How to Read your Cellphone Bill

Understanding how to read your mobile phone bill is an important step in determining where your child is exceeding their cellphone budget as well as identifying what mobile content is being accessed from which service providers.

There are seven items to look out for when reading your bill:

  • Local phone calls to a cellphone or landline number.
  • International phone calls.
  • Local SMS usage.
  • International SMS usage.
  • Premium rate once-off content services.
  • Premium rate subscription services.
  • Mobile internet usage as a data bundle, which will include all Mxit sessions.

If you are not able to identify these items on your bill, you will need to contact your service provider and request a detailed schedule of cellphone use over a period. Please note, that a service provider will only provide cellphone billing information to the person who owns the cellphone number.

Contract Users

If you as a contract subscriber have provided your child with a cellphone number, you should request to receive itemised billing on a monthly basis.

Itemised billing details all items billed to your account, including date, time and amount. When it comes to premium rate mobile content services, your bill will indicate what subscription service was used as well as the WASP through which that service was offered by a mobile content provider.

However, if your bill says "083 123 6701", "WASP content" or "IBS Subs" then you will need to contact your service provider to identify the WASP.

If your bill only lists the shortcodes, you can identify the WASP on the website The WASPA website also provides a list of all WASPs that are members of the industry association, as well as their contact details.

If you do not have itemised billing, your cellphone bill will only indicate a summary of the mobile services used. You will need to contact your service provider if you wish to query any items.

Pre-Paid Users

A cellphone user using pre-paid airtime does not receive a monthly bill from their service provider. In this case, you will need to contact your mobile network operator or service provider when seeking information about what mobile services were billed for over a specific period of time.



This is oh so creepy. No need to cyber stalk your kids unless you have serious personal trust issues. Ironicaly this is a violation of your childs privacy and they will resent you for it and lose their trust in you. Secretly monitoring your childs online activity can not possibly lead to anything positive and is a very dangerous game to play. Love your child, trust your child and support your child unconditionally. That's your only job as parent.

Family psycologist and mother


Unfortunately some children have damaged the trust of parents. We are to be parents not friends..... If my child resents me for parenting (loving) him or her by checking online activity then so be it,(especially if I'm paying the bill). They will understand in the future when I have helped them learn responsible behavior and thus avoiding long lasting negative consequences.

Informed consent

This section deals with "How to read your cellphone bill" and is aimed at the bill payer. The section deals with monitoring and privacy "Don't break your child's trust by reading their SMS's without asking them first." There is another discussion here as well: "Do we as parents have the right to regularly check our children’s SMS, MXIT and Facebook discussions?" "The short and sweet answer to this question is an even shorter answer – NO!"

Parents should obtain informed consent (unlike the NSA) to scrutinise bills before offering to pay for cellphone costs.

Understanding cellphone bills is a challenge even for experts. Assisting your child with this will save on unnecessary expenses, and help them once they have to pay for their own cellphone bills.