Bust Bill Shock

Don't you hate it when you receive your mobile phone bill, start reading the itemised account, and realise you've blown your monthly cap by a considerable amount? Spoke with Karl today about some of the best mobile plans available and we also got on the subject of Bill Shock, which has drawn quite a response form the public.

First, there's the disbelief that your monthly quota has been blown out by such a huge margin. Then there's anger at the Telco for not telling you that you were either approaching your limit, or gone over it. Finally, there's the inevitability of it all as the monotone, unsympathetic ear of the Telco call centre person informs you that you have to cough up the dough so you can stay connected.

So what to do? Usually in this situation it's easy to make the provider the Bad Guy, but there is the train of thought that it's your plan and your fault – deal with it. After all, you are the one using the mobile, not the phone company. On the other hand, Telco's need to take a more 'human' approach in that people don't intentionally go over their limits and maybe providers should come to the party, too.

Well, some have...to a degree. If you are an Optus customer, then they'll send you an SMS when you get through 80 percent of the your monthly allowance, which is pretty handy to know. The likes of Virgin Mobile and Telstra have an online tool whereby consumers log on and track usage. If your provider is not one of these players, then query the shop assistant when you sign up for a deal and ask if there is anything available that might assist you in keeping track of usage.

However, the one I like best is 'Quota' for the iPhone, which is a $4 app that you download and gives a whole slew of information about your account. Before I get crucified for being Apple fanboys (which I'm not, although I do use one), I'll go on record as saying I hope all the other smartphone manufacturers put something similar up on their app stories.

Quota keeps track of not only how much of your cap you have used, but data downloads, too. It works by automatically logging onto your provider's server so you can see usage. But, wait, there is more. You can also track the amount of time your spouse or kids have spent on their phones, too, which can be pretty handy when trying to get your monthly budget sorted. You can also track who people have been talking too, although, this could cause a few problems of its own. Quota will also track data used on your home internet connection! So you can have all your telecommunications accounts on the one app.

Finally, if you really don't trust yourself, are a bit of a technophobe and can't be bothered with all the hassle of tracking usage, then I suggest a prepaid deal. Why? Simple – as soon as you run out of credit your phone stops working until you add more credit to you phone. This does not work for me as I am no doubt going to run out of credit right at the time I need to use my phone and adding more credit will be a pain.

Here are the links for the deals mentioned on the Today Show this morning:

http://www.virginmobile.com.au/mobile-plans-pricing/pre-paid-plans/
http://www.tpg.com.au/mobile/plans.html
http://www.vodafone.com.au/personal/prepaid-mobile/flexicaps/index.htm
http://www.virginmobile.com.au/mobile-plans-pricing/monthly-plans/
http://www.tpg.com.au/mobile/plans.html
http://www.vodafone.com.au/personal/plans/vodafoneunlimitedcap/index.htm