than $1000.

Never leave your mobile in the car;
Keep your mobile on you - never put it down in a public place or leave it unattended;
Switch to vibrate mode in circumstances where a ring tone might attract the attention of a thief;
Make use of your mobile's security features to stop others borrowing your phone (e.g. PINs, SIM locks, code locks see your user guide for details);
Limit the amount of damage someone can cause by borrowing your phone without permission by utilizing call barring (see above);
Don’t assume your phone is covered in your home contents insurance check, and consider insuring it separately, if necessary. Remember that even if you got the phone for $0 upfront, this doesn’t mean it was free  it means the cost was absorbed in the overall contract price. You may not be able to get a replacement phone for $0 upfront.

Reducing your phone appeal to thieves, and assist in its recovery if it is lost or stolen, by:
·         Notifying your network carrier AND the police immediately in the event of loss or theft;
·         Engraving your initials and driving license number on the phone;
·         Recording details of your phone, including its make, model and its International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI) number, and keeping the details in a safe place. The IMEI number is a 15 digit number independent of your phone number, and is usually written underneath the battery or on the back of the handset. You can also find your IMEI number by dialing *#06# on your mobile handset. Your carrier can use this number to block your phone from all networks once you report the phone lost or stolen, rendering it useless to any thief.

4) Don’t sign a contract for someone else unless you’re prepared to pay all their bills
Remember that whoever signs a contract is ultimately responsible for ensuring that the terms and conditions of the contract are met. That means if you sign a contract for a friend (or child), and they don’t pay their bills, its YOU who must cover the costs.
So unless you’re completely happy to cover someone else costs, don’t sign a contract for them. Help them choose an appropriate pre-paid service instead.

5) Other tips to save you money
Voicemail. If you have a voicemail service, ensure you’re clear what it costs. It may be included free as part of your package, or you may be charged when you listen to your messages. If this is the case, clear your voice mail quickly: every time you re-listen to old messages its costing you.

SMS. SMS messages are usually charged at a flat rate per message of up to 160 characters. If your phone allows you to write a single message over 160 characters, be aware that you’ll get charged for an additional SMS. (So an SMS with 161 characters will cost you twice as much as 160 characters.)

Voting. Ensure you understand the cost of calls or SMS when entering competitions/voting, etc. These are usually premium services and attract higher charges than your usual SMS or phone call.

Cost calculations & premium rate services. Be aware that there are various ways you can be charged for the services you choose to use. For example, SMS may be charged at a flat rate ($X per SMS sent); call charges may be calculated on a time-used basis ($X per minute); and some newer content services* may be charged on a subscription basis ($X/week), or on a cost per message received basis ($X each time you receive a message). Before signing up for any service, make sure you understand how the charging works: how much it costs, how often and what the total cost to you will be. And should you choose to subscribe, take note of how to cancel your subscription at the time you sign up  while its front of mind.
(*Egs of content services include: ring tones, horoscopes, news & sports updates)

Call or SMS? Consider whether it might be cheaper on occasions to call someone rather than SMS them. Or visa-versa.

Pre-paid credit. If using a pre-paid, make sure you know if and when the credit expires, and whether you can extend the credit period by topping-up/re-charging the card.

6) A problem shared is a problem halved
If you are having any financial or contractual problems, contact your carrier. It is not in their interest to have customers in financial difficulty any more than it is in yours. Discuss with your carrier any advice they have to help control your spend before the problem becomes too big.

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