MSE News

Don't fall for high-data deals – most users need less than 3GB a month

More than two-thirds of mobile phone customers use less than 3GB of data a month, a poll of users has revealed – as new analysis from Citizens Advice warns £800 million is wasted each year on unused data. 

Our poll of more than 4,500 MSE users found that 69% use less than 3GB of data each month, with 41% using less than 1GB. Only 10% get through 10GB or more. 

And now Citizens Advice says 12 million Sim only customers in the UK are paying about £800 million a year in total for data they don't use, with 2GB of data wasted each month on average. 

The charity says consumers could save an average of £63 a year by switching to a deal that matches their data consumption, and is calling for mobile networks to refund unused data, or make it easier for consumers who regularly waste data to reduce their monthly allowance. 

See our 30+ Cheap Mobile Tips for more info on how to cut your bill, and our Best Sim only Deals guide for the current top picks.

Many AREN'T using much data – and usage is dropping

We ran a poll last week to find out how much data mobile phone customers actually need, and there were 4,634 responses in total. We asked how much data you use in a typical month (via 3G or 4G signal, not Wi-Fi), and asked those who were unsure to check their data usage settings or mobile bill.

Discounting those who didn't own a mobile or didn't know how much data they used, there were responses from 4,508 users. Here's what we found (see the full results):

  • Many aren't using huge amounts of data. The majority used less than 3GB of data a month. Forty-one per cent used less than 1GB, and the highest users were in the minority with just 10% getting through 10GB or more. 

  • Data usage has dropped slightly. We compared the latest stats with our previous poll in January 2018, with 41% using less than 1GB compared with 35% last year, and 10% using more than 10GB compared with 12% in 2018. 

  • Age is still the defining factor in how much data people use. Twenty-four per cent of those aged under 25 reported using 10GB or more, compared with 2% of those aged over 65. 

Use a tool to check your usage and find the best deal

While some users will consume more data and so need the bigger packages on offer, the majority won't – and the key is not to end up paying for data you don't use.

The difference in price between different data deals can be marked, even if you opt for a cheap Sim only deal. For example, currently our top pick for heavy users is a £12/month deal from Virgin Mobile offering 12GB, yet for low users it's a Smarty package costing an equivalent of just £3.86/month, offering 1GB. Over a year that's a saving of £97.

Two handy sites – Billmonitor* and Ctrlio – will analyse your bills over the last three months to work out your average usage and suggest deals based on this. For more on how they work, and the pros and cons of each, see choose the allowance you need.

What to read next...

For more tips on bagging a cheap mobile deal, see:

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