Data overage charges can rack up quickly – especially when the bill includes a line for a child or teenager. BBB received 38,240 complaints against cellular telephone services and equipment in 2011, many stemming from issues with data charges.
BBB asked the major cell phone carriers for tips on overseeing family data usage. When it come to monitoring a child’s cell phone and data usage, each carrier offers different resources for keeping your bill in check.
“By being proactive, and aware of the data activity in which your child engages, you can save hundreds, if not thousands of dollars, on your next cell phone bill,” said Gary Almond, president of BBB serving northeast California. “The cell phone industry has put together different data plans and restrictions that parents may want to consider if their child has a persistent problem of going over their data limit.”
Below is a compilation of the major cell phone carriers’ data plans and packages:
For AT&T users,
parents should consider Smart Limits of Wireless
, an online parental controls tool. Smart Limits for Wireless lets parents set limits on how and when their child can use their phone, including setting a dollar limit for downloadable purchases. As the child approaches the download limits, he or she will receive an advance warning notification. And once a limit is reached, another notice is sent that the service will be stopped until the next billing cycle begins.
For MetroPCS users,
parents can use the free "Purchase Blocker" that prevents mobile purchases. MetroPCS also has a special account called MetroConnect
. This account allows parents to control purchases by only funding the account with the child's monthly allowance. Once depleted, no more purchases can be made on that phone.
For Sprint users,
parents can take advantage of Sprint Mobile Controls
. Sprint Mobile Controls allow parents to clearly understand their child’s talk, text and app use habits. Parents can lock their child’s phone on-demand or schedule locks –during dinner, school or late at night.
For U.S. Cellular users,
parents can utilize the My Account tool
to oversee their child’s data usage. The My Acount tool allows parents to receive text message alerts when their data usage is close to the limit, as well as block data to a specific handset.
For Verizon users,
parents can set up and manage Usage Controls through their My Verizon account. Through the My Verizon Usage Controls
, customers can keep a tight rein on their accounts’ usage. Families or individuals can control wireless budgets with monthly usage allowances on each controlled line for voice minutes, messaging, data and content purchases such as ringtones, games and downloads. They’ll receive free text message alerts when limits are nearing and when they are reached. Once the allowance is reached, there is also an option to restrict usage.
For more information pertaining to your individual cell phone carrier, BBB recommends contacting them directly to see what data overage protection plans can be applied to your personal account. For more tips you can trust, visit www.bbb.org
NOTE: T-Mobile did not respond to BBB’s request for information.
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