9 hacks to lower your mobile phone costs

Are your mobile phone costs creeping too high? Margaret McKay has just investigated how to get hers lower and she shares her hacks with Citro.

By Margaret McKay

Mobile phones, the necessary accessory

My phone is as addictive as watching I Love Lucy re-runs, but each monthly bill for my mobile has made me wonder if it’s a luxury I should reign in a bit. But how?

Telstra, Vodafone, Optus: paying for the major mobile players

Paying top dollar for a truckload of data that I’ll never use just sticks in the craw.

Often, we stay with the major players because we’re a little afraid to venture elsewhere. But these days, if you try another provider and it doesn’t work, you can just as easily go back. The majors offer comprehensive service and tend to be expensive. Their huge data allowances are more designed for the younger set, who are into their 5th GB before you and I have finished the crossword.

I went on a mission to find a cheaper plan with data that suited my needs. Here's what I found ...

Aldi mobile – more than just a supermarket

Aldi Mobile use the wholesale Telstra network of towers. This amounts to around 99% of the full Telstra coverage, but unless you’re on a sheep station 300 clicks west of whoop-whoop, you probably won’t notice any difference. You can keep your existing number and you’ll be swapped over before you can say 'put the kettle on'.

Amaysim – great plans, all 5G

Amaysim uses the Optus tower network and has some enticing plans that all seem to offer 5G. Plans renew in 28 days, rather than a calendar month – no biggy, but it means 13 bills a year, not 12.

Boost Mobile – full Telstra network

Boost Mobile uses the full Telstra tower network. Monthly rates are good, but you wouldn’t know it at first glance as they advertise yearly amounts that need to be pre-paid. Paying a year ahead for a service you haven’t tried yet might be a deal-breaker.

Belong – they belong to Telstra

Fully owned by Telstra, Belong uses their wholesale network. Plans are cheaper than big daddy, but still more than those mentioned above – a good compromise maybe? They offer some cost-effective add-on options for international calls and overseas roaming.

Unlimited data banking – how good is that?

I just hate paying for data that I’ll never get to use. It’s my data, I paid for it, where is it?

Guess what? Aldi Mobile, Amaysim, and plenty of other smaller providers, roll over any unused data – no limit on data amount, no limit on time. A game changer, and it means that even small data allowances will quickly build into a nice little stockpile.

Data rollover means that data not used during a billing cycle is added to the data in the next month’s cycle. At end of the billing period, if any data is remaining it gets extended to your next billing cycle instead of being discarded.

Once you’ve had data rollover, you’ll never go back.

Data – how much do you need?

Using Google maps, searching the web for a trivia question answer (are you allowed to do that?), checking your email, finding what the weather or tide state is at your favourite fishing spot – these activities use trivial amounts of data.

The big-ticket items for mobile data use are:
• Sending and receiving photos – more data, but not huge.
• Sending, receiving (and that includes watching!) video.
• Video also includes services that include video calls with the littlies.
• Updating your phone operating system or apps.

Leave out those activities and most folks can get by with 2 or 3 GB per month. Make it 5 to 20 GB and you have your needs easily covered.

Do as much of those data-sucking activities at home using your home broadband data.

Kids overseas? Get Smart!

Some plans have cost effective add-ons for making international calls, just make sure you check which countries are covered, and what limits, if any, are on your calls.

But if not, hey, why not make those calls essentially for nothing?

With your phone connected to your home Wi-Fi network (presumably with bucket-loads of spare data allowance), you can use:
• Skype
• Facetime
• WhatsApp
• Apple iMessage

… and the myriad of other similar apps now available, to send text messages, make audio calls, and with quality wi-fi capability, video calls. There’s no time limit, and aside from using some of your home data allowance, it’s absolutely free. Love it!

Read Citro's free secure guide to travelling with your smartphone

Overseas roaming charges – hah! Give me your best shot!

If you're headed overseas, som plans have tempting per day type roaming packages – just make sure you know what you’re getting, where, for how much, and on what network.

If not, here’s my trick …

Turn on aeroplane mode when you leave home and leave it there until you return.

Turn on Wi-Fi only in a secure place like a small hotel and use the above methods to message, phone, and video from the ease, comfort, and cost, of your hotel. No roaming – no cost.

You don’t have to persist with high-cost phone plans with data you don’t need – there are choices aplenty. Hit the pause button on Lucy and get searching.

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