Sunday, 27 December 2015

I blew out my data

Controlling your data

When you are on the road you don’t have the luxury of large amounts of data at a home plan rate. Wireless data is expensive whatever country you are in, and the USA is no different.

When we came into the USA a few months ago, we blew out our data plan four times! Unlike home plans, they don’t just throttle you back - they give you another gig and charge you double than if you had included it in your plan, and when you’ve used that they give you another one. We thought we were being very careful, and while it has never been this bad, it has happened before. So it was time to find some answers and fix the problem!

Fixing the problem

Firstly I went into my System Preferences on my Mac and then:

Under Notifications - I turned off all notifications on every application, except Tunnel Bear. I use Tunnel Bear on my laptop to make a secure connection for banking or accessing my passwords when I’m using a public WiFi. You need to know when the line is secure, so you need to be notified on a banner.

Under the App store – turn off “Automatically check for updates”, you will need to manually check for these now. There is a “Check Now” button under this section.

Under Flash Player – check the “notify me to install updates” box. That way you can update them when you are on another network.

Check for other applications that might be sending data to and from the cloud such as Dropbox, Photos, Evernote and turn them off.

We downloaded an app called Surplus Meter for the Mac laptops and My Data Manager for the iPad. There are many programs like this out there, so take your pick. You will need to split your data allocation up between your devices. It resets each day, but also gives you a running monthly total. You can suspend it while you are using someone else’s network.

It’s interesting to see which websites use bucket loads of data. You then have a choice to decide whether to avoid them.

Installing Ad Blockers can vastly reduce your bandwidth consumed.

What happens when I go over?

We have a contract plan with Verizon. When we go over they charge $15 per gigabyte, when you use that up, they give you another etc. When we were with AT&T, it was $10 for each extra gig. Verizon is better for the West Coast, and I have heard that both are good for the East Coast. The other carriers are good if you’re in a major city or large towns. If you travel around a lot like we do, you are stuck with the major (more expensive) players.

Leaving the country

When we leave the country we suspend our plan and reduce it to the lowest amount which is 4Gb, unfortunately we can only suspend it for 90 days, not the total time we are away – so when we have to pay but aren’t using it, we want the lowest amount possible.

Be careful when you suspend your account as they pro-rata the data by the number of days you are connected, so on a 30 day month, 8Gb for 15 days is really only 4Gb. Go over 4Gb and you will have an overage bill. The catch here is that if you wait for your month to end and are out of the country, you can’t suspend it online, you can however contact them on chat and they can report it as lost or stolen.

With Verizon, before the month is up, you can change your data plan to reflect what you think you are going to use. It was still on 4Gb when we came back into the country and we went over by 4Gb which would have generated a $60 overage fee. By increasing our data limit on the last day to 8Gb, they reversed our 4Gb plan and charged us for an 8Gb plan which saved us $40. Luckily they don’t charge you for changing plans.


Why didn’t we go with prepaid? You don’t have the variety of plans, really just 5gb & 10gb. Then we would have to get a new SIM card every time we enter the country.


  1. Perfect timing. We just got over the moon in December and I could not figure out what it was that caused a jump. Steve just bought Net Monitor similar to your Surplus Meter.
    I have done the first fix, now I will follow the rest. Thank you Jane and Lindsay. Great tips.

    1. Just remember to turn them off when you are using other people's wifi. Loving having unlimited data where we are at the moment - I can watch photography videos to my hearts content