How to avoid a shock mobile phone bill

How to avoid a shock mobile phone bill

Sign up for a capped bill and you can steer clear of any surprise mobile shocks. We reveal the networks that offer this service.

Ever been hit by mobile phone bill shock? Accidentally going over your allowance or making a call to a premium rate number can result in a sky high mobile bill. If you want to feel totally in control of your monthly spend or ensure that your child can’t run up a hefty data usage fee after bingeing on mobile internet perhaps you should consider a capped contract?

Best mobile phone networks – read our ratings for Vodafone, O2 and the like

What is a cap?

Both T-Mobile and Tesco offer contract caps that only allow you to use the texts, minutes and data that are included in your allowance. This means that you will never accidentally go over the cost of your monthly tariff.

Do all of the big providers offer this?

No. O2, Vodafone, EE and Orange don’t currently offer customers the option of capping their contracts. We asked them why. Here’s a selection of the top reasons they gave for not offering caps:

  • Pay As You Go service – Customers who want control over their spending can use Pay as You Go.
  • Don’t use your mobile – Customers can choose to wait until their next bill date to use the internet again, meaning there is no need for a cap.
  • Apps – Customers can monitor their own usage through apps such as My 02, My EE and My Orange.
  • Text Alerts – These notify customers about their usage and when they’re nearing their limits.
  • A range of price plans – These have plans to suit a wide range of consumer needs.

Why use a mobile cap?

O2 suggested that restricting customers on their spend through a cap could take away the flexibility and freedom to use the mobile they have. However, if you are on a tariff with combination of texts, minutes and data that suit your needs having a spending cap shouldn’t feel like a limitation.

Besides, in the event you do need to override the cap, you can always top up with credit to cover your needs. Secondly, you can avoid premium rate numbers by contacting companies through other channels such as Twitter and online chat; you may even get a quicker response.

Both Tesco and T-Mobile argue that caps or fixed contracts offer the great value of pay monthly but with the levels of control that Pay as You Go gives. T-Mobile offers one form of fixed contract called You Fix and Tesco Mobile offer caps on all of their contracts.

Your thoughts

So, are you tempted by a cap? Or do you agree with o2 and think that you’d feel too limited by not being able to call premium rate numbers or go over your usage without topping up with some extra credit?

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20 replies

  1. Self control. I assume that people have the thought process to think that if their account only has say 1GB of data they might have that in mind and use WiFi when they can or go completely crazy and monitor usage. More and more the consumer needs the actions of others to control their own.

    If you sign up to a pay monthly account for a member of your family, lets say a son or daughter and react with utter shock when you get a bill or see that lots of money has been spent on buying extras from apps then there is only one person to blame, yourself.

    1. Its not always a lack of self control, there are many sneaky charges with mobile phones they even charge for services that simply haven’t been used. When we were with T mobile the last 3 months of the contract we took the sim out and changed to giff gaff, amazingly the next two months there were small extra charges on the bill! when we rung them up to say it was not possible as the sim wasn’t even being used we just got a sorry and a refund. How many people really check their mobile bills if they did I bet they would also find things that they have been charged for that they shouldn’t have .

  2. It is essential to be able to set a cap on spending. Children need limits to help them learn responsible use and parents need them to protect the family budget. Phone companies that have not implemented limits are choosing that course for cynical commercial reasons rather than providing controls that customers need. Congratulations to Tesco and T-mobile for providing this capability. I am signing up now!

    1. Well said. PAYG solutions charge a huge premium for their calls and texts 40p per min or 15p a text (with the exception of ASDA) . A monthly contract is much better value so why can’t a parent set a limit of £5 a month and have a handful of texts and minutes and optionally NO data for their youngest to say be in touch if they miss the bus home from school. This can be gradually upped as and when and possibly added to by the child in a PAYG voucher manner with their pocket money. I note that some networks too allow an ‘emergency number’ to allow phone home or parent with a couple of minute limit even with no credit.

      Which should investigate further!

    2. Out of “bundle”, giffgaff payg is only 10p per minute or 6p per text and 0800 calls are free. So this is a good deal for low volume users.

      Tesco capped contracts can be very good value too though….

  3. The cartel of the big 4 only send SMS reminders for data because they have to by law. They could very simply send a reminder for Voice minutes and texts but they would rather put their hands in your pockets when you’re not concentrating than play fair. Make your voices heard. Facebook, Tweet, other social media sites. speak up and spread the word, you can’t drown out the words of the crowd. The EU is introducing a raft of new measures that will save users much gold. Don’t sit in silence when that bill comes in, let the world know how you have been cheated!

  4. i have had a capped contract for over 2 years now and i cannot reccomend them enough.
    i have a phone for me and for my partner and i never have a surprise bill at the end of the month, nor do i have to worry if i go on holiday about those roaming charges.
    i have quite a good deal anyway 600 mins 5000 txts and 500mb data, although i have never hit my cap its nice to know that i can top up with credit should i need to.

    as i said i cannot rate the capped contracts highly enough. great idea if you are paying for your kids phone bills as well

  5. Three let you do this on any of their pay monthly contracts via the website as my daughter had it. We are swapping her to T-Mobile as we got a great deal on a phone and contract which no other network could match. I now need to check I can limit her out of contract spending.

  6. It is clear that many customers want this facility, ie to cap their contract, they ARE being responsible,
    It is a lack of ethics that allows some companies to refuse to,provide this facility,
    Shame on Orange and Vodafone

  7. I have a capped pay monthly contract with Tesco which has worked very well until recently. When I go abroad I top up in order to use my phone as the cap prevents calls, texts etc outside of the uk. I was advised by Tesco to do this to avoid the cap. I was shocked to receive texts from tesco whilst on holiday saying that my credit was low and I needed to top up. I knew full well that was not the case. When I made enquiries with Tesco when I came back to the uk they told me the top up balance had been used to pay my monthly bill!! My bill is paid monthly by direct debit and yes I had sufficient funds in my account. If I had known tesco would do this I would not have spent 20 minutes on their awful automated system trying to top up. Next time I have to reset the cap when I go abroad and when I come back. Beware!!

  8. EE are so unhelpful, I’ve been charged nearly double my actual bill every month, all the women could say was ‘keep an eye on your bill then’ caps should be put in place as soon as my contracts over I’m moving over to tesco.

  9. I want to get a contract for my elderly aunt but an too afraid she could accidentally use up too much data.
    Is there any operator in the UK that will allow you to cap the data to the amount you sign up for and then block or restrict data after that amount. Tesco is rediculous, if you get the 500MB plan then any other data after that is 60p per MB which means if you go over by about 20mb then all your calls and SMS are blocked also.

    1. Actually the Tesco capping system is pretty good. You can choose a contract with a reasonable bundle of minutes, text and data and then add a cap – a monthly fixed cash ceiling on any overspend.

      Then if you overspend by exceeding your data allowance, you can still make calls and text within those allowances.

      For example, you can get 3000 minutes, 5000 texts and 3gb data for £20/month. If you set a £5 cap, you would run out of data after 3gb + £5 other data but you would still have the other allowances. What you won’t be able to do, if you hit the cap, is make out-of-bundle calls, like 0800 and 0845 numbers.

    2. Derek,
      You are right, Tesco seams to be quite good, the only issue is that once you have spent your allowance you are then charged 60p per MB for data so that £5 would be burnt through in about 8MB, that is just ridiculous.
      I want to restrict data after the included bundle not get charged an unreasonable amount for it

  10. We have T Mobile comtract for our daughter. We a put a cap of £50 on overspend on monthly amount for whuch we were to be informed when that amount was reached. We have now been told we have to pay £600 plus as they let this overspend carry on. Apparently we have “good credit” We now have a dispute with them. Not happy. How we meant to prove this.

  11. O2 have better contact than some other companies, but I have twice gone over my limit. On one occasion their app was down so I couldn’t check my time available. However, I am not in the habit of making £20. phone calls and a simple text to me would have saved me a fortune. I am so impressed with their views on that , that I have left them.

  12. My daughter is 17 and her contract that I pay for is £21.00 PM with O2 my daughter was unaware of her bill being £111.00 and because I don’t have t phone I can’t monitor it. I asked O2 for some help, like the banks with responsible lending. Put a cap on it. No help and no answer, they actually cut me off from the on line chat. It is possible for phone companies to do this but why would they? Profit profit profit. The government should help out I believe.

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