Choosing a new phone plan might seem complicated, but it doesn’t have to be. One of the first steps is to determine which type of phone plan you want, and you’ll have a few different choices — prepaid, postpaid or phone on a plan.
Prepaid phone plans have been around for many years, and while these plans are now different to what they once were, the sentiment is the same — you prepay for your plan before using it. So, is prepaid right for you, and what are the best prepaid mobile plans around? In this guide we’ll answer some questions you might have about prepaid plans and help you on the way to finding the best prepaid plan for your needs.
Compare prepaid mobile plans
Finding the right prepaid plan depends on your personal preference, wants and needs. That’s why it helps to compare a range of prepaid plans from different providers to see what kind of value for money you can get, and what plan might be the best option for you.
The following table shows a selection of published prepaid plans on Canstar Blue’s database with a minimum of 10GB of data, listed in order of cost, from the lowest to highest and then by data allowance, largest to smallest. This selection of plans includes links to referral partners.
What is a prepaid mobile plan?
Prepaid is essentially a phone plan that you pay for in advance. These are typically available as SIM-only plans, where you will receive a SIM card and phone number (you can also keep and use your current number if you don’t need new digits). Most prepaid SIMs are pre-loaded with a certain amount of inclusions (calls, SMS and mobile data), so you just need to insert the card into your phone, activate and then you’re ready to start using your plan. You can also buy a prepaid SIM card on its own with no call, text or data inclusions, and then choose your preferred prepaid plan later when activating your SIM card.
Once you’ve set up your prepaid plan, you will have a set amount of calls, SMS and data included, which you are able to use over the course of your expiry period. An expiry period is how long you have to use your inclusions until you need to either recharge your plan, or until it automatically resets (depending on whether you have auto recharge set up). Expiry periods are commonly over 28 or 30 days, however there are also short-term and long-term expiry periods — it can be as short as 7 days, or as long as 365 days.
When it comes to inclusions, what you pay will typically determine how much value is on your plan. The cheapest prepaid mobile plans might be on a short-term expiry period, while the more expensive ones might be a 12-month plan. Most prepaid plans these days include unlimited standard national calls and SMS, while data inclusions can be as little as 1GB and as much as 100GB (and even plans with unlimited data). Ultimately, whichever prepaid plan you sign up to will need to suit your needs and budget.
Pay-as-you-go (PAYG) plans
Pay-as-you-go (PAYG) plans are similar as prepaid plans in that you pay for your plan upfront. However, PAYG is more like the traditional prepaid plan where your calls, texts and data use is taken from your account balance and charged per minute, text or MB of data.
If you want a plan that runs every month, most prepaid plans are usually over a set expiry period, commonly over 28 or 30 days. Postpaid phone plans are typically offered as month-to-month plans, where you pay a bill monthly without a lock-in contract. A couple providers, namely TPG and iiNet, offer prepaid plans but on a rolling month-to-month basis.
Long expiry plans
Prepaid plans can include a range of different expiry periods — some as short as 7 days and some as long as 365 days. Many telcos offer long-expiry prepaid plans, which can be convenient if you like to ‘set and forget’ your plan, but you may need to monitor your usage throughout your expiry period.
Best prepaid plans in Australia
If you’re after a prepaid plan but don’t quite know where to start, at Canstar Blue we aim to help you make this decision by comparing plans from a range of providers. Not only can you compare plans based on filters such as data inclusions, plan length and mobile network, our unique Value Rank helps rate providers on overall value for money to help you compare and choose the best phone plan for your needs.
Best prepaid plan providers
There are many different telcos in Australia which offer prepaid plans. The big three telcos, Telstra, Optus and Vodafone, all offer prepaid mobile plans in addition to a suite of other mobile phone plans, and also operate the three mobile networks across Australia. Some smaller providers, known as Mobile Virtual Network Operators (MVNOs), will focus on offering prepaid plans only and can offer some competitive plans to the big three telcos. These smaller providers — including Boost Mobile, ALDI Mobile, Amaysim, TPG and Woolworths Mobile — will deliver services using either the Telstra, Optus or Vodafone mobile network.
Trying to find the best prepaid provider can be hard. If you’re curious about what other Aussies think of their prepaid provider and plan, at Canstar Blue we release an annual report on Australia’s favourite prepaid providers. We survey Australians on criteria such as value for money, network coverage, customer service and ease of recharge to determine overall satisfaction with their prepaid provider, with the winning provider awarded the Most Satisfied Customers for Prepaid Mobile SIM-Only.
Telstra prepaid plans
As Australia’s largest telco, Telstra offers a large range of phone plans, including its prepaid plans. You can choose to either buy a $2 SIM card and add on your recharge amount later, or purchase a prepaid SIM kit with SIM card and plan included. Prices start at $10 for 2GB of data over a 7-day expiry and up to $300 with 150GB of data over a 12-month expiry. All prepaid plans include unlimited standard national calls and SMS.
Optus prepaid plans
Optus is Australia’s second largest telco, and like Telstra, includes prepaid plans in its suite of mobile phone plans. There are three different ‘types’ of prepaid mobile plans, available bundled with a SIM card, to suit different users. The Epic Data plans include larger data inclusions and an additional 10GB of data for video streaming of Netflix, Stan and ABC Kids, with starter kit plans starting at $30 with 10GB of data over 28 day expiry period and up to $50 with 30GB of data over 28 days.
There are also Optus Flex and Epic Value prepaid plans available, with inclusions and expiries to suit a range of users. Epic Value plans include call, text and data for longer expiry periods, while Optus Flex plans offer 1GB of data per day for $1, which you can buy as a daily plan, 7-day plan (7GB for $7 over 7 days) or ‘monthly’ plan (30GB for $30 over 30 days).
Vodafone prepaid plans
Vodafone is Australia’s third largest telco and offers prepaid plans in addition to other mobile phone plans, much like Optus and Telstra. Its prepaid mobile plans are much less complicated, with three prepaid starter packs to choose from. For $30 you’ll get 15GB of data over a 28-day expiry period, and up to $50 for 45GB of data over a 28-day expiry period. Plans include unlimited standard national calls and SMS, and you’ll also get unlimited data at the capped speed of 1.5Mbps once you use up your data inclusions.
How to choose the best prepaid mobile plan
When choosing a plan, you’ll no doubt want to find the best prepaid plan for your needs. However, everyone is different and what constitutes the best plan for one person, might not be the best plan for you.
There are three main points to consider when choosing a prepaid phone plan:
- Which inclusions you want (call, text and mobile data) over which expiry period
- Price range
- Preferred provider and/or mobile network
Once you have a clearer idea of what criteria you want for your plan, it’s then worth looking at plans from a range of providers to see what kind of value for money you can get. You’ll also want to look at which mobile network the telcos use to see if you’ll get mobile reception where you live. Simply check the mobile coverage map on the website of your provider of choice to see if there is coverage where you live, work and any other areas you frequently visit, to ensure you’ll have mobile coverage with that provider.
What is the difference between prepaid and postpaid mobile plans?
While prepaid plans require you to pay upfront, a postpaid plan is billed to you at the end of the billing cycle, which is usually monthly. Postpaid plans might also be offered on a contract where you’re required to stay connected to that plan over a set amount of time (often 12 months) and cancelling before that might incur termination fees.
The advantage to prepaid is that you typically don’t have to sign a contract, it’s easy to set up and you ultimately have control over your usage. With postpaid, unless you monitor your usage, you might go over your inclusions and could be billed extra fees for excess data or other charges, and find a higher than expected bill at the end of your billing cycle.
Of course, the disadvantage to prepaid is that once you use up your inclusions, like data, you will either need to wait until your plan resets, recharge early, or add on extra inclusions like a data pack. Postpaid plans will let you continue using these features, but you’ll most likely be charged for them later.
Ultimately there are pros and cons for both, and you’ll need to consider which plan type best suits your needs.
Is a prepaid mobile plan the right plan for me?
If you’re a bit uncertain about prepaid plans, hopefully this guide has cleared up any questions or concerns you might have had about prepaid. These days, there is very little difference in value for money between prepaid mobile plans and the postpaid plans where you’re billed each month.
There are cheap plans available and plans with large data inclusions. Whatever your needs are, there are plenty of prepaid choices out there to choose from. Once you have a clear idea of what kind of plan you’re looking for, it helps to compare prepaid plans from a range of different prepaid providers to help you find the best mobile plan to suit your needs.