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How to avoid big fat data bills, at home and on holiday.
01 Mar 17
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Phone Bills
How to avoid big fat data bills, at home and on holiday. 

You’ve read the headlines "Family gets hit with R13k data bill” you feel their pain because you too have been on the sharp edge of an unexpected cellphone bill. You cringe as you read about how the family who bought their teen a phone for her birthday and airily declared "don’t worry about data usage – it’s capped”, then after a mega You Tube fest, said teen spends the equivalent of a monthly mortgage payment on cat videos. 

Stories like this are in good supply; another victim, on contract in the UK with a local number got hit with a R25, 000 bill after returning to South Africa on holiday. So how does this happen? Firstly, your smart phone is either smarter or dumber than you think-depending on which side of the payment fence you are sitting. The problem is that roaming and data costs are not transparent. Most people have no clue what their usage is costing them and the problem is exaggerated when travelling.

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Browsing Facebook can use up to 2MB per minute and navigation apps, you tube, or radio streaming are absolute data piggies. People are also unaware that browsing the internet and checking emails can cost more than phone calls and texts when not on their own networks. Even when your phone is not in use, 3G- and 4G-enabled handsets will automatically seek out networks to update apps. 

The European commission has introduced caps on data roaming charges in member countries, but outside of the EU there are no international regulations governing charges. You do not have to be a traveler to be smacked with unexpected bills. Smartphones enabled for 3G and 4G automatically switch to a network when Wi-Fi access is unavailable or temporarily drops out, and data charges can then escalate to painful proportions. 

Cell phone companies often state that they cannot cap data use overseas or guarantee alerts -warning customers of how much they have spent, however you can use a data alert function on your phone, but you need to check it. To avoid heart attack inducing bills there are practical steps that smartphone users should take at home and overseas Change your phone settings to disconnect 3G or 4 G while Wi-Fi is being used to prevent the phone automatically switching to expensive networks. When travelling, turn off data roaming to prevent your phone downloading the latest "doodadle” app upgrade. 

Use Wi-Fi in public places wherever possible. Make data heavy downloads such as maps before you leave home or a WI-FI network. Definitely avoid catching your fave movies or tunes when you are not 100% sure that you are on Wi-Fi. It is estimated that being remiss about your data settings could cost you a massive R8000 per day – a bill guaranteed to spoil your week or perhaps your entire year. 

Here are some more tips for saving data. 

When travelling your best bet is to use a pay-as-you go sim card bought in the country you are travelling to, or a use a global sim. Disable Wi-Fi Assist 

Disable Wi-Fi Assist – it can help save cellular bandwidth too. Wi-Fi Assist automatically switches to cellular in the event of a poor Wi-Fi connection. 

Enable data compression while browsing Chrome's uses Google's servers to reduce the amount of data that gets downloaded when you visit a site.

Disable media auto-download for WhatsApp. WhatsApp can turn into a serious data hog with auto-download turned on. Disable auto-play on Facebook and Twitter, especially if you are a heavy social media user. 

Online gaming on 3G and 4 G – just no – unless you have very deep pockets!

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