Best value prepaid plans

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CNET Editor

Joe capitalises on a life-long love of blinking lights and upbeat MIDI soundtracks covering the latest developments in smartphones and tablet computers. When not ruining his eyesight staring at small screens, Joe ruins his eyesight playing video games and watching movies. Twitter: @Joseph_Hanlon

Despite several of the telcos adopting simpler plan structures recently, buying a mobile phone and connecting to a network in Australia is still a test of wits and patience. If you're hoping to avoid a contract with a prepaid phone plan, there are some bargains to be found, but you'll have to do your digging.

(Credit: CBSi)

Comparing the numerous prepaid options is a minefield of maths and bonus offers — most telcos have half a dozen plans each with a tiered pricing structure to consider, plus a variety of freebies and discounts along the way. The only fair way to find the best plans is to agree on a few fixed elements, like SMS and data usage, and to figure out how many average calls you can make every time you recharge your account. We'll work with 150 SMS messages per month and a data allowance of 100MB.

To find this magic number for all the plans we compare, we're going to:

  1. Take the total recharge credit
  2. Deduct the expense of 150 SMS messages and 100MB of data
  3. Assume the rest of the remaining credit will be spent on calling minutes.

This credit will be broken into two-minute calls (the national average) so that each average call will cost flag fall plus whatever a telco bills for two minutes on the phone.

Simply put: (total credit - 150 SMSes - 500MB data) / cost of two-minute call = number of calls each recharge.

On the next page, we'll compare plans from each of the Aussie telcos up to a value of AU$30 per month. If you think you're likely to spend more than this, we recommend that you apply a similar equation to the higher-value plans that you are looking at.

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David_T posted a comment   

After analyzing multiple prepaid options for tourists, we have found that the 'Dodo' prepaid plans and 'Lebara' Unlimited plan would be most suitable for people traveling to Australia who want to use their phones for calls and data.

Australian SIM Card 2U


andreisy posted a comment   

dodo mobile with prepaid magic sim $39.90/month unlimited talk, sms, mms, voice mail to australia, 5GB/month, include intenational call 100 minute

kogan mobile with prepaid 30 days $29/month : unlimited talk, sms, mms, voice mail to australia, 6GB/month


gen_x posted a comment   

Well Vodafone have just indicated they are now charging for social media at a MINIMUM of 1MB per session, and in 1 MB increments.

So that 500MB allocation of data will now be completely chewed up with tiny facebook/twitter updates of 5-10kb because it will deduct an entire MB for each of these that occur. Thats only 18 updates per day to be completely out of data in a month, and with a charge of $2 / MB for additional credit, it will chew into your normal credit as well.


georgenius posted a comment   

I use Lebara and I use my mobile infrequently.
Between the 2, I win. Life was fine before they came out with them and what happened since? Alot of marketing bull.
And my prepaid gets lower and lower as it usually expires.......
I have a life.


MichaelB9 posted a comment   

Yes, I agree that it can be most difficult to find the right Pre-Paid 'Plan'. I've spent a lot of time researching this very topic. The following are my thoughts...
I'm extremely happy with what I have been using with Optus. I use a $2.00 'dollar days' for my mobile. I get unlimited calls, text and data in Aust for $2.00 per day. If I don't use my phone, I don't get charged. The 'life' of the credit you get is dependant on the amount one purchases. i.e $30 = 30 days, $50 = 50 days & $100 = 100 days
I also have an Optus 3G Mini 'Pocket' WiFi modem to run the net for my Mac Pro. I pay $3.00 a day for unlimited 'loads'. If I don't use it, I don't pay. There's no way I want to be 'hooked to a wall'. I used to pay $100 per month for 13.8 GB. This limited how much I could download. No drama now. I can also run other devices with the Pocket Wifi. In fact, when I'm in a 'Free' Wifi zone, I'll always use my own.. Does my head in... free, but so slow. I don't download movies. Cheap enough to hire at the vid store. I've never understood why people want to collect lots of movies. Most are not worth seeing again and are a waste of 'drive' space. If you want to see one again, hire it.
I'm planning to purchase the new iPhone 4S when the rush subsides. I'll pay cash for it. It can be used as a Wifi 'hot spot' too. This will save me more money.
BTW, it may be a mistake to refer to prepaid as 'plans'. This seems to be confusing your readers.


ScottM4 posted a comment   

It's a joke. The prepaid call plans are quite complicated and rarely hit the mark. The providers want you to sign up to a plan because it's just to complicated.

I'm no idiot and I am just about to ex contract and, after an insurance claim, have $500 to spend on a new handset. So I was going to buy a handset outright and then shop around for a plan. Mindful of having a plan that works in regional (coastal) NSW.

My wife uses Optus so the Woolies plan looks good esp with the data. Telstra I lament but they have a good network.

I've not resigned yet- hence I have read this article, but unfortunately I seem to end up going back to Telstra- else I end up with a smart phone that's network dumbed down.

Another point.... when did we go to per minute blocks? Call someone and get message bank. That's $1.20ish. That's 90c per minute plus 35c flagfall.


peter patina posted a comment   

It would be nice is Cnet would give their opinion of what is the best deal. Seems to me that Amaysim would be the way to go. How about some info about how the data would be charged. In what size blocks of data do they nibble away at your total data allowance.


AthanasiosK posted a reply   

1MB for Amaysim and for Woollies. The thing with these big GB offers is that the increments that the data is used is also quite high. There has to be a trade-off somewhere. There really isn't any best plan, with prepaid you are free to trial and leave should you wish to.


Joseph Hanlon posted a reply   

The goal here was to bust through the reams of information associated with pre-paid plans and to discover a way to create a level playing field.

I agree that there is other information you'll need to consider before signing a plan, but hopefully this guide can help you whittle down your option before you start sifting through the fine print.

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