The overage is the most unfriendly idea in the world of wireless.
There are two types of cell phone users: pre-paid and post-paid. Overages only affect those on post-paid plans, so we’ll only be speaking about these plans here.
The reason why pre-paid cell phone users aren’t affected by overages is simply that they pay for their data use, talk, text, and minutes before they use it. Once the amount is used (data or dollar), they need to add more money for their phone to work. Curious about this? Go here to learn more and compare the best pre-paid plans.
Now let’s talk about the post-paid cell phone users and the ongoing battle of overages. Once you’re empowered, you canand buy happy, faster.
What is an overage charge?
When you’re a post-paid cell phone customer, you and your carrier agree on a plan. There are so many cell phone plans to choose from and you go with the one that suits your needs best.
The plan’s agreement will tell you what your limits are. These limits can be data, talk, or text. If you go over the limits you have to pay an additional fee on top of the monthly agreed fee.
For example, your plan is unlimited talk and text with 2GB of data. You signed up for this because you don’t actually use all that much data. But this month, you had jury duty so you found yourself waiting around - a lot. So you watched a bit more Netflix than you usually do and this sent you over your data limit. Now, you’ll have to pay. This is an overage charge.
How can I avoid overage charges?
Years ago, an unlimited data plan might have solved the overages issue right off the bat. You’d never go over, so there’d be no issue.
But with data consumption being at an all time high, it’s easy to understand why so many carriers have chosen to do away with their unlimited data plans. There needs to be some limit to all this data flying around all willy-nilly. There are some carriers who will honor those unlimited plans where customers have been grandfathered in but do understand that there is always a limit even with unlimited. Rather than charge overage fees for these unlimited plans, there is throttling of speed once a data threshold has been met.
We can thank T-Mobile for this. In 2014, they did away with data plans as we all knew them. Instead of overage charges for going over data, they simply throttle the speed. With T-Mobile, you won’t be charged a fee, but will experience slower speed. Annoying, yes. Cost efficient, double yes.
Most carriers have followed T-Mobile and now offer revised “unlimited” plans offered in tiers. AT&T has done away with overage charges, offering tiered data plans beginning with 1GB all the way up to 30GB. 30GB of data is so huge that you could very well feel like it is unlimited as the average person uses 2.5GB of data per month. While you won’t suffer overage charges, you will have to deal with slowing of speed if (and with 30GB, that is a bigif ) you go over your data limit.
Verizon has a feature called the Safety Mode. It basically allows the user to pay $5 a month to avoid an overage charge. If you feel like you’re going to go over your data limit that month, just pay $5 and you won’t be charged. This is useful but you’d have to be aware that you’re reaching the limit — and you’d have to remember to do this in time. Also, you will still experience throttling once you’ve reached your limit. So it’s not like the $5 stops your speed from slowing once you’ve reached your limit, you just avoid the overage fee.
Sprint still offers plans with the word “unlimited” in them. There are ways to share data within a plan (The Family Plan) and once the data limit is reached, Sprint slows all the way down to 2G speed.
Why do I keep getting overage charges?
You've seen the ads and you think that overages are dead, so why did you just get them on the last bill? That's because this whole No Overages thing is new to, well, everyone. Everyone, that is, but you. Carriers are sure to honor these new plans -- for new customers. Existing customers may need to "opt-in" to this feature so it's a good idea to check in with your carrier.
As frustrating as this is, know that you don't need to get unlimited data to avoid overages. Although many carriers say that that their plan is unlimited, what they mean is that once you go past the high speed data amount, then you won't be charged overages.
Pro-Tip: Avoid Data Overages Now
Here are some things you can do to avoid going over your data limit if you are an older customer and don't feel like switching carriers just yet. Become best friends with your settings menu.
- Look at “Cellular Data Usage” and monitor how much you are using in your current billing cycle. Reset this at the end of each cycle and you will have a solid understanding of how much you use each month.
- “Settings: General: Background App Refresh”. Refresh it, closing out any apps that you aren't currently using. Otherwise, these apps are open and may update or download or just be leeching off of your data all day.
- Your “Wi-Fi assist” needs to be off. This is usually on to help out whatever Wi-Fi you’re using but if Wi-Fi needs to use your cellular data as a crutch, it’s not worth being called Wi-Fi, now is it?
- “Use Cellular Data for” is also in the settings menu. This is really helpful in allowing you to monitor exactly what you use your data for.
- Easiest one: just use Wi-Fi whenever you can. Stay off your cellular data as much as possible.
Hopefully this helped to shed some light on those overages you see on your bill. You're not stuck without options and you're definitely not alone. Check out some other carrier plans now because, aside from settings and calculating your data, switching might be the best way to go.
Plans with No Overages (Often Advertised as Unlimited)
These plans are often advertised as unlimited plans, but they have only a fixed amount of data which can be used at high speed (normal speeds). What that really means is that there is no additional fee for continuing to use the plan after you have passed the high speed data amount, even if it is glacial. For this comparison, we've created a list of plans where the criteria is that the plan has 'no limits', even if the plan is slowed down after the high speed amount
Plans with Unlimited 'High Speed' Data
These plans are true unlimited plans as they offer unlimited high speed data and no overages as the plan is unlimited.