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How to reduce the cost of your mobile phone bill

  • Not all networks are equal
  • Avoid roaming if possible
  • Consider contract lengths
Written by Jesse Somer
08/04/2011

1.    Find the right plan

The first, and probably the most important way to keep your mobile phone bill down each month is to find the right plan to suit your needs. You’ll need to take a number of factors into account, including:

•    Coverage

Telstra can provide the fastest and widest coverage across Australia. However, not everybody needs to have the best coverage across all areas in Australia, particularly those living in metropolitan areas. Telstra plans are generally the most expensive, and they also tend to be on longer contracts, so they won’t suit all mobile phone users.

Optus offers 97% coverage across Australia and their plans are reasonably priced (although they only offer 24-month contracts on post-paid contracts. Optus offers a wide selection of mobile phones to choose from.

Virgin (1300 768 103) offers cheap plans, and they use the Optus network to provide you with coverage. They include lots of data allowance for people who want to use mobile internet, and large amounts of call credit. However, they have a limited selection of mobile phones to choose from.

Both 3 and Vodafone have super cheap plans with shorter post-paid contracts (12 months). They include large data and credit allowances, and customers will receive free calls to other 3 and Vodafone mobiles. 3 and Vodafone offer limited coverage across Australia, so if you live in a regional area or in a black spot you should keep this in mind. Call us at Compare mobiles to find out if they can offer coverage in your area.

•    Prepaid or post-paid

Post-paid plans generally offer more value than a prepaid service. However, post-paid plans aren’t for everyone. If you’re avoiding long contracts, and you want to keep away from extra charges, a prepaid service may be better suited to you.

•    Your usage

Your usage will depend on a range of factors. Firstly, what types of services you want to use your mobile phone for. Mobile phones are no longer just for making calls. People use their phones to browse the internet, send SMS, play games, use web applications and to organise their daily lives. Your type of call usage will depend on what type of calls you have made – whether you make calls to landlines or mobiles, and where you are making phone calls to.

Taking into account your type of call usage is important, because different plans are suited to different types of users. For example, some plans (such as with Vodafone caps), international calls are included in the cap. This will of course suit somebody who makes calls to international phones.
You can check your usage by looking at a copy of your itemised bill.

If you need assistance with understanding your mobile phone bill, call us on 1300 850 518.

2.    Make sure you know the ins and outs of your mobile phone plan

You’ll need to look into the nitty gritty of each plan. Other things you should take into account when choosing a mobile plan is call charges and inclusions and exclusions of the cap.

For instance, some “infinite” plans, such as the Vodafone $79 unlimited cap doesn’t include voicemail retrieval, so heavy voicemail users may want to opt for a plan that does include unlimited voicemail, such as the Virgin mobile $89 topless plan.

3.    Keep track of your mobile phone usage online

Don’t rely on your mobile carrier to let you know if you’re about to exceed your cap. You can keep track of your mobile phone usage online by logging in with your username and password via your mobile carrier’s website. If you’re not sure what your username and password is, give your plan provider’s customer call centre team a call. The person on the other end of the line should also be able to tell you how your usage is going for the billing cycle.

Be aware that there is usually a 24-48 hour delay on the call usage service, so if you have made a large amount of calls or text in the last couple of days you may want to keep this in mind!

4.    Take advantage of special offers

There are always special offers available from mobile carriers. Often, certain mobile phones are reduced to make way for new phones. There are also online specials such as getting three months free when you sign up to a new 24-month plan.

Other types of offers could include getting free calls during certain times, or getting free calls to mobiles using the same carrier as you. So if you make a lot of calls to one family member, it often works out cheaper if you are both using the same provider.

5.    Keep your mobile longer

A plan is going to cost a bit more if you opt for a brand new phone. Smartphones such as those using the Android operating system or iPhones are generally more expensive. Often you will need to pay a mobile phone repayment on top of your monthly phone cap, which adds extra charges on to your bill. If you’re happy to stick with your current mobile phone for a little bit longer, you could opt for a super cheap month-by-month plan such as TPG’s Talk & Text plans which include loads of credit and data.

6.    Keep up to date with new mobile plans

Mobile carriers frequently release new deals, and sometimes they include more value than previous offers. Some providers will even let you upgrade to one of their newer plans with no penalty fee, so it’s always worth checking. Call us at Compare Mobiles to find out if there are any new mobile plans which suit your needs.

7.    If you take your mobile overseas, avoid unwanted charges

The best way to avoid expensive global roaming charges is to leave your mobile phone at home. However, if you want the convenience of keeping your number and making calls when you head overseas, make sure to check what the roaming charges are. This includes the call rates and the data roaming charges – you may be shocked to find how expensive they are. Also keep in mind there are usually charges for incoming calls as well as outgoing calls.

If you want to take your smartphone overseas, it might be best to restrict incoming and outgoing calls, and keep your data roaming switched off. Depending on where you are travelling to, there are often loads of Wi-Fi hotspots to pick up a signal and surf the net from your phone. This will be a lot cheaper than using data roaming.

When you are overseas, don’t forget to continue checking your usage online to avoid any unwanted charges.

8.    Stick to electronic billing

Many mobile carriers charge a small fee if you opt for paper billing. Even if you switch to electronic billing you can still print out your invoices yourself, or view them online (usually either in a PDF or CSV format). It’s only a small fee but every bit counts, plus you can help to save on paper!

9.    Pay your bills via direct debit or BPAY

Carriers such as Optus charge a small surcharge fee for paying with a credit card (and some credit cards such as AMEX have a higher surcharge than others). There is usually no fee for paying via direct debit or BPAY, but you should check your bills to see if there are any surcharges appearing on your bill. Call your provider to find out which payment methods don’t have any surcharge fees attached!

10.    Stay away from online offers of ringtones, wallpapers and other premium services

There are loads of online specials offering colourful graphics and other ways to bling up your mobile – however these add-ons often come at an expensive price. Many customers aren’t even aware these premium service charges are appearing on their bill, and premium charges often aren’t included in mobile caps. Avoid purchasing ringtones, wallpapers or other premium services (like horoscope predictions!) through websites. If you do, read through the fine print first.

11.    Be proactive about checking your itemised bills


Keeping an eye on your bills is the second best way to keep your mobile phone bill down. That way, you can keep track of what your call usage is like, and find out if you need to upgrade to a higher cap. You’ll also be aware of any unwanted call charges or surcharge fees which are popping up on your bill.

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