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How to Avoid Data Charges on a Prepaid Cell Phone Plan

Switch to a non-working APN to stop the data charges for your apps

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APN Settings on Android

APN Settings on Android

Melanie Pinola

If you have a smartphone and a prepaid or pay-as-you-go plan, you don't want apps connecting to the internet in the background eating up your minutes. Unfortunately, many apps consume data even when you're not using them. News and weather apps, for example, update in the background and automatically refresh every few minutes so they can be fresh. When you're on a prepaid plan, you should monitor your mobile data usage using mobile apps and special dial-in numbers, but there's also a great settings trick that reader Duane emailed in:

"I’ve found that changing your APN to a non-working APN will stop the data charges for all Android apps. This will only allow you to use these apps when you have a wifi connection. No apps that require data will take your minutes away. Some phones will allow you to program multiple APNs, and you can choose which one to use.

I had a prepaid T-mobile and switched to a Samsung Sidekick 4G. My data was sucking the minutes and I was heading to a $30 a month plan until I found out this trick.

Hope this can help other Prepaid users."

The APN, or Access Point Name, instructs your phone which network to access for data, so by putting in a nonsense APN, your cell phone will no longer use up mobile data. You could also use this APN settings switch when traveling internationally to avoid data roaming charges.

More: How to change your APN settings

Thanks for the tip, Duane!

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