How to set up your iPhone to avoid expensive surprises on your phone bill – CNBC


CNBC Tech: iPhone 7 Todd Haselton | CNBC

The end of the month is nearing and, boom, suddenly you're hit with a notification: You're starting to run out of data. "Would you like to pay $9.99 to purchase more data?" a message asks. That's the best case scenario. Worst case, you don't see the message, or your kids ignore it, and suddenly you're faced with an expensive phone bill.

It's the worst, and it's a problem that many consumers without unlimited data plans still face. The good news is you can help avoid getting hit with these messages and possible overages by keeping a closer eye on your data usage each month.

The iPhone has a built-in feature that shows how much data you've used during a pre-determined period. I'll show you how to turn it on at the beginning of each carrier bill cycle so that you can keep an eye on your data usage all month long.

Open the settings menu on your iPhone and tap "Cellular"

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On this page, you'll see all sorts of data management options. Let's take a look at how you can use them to your advantage.

View your current data usage

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You can see how much data you've already used by reading the "Current Period" line. Take note of this if you're interested in how much data you've already used, because we're going to reset it to zero.

You can also prevent certain apps from downloading data – like those that might be particularly offensive during a specific month.

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This is particularly useful if you have kids who complain they aren't sure how they're using so much data. Look here and you'll find your answers.

Now scroll to the bottom of the page and tap "reset statistics"

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This resets your data usage. You'll want to repeat this at the beginning of each billing cycle so you can see how much data you're using. If you're unsure how much data you're allowed each month, check your last bill or contact your wireless carrier.

Check weekly

CNBC Tech: Check data usage Todd Haselton | CNBC

Keep an eye on that "Current period" section weekly to see how much data you're using. Setting a calendar reminder can help. If you're limited to 1GB per month, you'll want to budget 1GB per week or less so that you're not bouncing from Wi-Fi hotspot to Wi-Fi hotspot just to surf the web.

Pro tip: Carriers sometimes include this information in their apps, so consider downloading the Verizon, Sprint, AT&T or T-Mobile app to keep a second eye on your monthly data usage.

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