Excess Data Charges Explained


We’ve all heard the horror stories about shock phone bills, with excess data charges often the culprit. At a time when many of us stream music and video from our mobile phones, blowing out your data limit is quite easily done. If you don’t pay attention, those excess data charges can quickly add up. So how much should you expect to pay for going over your data cap, and which providers charge the most? Read on to find out.

If you’re regularly going over your data cap, find out what you’ll be slugged and how you can stop it.


How much do phone providers charge for excess data?

Excess data charges apply to postpaid plans – both SIM only and bundled plans (including the handset) – and the most common rate charged by providers is $10 per gigabyte. However, some providers charge even more! The following table shows how much popular providers charges per gigabyte.

Provider Maximum Excess Data Cost Per GB Minimum Excess Data Cost Source
Telstra $10 $10 http://bit.ly/2nW9T3M
Optus $10 $10 http://bit.ly/2El71Z8
Vodafone $10 $10 http://bit.ly/2EC49X8
Virgin Mobile $10 $10 http://bit.ly/2nSPJZi
Vaya $10 $10 http://bit.ly/2EY4Gk6
Amaysim $10 $10 http://amays.im/2qY3FRy
TeleChoice $10 $10 http://bit.ly/2nSPGwG
iiNet Mobile $10 $10 http://bit.ly/2ElkDDO
Exetel $10 $10 http://bit.ly/2H6wF1K
Dodo Mobile $10 $10 http://bit.ly/2Cdn0CK
Belong Mobile $5 $10 http://bit.ly/2EUVpco
Jeenee Mobile $13 $6.50 http://bit.ly/2CeoxIJ
Moose Mobile $15 1.5c http://bit.ly/2BotMc7
Think Mobile $10 1c http://bit.ly/2EVvilE
Southern Phone $10 25c http://bit.ly/2EjRxVp
Lebara $20 2c http://bit.ly/2G7DGOf
Yomojo $50 5c http://bit.ly/2EVmKv6

Source: Respective provider websites February 2018. Costs based on 1,000 MB per GB. Note that some providers define 1 GB as 1,024 MB.

As you can see, the going rate tends to be $10 a gigabyte and this is usually automatically added on if you exceed your data. Certainly this is a common factor with the big providers, but smaller providers may charge for excess data differently. Furthermore, the above comparison is for postpaid plans only – prepaid plans usually cap data unless you manually recharge, but some may still inadvertently charge for data via credit remaining.

In some cases, users will be charged by the megabyte – rather than by the gigabyte – and this is where costs can quickly get out of control. A special mention goes to Belong, which charges $10 for a 2GB block when you go over your limit. This seems to represent the best excess data value of those providers that charge by the gigabyte.

  • Moose Mobile, Think Mobile, Southern Phone, Lebara and Yomojo charge for excess data in megabyte blocks, which is certainly handy if you don’t necessarily need a whole extra gigabyte, but can result in very high costs if you end up using lots of data.
  • With Think Mobile and Southern Phone, excess data charges vary based on the type of plan that you choose, and with Jeenee Mobile rates tend to vary between $10/GB up to $13/GB based on the individual plan you choose.
  • Notably, providers such as Woolworths Mobile and SpinTel cap data even on a postpaid basis, so no excess data charges are incurred automatically. However, users may be able to purchase data add-ons.

Note that while some smaller providers may offer a cheaper plan, they may charge more for excess data usage. In any case, $10 per gigabyte doesn’t sound like much, but having it repeatedly added onto your bill can certainly wear thin. A recent Canstar Blue survey found that one in five postpaid plan customers (21%) often exceed their data limit.

Megabytes vs gigabytes

When you’re comparing excess data charges, it’s important to understand the difference between the two units data is measured in – megabytes (MB) and gigabytes (GB). You’ll usually see MBs referenced as the amount of data in low-cost mobile plans, with 500MB a common allowance in plans costing under $20 per month. Once your plan heads over $25 or so, you’ll be dealing in GBs. Mobile carriers generally define a gigabyte as 1,024 megabytes.

It’s crucial you know this because some service providers charge for excess data by the megabyte rather than by the gigabyte, and as you can see from the table above, the carriers with the highest potential fees for just 1GB of extra data charge by the megabyte. So when you’re reading the details of your plan, make sure you know exactly what you’re paying for, because at 5 cents per MB, the costs will quickly add up. To put that into context, a standard five-minute YouTube video will use up the best part of 30MBs of data, costing you about $1.50 in excess charges just to watch a cat fall off a washing machine.

Paying by the megabyte does have its benefits if you only go a few MBs over your standard data cap, as you won’t be automatically slugged a $10 fee. However, you do run the risk of serious bill shock if you get carried away with your data usage after reaching your limit.

There are some things you can do to avoid excess data charges, however, so it’s not all doom and gloom.

How can I avoid excess data charges?

There are a few relatively easy things you can do to at least monitor or cut back on your data usage. No doubt you’ve heard of some of them before, but here’s a refresher:

  • Prepaid plans don’t allow for excess data charges – once your credit is finished, you’ll have to purchase more or wait until your plan recharges.
  • Find a bigger phone plan – if you’re blowing out your data cap, you probably need a plan with more data to start with. Paying for a plan with more data will likely work out cheaper than all those excess data charges…
  • Set up data notifications and monitoring – telcos are required to message you when you’ve used all your data, but if you don’t get that message for a couple of days – or even a couple of hours – the damage may already be done.

Go Prepaid

Prepaid may not seem the most trendy option, but providers are rolling out increasingly good-value phone plans with this payment method. Once your credit runs out with prepaid, that’s it – unless you manually recharge. Though, providers may still charge for excess data if you have any extra credit or have elected to ‘auto top up’.

A mention must also be made for Amaysim that offers both postpaid and prepaid plans at exactly the same rates. If you’re fed up with paying extra for data and you’re looking to reign in potential spending, these providers may be a good option.

Choose a Bigger Phone Plan

Always a tough pill to swallow, choosing a bigger phone plan may not seem ideal but could actually work out cheaper than continually adding on data packs for $10 or more a pop. Think about how much those excess data charges are costing you and see what better value you could get with another plan.

  • Some of the cheapest providers to offer 10GB include Jeenee Mobile, SpinTel, Moose Mobile and Vaya.

Considering this, moving to a bigger phone plan may be more ideal. In fact, the move from a 5GB phone plan to a 10GB one may only cost a few extra dollars per month.

Limit App Data Use & Auto-Play Videos

One of the biggest sappers of data can be the fact the default options on Facebook and Instagram are to auto-play videos. Simply scrolling through can chew up megabytes and gigabytes over the course of a month. You can disable this on Facebook but not entirely on Instagram. While we can’t tell you to stop your Netflix addiction entirely, you can also do the following:

  • Turn off auto app updates and disable background use.
  • Disable email ‘push’ notifications, which auto-load pictures, videos and attachments.
  • Turn off location services in apps that don’t actually need it.

In the smartphone world, apps can be the biggest data suckers on your smartphone. This can be easily rectified in your phone’s settings.

Set Up Data Notifications

Chances are you get SMS notifications about your data usage, but do you actually pay attention to them? Most providers send notifications at 50%, 85% and 100% of your data usage, but these may be delayed or not incremental enough. Many Android-based smartphones allow data monitoring and the ability to create data caps that can be delivered in real time, rather than waiting for the plan provider to send a text.

Should I be worried about excess data charges?

Being billed for excess data can be stressful. Though there are some very easy fixes to help reign in that amount of data. Looking at your apps’ data usage is a major one, while those most serious about cutting back can literally limit themselves by switching to a prepaid plan. Excess data charges can easily blow out your monthly budget, so take the time to figure out how much data you really need and pick a plan accordingly.

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