2016 Prepaid Mobile Plan Providers Compared
You are viewing the archived 2016 ratings for prepaid mobile plans. Go to the current prepaid ratings.
Canstar compares leading prepaid mobile phone plans & providers and delivers customer satisfaction ratings. We compared Amaysim, Optus, Telstra, Virgin Mobile, Vodafone and with Aldi Mobile taking out 5 stars. These were reviewed for value for money, customer service, network coverage, billing, ease of recharge and sign up & activation.
If prepaid mobile plans are your style, find out which service providers are deemed by Aussies to offer the best service and value for money.
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Canstar Blue research finalised in June 2016 published in July 2016.
See our Ratings Methodology.
ALDI recharges at the top of our prepaid customer ratings
Prepaid has traditionally been the ugly duckling of mobile phone plans, considered to offer a lack of value for money compared to contract or post-paid plans, and generally the option of choice for consumers who simply need a mobile at hand should they need it. No longer! Prepaid phone plans now provide some of the best value for money you’re likely to find, with the bonus of maximum flexibility, meaning you can chase even better deals whenever you want. Think back to your very first phone plan and chances are it was a prepaid SIM. Now the industry has gone full circle and people are once again flocking back to the most ‘basic’ form of plans. So which prepaid service providers are offering the best deals? We sought to find out by surveying hundreds of mobile users and asking them to review their mobile carrier. Our star ratings reflect their feedback, with ALDI Mobile topping the table for the second year in a row.
ALDI Mobile has once again beaten off tough competition from Telstra, Optus, Vodafone, Virgin Mobile and Amaysim – winner of our customer ratings for post-paid SIM-only providers. ALDI Mobile was rated five stars on value for money, customer service, ease of recharge, sign-up & activation, billing and network coverage (ALDI uses the Telstra 4G network).
We hope these ratings are a helpful guide if you’re looking for a new service provider, but it’s worth pointing out that only six of the biggest carriers have been reviewed and there are a lot more out there offering great prepaid deals, including:
ALDI’s fellow supermarket chains, Coles and Woolworths, are also offering some solid prepaid mobile value. No doubt, if you have already paid for your mobile handset and believe the ‘bring your own phone’ approach is the way to go, you’ll find plenty of enticing offers. But before we dive deeper into the best mobile plans out there right now, let’s first clear off some basics about prepaid phone plans to help you decide if they’re the best bet for you.
What is a prepaid phone plan?
A prepaid phone plan allows users to purchase a set amount of credit to be used on either calls, texts or data, contract-free and without the risk of excess charges. The beauty of a prepaid plan (commonly referred to a ‘recharge’ or ‘top-up’) is that you only pay for what you use – no more, no less. Unlike post-paid plans, there is no danger of being hit with unexpected fees for going over your plan’s limitations, because once your included value is gone, you have no more service. While some people consider this a good thing, it should be noted that, for many consumers, the back-up of being able to make calls, send text messages or use data whenever you need will be very useful – especially for children. You can continue weighing up the pros and cons with this review of prepaid and post-paid plans.
What types of prepaid plans are there?
While some service providers offer a concise and easy to follow range of prepaid phone plans, others have number of different prepaid options to consider – designed with both convenience and flexibility in mind, although they can sometimes appear confusing. Your prepaid options include:
- Pay as you go:Rather than give you an allowance of talk, text and data, pay as you go plans offer customers a value of credit. It’s then up to the customer to decide how they distribute their credit.
- Pay per day:Only pay for the days you actually use your phone. Optus, for example, has a $2/day plan with a set amount of calls, texts and data.
- Long-expiry:These deals offer extended expiry dates on credit up to 3, 6 or 12 months. This is ideal for those who rarely use their phones or want to find better value over the long-term. Kogan Mobile is one provider which specialise in long-expiry prepaid plans, with big discounts on offer the longer period you choose.
- Data only:Many of us have turned to messaging apps over traditional calls and texts. These prepaid deals only include data and are generally cheaper than other prepaid options.
You’ll find prepaid plans with expiry periods of just one day, all the way up to 365 days. Generally speaking, however, most will have expiry periods of either 28 or 30 days. Ten day also seems to be becoming a popular expiry period, with Coles Mobile one of the providers offering good short-term value.
How do prepaid phone plans work?
Unlike post-paid plans where each billing period begins with a fresh amount of call, text and data inclusions, prepaid mobile plans require the customer to purchase their plan over again each time. This is often referred to as ‘recharging’ or ‘topping up’ your phone plan. The advantage of this is that, if you’re short on money or don’t expect to use your phone much over the coming weeks, then you don’t need to spend any money. The downside, however, is that you’ll have to make the effort to recharge. This can be done online, by calling your provider, or in the case of some mobile carriers, from retail outlets via a prepaid voucher.
Why choose a prepaid phone plan?
Aside from the fact that prepaid plans can offer some great value for money (which we’ll come to shortly), the benefits include:
- Flexibility: If you’re not happy with the plan you’re on, you can simply order a new SIM from another provider and get going in a matter of days. Some providers offer same-day SIM-card delivery!
- Freedom: With post-paid plans, you’ll automatically be charged every month, unless you cancel your plan. With prepaid, you decide whether or not you want to recharge from one month to the next. Want to save a few bucks one month? Easy!
- No bill shock: With contract or even SIM-only post-paid plans, you will be charged if you go over your plan’s set limits. Excess data charges can be expensive, but with prepaid you only use what you paid for upfront.
Of course, this is all dependent on you owning your own mobile handset. For some people, the best way to get connected is to sign up to a phone plan that includes a handset of your choice.
How to find the best prepaid deal?
The key to finding the best prepaid plan for you is knowing how much included value you’re likely to need each month. Do you make lots of calls, send plenty of text messages, or are you only concerned about data? While prepaid plans upwards of $25 per recharge usually come with unlimited talk and text, the cheapest plans still have set amounts of included value. You will also need to decide what expiry period you would like. As a guide, here are the cheapest plans currently on offer if you’re looking for about 5GB of data, plus unlimited talk and text, over 28 or 30 days.
The thing to remember about prepaid phone plans is they are constantly changing with special offers, promotions and bonus deals regularly appearing. It pays to keep your eyes open for the best new deals and don’t be afraid to switch if you find a better plan.
Other features to consider
While many post-paid phone plans – especially those from the big carriers – come with additional features such as free music, video streaming or other entertainment packages, prepaid plans tend to be more ‘basic’ with the focus on the simple things you expect from a phone plan. However, bonus features are likely to become more common in prepaid plans moving forward as the telco competition increases. One example is OVO Mobile which offers data-free streaming of various motorsports and gymnastics events. Meanwhile some carriers allow customers to ‘build their own’ prepaid plans, including Vodafone with its MyMix offering.
The message is, it’s never been a better time to be a mobile phone users, and if you currently own your own handset, you have plenty of great prepaid options to consider.
Frequently asked questions
Canstar Blue commissions Colmar Brunton to survey 3,000 Australian consumers across a range of categories to measure and track customer satisfaction. The outcomes reported are the results from customers within the survey group who currently have an active prepaid mobile phone account in their name for which they pay the bills – in this case, 856 Australians.
Brands must have received at least 30 responses to be included. Results are comparative and it should be noted that brands receiving three stars have still achieved a satisfaction measure of at least six out of 10. Not all brands available in the market have been compared in this survey. The ratings table is first sorted by star ratings and then alphabetically. A rated brand may receive a ‘N/A’ (Not Applicable) rating if it does not receive the minimum number of responses for that criteria.