When Your Au Pair Loses Your Smart Phone

by cv harquail on May 7, 2013

Yeah, it happens.  The phone falls out of a pocket into a puddle. Or a purse gets stolen. Whatever the reason …

If your au pair loses or breaks the smart phone that you provided for her/him, it is up to her/him to replace it, or to pay to replace it.

droid meets pavement

One of our au pairs lost a cell phone when she was on a long trip with AP friends… It was pretty fancy (fancier than mine at the time). She found the same model of phone- used- online, and bought it. She took it to the Verizon store and got it activated with her/the au pair phone number, and it all worked out.

We appreciated that she not only took care of replacing the phone (in nearly exactly the age & condition her original one was), she also took care of the administration and schlepping that replacing the phone required. Great job, au pair!

But it’s always complicated. Like the au pair car, smartphones are both a privilege and expectation, an ‘extra’ and required for the job. A ‘work’ thing and a personal thing.


As NYAPHost Mom writes:

We provided our AP (our first) with a Droid Smartphone – a relatively new one. She lost it in a bar (claimed it was stolen but really, what difference did it make – it was gone).

DH was about to get yet another new phone at the time AP’s was lost/stolen so he offered to let her buy his then current phone at a discount to the value he was going to get to trade it in – around $150.  More or less, she paid to replace the phone. But —

Now our AP is getting ready to leave and I realize we screwed up. Since she paid for the phone, does she own the phone? Are we out 2 expensive smartphones?? Is it ok for us to ask her to leave the phone with us? It won’t work in Europe unless she puts a very expensive plan on it and I know she has an iPhone waiting for her at home. We should have told her that her $150 was to pay us for the lost phone – it’s all semantics, right?

So what’s the right thing to do? We need a phone for our incoming AP and it doesn’t seem right we should have to buy a new one…

Advice please!


Image: Droid meets pavement, Attribution Some rights reserved by robertnelson


WestMom May 7, 2013 at 7:38 am

AP replaced YOUR phone that she lost. It’s still yours. Now… you may not have been clear about this when you gave her the phone at the beginning of the year, or when DH sold her his. I would explain the situation and mention that you need the phone back for AP#2. If you sense some resistance and you feel partly to blame for the lack of clarity, you could offer to pay back ½ the cost. And then make sure to add this info on your family guide before the next AP arrives: We LEND you a phone; If you lose it, you are responsible for replacing it with one of equal value… Good luck!

Old China Hand May 7, 2013 at 8:21 am

I’m with West Mom – she replaced the phone that was yours. So it’s yours still. You could help her to buy a cheap used smartphone on ebay if she wants to get one before she goes home. Our AP got my husband’s old iphone and when I gave it to her, it came with a little contract saying that she would have to replace it with a similar phone (also used) if anything happened to it. So far she has been really careful with it, but I think that having a mini contract with us is helpful. Always good to have something written to fall back on.

Host Mom in the City May 7, 2013 at 8:26 am

Jeez…another thing to add to my handbook. Thanks for this post. Definitely – she replaced your phone that she lost. It’s still yours.

Kelly Hand May 7, 2013 at 12:03 pm

I agree that the phone is yours (for the next au pair) and it sounds as if she will not need it when she returns home. As someone who saves money by just having regular cell phones for my own family members, I would probably give an au pair a bare bones phone, but obviously if you have an old one to pass on, that is logical. If you have a phone contract where you are eligible for a free upgrade, you can hold on to the old phone as a backup–OR just wait until the phone is lost and then get the new one. The only people who really need smartphones are people who have to check email constantly for work, and that does not apply to most au pairs (for whom text messages from host parents usually suffice). Otherwise, it is a luxury, and in the case of iPhones that have to be replaced, it becomes a burden. I was a counselor for au pairs and host families for many years, and know how much au pairs can struggle financially. My inclination would be to limit her liability by not entrusting her with expensive and easy-to-lose objects–and iPhones do get stolen (in fact the one she bought online might have been stolen). Similarly, stick with an old, beat-up car for the au pair so that if she gets a few dents you can just let them go rather than asking her to pay for up to $500 (liability limit) worth of damage. All this applies to teenage children as well. They are notorious for losing phones–and crashing cars–so give young people a chance to learn life lessons at a slightly lower price. Host families really need to realize that part of the package is sharing in someone’s developmental process of becoming a responsible adult.

HRHM May 7, 2013 at 1:25 pm

I agree. We HPs both have iPhones, but AP gets a “dumb” phone from the closet pile of old free dumb phones from years gone by. This serves the triple purpose – if she loses/breaks one, I just pull another from the pile, she doesn’t spend all her time surfing and apping, I get off cheaper by only paying for a data plan for HD and I.

FourTimeTexasHostMom May 7, 2013 at 12:09 pm

Oh, boy, did this happen to us with Au Pair #1. The cell phone was stolen while she was on vacation in Las Vegas. We didn’t call AT&T until a couple days later, when, by that time over $3400 in international calls had been made. Luckily, I didn’t have the phone on an automatic payment plan! It took over 6 weeks and major dispute resolution with AT&T to get the majority of the bill removed since we didn’t report it missing promptly. This was the worst part. Lesson learned – block all international calling on the account. Our au pair phone was a basic phone though, so it cost then au pair about $70 to replace it, but then messed up our refresh schedule. We did love this au pair dearly…but then she lost the phone again several months later when she dropped her purse when she was out downtown. She had to pay to replace it again…the purse was returned (!!!!) about 10 days later by police who found it in a dumpster, with the phone! We’re almost eligible to refresh the phone now…I think I will add the protection plan to any new phone we get to make this less painful in the future. I now get smartphones since they are so much easier to text from (to keep in touch with me!) but a lot more costly to replace. And remember. ALWAYS block international calls and report missing or stolen phones IMMEDIATELY to your service provider.

FourTimeTexasHostMom May 7, 2013 at 12:11 pm

Oh – and no iPhones for au pairs for us, specifically for the reasons Kelly mentions. Even though my old one is ‘available’ it is likely to get broken/lost/stolen.

PA AP Mom May 7, 2013 at 12:33 pm

Our last 3 APs have had smartphones and we have never had a problem. We do put in our handbook that if they lose the phone, they have to pay $75 towards buying a new one.

German Au-Pair May 8, 2013 at 3:59 pm

This sounds like a very reasonable approach to me. My host parents gave me a smart phone when I didn’t even want one (I didn’t have one at home and never felt like I needed one). They want me to be able to check my emails everywhere and a lot during the day so they wanted me to have the phone. (Now I love it of course, but I would not have asked for it.)
I broke the screen once and for me it was natural that I would get it fixed. But if I lost it, I would be pretty upset if I had to pay for a new smart phone myself, even though I didn’t choose to have one.
75 Dollars seems like a great amount because that’s about as much as you’d pay if you had to replace a normal phone. The issue for me is not that you need to replace what you lose but that you need to replace something fancy and expensive that you didn’t choose to have.

Seattle Mom May 9, 2013 at 8:23 pm

I had the same thought as you… I don’t have a smart phone and part of the reason is I don’t want to stress out about possibly losing one. My phone is crappy and cheap, it works and I love it!

Bruna May 7, 2013 at 1:07 pm

Of course the phone stays with you, there’s no doubt about that. She replaced the one she lost, period. I don’t see why she would question that.

HRHM May 7, 2013 at 1:28 pm

Does anyone just ask the AP to buy her own “pay as you go phone” and then just reimburse her for a basic amount of minutes monthly? I’m considering this with our next as we pay way too much for a phone that she primarily uses to text with her friends. If I speak/text with her on that phone once a week, it’s a lot! Just wondering if anyone else uses this method?

AnAuPair May 7, 2013 at 3:21 pm

I’m an AP in Europe, so it may be a little different, but I currently have a “pay-as-you-go” phone and it’s worked out really well. Granted, none of my friends or I do a lot of texting, so that’s part of the reason it’s nice to have (if I was doing a lot of texting or calling it would be VERY expensive for me to have). The family provided the phone for me (it’s the same one their previous au pairs have used), and put about $30 worth of credit on it when I first got here

For an au pair that plans to use a phone a lot, it would probably be cheaper and more convenient for you to add her to your phone plan and just ask that she pay the monthly fee (which for “dumb phones” is only about $20-30month if I remember correctly). For others a pay-as-you-go might be much better. In 10 months I’ve spent the equivalent of about $70 on mine

Juju May 8, 2013 at 9:30 pm

Not exactly. We have a no contact plan via Virgin Mobile. We pay $35 per month for 300 minutes and unlimited text and data. If she wants more minutes she can buy the “top up cards” of pay us. It seems to be working out well and it’s pre paid so she can’t “go over” the allotment.

Chicago host mom May 8, 2013 at 10:23 pm

We do the same – virgin mobile $40 has unlimited text and data and our girls always text more than they talk anyway. We load the monthly amount and we’ve never had a problem in six years. We buy a $75 smart phone and they have to replace it if list or stolen, which has happened. I think I will edit our handbook to require $75toward a new phone though based on the au pair comment above about not wanting a smart phone. If a $75 phone gets lost, I want my $75 phone replaced. We have tel3 for international calls so girls can call grandparents or others without Skype and they can use any phone for that. It works out well and we’ve never had it abused yet. We pay a small monthly amount and if they go over they have to pay the overage. It has never happened because most girls use Skype.

Seattle Mom May 9, 2013 at 8:25 pm

I have always offered to do this for APs, because my own phone is pre-paid and it works fine for me. But so far each of my APs has decided to buy their own phone & plan. One of the APs even left behind the phone she bought (it’s a cheapie but more up to date than my own phone), so we can give that to a future AP who doesn’t want to buy a phone.

NYAPMom May 7, 2013 at 1:38 pm

Thanks for all the advice – sounds like consensus! Just FYI, we have our AP on my husband’s plan which allows for unlimited usage (texts, data and domestic calls) and make life very easy because we don’t have to police her bills. It’s a good deal for her too.

Island Host Mom May 7, 2013 at 2:04 pm

We use the “pay as you go” phone approach. Our au pair bought her phone, and I pay $25 a month which covers calls and texting. She pays for anything over that.

Should be working May 7, 2013 at 2:35 pm

Phone stuff is so complicated! We got a ‘dumb phone’ with 2-yr contract for the last au pair and expected the next au pair to use it. Next au pair wanted to buy her own smart phone, which needed its own contract. But to cancel the old contract for the dumb phone would cost money (like $20/month), so I paid the $20 month to keep the phone up to date for the anticipated NEXT au pair–but then our au pair extended. So now I paid for a year of dumb phone that didn’t get used and I imagine that after current au pair’s extension is over (next year) I will want to offer the dumb phone to the new au pair. But she will likely also want or have a smart phone.

I think I need to hire my 7-yr-old as a phone and technology consultant. He is very good at these things.

Host Mom in the City May 7, 2013 at 2:56 pm

This happened to us too. We kept the “dumb” phone for a year when we didn’t have an au pair thinking we’d use it for the next one, but had her own smart phone. Wasted a couple hundred that year. The phone stuff is tricky and more expensive that it would appear, particularly with contracts.

CA Host Mom May 7, 2013 at 3:03 pm

Hmmm … maybe the “pay as you go” phone is the way to go then? This does sound quite complicated and unnecessarily expensive!

Emerald City HM May 7, 2013 at 9:20 pm

For us it’s really easier (and cheaper) to add to our family plan. But I’ll premise that with, we’ve got a pretty good plan because of employer discounts and grandfathering. I don’t think we could get that plan now.

I did consider “pay as you go” but then I would have to manage au pair minutes and texts too, because I’m pretty sure the phones stop working when you run out of money. Which means I wouldn’t be able to reach the au pair if she burns though really fast. We also don’t have a home phone, so there isn’t an alternative to reaching her.

Oh, while we are on the subject of cell phones I figure I’d throw in a cell phone PSA if people haven’t heard the commercials (at least in our area) 911 cannot locate you with a cell phone. We tell our au pairs to memorize our address an to always pay attention to where they are.

Taking a Computer Lunch May 8, 2013 at 6:56 am

Yes, we have had that experience – the 911 call goes to the nearest cell phone tower, which may or may not be in the same town/county/state as your local emergency services. We had an incident in our neighborhood that took an extra 20 minutes because the 911 call had to be routed to the proper police station. We give the AP the non-911 emergency number and tell her to input it into her cell phone.

Mom23 May 8, 2013 at 5:29 pm

A great option is a kid phone like Kajeet. For $15/month, plus the cost of the phone, you get 60 minutes of talk time and unlimited texts. All of the phones are refurbished though (we had a bit of a problem with one being unusable on arrival, but they replaced it). There are no plans beyond the month to month. So, when we had an au pair who really wanted an iphone (that she paid for), we could have put the Kajeet plan on hold (we actually shifted the phone to our teen), and paid the au pair the amount that we would have paid to our preferred plan. It seems like a good option for au pairs.

HRHM May 10, 2013 at 6:58 am

Love this and will have to check it out. Right now we pay 30 per month for a dumb phone (unlimited text and calls) for AP and for the 5 minutes and 5 texts per month she uses it for work, that’s too much.

I looked at wallmart but most of the pay as you go phones have plans that are more than that! The only one I saw that was less was tracphone where you buy minutes (60 minutes for 20 bucks) and load them on the phone as needed.

I figure my obligation is to provide her with a phone of my choice and as many minutes as I want her to use to talk to me during the month. I don’t feel like I need to subsidize her social life with unlimited everything. I also think she should be policing her own minutes/plan to make sure she doesn’t run out.

Old China Hand May 8, 2013 at 12:07 pm

We have our AP on a pay as you go plan with Straight Talk. They can use locked ATT phones, so she can get our hand me downs. She pays the difference between the contract for a dumb phone and the iphone because she wanted the smart phone. I figured out the cost over the course of a year and take that weekly out of her paycheck. I was having trouble remembering to take out $15 once a month.

Host Mom X May 8, 2013 at 12:40 pm

This is a “rules”-based comment, but isn’t it forbidden to take costs out of the AP’s stipend? Even for convenience, aren’t we supposed to have the AP reimburse separately, so there is never an issue of “withholding” the stipend? (Totally not meant to sound accusatory, but it just occurred to me that perhaps this is not actually a State Dep’t reg but an agency by agency policy issue.)

Twin+1Mamma May 8, 2013 at 2:33 pm

I think Host Mom X might be right. When our au pair’s laptop crashed, we offered to pay for her Macbook and have her pay as convenient for her. She chose to pay us each week and we contacted our LCC for advice. She advised us to make a contract and each week we transfer $200 to her account and transfers $10 back to us the following day. It seems silly..

AUAP May 7, 2013 at 6:23 pm

I agree with the previous posts…

But I think 150 is a bit much for a used android smartphone. Searching online, unless the device is refurbished, tested and good-as-new, most used android smartphones are in the 50-90 range. Not a huge difference… but definitely a big deal for someone on an AP stipend…

I think you ought to give 1/2 the cost back.

Taking a Computer Lunch May 7, 2013 at 7:56 pm

I tend to agree with AUAP. If the AP had sought a replacement phone on her own via eBay (although another poster said it would probably be a stolen one, too), she would have spent far less than $150. I’d offer her 1/2 back on the condition that she return to the phone to you on her last day of work with the outgoing message set to a neutral service setting, clear it of all of her messages and contacts (with the exception of those that will be useful to the next AP – like your work numbers). [Our handbook states this as policy – clear the phone before you leave. I used to switch phones with APs, and as a result I’m still getting calls for some of them 6-7 years later.]

I must say, we’ve been fortunate – in 12 years of hosting not one AP has lost a phone. We stopped adding our AP’s name to our outgoing landline message about three or four au pairs ago – all use the cell phone we provide exclusively (and now that we have unlimited text and voice, they can). We do have drop/theft insurance on the phones, but that’s because our own teenager is included in the plan. The 4 phones also share one data plan, which we had to up because of the teenager/AP combination. We get a notice when we’re at 50-70-and 90% of capacity and put both of them on notice.

Sometimes I wish I’d kept my flip – but the best way to reach my current AP is via texting, which is way easier on my smartphone.

NYAPMom May 8, 2013 at 3:23 pm

We chose $150 because my husband was going to trade in the used phone and the trade in value was $195 – we gave her a good deal. We also offered her our son’s old “dumb phone” for free but she chose to to pay the $150 for the smart phone.

Island Host Mom May 7, 2013 at 10:24 pm

We put $25 a month on our au pair’s pay as you go phone. Right on the money, once a month, she emails me and says the money has expired and she can only be reached by email or on our land line (which has no voicemail so we really don’t use it much) that day. Then that evening I put $25 back on and it lasts another month. I don’t monitor any calling or texting or anything. It’s worth it to us, and she’s never been without a phone for more than an eight hour period or so because of running out of money (I realize this would be more of an issue for someone like TACL, possibly, but for us it’s never been a problem). So yes, it might be a problem if it burns out quickly, but for us $25 gets her a lot of texting and it seems a reasonable amount to pay each month to be able to stay in contact with her when we need to be.

FutureAP May 8, 2013 at 4:15 am

With my first HF they gave me the cell phone and I had to pay for the plan. I chose a pay and go and I was allowed to use the home phone as much as I wanted. Although I used my phone to call my HPs a few times, I also used their home phone to call my friends so it all was fine to me.
I never lost my cell phone and it was an old flip one. I also told my friends I was paying for it and those with unlimited calls called me instead of having me calling them.

TexasHM May 8, 2013 at 8:16 am

Agreed she paid for the lost phone and only you know if that price was market reasonable so I won’t speculate there.
Our notes on phones: did pay as you go and it was a pain. Got sick of having to go in and refill it all the time, plus keeping track of and charging her back for the extra each time (we gave $30 a mo and that was way more minutes/texts than we ever needed to use with her). Invariably sometime 2 or 3 weeks in she’d run out, I’d have to drop everything to refill or she’d be without a working phone until I did. Plus she wanted to add on as little as possible so sometimes I’d have to refill it twice.
Got her a new smartphone on our plan (mistake) and when she cancelled the line without our permission (fiancé bought her an iPhone) we got charged a $250 termination. This same AP lost her phone several times but managed to get it back (left in airport here when leaving on vacay, taxi, friends cars or houses, etc).
After all that we decided to either get a used smartphone online or keep our older smartphones when we upgrade for incoming APs and have them pay for it. This way they can choose to keep it or leave it, if they leave it we will give them the money back.
The value is in the lack of contract. Now we put them on our plan as an add-on, our AP pays the extra for data service ($20 a mo) and if they lose the phone they pay to replace. It’s worked great. Just had a HM friend end up doing this too after several issues. It’s easier for us and provides max flexibility for options when they leave.

Emerald City HM May 8, 2013 at 1:02 pm

Our first au pair got a text to log in to the online account or something from AT&T and she tried. I got notification an then some things were in Spanish. We realized this was slightly our fault for not turning on the phone first…

After I got that notification, I set up an access code in addition to the password, so now if anyone wants to do anything on the account they have to know the access code. Even to use my employer discount to purchase accessories in the store.

TexasHM May 8, 2013 at 8:17 am

PS had a HM friend add her APs iPhone from home onto their plan with no problems. Same premise, just that AP brought her device. Has worked great for them.

Host Mom X May 8, 2013 at 12:06 pm

We just save old “dumb” phones for our APs, and then pay the add-line fee (this way we don’t have to do a new two-year contract, in case they decide they want to make other phone arrangements), and they share minutes with us. We pay for more texts for APs than we’d use ourselves; the overages weren’t worth it, and it isn’t that much extra (and apparently our APs can’t NOT text at an extremely high volume; I sound like such an old fuddy-duddy). The way we thought of it was that we pay for the phone as a job necessity – we want to be able to call or text the AP during the day, and need her to be able to contact us if necessary. That she can use it to call and text friends is an added benefit, same as for the Blackberry I get from work – I can use the benefit of the data plan on my own time, in addition to the email I have to send for work. We don’t provide a data plan and smartphone, because we don’t expect the AP to use those capabilities for her job, and we don’t have an unlimited data plan for our own personal phones (I only have the BBerry from work), so it would be a significant extra monthly cost to put the AP on a data plan, in addition to the cost of the smartphone (especially since we don’t want to be stuck in a new contract to get a discount on a smartphone).

I had always thought that we were considered on the “stingier” side for not providing a smart phone and data plan, but I had never thought of it from the perspective that several host parents have brought up here – that providing an AP with an expensive smartphone that they are expected to pay for if they lose is actually a hardship for the AP if they do indeed lose the phone. So thank you for making me feel less “stingy”! (When past APs have lost dumb phones, we just reach into the retired “dumb phone” pile as HRHM does. Then there is no angst, we don’t feel bad, we don’t have to make the AP feel bad, time isn’t lost trying to find a reasonably priced new smart phone, etc.)

We have had APs who have obtained their own smartphones and plans, and we just give them $20/month to cover the cost of “on the job” phone/text use. ($20 is approximately what it costs for us to have an added line and texts on our own plan.) I don’t really like this arrangement, though; if the AP loses her own phone, I can’t contact her when I need to, and I am not able to fix the situation quickly as I would if the AP lost the phone we provided.

sassylassy May 8, 2013 at 12:49 pm

We never had any issues of phone loss or overage charges with our au pairs and hope these tips help other HFs. We use the basic virgin mobile plan ($35/mo) which has unlimited text and 300 mins, international outbound blocked, and is month-to-month. They have smart phones (not too fancy, but adequate) for a reasonable amount… we paid about $50 and it’s already been used for 2 years. We have a VoIP phone for our home (internet phone) using Vonage and our plan (about $35) allows for free calling to most countries, which our au pairs have really appreciated.

Between having free calls on the home line, and unlimited texting (which is what most au pairs want/use anyway with us and with their friends), the set up has worked great.

LuvCheetos May 8, 2013 at 2:22 pm

Our AP has a “dumb phone” on our family plan. It costs us $15 permonth and she has unlimited texting. We all share minutes (my ILs are on the same plan) but no one seems to actually talk rather than text so we have zillions of roll over minutes. We let the current AP pick out a new phone when she got here. We also changed the number to avoid our old “bad’ AP’s “bad” friends contacting her (I know they still could but we wanted to make it harder).

It has worked out well to have the AP on our plan. It’s simple and cheap. As an added bonus, when our ‘bad’ AP was in an accident, we were able to “prove” that she had been texting while driving, which the other driver had told us but she vehemently denied. She was shocked that we were able to pull her texting records. It think (hope) it deterred further texting while driving. (I know we should have sent her home, but we chose to stick it out.)

Twin+1Mamma May 8, 2013 at 2:44 pm

We do provide an iPhone for our AP but as this is our first, I can’t really compare whether or not her use of it is more or less.
Even though some of you make great points about APs not needing smartphones, data or the difficulties of replacing it, we are actually loving it.
Our AP sent us a video when twin 1 started walking (lucky enough to see twin 2 do it myself)
She often shows me stuff on her iPhone and I would say 80% of the apps are child-related. She has an iReward chart for our oldest daughter, which all three adults in the house uses. She uses SpinnerDinner to think of what to make for dinner. She downloaded a a baby sign language app, which now means my baby twins can communicate.
She also uses the GPS and has a holder for it in the car

I would recommend a smartphone for any HF, IF they know it will be used for good. I wouldn’t hesitate to have a conversation, if the use was interfering with her child care duties but she only uses the phone during her hours for the above mentioned purposes and finds songs and ebooks for the kids, as well

Should be working May 9, 2013 at 12:04 pm

Wow, this is great info, Twin+1. I think I will build it into our handbook that since we are paying all the data fees we want her to record and send us great moments as they happen. (Our AP does it once in awhile but would probably like doing stuff like that more often and I’d love to receive those.)

TexasHM May 10, 2013 at 8:15 am

Agreed on liking the fact that my AP has a smartphone. Like anything else, clear boundaries and expectations need to be set upfront but my AP sends me pics and videos, can Skype her parents while watching my girls in gymnastics class, can take pics at the store or if she has a question (flyer on wall at dance), use GPS for occasional clarification (we have GPS boundaries and expectations created by last APs mindless GPS use), to get information (check library hours while at the park vs coming home to check then go there, being able to look up/use groupons or coupons, check weather warnings/updates, being able to see/monitor her bank account and get alerts, I could go on forever. We are lucky in that we were very clear with our expectations on usage while watching kids and have never had an inkling of an issue. She tends to do these things while my kids are in activities or before they leave the house while they are occupied getting dressed, or if needed, after they are buckled in the car before they leave the driveway if she needs to check something (address, hours, cost, etc). I also use my iPhone for everything possible to make my life easier so couldn’t imagine my AP not having one (assuming she wanted one and as we said, she pays the data plan add on).

Taking a Computer Lunch May 10, 2013 at 5:26 pm

Sorry for hijacking thread, but I noticed you monitor your AP’s bank account. Now I have a question – is this a typical practice?

We give our AP her salary in cash every week and feel that the balance in her bank account is up to her. I know that a couple of my APs have been horrendous at managing their money, a couple received extra money from home, a couple sent money home on a regular basis, and a couple had huge balances at the end of their year and splurged on a vacation of a lifetime. My parents didn’t have access to my first bank account (or the subsequent), so it never occurred to me to watch my AP’s bank balance.

hOstCDmom May 10, 2013 at 5:51 pm

I understood what she wrote to be that *the AP* monitor’s her own (I.e. the AP’s) bank account….not that HM monitors AP’s account….but maybe I misunderstood….?

MidAtlantic Host Family May 10, 2013 at 6:39 pm

We know of a family in our cluster who monitors the AP’s bank account. We try not to judge others but we do not do this. While we would never think to, regardless, with four kids, we do not have time to micromanage another.

TexasHM May 11, 2013 at 4:28 pm

I did mean the AP using a smartphone to monitor her own balance but full disclosure – she wanted a free account with all the the perks so she got an account under ours so I actually could monitor hers if I wanted to but I do not. The advantages for us are I can transfer money to her account in seconds anytime so no checks, no running to the ATM for cash and no waiting periods. I do also get emails if her balance is really low because the alerts go to both of us but again, we don’t have access because we want it or monitor her, it’s purely convenience for me and perks for her. Our last AP had her own account first then later begged us to give her an account under ours and loved it – that’s why we gave our second AP the option.

Chi Host Mom May 8, 2013 at 3:22 pm

Our au pair uses the virgin mobile pay as you go phone. We pay half. But 2 weeks ago her phone got left in a cab, signed into all sorts of things, with video and pictures of our family. Nothing was backed up and phone is still missing. My advice is if they have a smart phone make sure they have an app on it to remote wipe and are backing up their phone.

We need her to have a phone for when they’re out of the house. I’m frustrated to say the least.

SKNY May 8, 2013 at 10:19 pm

Our au pairs have always gotten old phones (that we added into our account). One au pair bought herself an iphone and requested that we added that to our account (and she’d pay the cost for data plan). Worked fine for a few months but then she’d be too busy on the internet all the time vs caring for the kids.
So we decided we’d stick to regular old phones for now

HRHM May 10, 2013 at 10:38 am

I think I just found the perfect solution: On amazon there is a Tracfone for $13 that includes triple minutes for the life of the phone and a 400 minute card that works for one year for $85. So, for $98 she’ll get 100 minutes per month (texts count as 1/3 minute) for the whole year. Works out to less than 9 dollars a month and she can always buy more time at Walmart or online if she needs it for personal use. I’ll be buying this in July for new AP.

FutureAP May 10, 2013 at 5:27 pm

I used tracfone as well, not too expensive if you do not use your phone all day (I think i used up about 5 or 6 hours in one year).

The thing I hate is you have to pay when someone calls you ! I find it insane :/ I think with other plans it might be you pay when you are sent a message.

HRHM May 11, 2013 at 1:32 pm

I’m not sure how it is in other countries, but in the US, incoming and outgoing calls both count toward minutes usage (always have since we started using “car phones” back in the day) It matters much less now that most people on a contract have unlimited everything, but still works that way when you have limited minutes. It’s an American thing – both caller and receiver get charged! Go capitalism! :)

SeattleAreaHD May 11, 2013 at 5:31 pm

To be fair, both parties are using the service/cell tower/bandwidth – whether it’s an incoming or outgoing call. If it’s a call that’s unsolicited or you don’t want for any reason, don’t answer – much easier with caller ID now.

The old way of caller only pays is actually weirdly illogical.

FutureAP May 12, 2013 at 4:50 am

Ahah I find it to be normal to be the one paying if I am calling =) The other one did not ask to be called. And if yes, well, they can call by themselves.
Cultural differences, talk about it ! :)

HRHM May 12, 2013 at 6:40 am

It’s a holdover from when most calls were landline to cell or cell to landline. The cell service at that point was extremely expensive and the cell user got charged regardless. Most landline users had unlimited local calling so it was no skin off their nose! As more people got cell service, most cell companies made cell-cell calls within their company free as a way to entice people to use one company over another.

Monique May 12, 2013 at 2:16 am


I am an au pair since august 2012.
I just found your blog and i have a question for you.
My host family make me pay once a week the diner (taco Time,burger king …) of one of my host kid who finish her extra activity late at night. And i cook once a week for the family for a couple weeks now and they let me pay for the food that i buy to make diner to every body. I also bought my own food for the breakfast and lunch Because they don’t really have healthy things in the fridge.

In our contract it says that the family are suppose to give us 3 meals per day.

My question are How can i ask them to give me money for the kid diner and make them pay me back for the food i buy ?
I really want to talk to them about that Because i spend more money on food that other stuff.

I really need you advise



FutureAP May 12, 2013 at 4:51 am

Did you talk about it to your counselor ?

Dorsi May 12, 2013 at 4:10 pm

It is possible that these things could be misunderstandings. Your host family may also be absentminded and not realize that you are paying for these things yourself. You are right, however, that you should not be required to pay for the family’s food our of your stipend, and you should have food available to you for your own meals.

Approach your HM or HD some time when you are not working and the kids are not around (it makes me crazy when the AP has an important question just as I am trying to walk out the door).

Are you required to get fast food for the child once a week? Could you pack a sack meal? Why don’t you? What do the host parents want you to do? Ask them to help you solve this problem. If you were my AP, I would not pay for a weekly fast food meal — but I also would not be happy with that plan and if I was aware of what was going on, have told you that was not acceptable.

You should also ask the best way to get food for the house. Should you purchase the food for the meals you cook and they reimburse you? Or, can you plan in advance and add it to the shopping list?

There are many cultural differences about what “healthy” food is and it may make sense to talk with you LCC about what your specific requirements are — is it a different brand of yogurt? is it only organic fruit? She will be able to give you a good idea about whether your food requests are fair.

HRHM May 13, 2013 at 8:51 am

As for the fast food meal, if the HPs say “take her to BK on the way home” then they are obligated to pay for it. You can either ask for money in advance or bring them the receipt and asked to reimbursed for it. In our case, once in a blue moon we’ll have AP take the girls thru the McDonalds drive through when we are out on date night. We keep an “arch-card” in the petty cash box for just such ocassions and she can of course buy her own meal with it as well on those nights.
On the nights you cook for the family, plan ahead and put your desired items on the family shopping list for the week. I keep a refrig full of food and it irritates me to no end when my AP decides to cook something entirely different, buys the most expensive ingredients at Whole Foods and then wants me to pay. I pay for it and I appreciate the cooking, but really, I’m on a budget.

As for the items you buy for yourself, again, add them to the family shopping list. There needs to be some degree of negotiation here. I happily pick up Nutella, German coffee, requested cheeses, etc. I won’t be buying lobster, organic fruits and veggies or red bull! LOL But if you don’t like what they have to offer within reason, then you are on your own.

Just my 2 cents.

Au Pair in Australia May 23, 2013 at 10:16 pm

Is better to speak to the au pair and ask her if she wants to borrow our phone, and if she is willing to take the responsibility of it and if damaged or lost to replace it, is important to speak about this in advance

Sandy-Joan June 11, 2013 at 12:44 am

I would outline the details of ownership and procedure for lost/stolen/broken phones in the contract. This makes it easy and both parties know their rights and responsibilities. The best way I have found is to pay for insurance and then just get the AP to pay the excess for a new phone.

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