Pay monthly phone contracts are the norm these days. They allow you to get your hands on the latest smartphone while enjoying an agreed amount of calls, text and data, all for a monthly fee. What many people don’t realise, though, is that a mobile phone plan is a form of credit agreement. This means it’s likely to be listed on your credit report and if you fall behind on payments this will impact your credit rating.
Here, we’ve taken a look at how to manage paying for your phone bill on time and in full and what to do if you’re struggling to make payments.
Average phone plan costs in the UK
At the time of writing, if you were, let’s say, to get hold of the new Samsung Galaxy S10 model, you’d pay an average of £32 a month* as well as an upfront handset fee for a contract that comes with unlimited minutes and texts, and 5GB of data. Here, we’ve taken a look at the average price of the plans for some of the most popular handsets on the market. Many of the plans available require an upfront payment that goes towards the cost of your handset. What this payment is will depend on the specification of the handset you’ve chosen, and the monthly contract cost.
|Handset||Average Monthly Cost (May 2019)|
|Apple iPhone XR||£32 per month|
|Apple iPhone XS||£41 per month|
|Samsung Galaxy S9||£27 per month|
|Apple iPhone X||£45.74 per month|
|Samsung Galaxy Note 9||£35 per month|
|Huawei P20 Pro||£25 per month|
How do I pay my mobile phone bill?
Depending on your situation, there are numerous ways to pay your phone bill. Take a look at some of your options below.
This is the most common way to pay your phone bill, and you will usually set up a Direct Debit with your network provider at the time you take out your phone contract. This means that your bill will be collected from your bank account on an agreed date. It’s very important that you check your bank account has enough money in there on the agreed date to cover the payment, otherwise you may be charged a fee by your bank. If you miss a phone bill payment, this may also be recorded on your credit report and impact your credit score.
You can arrange to call your network provider each month and pay via phone. This avoids any fees if you don’t have enough funds to pay by Direct Debit on the date required, and gives you control. You’ll receive your bill, then you simply call up and pay the amount required.
If you are behind on your payments, you can speak to your network provider to arrange a payment plan which spreads the cost of what you owe. We cover this further later in this guide.
What should I do if my phone bill is higher than usual?
A larger than anticipated phone bill can cause stress and worry. When your phone bill is due to be paid may not align with when you get paid, and a higher than usual bill can put a strain on your finances. Here’s how to deal with a phone bill is higher than usual:
Review the bill carefully
Check the extra charges are all correct and query anything directly with your network provider that you are unsure about. The likeliest causes for a high phone bill are using more data than allowed and roaming charges. Although many networks are very good at capping your data and warning you if you’re close to your limit you do need to be careful of this. “Roaming” charges, which are applied when you use your phone abroad, are often not included in the allowances that come with your phone plan. Again, networks are good at capping the charges, but what charges apply and how they are capped depends on where you are holidaying. Some people have been abroad and unwittingly racked up huge bills, over £10,000 in some cases!
If you don’t believe the charges are fair or correct, call your network provider and ask that they explain why you have been charged extra. If you still believe the fees are unfair and they cannot resolve the issue, you can dispute the cost and write a letter of complaint.
Finally, if you are still unhappy you can refer your complaint to Ofcom, the communications watchdog. They do not handle individual complaints but can provide guidance on how to resolve the issue.
Find a way to cover the additional cost
If you’re satisfied that your bill is correct, then you’ll need to find a way to pay it. You may need to cut back on luxuries for a little while to cover the cost, or use your savings to pay the bill.
If you can’t do either of these, speak to a friend or family member about borrowing money from them to cover the extra expense and then pay them back later or over a period of time in a way that you can afford. They could also call your network provider directly and pay your bill for you if they’d prefer.
Mobile phone debt and how to deal with it
If you are unable to pay an unexpectedly high phone bill, or miss the regular payments on your mobile phone plan, your account will fall into arrears and your mobile network may cut you off, preventing you from making or receiving calls. Here’s what to do if you are currently in this situation.
Speak to your network provider
If you’re struggling to pay an unexpectedly high phone bill, or keep up with your regular bill payments, then the first thing you should do is call your network provider, and it is crucial that you do so. Speak to their billing team about your situation. They may be able to move you onto a different, cheaper tariff to help make your future bills more manageable, and set up a payment plan to pay back anything you have outstanding. A payment plan spreads the cost of what you owe, allowing you to pay it back affordably over a period of time instead of one lump sum. Speaking to your network provider about your situation can prevent them from taking action such as referring your account to a debt collection agency, which can come with additional fees and be very stressful to deal with.
Seek free and impartial financial advice
It’s very important you speak to an expert about your situation. We’ve rounded up some of the free-to-use debt advice services in the UK that you may want to contact in our payday debt help guide – these include StepChange, the Money Advice Service, National Debtline or Citizens Advice. They can advise you on what is the next best step to tackle your debts and get a handle on your finances.
What if my network provider has already sold the debt to a debt collection agency?
If your debt has been passed over to a debt collection agency, they will get in touch with you to notify you that they are now responsible for collecting what you owe, and to request payment. It’s very important that you don’t ignore their contact, but it’s also worth calling your network provider before you make any payments to the debt collection agency to confirm that your network have appointed a debt collection agency, and which one, to avoid scams.
Letters, calls and potentially even house visits from a debt collection agency can be extremely worrying. They may ask for the debt to be repaid very soon, and in one lump sum. If you speak to them, which we know can be a difficult thing to do, they will more often than not be able to set up a repayment plan that helps you to pay back the debt in an affordable way. If you are unhappy with how a debt collection agency is treating you then you can make a formal written complaint to them, and if this is not resolved to your satisfaction, then you can contact the Financial Ombudsman Service to take it further.
How to save money on your mobile phone bill
We all want to save a little cash, here’s how to get a lower bill and a little more cash in your pocket.
Change your tariff
If your usage has changed since you took out your contract, many networks will allow you to upgrade or downgrade your tariff without having to start a new contract. If, for example, you find that you’re consistently going over your data allowance and paying extra for it, you may be able to upgrade to a tariff with a higher allowance to make your usage most cost-effective.
Ensure data roaming abroad is included
Check whether your plan allows you to use your phone as usual abroad, and if not, what options are available to you to keep costs down when you travel. Many networks include data roaming when abroad in their contracts, but this is often limited to certain locations and may not include some popular destinations, so make sure you’re up to speed on where you can go where roaming is included, and where it isn’t.
Networks offering included data roaming may also place caps on the amount of data, calls and texts you have available as part of your existing contract. Charges will be applied if you exceed your allowances, so it’s important you don’t go over these. If your plan doesn’t include travel abroad as standard, then your network may offer travel packages as an optional extra that you can pay a one-off fee for in the month that you plan to travel.
Opt for a Sim-only plan
If you’re happy with your handset and your current contract is coming to an end, a Sim-only plan can be significantly cheaper, often from as little as £10-£15 per month, and may come with more generous usage allowances for data and minutes. You may need to have your handset unlocked if you’re changing network provider, but this is usually free of charge and easy to do if you ask your network. You can also arrange for your current mobile number to be transferred over, making the transition seamless.
Change network provider
If your current provider doesn’t have a suitable alternative tariff available or offer you a better deal, then you’re entitled to change provider at the end of your contract. Many networks offer great deals exclusively to new customers, so get in touch with those you like the look of and see how much you could save.
You don’t have to go for the first plan you see, or limit yourself to one your current provider is offering you. Compare not only the monthly bill, but also any up-front handset costs the network is asking for. Pop into a store such as Carphone Warehouse to find a great deal. They may also have access to exclusive deals that you can’t find anywhere else.
Avoid sending pictures over text message
Many mobile phone networks still charge higher rates for sending multimedia messages like picture messages or sound clips. Use Whatsapp or Facebook Messenger, which rely on sending messages using your mobile data rather than your text message allowance, and make sure you’re connected to WiFi when sending pictures to exhausting your data allowance and incurring additional charges.
Opt for a paperless bill
Many networks have already gone paperless. If you are still receiving paper bills, then you could be paying extra for these. Opting out of them could save you a few pounds a month.
Connect to Wi-Fi when possible
Data is perhaps the most expensive element of a phone bill these days, and if you use more than your contract allows for, your bill can quickly skyrocket. Connect to Wi-Fi when you can at home, work, or by using free hotspots when out and about to avoid using your data allowance too quickly.
Remove add-ons if they’re no longer needed
If you paid to add more data or additional minutes to your plan for one month, ensure you remove this if you don’t need it and avoid continuing to pay the additional charge.
We hope this guide has helped you wrap your head around how to pay a phone bill and what to do if you fall behind on payments. Take a look at our full range of guides, which feature guidance on a variety of financial issues.
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*Sources checked May 2019