back to article Unused 'free' minutes cost Brits £800m a year

My wife never uses up her mobile minutes. I know we can save £5 a month if she swaps to a cheaper contract - but have we done it? Of course not. In common with 55 per cent of mobile phone users on monthly contracts who never use up their free minutes, we are paying too much. The average too much is £62 a year. Add all those …


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  1. Vitani

    Yeah right

    "we are paying too much"

    So, if we all used up our minutes the telcos wouldn't up their prices because we're all using their networks and costing them more?

    Yeah right.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Yeah right

      Not sure what you're getting at here. The whole point of the article, for those of you napping at the back, is that this is how phone companies make their money these days: they get you to pay for something you'll never use. In short, they've almost become like financial services businesses, although not quite as much as utility companies who advertise "market prices" for electricity which don't give them any incentive to keep the prices down, but which do make the punters feel like they're getting "value for money".

      I don't know where you're living, but where I am, the x minutes for free "offers" work out at a price per minute that they actually charge you after you exceed the limit. In other words, they're almost blatantly getting you to commit to (not) using up the x minutes. And if you do happen to go over, there's probably no big penalty for them. They've just got you to commit to giving them a fat, reliable revenue stream, and there's no guarantee that you'll ever come and collect the goods.

      So, erm, yeah right. You'll never use all those minutes - that's the whole point. I bet if everyone tried, the network would just be largely unavailable, and they'd wave you away if you complained. Meanwhile, they're getting a tidy sum every month for doing nothing more than requesting a bit of bandwidth, at least in most cases.

  2. Havin_it

    Ah, but

    Be careful not to over-compensate. When I got my last phone I went for the cheapest monthly cost tariff, reasoning that (a) I never used all the minutes/texts I got previously, which wasn't much more than this and (b) although it meant I had to pay quite a bit for the handset, it still came to less than the additional cost of the next-highest tariff for 24 months. Awfully pleased with myself was I.

    However, my usage did increase -- not even that much, but enough to start exceeding my free allowance most months -- so I ended up paying probably a wee bit more than if I'd gone for the next more pricey contract, plus of course the more expensive handset.

    Lesson: don't sail too close to the wind when it comes to your allowance. A bit of a buffer-zone can be a sensible investment, unless your usage pattern is very predictable.

  3. Gavin Jamie

    Cheapest tarriff

    I use phone for work. I think I am too busy/lazy to payg. Paying £15 a month but never get near to using the minutes. I like having a paper bill and DD from the work account though. I don't want to be going to a supermarket or a cash machine to top up.

    1. Jerome 0

      Topping up

      Just FYI, you can top up a PAYG account just by sending a txt. I spent years on PAYG, I've only recently switched to a contract, and only because I bagged a ridiculously good deal.

  4. BristolBachelor Gold badge

    IMHO Handset subsidies cost more

    I think that more money is lost by people who are on contracts that subsidise the cost of the phone, and then stay on the same contract even after the minimum term. The problem is that there are almost zero contracts that are a fair reflection of the cost if you are not subsidising a new phone.

    Plus this encourages people to throw-away their phone every 12 months to "upgrade" to a new model. This is what the EU should be complaining about; not that each new phone uses a different charger, but that there are so many unused chargers because people needlessly change phone every 12 months!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      "The problem is that there are almost zero contracts that are a fair reflection of the cost if you are not subsidising a new phone."

      You should check out the O2 Simplicity deals for contract deals that don't subsidise a phone. They work out fairly reasonable.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Why the fuss?

    I moved from monthly contract to PAYG when my Nokia N95 was out of contract, and have saved a small fortune since.

    While it was nice to ride the free phone upgrade merry-go-round, after a while you realise it's not making sense any more while you are quite happy with your (supposedly unfashionable) current handset. Friends are now looking enviously at my "outdated" phone, and wondering why they ever bothered upgrading.

  6. Stuart Abbott
    Thumb Up

    Overall cost

    Sometimes a contract for a higher number of minutres can actually work out cheaper over the life of the contract once you take into account a larger discount given on the cost of the phone.

    You have to add the phone cost to the monthly contract over the contract life and work it all out. Getting a cheaper contract can still cost more over the life of the contract because the phone costs more up front!

  7. cowbutt


    At 40p per minute for out-of-bundle voice calls, it's only 12 minutes before paying for them exceeds £5 for the next bundle up.

    That was the process I went through (rather like Havin_it regrets not doing) before settling on a 300 minute/month tariff rather than a 100 minute/month tariff. I've never used more than about 120 minutes in a month - comfortably within 300 minutes, but would have cost more than £5 if I'd gone for a 100 minute bundle.

  8. Matthew Coulson

    Data is expensive

    I could happily get away with a PAYG SIM for calls and texts - a £10 topup would last me months. Unfortunately my data usage averages a few hundred megabytes a month so it's not economical, particularly if I exceed quotas.

    1. Bassey

      Re: Data is expensive

      Depends who you are with. Both T-Mobile and Three do really good PAYG data deals (about £5/month).

  9. Anonymous Coward

    What about texts?

    Given the rather large number of tarrifs out there that come with thousands of included texts, I reckon there are more wasted texts than the the number of atoms in the known universe, or a googolplex at least.

  10. Andy Hards

    @Jerome 0

    Come on mate, splill the beans, who, where, when and how much. Email if posting onhre is not allowed. Ta

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