2017 Prepaid Mobile Plans & Providers
Posted by Canstar Blue July 3rd 2018
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Canstar Blue reviews prepaid mobile plans from ALDI Mobile, Amaysim, Telstra, Optus, Virgin Mobile, Vodafone and TPG. Providers are compared on their network coverage, customer service, billing, ease of recharge, value for money and overall customer satisfaction.
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Canstar Blue research finalised in June 2017 published in July 2017.
See our Ratings Methodology.
ALDI Mobile ahead for prepaid mobile plans
If you want maximum flexibility, control and bang for your buck, a prepaid mobile plan could be the way to go. Once the ugly duckling of mobile phone plans, many prepaid plans now offer awesome value for money, without locking you into a contract. There’s also no chance of bill shock as you simply get what you pay for. Activating a new plan is incredibly easy and you can switch providers in no time at all, whenever you find a better deal. All the big telcos offer prepaid mobile plans, but as our 2017 customer ratings suggest, you could bag an even better bargain by comparing some of the smaller service providers, too.
This year, Canstar Blue’s prepaid mobile plan review sees Australia’s big four providers – Optus, Telstra, Vodafone and Virgin Mobile – go up against three of their main challengers, TPG, ALDI Mobile and Amaysim. Surveying hundreds of prepaid mobile users across the country, we’ve compared these providers based on important factors including their network coverage, customer service, ease of recharge and value for money. There are various types of prepaid mobile plans – which we’ll come to shortly – and our 2017 ratings include feedback on all of them, delivering an overall guide as to which telcos are offering the highest rated services in the prepaid space.
Prepaid plans are generally a bit cheaper than postpaid plans and certainly much cheaper than phone plans that include a new handset. It’s therefore quite fitting that ALDI Mobile – from the discount supermarket chain – should top our customer ratings table. It’s the third year in a row that ALDI Mobile has achieved five stars overall, clearly striking a winning balance between price, customer service and network coverage – the latter owing to the fact that ALDI Mobile uses the Telstra network. But ALDI Mobile also scored top marks in regards to sign up & activation, ease of recharge and billing information, making it a clean sweep of five stars. In fact, it was the only provider to score five stars in any research category:
- Amaysim was rated four stars across all research categories. The orange telco uses the Optus network to deliver its prepaid and postpaid services
- Optus was rated three stars overall, with four stars on sign up & activation process, ease of recharge and network coverage
- Telstra was also rated three stars overall, but achieved four stars for network coverage and ease of recharge
- TPG was rated three stars overall and in most categories, but earned four stars on value for money and sign up & activation process. TPG uses the Vodafone network
- Virgin Mobile was rated three stars across the board, with the exception of four stars in regards to ease of recharge. Like Amaysim, Virgin Mobile uses the Optus network
- Vodafone also rated three stars in every research category but ease of recharge, where it scored four stars
ALDI has enjoyed great success in Canstar Blue reviews over the years, leading the way in many categories, from food & drink to laundry powders and even weight loss shakes. Its phone plans are reasonably simple, cover various price points and include rather generous data allowances. ALDI also benefits from being able to sell SIM cards in-store, meaning you can easily drop one in your basket when you go shopping for groceries.
With ALDI Mobile, you can choose between two pay as you go (PAYG) plans with a set amount of credit to be used however you see fit, or five Value Packs which deliver varying quantities of calls, texts and data to use over the 30 day period. All three remarkably carry unlimited calls & texts as standard, so if you need lots of calls & texts, $15 to ALDI will get you there. At the upper end of the scale is ALDI’s ‘Jumbo’ pack, which comes with a massive 22GB data for $55. Plans from $25 also attract international credit inclusions to 50 countries, starting at 100 minutes up to 400 minutes. This is a nice bonus, especially if you’re an expat or have friends or family overseas. This is how all seven plans line up:
While our ratings include seven of the most prominent prepaid mobile providers, it’s important to remember there are many more out there offering great value, including:
So, where can you find the best prepaid mobile value? Let’s compare plans across various price points to see what you can get for your money.
Prepaid plans under $10
At this low price, you have to be wary of expiry periods. Quite often they are short – often 10 days or less. If you’re willing to recharge every 7 or 10 days, there are providers out there offering some good deals. Telstra, Coles and Boost Mobile all offer prepaid plans with short expiry periods. Telstra’s plan is merely a ‘starter pack’ that includes up to 6GB data to use over 7 days for only $10. This is a great introductory rate – of sorts – and could be viable if you only need a Telstra SIM for a short holiday. OVO Mobile is one of the cheapest providers over a 30 day or monthly period to offer 1GB of data, coming in at under $10. With this you’ll get $200 call value and calls are generally 99c a minute. For a tenner, you can’t expect the world, but there are some good plans out there for those looking for a cheap deal.
Prepaid plans under $30
If you’re willing and able to spend around $20-$30 a month, then you stand to get some solid value. Coles Mobile appears once again with a pretty competitive plan – $20 gets you unlimited calls and texts plus 3GB data, but keep an eye out for data bonuses and other Flybuys customer loyalty perks! Ratings winner ALDI Mobile offers a competitive plan with 4GB of data, while Lebara and Amaysim offer lots of data for under $30.
Prepaid plans under $40
If you’re willing to spend this much, you are likely to receive some hefty data allowances, and even some international calling in some cases. OVO Mobile is immensely competitive here with 10GB of data for under $35, as is TPG. Overall it’s hard to beat ALDI Mobile as it also comes in with 10GB of data, which can be rolled over to the 30 day period. ALDI also has international calling credit. Kogan Mobile is another provider to beat here, with a massive 16GB of data on offer using the Vodafone network. If you’re willing to spend even more, 15GB+ from providers like OVO and the like is not unheard of, so it pays to shop around.
No matter which carrier you go with, it pays to compare it to a range of other providers before parting ways with your money. Prepaid recharges are a great way to put the control back in the customer’s hands, and a lot of providers out there offer incredible amounts of data, calls, texts and international credit for your money. A lot of providers now allow for auto-recharges, so you don’t even have to worry about the more ‘manual’ approach that may have held some people back from prepaid plans in the past.
Prepaid phone plans explained
Prepaid mobile plans are typically the least complicated type of phone plan, simply delivering a service for upfront payment. While most prepaid mobile plans come on a 28 or 30 day basis, several other shorter and longer alternatives are available. Some providers have plans with just a single or two-day expiry period, while others have year-long expiry periods. Many telcos also offer pay as you go plans whereby you simply purchase a set amount of credit to use however you see fit.
- With prepaid plans, it’s very much a case of what you see is what you get. Once you’ve run out of credit or used up all your call time, texts or data, you will need to purchase a temporary add-on or recharge your plan again. This is in contrast to postpaid plans with which you are charged extra when you exceed your plan’s limitations.
- The greatest advantage of prepaid mobile plans is that you have complete control over your spending, with no bill shock at the end of the month. If you want a break from your service because you’re going overseas or just want to save some money, you can simply not recharge. With postpaid plans, you are automatically billed every month.
- The main disadvantage of prepaid mobile plans is there is no safety net if you run out of credit and can’t afford to buy an add-on or recharge. With postpaid plans, you can make calls, send texts or use mobile data and simply pay for it later. Prepaid users are more likely to go long periods without a service because they have run out of credit.
There are pros and cons to prepaid and postpaid services, but the advantages of prepaid seem to outweigh the negatives. You get maximum flexibility and control over your spending, you’re not tied into a contract and you will usually get fantastic value. If you’re set on a prepaid mobile plan, we hope you find what you’re looking for at Canstar Blue.
Frequently asked questions
Canstar Blue commissioned Colmar Brunton to survey 3,000 Australian adults across a range of categories to measure and track customer satisfaction. The outcomes reported are the results from customers within the survey group who have an active prepaid SIM-only mobile phone plan and they pay the bills – in this case, 901 people.
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.