Best Prepaid Mobile Plans For Summer 2013

By Mike Wheeler

By Mike Wheeler

I’ve always been a fan of prepaid mobile phone plans as opposed to having a pay-as-you-go plan because I don’t trust myself not to go over my limit. As the father of an almost teenage son who has already had a run in with bill shock, a prepaid plan puts the brakes on unwanted bills. While I was treated well by his provider (Optus – they gave me a free pass on the first one), their patience can only last for so long. So prepaid it is.

However, like any mobile or broadband plan, the devil is in the details. You might get a fantastic amount of credit for calls or texts, but the rate charged per phone call or cost-per-text might be high. Another plan might give you a huge data allowance, but scrimp on the amount of credit for calls and texts.  With all this in mind, we trolled through the five most well-known carriers and looked at their various prepaid offerings. Telstra and Vodafone offer up a huge number of plans, while Amaysim and Virgin Mobile less so with Optus being somewhere in the middle. What we looked for was overall value for an average user. We didn’t look at it from the point of view of a teenager, pensioner or business man or woman, just what we thought offered up the best bang for your buck.

NB: Each vender has different call and SMS rates, and they also vary on how they charge – ie whether it be for partial or whole minutes. For a more detailed look at what the charges-per-minute are, click on the button that explains them when you go to the plan’s URL – needless to say, for this exercise, they were similar and were taken into consideration when collecting the information.

Optus – $50 Prepaid Social Plan
Optus gives you a range of different plans to choose from, but we think its Prepaid Social $50 plan is best. It gives you unlimited voice calls to other Optus mobiles and unlimited SMS’s to Australian mobiles. It also gives unlimited access to Facebook, Twitter, and eBay. You have 450 minutes of talk time to other mobiles (per minute increments) and a more than reasonable 2.5GB of data. You will also get $50 worth of credit so if you go over your data, SMS or c all limit, you’ll be notified that you have$50 left before your prepaid runs out. Also available from the company are Crew Cap, Long Expiry Cap and $2 Days prepaid plans.

Amaysim – $39.90 Unlimited Plan
 For $39.90 Amaysim’s Unlimited Plan is exactly what the description says it is – unlimited. You get unlimited standard calls to mobiles, landlines, voicemail and 1300 and 1800 numbers, unlimited standard SMS and access to social media;  no flagfall, and a huge 4GB of data. The plan lasts 30 days, and the only slight bump in the road is that it is a reseller of Optus, which means it is not quite the best provider in terms of coverage.

Telstra – $70 Cap Encore Plan
Telstra’s prepaid options are a logistical nightmare to go through – there are Cap Encore, Beyond Talk, Simplicity, Long life and Blackberry plans available for purchase, with each one aimed at a particular group (we think).  Telstra is pretty stingy on the data front, but is reasonably generous with its talk time and SMS. However, because of its miserly data output, it’s really hard to decide what plan would be best for the average punter. After a few arguments too and fro, we’d go for the $70 Cap Encore plan. It gives you $1430 dollars of credit and 1.5GB of data. If you go over the 1.5GB of data, you will be charged $2 per MB after that – it is important to note that the $2 comes out of the $1430 credit, and is not added to your account. Of course, what Telstra has in its favour is that it has the most coverage throughout Australia, which is more likely than not it can afford to be less generous than some of its competitors.

Virgin Mobile – $29 Prepaid Plan
Virgin are also pretty tight-fisted in the data spectrum, with its $19 prepaid plan giving you only 250MB, while its four other plans (between $29-$99) only give you 1GB. However, it does offer something unique in that it has a graduation plan, in that every time you recharge it increases the amount of credit, up until the fourth time. For example, if you are on the $19 plan you get $100 credit. When you recharge on the same plan they give you $150. By the fourth recharge of $19 you are on $250 credit. A couple of bonuses are that you get unlimited mobile and SMS to other Virgin mobile users within Australia, and they will roll over any unused credit from the month before. So which is the best plan? All things being equal we’d go for the $29 plan because you’ll end up with about $600 credit.

Vodafone – $49 Flexi Cap Plan
Full disclosure here. I have been on the Vodafone $29 Flexicap plan for the best part of four years. This isn’t to say I’m over the moon with it; the closer truth being that I can’t be bothered changing because it meets my needs. Like Telstra, it has a huge number of plans – almost too many – with us wondering why you’d bother with some of them. They have the PrePaid Cap, All-time, 365 Day Recharge, Vodafone International, TXT & Talk, and aforementioned Flexi Cap Plans. Phew! After scouring through them all, predicably I’d take their Flexi Cap plan, but not the one I’m on – I like the look of the $49 one better. This is mainly due to data allowance – you go from 500MB on my plan to 3GB on the $49 – a whopping six times more for $20 extra. You also get $350 flexible credit and $650 worth of voice calls to other Vodafone mobiles. This is probably the only hole in their plan because you only have the $350 to cover all other texts and calls. They are also a little cheeky in that their plans run for 28 days. When I first started they were 30 day plans.

After comparing all the prepaid plans of all the major players in the Australian market, it’s clear that carriers base their plans by market share, accessibility to networks, and the what their competitors are doing. For example, Telstra knows it has the best network in terms of coverage, and relies on that to give it a head start and can therefore afford to be a little more expensive.  Whereas Amaysim’s offering – on paper at least – looks the best by a long shot, but they probably have to give more in order to build their business and try and make a niche for themselves in such a cutthroat market.

Overall, the prepaid market seems to have all bases covered in terms of the wants and needs of Australian mobile users. And the future? We expect that as smartphones get smarter, data allocations will increase at cheaper prices – 500MB of data being offered will be a thing of the past, and increments of 5GB or even 10GB will become the norm.

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