What happens if I use too much data?


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What happens if I use too much data?

An Apple iPhone and an Android smartphone side by side

What's coming up?

In this activity, you'll learn about what happens if you use more data than your internet plan allows. For home internet plans, using too much data might mean having a very slow internet until the end of the month. On a mobile plan, however, using too much data can get very expensive.

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Using too much data

Every month, your home or mobile internet plan comes with a certain allowance of data. Doing things on the internet uses up data. Activities such as watching movies or TV use a lot of data, and basic web pages that just have text and a few images use less.

If you use more data than your plan allows, you might have to pay more, or your internet service might be slowed down.

A list of how much typical data options cost on a mobile plan
A text alert on a mobile phone advising that nearly all the month's data has been used

Using too much data on mobile

On a mobile data plan, using more than your allowance each month usually attracts a surcharge, or your provider may slow down your data connection. Your provider may automatically give you the extra data as a top-up and charge you for it as you use it. This extra data is sometimes called an add on.

If you are close to using your mobile data allowance, your provider will usually send a warning to your phone in the form of a text message or email. You will also get another message when it is all used up, but these messages can be easy to miss.

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eSafety tip

The cost for one top-up, or data add on, might not be much, but several can get expensive.

Keep an eye on your billing and data use to check you're not being given automatic data top-ups that you are paying for.

Avoiding using too much data on mobile

You can end up with a huge mobile phone bill if you're not careful about how you use mobile data.

If you miss the warning messages and your provider automatically gives you more data, the charges can keep adding up until the beginning of the next billing month, when your data plan resets.

You can help avoid bill shock by checking with your provider about how and when they send data alerts and how to disable automatic top-ups.

An example of 'bill shock' after using too much data on a mobile phone
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eSafety tip

If you're not sure about automatic top-ups, be sure to speak to your mobile phone provider in person or on the phone. Here are some questions you might want to ask them:

  • Does my account have automatic top-ups if I run out of data?
  • Do I get alerts before automatic top-ups?
  • Can I cancel automatic top-ups?
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eSafety tip

Some mobile phone providers won't let you turn off automatic top-ups and the bills that come with them.

If your mobile phone provider tells you that you can't turn off automatic top ups (also called data add ons), then you can:

  • Monitor your data use and can switch off your data in your phone settings when you have used about 90% of your data allowance.
  • Switch to a provider that can turn off automatic top-ups.

Unlimited data on mobile

If you find yourself running out of mobile data regularly, you can ask your provider about a plan that offers unlimited data.

These plans are more expensive than a limited plan, but may still be cheaper than paying for extra data on top of your regular plan.

An example of the cost of an unlimited data plan for a mobile phone
A graphic showing that some providers allow you to top up your mobile data during the month

Using too much pre-paid mobile data

Some mobile phone plans let you pre-pay for data and calls. This means you won't be billed extra if you use up all the allowed data.

Instead, the internet will simply stop working. It will also stop working when the pre-paid account expires, usually 30 days from when you purchase it.

To get more data, there are two things you can do:

  • Pay for a top-up (also called an add on) of data.
  • Recharge the pre-paid account with another payment.

Using too much data at home

A home internet provider usually won't charge extra if you use more than your allowed amount of data.

Instead, the system will automatically slow down your internet, so it can only be used for basic things like web pages or reading text. Some internet providers call this shaping your connection.

A graphic showing how slow your home internet connection can become if you use too much data in a billing period
A person sending emails on a laptop computer

What happens if my internet slows down?

You'll still be able to browse the web but playing videos and movies won't work. Your full internet speed will return at the beginning of the next billing month, when your data plan resets.

Some providers allow you to go over your allowance without slowing your connection. Usually, you can do this only two or three times during your contract before the provider shapes your connection.

Let's check

Decide if the following statements are true or false. Click each card to check the answer.

If you go over your data allowance on your mobile phone, you may get more data automatically and be charged for it.

Click to flip

This is true. Check with your mobile phone provider to see if you can cancel these automatic top-ups if you don't want them.

If you go over your data allowance for your home internet, your internet speed will slow down.

Click to flip

This is true. You won't get an automatic top-up for your home internet, but you will be left with a very slow internet connection until your next payment month.

You can't turn off, or disable, automatic data top-ups for your phone.

Click to flip

This actually depends on your mobile phone provider. Check with them if you want to disable automatic data top-ups (also called data add ons).


This is the end of the What happens if I use too much data? activity. You've learned how using more than your data allowance can affect your internet service. You've also learned that on a mobile data plan, using too much data can get very expensive, as extra data is charged as you use it. At home, using too much data means your internet will be slowed down until the start of the next billing month.

Up next, you'll learn how managing data, and being aware of how much data you use, can have some extra benefits. That's in the Save money by managing data activity.

Mum and daughter sharing photos on a smartphone