Best value SIM-only contracts

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The CNET Australia team loves flashy new mobile phones, but when your old phone still has plenty of life left in it at the end of your two-year contract it would make better sense to commit to a shorter SIM-only contract.

SIM cards

(Credit: Sim-talk.com)

Ordinarily when your original contract period expires you continue paying the same amount month to month and receiving the same contract benefits. Ditching this old plan and signing a new SIM-only contract not only has the potential to save you money each month, but you could also end up with better monthly service inclusions in the plan, like higher call and messaging allocations or an increase in available data each month.

Like regular carrier contracts with new phones included, SIM-only contracts come in a range of tiered pricing options. Below we compare some of the best value offerings from each of the major carriers.

Although most eyes will seek out the bottom line first, the cheapest plan offering the most calls, it's important to remember that this isn't an apples for apples comparison. Keep an eye on the rate per minute column and examine included bonuses for features that would complement your usage patterns.

Approx. $30 per month

Carrier Cost Contract Calls Rate (per min) Flagfall SMS
3 Mobile $29 None $150 90¢ 35¢ 25¢
Vodafone $35 6 months $350 80¢ 35¢ 28¢
Optus $19 12 months $150 92¢ 35¢ 25¢
Telstra $30 None $30 88¢ 27¢ 25¢

Vodafone strikes us as the best value in the budget range, the cheaper plans seem too stingy on the included calls to be really enticing, and the excessive call rates will chew through those miserly included calls pretty quickly too.

Approx. $50 per month

Carrier Cost Contract Calls Rate (per min) Flagfall SMS
3 Mobile $49 None $350 80¢ 35¢ 25¢
Vodafone $55 6 months $550 80¢ 35¢ 28¢
Optus $49 12 months $500 80¢ 35¢ 25¢
Telstra $50 None $50 88¢ 27¢ 25¢

While Optus looks like a slightly better deal, the 12-month contract seems to defeat the purpose of a SIM-only contract. Vodafone's six-month plan isn't the perfect option either, but the trade-off seems fairest to us.

Approx. $100 per month

Carrier Cost Contract Calls Rate (per min) Flagfall SMS
3 Mobile $99 None $1000 70¢ 35¢ 25¢
Vodafone N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
Optus $79 12 months $900 78¢ 35¢ Unlimited
Telstra $100 None $100 44¢ 27¢ 25¢

We give the big spenders medal to Optus regardless of the contract length, $79 for $900 and unlimited SMS messages is far and away the best deal in this price range.

You'll notice that none of the standard SIM-only contracts feature data included, though all of the carriers offer bolt-on data bundles that will add to the monthly expense of a SIM-only contract.

Data bundles — prices per month

Carrier 25MB 50MB 150MB 200MB 250MB 300MB 500MB 1GB 3GB
3 Mobile $5 $8 $20 $40
Vodafone $9.95
Optus $4.99 $9.99 $14.99 $19.99
Telstra $10 $29

3 is by far the most generous with data, though this could have something to do with its 3G network only being available in metro areas. 3 also offers the chance to double the data allocations listed if you choose to lock into a 12-month contract. Telstra also offers 5MB for $5 per month, but seriously, who is going to pay for such a ludicrous amount of data?

iPhone owners get a far better deal than everybody else from Optus and Vodafone, and while we think this is outrageously unfair, they are still worth taking a look at.

SIM-only contracts for iPhone

Carrier Cost Contract Calls Rate (per min) Flagfall SMS Data
Vodafone $49 12 months $300 80¢ 35¢ 25¢ 300MB
Vodafone $59 12 months $350 80¢ 35¢ 25¢ 500MB
Vodafone $69 12 months $400 80¢ 35¢ 25¢ 1GB
Vodafone $79 12 months $550 80¢ 35¢ 25¢ 1GB
Vodafone $99 12 months $1000 80¢ 35¢ 25¢ 1GB
Optus $19 12 months $50 92¢ 35¢ 25¢ 100MB
Optus $49 12 months $330 80¢ 35¢ 25¢ 250MB
Optus $59 12 months $330 80¢ 35¢ Unlimited 700MB
Optus $79 12 months $610 78¢ 35¢ Unlimited 1GB

We like the most expensive Optus option best, with 1GB of data and unlimited SMS messages tipping our favour. Let's face it, if you're going to buy one of the most expensive smartphones around you're probably not opposed to an $80 per month contract.

All pricing is in Australian dollars.

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OrlaD posted a comment   

There are lot more mobile provider that have much better deal then those
Carriers C/net have shown here the 3-vodafone-optus-telstra- those don’t give a good deal at all -

 

Michael posted a comment   

Protip - Telstra offers cap plans from $29 up that are equal in dollar value (for the $29) and far superior in actual value. Do a little research (literally just open the main website of the company's mentioned) before writing an article about their offerings.
Also, data isn't $10 for 150mb, and hasn't been for many many months.

 

DG posted a reply   

Your comments are as out of date as mine - phone plans change all the time. this article is from jan 2010!

 

S posted a comment   

I'm on a $30 staff members month to month plan and it costs me the same as a $49 cap plan and i'm not locked to any contracts and i'm happy to stay where i am and that is on a iphone 4 and i get data on it included as well and that is 1 gb and i know the staff in the telstra shop and i was on optus and i ported my number back to telstra and it was a plan that was not avatised and most of the telstra staff have these plans i got by word and mouth and telstra do them every now and then.

 

whoever posted a comment   

This seams very bias as there are so many other companies doing better deals as I have used Savvytel and TPG and now I am with Think Mobile on their $50 deal which includes $500 but no contract on the Telstra network!

 

MarK posted a comment   

Telstra are renouned for not telling you what you can get, thier key market segment is people who are unforutnately cant use anything else (like me)
They like to leach as much money as possible from people still on their lagacy plans, i was still paying $115 for 3gb when they brought out 5gb for $90, i could change for free, thye just didnt bother to tell me,
now its 6GB for $80 and 39/49 for 3GB. Also there was no mention of Next G caps whatsoever on their website when i initially got a new phone on one, now you can also get with just a 12 month contract

 

Holdup posted a reply   

Do you really think a company will intentionally provide info about cheaper plans? Its your responsibility to figure out the best possible deal you can get. So stop blaming telstra for doing something in their best interests

 

tbgame posted a comment   

In regards to 3's plans, they also offer you a credit on USIM only plans.

On a $29 cap you will get $5 off
and on a $49 cap you will receive $10 off.

 

thunder posted a comment   

i must agree with black baz commented on 01/02/2010 20:43, this survey was narrow a virgin is a big value for money provider so there for the heading of 'best value' is miss leading


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