What Happens When I Reach My Data Cap?

A data cap refers to the monthly data limit on your cell phone plan—for example, someone on a phone plan that includes 10GB of high-speed data has a data cap of 10GB. Depending on which carrier you’re with and what type of plan you have, one of three things will happen when you reach your data cap:

  • You’ll still have mobile data, but your speeds will be reduced.
  • Your data will be cut off until the next billing cycle.
  • You will be charged up to $50 in overage fees for any additional data you use.
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As of December 2017, the Wireless Code by the CRTC was updated so that mobile carriers can only charge you up to $50 in overage fees. After you reach $50, your data will be paused, and you’ll have to consent to more overage fees before you can use your data again. This was done to prevent people from potentially spending hundreds on data overage fees.

Which Carriers Reduce Your Data Speeds?

 If you’re on an unlimited plan (which, despite its name, doesn’t actually include unlimited data), you’ll never incur data overage fees, regardless of which carrier you’re with. Instead, when you meet your limit, your speeds will be throttled until your next billing cycle. Some carriers that throttle your data speeds include:

Bell, Rogers, and TELUS slow your speed down to 512Kbps, which is a far cry from the high-speed data you’re usually given access to on an unlimited plan. While it’s generally fast enough to browse most websites, use social media, and stream music with only minor delays, streaming video on a 512Kbps connection will be frustrating. You won’t be able to watch videos in the quality that you’re accustomed to, and the resolution of your video calls will also take a serious hit.

Freedom Mobile throttles your speeds to 256Kbps for downloads and 128Kbps for uploads. With these speeds, even surfing the web will be slow. YouTube can only play on devices running at 500+Kbps, so streaming videos is pretty much out of the question. Chatr Mobile reduces your speeds from 3Mbps to a nearly-stagnant 64Kbps, at which point you may not even want to bother using data at all.

Which Carriers Cut Off Your Data?

Some carriers cut off your data once you reach your data cap—these carriers usually send you notifications as you approach your data limit so that you can monitor your use. These carriers also let you buy additional data in case you need a little more before the month is over:

While data add-ons can be beneficial every once in a while, it can get rather expensive to purchase one every single month. Not to mention, these add-ons don’t stretch your data much further—most of the add-ons range from 200MB to 1GB of extra data, and they aren’t exactly cheap. If you find that you’re going over your data allowance every month, you may want to consider looking into plans that include more data.

Which Carriers Charge Overage Fees?

Several popular carriers charge overage fees when you reach your data cap. That said, you’ll never be charged more than $50 extra without your consent. That’s because in 2017, the Wireless Code was amended and a limit of $50 per billing cycle was set on overage fees. Once you’ve incurred $50 in overage fees, you must consent to any additional charges before they will turn your data back on. Although $50 certainly isn’t chump change, it is helpful that there is a limit set in place so that you don’t accidentally spend even more. The following cell phone providers pause data on accounts that reach $50 in overage charges:

  • Bell (regular plans)
  • Rogers (regular plans)
  • TELUS (regular plans)
  • Virgin Mobile
  • Tbaytel
  • Xplore Mobile

When It’s Time to Consider a New Phone Plan

If you find that you’re often going over your data limit and either incurring overage charges or purchasing data add-ons, it may be time to consider getting a plan with more data. Since the average Canadian uses about 8.4GB of data per month, 10GB plans will suit most people well.

Check out some of the most popular 10GB plans in Canada:

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