Mobile phone bills - what are you paying for?

Mobile phone bills - what are you paying for?

Mobile phone bills can be confusing. Do you have a mobile phone contract? Then you’ll be getting regular bills – but how do you spot what’s right and what’s wrong, and what are you actually paying for? What makes things worse in some ways, is that each phone company has different ways of describing their charges. We’ve tried to use generic names here:

Your details and payments

This section should include your name, account number, phone number, a bill reference number and the bill date. It’s useful to double-check these details from time to time, as phone companies may share your details with credit-reference agencies (and it’s useful to make sure your information’s up to date).

Every bill will show your current balance, how much money you owe for the calls you’ve made, and how much you’re expected to pay – and when.

If you pay by Direct Debit then the bill will show what date the payment will be taken from your bank account. If you don’t pay by Direct Debit then it’ll show the date by which the company is expecting you to make your payment.

  • Monthly plan/charge/tariff/package
    This is the charge for your inclusive services – that’s calls, texts and data usually. This is one of the most important parts of the bill to check regularly, as it’s very easy to add on services (like data roaming overseas) but then forget to take them off when you’re not using them.

  • Part charges and extra charges 
    Part charges are for things you’ve used for less than a full billing period. For example, if you changed your tariff half way through the month, then the details will be shown here. Extra charges are for the calls, texts and data you’ve used over the amount included in your tariff.

  • Device charges
    Some phone companies offer the option to ‘rent’ a handset or device (something like a ‘dongle’ that acts as a WiFi base station), or to pay for it over a period of time.

  • One-off charges
    This section includes things like add-ons to your package if you only need to pay for them once, payment handling charges if you don’t pay by Direct Debit, paper billing fees, any late payment fees, charges for unlocking your phone, etc.

How to reduce your bill

Check your bill for mistakes – if you’ve been charged for something you didn’t sign up for, get the charge taken off your bill. Ask for previous months to be taken into account, too.

Don’t pay for more than you’re using – check what you’re using. Actually using, month to month. If your package includes lots of inclusive calls, texts and data, and you’re not using them up on a regular basis, think about switching to a cheaper tariff with lower allowances.

Pay by Direct Debit – most mobile phone operators charge a fee for processing payments that aren’t Direct Debits. And if you miss a payment, you’ll likely be charged a late fee. Avoid both by setting up a Direct Debit (you can do this by calling your service provider).

Go ‘paperless’ – some companies will charge for sending you a paper bill, as much as £1.50 per month in some cases. If you have internet access, do consider signing up for paperless billing – that could mean up to another £18 in your pocket.


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