Travelling with a cellphone can be like a Chevy Chase family road trip in the movie Vacation. No matter how well the family organizes and plans the trip, nothing goes as planned.
After returning from your vacation or business trip and opening your cellphone bill, you too, may feel lampooned when you see two extra zeros. Though most of us do not find anything funny in the jump in our monthly cellphone bill from $100 to $1,000. Those roaming charges can slash your vacation budget for the following year.
A general decline in cellphone rates has brought some financial relief. But US cellphone users still pay the highest rates. The traveller continues to get zinged by high roaming rates.
Here are five ways you can reduce your cellular phone bill.
- Avoid roaming
Roaming charges can feel more like ransom you must pay to keep your cellular phone and service. On a two-week vacation, spending only 30 minutes a day touching base by cellular with family and friends at $1.50 per minute adds up to $630. That is not including SMS, long distance and web browsing at the beach..
Let’s start by tackling those high roaming bills. First, turn the roaming toggle off. If you are staying in your new location for at least a week, it is worthwhile to spend $5 on a prepaid Sim and forward your calls to the local number. This can reduce your roaming bill to $20-$25 in many cases. Even for a short stop of one or two days, using a local prepaid plan could save you $100 or more on roaming fees — enough to make several monthly payments on a new smartphone.
- Change cellular phone and app settings to low data options
Being smarter about how you use your smartphone is the best way to save on data. Android allows you to set a data limit and warning. Here are other ways to control data usage.
Turn off cellular data – When you are not using your cellphone, switch the cellphone data toggle to “off”. You may also control access to cellular service for each app. Under cellular, check to see which apps are using the most data. Toggle “off” those apps for which you do not need the connection.
Turn off background data – Background data uses an enormous amount of data, especially through automatic app updates.
Perform automatic updates and app downloads on Wi-Fi — Ensure your update settings are set to update on Wi-Fi only. Otherwise, your phone will automatically update using your cellular data. Similarly, ensure you are doing any data-hogging activities such as watching videos on Wi-Fi.
Other app settings
Reading – Check to see if reading and media apps are set to download for offline reading. Stop the downloads for media you do not read and ensure the others download via Wi-Fi.
Mail – Most users choose to have mail messages forwarded automatically throughout the day. You can choose how frequently the mail is forwarded to reduce cellular data usage.
Location Services/GPS – Some of us use GPS every day when we are driving while others only use it occasionally when we are lost. With GPS and a handy Google map we are soon back on track. Consider turning off location services, which is always tracking your whereabouts, and flipping it on when you need directions. You can also cache the Google maps that you use all the time for off-line use.
(If you use an iPhone, general cellular settings and app settings are accessed from general Settings>Cellular. On an Android, cellular settings are accessed from Settings, and app settings such as automatic updates from Google Play/Settings.)
- Reduce Social Media Data Usage
Social media apps are a time and data hog. Consider changing the frequency of how often social media messages are pushed through to you. Your social media apps provide options to reduce data usage. Go to settings in these apps and make the following adjustments:
Facebook – Turn off auto play so videos do not play automatically, or only play when you are connected to Wi-Fi.
Twitter – Both image previews and auto play video can be turned off, and high-quality videos set to only play over Wi-Fi.
Instagram – Set Instagram to use less data. This setting downloads the photos and videos at a slower rate while saving on data.
Snapchat – Set Snapchat to travel mode to use less data while mobile. Also make sure your memories are backing up using Wi-Fi and not cellular data.
- Download music and video files
Data usage is comparable for downloading and streaming movies. However, you do not have to access the Internet if you stop and start a video viewing session. Downloading standard instead of high-quality video also saves on data. Because we play our music files over and over again, downloading music MP3s can save a tremendous amount of data.
- Use browsers that compress data
Whether you are browsing on your smartphone or laptop, you can save a considerable amount of data by using a browser that compresses data. Google Chrome and Opera are two of the most popular data compressing browsers.