A study of UK mobile customers has revealed that 82% of us are on plans with minutes we don’t use. On average, the typical mobile user could save up to £197 a year – simply by switching to a more suitable tariff!
That’s definitely a saving worth having. Though if we’re honest, most of us always knew we could save money on our mobile – but who has the time to trawl through the huge number of deals that are available?
Fortunately for time-pressed people everywhere, statistics whizz-kids from Oxford University have created the BillMonitor website, which does all that for you!
What is BillMonitor?
BillMonitor helps you find the best mobile deal. It does this by doing two things. First, it works out how much you actually use your phone – and what you use it for most (whether it’s calling, texting, data transfer or making international calls). It then takes this data and applies it to the thousands of phone tariffs that are on the market, and works out what the best deal for you would be.
The site is completely independent, and has won accreditation from the communications watchdog Ofcom.
There are two ways in which the site can help you save money.
Manual Assessment – estimate your phone usage yourself
This is where you enter an estimate of the number of minutes and texts you use each month. You can also enter other information – such as whether you’re planning to make international calls, or are only looking for a certain contract length.
Based on what you enter, the site will recommend the best tariff for you from the thousands of options that are currently on the market. Or you can…
Analyse your bill – use the online billing assessment
Useful as the manual assessment tool is, the ‘analyse your bill’ option is even better. If you’re on a contract, you can give the site access to your mobile bills. This allows Billmonitor to calculate the best deal for you based on how you actually use your phone from month to month. It allows the site to analyse exactly how much you talk, text, call abroad, transfer data and so on. It then number crunches all this data against the hundreds of phone packages available to let you know whether there’s a better deal for you out there.
To use this feature, you will need to have registered for online billing with your phone company first. Most networks make this really simple to do if you haven’t already got it set up – there should be a section on your phone network’s website allowing you to do this. Set it up here for Orange, O2, T-Mobile or Virgin.
Once you’ve registered for online billing, simply go back to BillMonitor’s Online Billing Assessment page, and enter your details (your network, mobile number, and billing username and password).
The site will then automatically analyse your billing data. BillMonitor will actually show you (via a nifty bar chart) just how much you use your phone; what you use it for most; and how much it costs you. (Your billing information is securely encrypted, so your privacy is protected.)
Bill Monitor then takes this information and subjects it to some serious number-crunching. It calculates which of the thousands of contract deals out there would best suit your phone usage requirements.
You will then find out whether you’re one of the 82% who don’t use their full allocation of minutes, and so could be on a cheaper deal!
The results of the mobile tariffs that the site has selected for you are listed in order of price. All other essential information is also displayed: what’s included in the deal, the length of the contract, and so on.
It will also select one tariff as being the ‘safest plan’. This is a useful feature which tells you which contract would cover you should you make more calls than usual and end up going over your average phone usage.
You can also filter your results in any number of ways: by price, network, contract length or handset.
Examples of how much you could save
Consumer A is a light user on a contract with more inclusive minutes/texts than she uses, paying on average £31.33 per month. BillMonitor recommended that she switched provider to reduce her average bill to £16.34 – which still left her free minutes most months. It also showed how she could still save £11.41 a month just by changing the price plan with her current provider.
Saving: Over £15 a month.
Consumer B currently has a monthly contract with no add-ons. He calls and texts Turkey, France, USA and Greece and has roamed while in Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand and Greece. He pays £83.96 per month on average. BillMonitor analysed his online bill and recommended that he switch to a different provider and use their free roaming add-on, which reduced his average monthly bill to £67.52.
Saving: Over £16 a month.
Consumer C is rarely off the phone. He uses an average of 2,179 minutes and 853 texts and pays £209.50 per month. By using BillMonitor he managed to bring his bill down to £68.68 by changing price plan with his current provider.
Saving: A huge £140 per month.
Things to bear in mind
Great as BillMonitor is, it’s not perfect. To begin with, it only compares contract tariffs – it doesn’t yet compare pay-as-you-go deals (although this feature will likely be implemented at a later date). If you need guidance on how to get a great PAYG bargain, check out our guide to them here.
Also, the site doesn’t include every tariff on the market when analysing deals – for instance, Tesco Mobile deals aren’t yet covered by Billmonitor (although it may be added over the coming months.)
And if you’re looking for the best deal on cheap international calls, it’s definitely worth looking at the dedicated international SIM cards that are on the market – something BillMonitor doesn’t cover.
That said, it’s still useful to see what international call deals BillMonitor throws up – just don’t see it as the be all and end all in this regard. If you’re interested in finding out more about getting cheap international calls, read our guide to them here.
Unfortunately, some phone contracts may not be recognised by the website – although most are. And if all else fails you can still use the manual bill assessment tool, which is still quite effective.
Another minor bugbear is that although you can search for deals available for individual handsets, you can’t search on more general criteria (such as by phone manufacturer, or by phone features. You can’t search for deals that only include phones with a camera or MP3 player, for instance).
However, BillMonitor does have a feedback page – so if enough people ask for a feature to be implemented, they’ll do their best to incorporate it!
Finally, you should be aware that the site errs on the side of caution when recommending tariffs. We think this is definitely a good thing. Its statistics engine will suggest phone deals that won’t hammer you if you make a few more calls than usual one month and go over your normal level of phone usage. (This is why they always label one tariff as being the ‘Safest Plan’.) This is far better than recommending deals that can occasionally offer slightly cheaper headline rates, but hit you hard if you go over your allowance – even by a fraction.
Definitely. It’s certainly worth using when you’re coming to the end of your contract to check whether your tariff is still the best for you.
In fact, the site is worth using anytime, as mobile networks often introduce better rates – but seldom move existing customers onto these newer rates automatically. BillMonitor can alert you to the fact that newcomers to your tariff may be paying less than you for the same service. Armed with this information, you should be able to get your phone company to either reduce your monthly payments in line with new customers, or give you more minutes or texts for the same price.
BillMonitor stands a good chance of saving you a significant amount of money from your phone bill and is free to use, so why not give it a try?