Solved: The mystery of missing credit on iPhone Pay As You Go

August 21st, 2010

Ken’s Tech Tips investigates reports of Pay As You Go iPhone customers having their Pay As You Go credit eaten up.

I’ve received several reports from PAYG iPhone customers who complain that their Pay As You Go credit has been mysteriously dropping even though they’ve not made any calls or sent any text messages. This problem usually affects users who don’t have an inclusive data allowance on their PAYG tariff (or haven’t topped up enough to receive their free data allowance). Your iPhone continues to the data connection in the background even if you’re not actively using it to browse the web, etc. Although background data usage is usually fairly small, Pay As You Go tariffs such as O2’s Text and Web charge up to £3/MB for data usage if you don’t top up to get free data. This means that even a small amount of data usage can take a substantial amount out of your credit.

In this report, we’ve got a solution to this problem for iOS 4 users and for everybody else, a few tips on how you can reduce these charges.

The solution (iOS 4 users only)

If you’ve got the new iOS 4, you should disable “cellular data”. This will stop the iPhone and all applications from using data over your mobile connection. It will still allow you to access the internet through wi-fi. If you have an iPhone 3G or iPhone 3G S, you can download a free update to iOS 4 (although many iPhone 3G users report performance issues after the update).

To disable cellular data on iOS4: In the iPhone menus, go to Settings -> General -> Network. Flip the “Cellular data” switch to off.  In order to protect your credit, you should do this every time your free web allowance ends. Flip the switch back to on once your allowance returns.

Whilst you’re there, make sure data roaming is turned off… you’ll be glad you did this if you ever take your iPhone abroad. Whilst abroad, you’d pay about £6/MB – even more than here in the UK!

Other ways of cutting your data usage or reducing data charges

  • Use wi-fi: If you’ve got a wi-fi network at home, make sure you set up your iPhone to use it. Not only will this reduce the amount of traffic sent over the mobile network (and hence your data charges), but you’ll often find downloads via wi-fi faster.
  • Switch to SIM-only tariff: If you don’t current subscribe to a tariff offering data every month, you may find it easier to switch to a cheap SIM-only contract which does. For example, Three’s “SIM Only Internet” deal (see our review) gives you 2GB internet every month for £5. Meanwhile, T-Mobile would offer you 100 minutes, 100 texts and 1GB internet for a tenner a month (choose the “Unlimited Internet” Flexible Booster). Whichever tariff you choose, make sure it has an inclusive internet allowance. We’ve got a detailed guide to the best value SIM-only smartphone tariffs.
  • Close background applications: In iOS 4, with multitasking, it is possible an application is still accessing the internet even if you’re not actively using it. Close background applications when you’ve finished with them to reduce data usage.

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About Ken

Ken Lo

My passion is helping people to get the most out of their mobile phone. I've been blogging at Ken's Tech Tips since 2005.

Aside from writing about mobile technology, my interests are in software development, digital marketing and physics. Outside of the blog, I work with numerous technology companies helping them to explain their product and helping them to market it to consumers. Please get in touch for more information.

Your Comments

We'd love to hear your thoughts and any questions you may have. So far, we've received 11 comments from readers. You can add your own comment here.

  1. Ian P said:

    Hi, i solved the problem of the credits dissapearing without my using them………I turned the Iphone off, left it in the draw in my desk…..now I don’t get called for daft reasons by anybody, don’t make calls I don’t need to, now the lost credits stay lost and I don’t create more loss…..some solutions are that simple…….My LG mobile phone is on a $9 a month plan and allows me to make serious calls when I want to make them and receive calls when I need to be contacted…….why do I still have the Iphone….it takes photos and plays music and the occasional game when I get bored.

  2. Alan said:

    Recently changed from a very old basic Sony Ericsson on PAYG to a Cubot H1. The credit I had on the PAYG card quickly began to be used up, and I’d not even made a single phone call! Now I understand why…thanks to your page BUT I cannot seem to find some of the facilities mentioned in the replies, in my model, so is there anyone who could explain which I should disable so as not to loose more money. Have removed the sim card until I can receive some guidance. Thanks in advance.

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi Alan,
      Thanks for your comment. Indeed, having the ‘mobile data’ option turned on can very quickly eat up your Pay As You Go credit! The exact instructions for disabling mobile data will depend on your phone (however, on Android, you’re likely to find it through Settings > More > Mobile networks and unticking the box for Mobile data). Alternatively, the Mobile data tickbox might be found through Settings > Data usage.
      Hope this helps,
      Ken

    2. Alan replied:

      Thank you for the reply. Judgeing by some of the other questions about credit going missing, I got off pretty lucky because my amount was only about £20. I did do some other research on Google but found some of the replies confusing, but armed with this page reply I’ll now swop the card out of the old into the new. Many thanks again.

  3. Carmel said:

    Hi, Ive travelled from ireland to the Usa and my phone credit even though phone was turned off has gone. Had 11 euro credit on it and dont know why this has happened

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi Carmel,
      Did you at all turn your handset on whilst outside of Ireland? If so, it’s possible you could have been charged for voicemail at international rates. If not, I’d recommend getting in touch with your network as they should be able to tell you how the charges were run up.
      Ken

  4. Nathan Lee said:

    I have pay as you go with t-mobile. Over the years it was alright. But thiws time my credit £97.16 was missing and replaced with ‘your credit is runninglow 0.25. both messages were sent to my Message in box. I asked t-mobile for my usage record and they could not provide the statement. They kept on extending the lenght of tim to sot out the problem. The first message I got from t-mobile is that it’s a lot of money and I got to go to ee shop and let them confirm the credit of £97.16 was stated in the message and they would reinstate the amount in my credit. Please help me I am not able to go further to sort out this mess.

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi Nathan,
      Thanks for your comment. Are you able to see an itemised bill via the My T-Mobile service? If so, it might be worth taking a look at this. Apart from this, I see no reason why T-Mobile Customer Services shouldn’t be able to tell you how your credit has been spent. I’d ask them to provide documentary evidence of where the credit has gone. The only other thing I’m able to think of is your credit has expired due to inactivity (this may have happened if you didn’t use your phone for 180 days).
      Hope this helps,
      Ken

  5. Ray said:

    Many thanks Ken, I couldn"t work out how my calling credit was going down on my iphone 3gs until I read your article. Now I know !!

  6. Peter said:

    When I turn off cellular data my usage and standby stay the same therefore my battery only lasts a couple of days. Switch on cellular and usage goes back to normal and I get my normal battery time but then I lose credit. I have disabled mail turned off roaming disabled any apps using gps and turned off location services. But still have the problem off losing credit unless I turn off cellular and have poor battery life

  7. Kashif said:

    Thank buddy u have saave my lots of money

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