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Optus takes on Vodafone with new $5-a-day overseas roaming

As more Aussies start heading overseas, an option for accessing your phone when travelling is a must-have. Our phones help us stay connected to family and friends, share our holiday snaps to socials and access maps and other info to help us on our travels.

While many telcos have offered international roaming on plans for some time, this service has traditionally been marred by ‘bill shock’: stories of travellers returning home to phone bills well into the hundreds for a service they may or may not have been aware they were using.

However, many telcos have taken steps to reduce this in recent years by introducing cheaper or more affordable roaming options. Vodafone pioneered the trend with its $5 Roaming option. Now Optus has stepped into the ring with its own version of $5-a-day roaming.

“Travelling overseas can be a life-changing experience and half the fun is sharing that experience with friends and family back at home, as well as being able to stay connected with your travel buddies in a foreign country. With Optus’ $5 a day Roaming, we have created our easiest and most convenient roaming product yet, which also comes at a great value price point,” said Optus’ Managing Director of Marketing and Revenue, Matt Williams.

While the concept might not be totally new, the Optus $5 roaming add-on does have some differences to its Vodafone counterpart. Let’s take a look at these services and how they compare.

Optus $5 a day roaming — what do you get?

Optus has offered roaming add-ons for a while for eligible mobile customers, however this new product is a bit different. Previously, Optus’ roaming add-ons offered a set amount of inclusions across a set amount of days, with prices differing between each add-on pack.

Now, for $5 per day, you’ll get 5GB of daily data, along with unlimited standard calls and SMS all within Zone 1 destinations. This add-on is automatically enabled on eligible Optus Choice Plus, Optus Plus Family and Optus Plus Promo plans, so you’ll have access to your roaming from the moment you land in Zone 1 destinations.

Previously, you would need to enable the service on your plan via the Optus app, which required internet access. But automatic enabling now removes the roadblock of needing to switch on roaming before you leave, or finding a WiFi connection to enable the service after you’ve reached your destination.

Although $5 roaming is now automatically live on eligible accounts, you can turn this off in the Optus app at any time — so you have full control over when and where you use the feature. Optus also charges customers upfront for $5 roaming through your direct debit payment, so the service billed separately from your monthly plan.

Zone 1 destinations eligible for $5 roaming include:

  • Brazil
  • Canada
  • China
  • Cyprus
  • Denmark
  • Fiji
  • Finland
  • France
  • Greece
  • Hong Kong
  • Iceland
  • India
  • Indonesia
  • Ireland
  • Italy
  • Japan

  • Malaysia
  • Mexico
  • New Zealand
  • Norway
  • Philippines
  • Samoa (Western)
  • Singapore
  • South Africa
  • Spain
  • Sweden
  • Thailand
  • Tonga
  • United Kingdom
  • United States
  • Vanuatu
  • Vietnam

Ultimately Optus $5 Roaming isn’t a particularly groundbreaking offer, but it may be a slightly more manageable price per day compared to other add-ons. The feature is available in a range of countries that are fairly popular destinations and stopovers for Aussie tourists. It also includes a fairly generous 5GB of data to use each day, which may be enough for GPS maps and general internet use during your travels.

The following table shows all published Optus postpaid plans on Canstar Blue’s database, listed in order of cost, from the lowest to highest and then by data allowance, largest to smallest. Use our phone plan comparison tool to see plans from a range of other providers.

How does Vodafone’s $5 Roaming compare?

Vodafone’s $5 Roaming is a reasonably different product to what Optus is offering. While Optus offers a roaming-specific add-on pack, Vodafone allows customers to essentially access their phone plan while overseas.

What this means is that eligible Vodafone customers will be able to access their plan’s inclusions such as calls, SMS and mobile data, while overseas in over 100 select countries. This is available on both postpaid phone plans and data-only tablet plans.

Keep in mind that while Vodafone does offer unlimited data on select plans (and at capped speeds), this unlimited data is not included with $5 Roaming — you’ll only be able to access the full-speed data amount included on your plan.

While it’s certainly an easy way to access calls, texts and data while overseas, Vodafone’s roaming is priced at $5 per day. This is on top of your standard monthly plan fees, so it could add up if you’re travelling for a long time. Vodafone also caps your access to $5 Roaming for a maximum of 90 days per calendar year.

Vodafone $5 Roaming destinations include many of the same countries as what Optus is offering, such as the UK, USA, New Zealand, Japan, Thailand, Indonesia, Italy, France, Canada, China and more, but you’ll need to look at the roaming map on the Vodafone website for more information.

The following table shows all Vodafone SIM-only postpaid plans on Canstar Blue’s database, listed in order of cost, from the lowest to highest. Use our comparison tool to see plans from a range of other providers. This is a selection of products with links to a referral partner.

Is $5 roaming worth it?

For existing Optus or Vodafone customers, having access to an add-on roaming service definitely ticks the box of convenience. Finding a good SIM and plan for travelling can be tricky, especially when you’re already at your destination and if there are language barriers.

If you don’t have a phone that is eSIM compatible, or need to switch physical SIM cards, it can also be annoying to not have access to your phone plan. Many of our logins on apps now rely on authentication codes being sent via SMS to our Australian phone numbers, so having the option to keep using your number can be a lifesaver.

However, it’s important to keep in mind that these roaming options from both Optus and Vodafone are at $5 per day in addition to your plan fees. If you’re on a longer holiday, you might find this cost adds up compared to choosing a separate plan just for your travels. For example, if you’re away for three weeks (21 days in total), that $5 will add up to $105. However, depending on where you travel, you might be able to pick up a local SIM or a travel-specific SIM that runs for 30 days or so, and costs a lot less.

Ultimately what both Optus and Vodafone are offering is convenience. It could also work out to be a good option to have switched on for a day or two when you arrive at your destination (and during any stopovers) until you can get your hands on a SIM that might better suit your needs. In any case, it helps to weigh up the options and compare prices, to see if the convenience will be worth the potential extra costs if you’re on a longer trip.

Emma Bradstock
Telco Specialist
Emma Bradstock has been an authority on consumer phone, internet, technology and streaming markets in Australia for the last 5 years. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Communications and Media from Macquarie University and has a decade of professional writing experience in print and digital media.

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