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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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 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.
Prepaid phone plans can be quite cheap, and while they’re typically not any cheaper than what you can expect on a postpaid plan, cheap prepaid plans can come with a catch.
Typically a cheap prepaid plan, such as a $10 plan, might only be that cheap because it has a shorter expiry period, maybe only seven days. A ‘monthly’ prepaid plan also doesn’t usually run for the whole month, with an expiry period of 28 or 30 days most common. This also means that rather than paying 12 times a year for a monthly plan, you could end up recharging your plan 13 or more times throughout the year..
Often though, prepaid plans from smaller providers can be cheaper, or offer more data for that price point, than the larger telcos. If you want to save some money on your prepaid plan, it helps to compare plans from a range of providers to make sure you’re getting the best value for money plan for your needs.
If you’re looking at switching from your current prepaid plan to another prepaid plan with the same provider, usually it’s fairly easy to switch. If you don’t have automatic recharge enabled on your plan, and you manually choose your recharge value each time the plan expires, it could be as simple as choosing a different recharge amount.
However, if this isn’t an option for you to do yourself through your account, or if you have automatic recharge enabled, you’ll need to get in touch with your provider to discuss your options for switching to a different plan.
For anyone looking to switch from one prepaid telco to another telco, you’ll need to cancel your current plan and sign up to a new plan with your new provider. If you want to keep your mobile phone number, you’ll need to port your number to your new provider. While your new provider will do the work for you, you need to make sure that you sign up to your new phone plan first, and don’t cancel your current plan until your number has been ported over.
If you’re looking to switch to a prepaid plan from a postpaid plan or other plan type, you’ll need to follow the same steps as you would switching from one prepaid provider to another. Decide if you’ll want to keep your current mobile number, and then take the necessary steps for porting your number and switching telcos.
Signing up to a prepaid plan can be super simple, especially if you’re using the new phone number provided. You can even buy the SIM card in supermarkets and simply follow the steps to activate your prepaid SIM yourself.
Cancelling your prepaid plan can be rather simple. If you don’t have automatic recharge setup on your prepaid plan, you can simply choose to not recharge your plan when it expires. Depending on the telco, if your account is inactive and you don’t recharge within a set amount of time, the account will typically be deactivated and this means you could also lose your phone number, unless you have chosen to port your number to another service.
In the case of prepaid plans with automatic recharge, you may need to get in touch with your telco to request your plan be cancelled and automatic recharge disabled. If you’re unsure how to go about cancelling your plan, it’s best to get in touch with your telco to find out your options.
This depends on whether your prepaid service is active or inactive. If you have an active prepaid plan, you can continue to recharge your plan for as long as you want. Some telcos change what plans or recharge options they offer, and in this case, you might be moved from your existing plan to a new plan, or the telco could allow you to stay on your current plan. It does differ from telco to telco.
If you choose to not recharge your plan when your expiry period is over, how long your service will stay active depends on the telco. Some telcos may deactivate your account within a shorter period of time, while others might give you a longer period of time. It’s worth checking this with your provider before making a decision on whether you’ll want to leave your account inactive or not.
Prepaid plans are phone plans where you prepay for your service, that is, you pay in advance and then you’ll be given set inclusions to use within the expiry period. Once that expiry period is over, you’ll need to recharge your plan in order to continue your service. If you’ve used up some of your inclusions before the expiry period, you’ll either need to recharge your plan earlier, wait until your next recharge (and be without certain services until then) or purchase an add on for additional cost, such as a data add on, if applicable.
Postpaid plans are plans where you pay after using your inclusions. You’ll typically receive a bill from your telco each month, usually on the same date, and have to pay your bill by a certain date. If you use more than your plan’s inclusions, you might be charged extra for this, which means your bill may be more expensive than you anticipated.
SIM-only plans are plans that come with a SIM card only and no phone or device included on the plan. Prepaid plans are typically SIM-only plans as you’ll usually buy just the SIM card and have no phone included on the plan. SIM-only plans can also be postpaid, the key being that you’re paying just for the SIM card and plan, no device.
If you want a new phone with your prepaid plan, you’ll need to buy your phone outright as prepaid typically doesn’t include a phone that you pay off in installments. If you’re looking for a phone on a plan, you’ll usually need to sign up to a postpaid phone plan for this option.