Two thirds of Brits don’t use their data allowance

Changing data plan can save you pounds every month.

Last updated:

Picture not described

Overall data usage

When you’re choosing a mobile data plan for your phone, it’s easy to get stuck on the data allowance. Do you guess how big your plan should be? Our statistics show that you probably don’t need as much as you think you do and going for a plan with less data might save you a few pounds a month.
According to our research, two thirds of UK residents (67%) don’t normally use all the mobile data they pay for. In fact, 69% of people within this figure say they “never” reach their monthly allowance. This indicates that many of us are paying for a load of data that we don’t use and could cut our monthly bills.
Only 12% of respondents say they have a suitable mobile data plan and usually use all the data they pay for.
Is anyone underestimating their monthly data usage? We found that this is much rarer – around 1 in 20 (6%) in our survey exceed their monthly data allowance and pay for more, while another 7% exceed their limit but don’t shell out for more gigabytes.
A lucky 7% of us never have to worry as we have unlimited data plans and a fifth (19%) don’t bother with a plan (because they have pay-as-you-go or don’t have a mobile).
Usage Percentage
Use less than they're allowed 67.3%
Normally use the right amount 12.2%
Reach their data limit most months 11.6%
Spend more on extra data 6.3%
Have unlimited data plan 7.4%

Gender differences

According to our research, more women than men find themselves paying for data they don’t need, as 68% of British women with a phone plan say they don’t use all their data whereas 66% of men thought this.
Female Male
Use less than they're allowed 68.3% 66.1%
Normally use the right amount 12.8% 11.6%
Reach their data limit most months 5.7% 8.1%
Spend more on extra data 6.5% 6.1%
Have unlimited data plan 6.6% 8.1%

Generational differences

Baby boomers are the generation most likely not to reach their monthly data quota. Over three quarters (77%) say they use less than their data allowance and only 4% pay for more data. Postmillenials, born after 1996, are the generation most likely to pay for additional data, with 14% saying they do so.
Generation Use less than they're allowed Normally use the right amount Reach their data limit most months Spend more on extra data Have unlimited data plan
Silent (born 1928–1945) 75.60% 6.70% 4.40% 4.40% 13.30%
Boomers (born 1946–1964) 77.00% 8.60% 6.20% 3.00% 8.20%
Generation X (born 1965–1980) 63.00% 13.00% 13.00% 4.40% 7.60%
Millennials (born 1981–1996) 59.50% 15.20% 19.80% 10.30% 5.50%
Postmillennial/generation Z (born after 1996) 58.00% 13.60% 20.50% 14.00% 8.00%

Geographical differences

Residents of Wales appear to use the least data – 72% say they use less than their limit and only 4% of the Welsh feel the need to top up. Least likely to spend their money on more data are those in the East Midlands, where 1% buys extra data at the end of the month.
At the other end of the scale is Northern Ireland, where over half (55%) of residents see their monthly usage stay within the limit and a quarter (25%) reach their limit. Northern Ireland is also the region where people spend the most on extra data each month, as 14% (twice the UK average) buy a few extra gigs to roam around the net.
East Anglia East Midlands London North East North West Northern Ireland Scotland South East South West Wales West Midlands Yorkshire and the Humber
Use less than they're allowed 70.2% 70.0% 63.3% 67.6% 67.9% 54.5% 68.7% 66.7% 70.3% 72.0% 62.0% 70.2%
Normally use the right amount 11.2% 17.0% 14.2% 11.6% 12.3% 9.1% 8.9% 12.2% 12.0% 8.5% 15.1% 11.2%
Reach their data limit most months 9.0% 5.0% 16.0% 11.6% 10.2% 25.0% 16.3% 13.5% 13.3% 13.4% 16.0% 13.4%
Spend more on extra data 4.5% 1.0% 8.0% 10.1% 5.0% 14.0% 6.1% 7.6% 7.0% 4.0% 4.3% 8.2%

Jon’s top tips:

To avoid getting sold a plan that charges you for data you don’t need, or to just cut down on how much data you use, here are some top tips:

  • Your network provider may offer an app that will allow you to track your data usage – take a look at this information before you take out a contract so you can select a plan that matches your data usage
  • Free Wi-Fi is often available in restaurants and cafes now, so always be on the lookout for this to reduce data usage
  • Some phones have settings where you can set up warnings and limits on data levels
  • You can surf the web using less data than normal with Android’s “Lite mode”
  • If you plan to listen to music or podcasts on the go, download them before you head out to avoid streaming
  • If your usage tends to fluctuate each month, opting for a contract that allows you to pass on any unused data to the next month could be an excellent option for you

“It is now commonplace for most Brits to browse the web on their phones throughout the day and this requires a fair amount of data. However, there are lots of ways that you can preserve your data allowance and our research shows that many Brits appear to be overestimating how much data they need.”

– Jon Ostler, UK CEO at finder.com

Methodology

Finder.com commissioned Onepoll to carry out a nationally representative survey of adults aged 18+.
A total of 2,000 people were questioned throughout Great Britain, with representative quotas for gender, age and region.

Click here for more research. For all media enquiries, please contact:

Matt Mckenna
UK communications manager
M: +44 747 921 7816
T: +44 20 8191 8806
matt.mckenna@finder.com@MichHutchison/in/matthewmckenna2

Related articles

Was this content helpful to you? No  Yes

Ask an Expert

You are about to post a question on finder.com:

  • Do not enter personal information (eg. surname, phone number, bank details) as your question will be made public
  • finder.com is a financial comparison and information service, not a bank or product provider
  • We cannot provide you with personal advice or recommendations
  • Your answer might already be waiting – check previous questions below to see if yours has already been asked

Finder.com provides guides and information on a range of products and services. Because our content is not financial advice, we suggest talking with a professional before you make any decision.

By submitting your comment or question, you agree to our Privacy and Cookies Policy and Terms of Use.

Questions and responses on finder.com are not provided, paid for or otherwise endorsed by any bank or brand. These banks and brands are not responsible for ensuring that comments are answered or accurate.
Go to site