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Best mobile plans for students

Whether you're just starting off your tertiary studies or looking for a new plan to see you through to completion, we've got the best plans for every type of student.

As a student, a mobile phone is a natural part of your life and is as much a research tool as a communications device. At the same time, you’re coming to grips with balancing a budget that’s nearly always much lighter than you’d like, so making the most of your money is an absolute must.

However, the needs of students vary depending on both personal circumstances and how they use their mobile phones. While different telcos will appeal to students at different times, no provider has designed a plan that fits every type of student in every circumstance just yet. With that in mind, this is what you should consider when picking a plan.

  • Communication or information?
    The good news here is that most plans, especially in the contract space but increasingly also in prepaid, come with unlimited standard national calls and texts. This makes data inclusions all the more important, especially if you use your phone for entertainment as well as your (ahem) more important study matters. Remember that streaming video is a data hog, so plan ahead for your needs rather than being stuck with a bill that you can’t easily pay.
  • Is there a student discount available?
    As a student, you’re not necessarily cashed-up, but telcos are very keen to get your business now in order to secure it further down the line when you’re more affluent. Many telcos offer student-specific discounts on plans, so it’s always worth checking if the plan of your dreams can be had that much cheaper.
  • Entertainment options?
    Does your mobile also act as your entertainment centre? In this case, double down on the data, but also consider plans that include data-free streaming from services such as Spotify or Netflix. They’re not common, but you could save serious money this way.
  • Prepaid or postpaid?
    Prepaid remains the plan choice of the budget-constrained for a reason, because you can’t fall behind on payments when you’re making them upfront. However, postpaid contracts have their place, especially if you want or need a new phone and can’t afford the upfront price of a new handset. They’re also often the plans with the best inclusions for data and other extras.
  • Flexibility to move?
    As a student, you’re quite likely to shift accommodation while you’re studying, but have you considered whether you’re likely to want to shift telcos as well? There’s security in a fixed contract plan price (as long as you stay within data caps), but equally you’re likely to have more time than most to switch around special deals for SIM-only prepaid or month-to-month deals.

Pick of the plans: Which plans are best?

We can’t and won’t pick any one plan as being "ideal" for students, because that would suggest that every student’s wants and needs are identical. What we’ve done is identify different student need types in order to highlight plans that we think offer the best value to those types. You may fit into a number of different categories, which is why we’ve explained our choices along the way, so you can weigh up your real needs and make the best possible plan decision.

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Best plans for budget-conscious students

Rationale: Money is super tight, and while you need a mobile for communication purposes, you absolutely cannot go over budget in any way. It’s not a fun situation to be in, but every cent counts, and as such you need the best value for your fiscally constrained dollar.

Best choices: Jeenee Mammoth plan, Coles Prepaid $20, Amaysim As You Go

We’ve gone with one contract and two prepaid plans here where you might think that prepaid only is the way to go. Jeenee’s Mammoth plan stands out on a pure bang-for-buck level because of its inclusion of 20GB of data along with unlimited calls and texts. The catch is that it’s only 3G, not 4G data, but in constrained circumstances it’s a hard deal to overlook.

In the prepaid space, Coles’ offer of 2GB of data plus unlimited calls and texts over 28 days is hard to overlook. If your budget is particularly tight, consider Amaysim’s As You Go plans, which don’t come packed with extras, but offer simple service with recharges that last up to 365 days.

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Best plans for international students

Rationale: You’re studying here from an international base, or you simply have relatives overseas that you want to stay in regular contact with. As such, a core part of any plan you pick up has to be a significant quantity of international calling inclusions.

Best choices: Lebara Mini Mega Plan, Vodafone MyMix

Lebara’s Mini Mega Plan gives you 1,000 calling minutes to selected countries, along with local and national calls and texts, which should cover quite a bit of international calling depending on your needs. Vodafone’s MyMix prepaid also fits the bill quite nicely as it allows you to build up a prepaid plan that focuses on international calls if that’s your core need.

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Best plans for gap-year students

Rationale: You’re still a student – but you’re taking a gap year to travel around Australia or the world. That doesn’t mean that you can’t stay in touch, but keeping your bills low is also a priority because you’ve got better things to experience with your dough.

Best choices: Telstra Go Mobile Plus BYO, Vodafone $50 RED Global, Vaya Unlimited S 12 Month or Kogan Mobile Small 365 Day

Telstra is an excellent choice if you’re taking a year off and travelling Australia for two simple reasons. Firstly, if you’re going regional its coverage is second to none. Secondly, there’s the allure of Telstra Air, its free Wi-Fi hotspot network across Australia. While data rates on Telstra plans aren’t always the most competitive, being able to jump on a hotspot and use data free that way can add a lot of value for travellers.

If your gap year travels take you much further afield, what you need is a plan with affordable mobile roaming. Again we’d suggest finding local Wi-Fi networks to minimise data costs as much as possible, but within this space it’s hard to overlook Vodafone’s very affordable $5/day global roaming, which could get you out of a tight spot while overseas for relatively low cost.

If you’re not certain what you’re going to do on your gap year but you want the certainty of a fixed mobile spend, then either Vaya’s 12 Month SIM Only prepaid or Kogan Mobile’s 365 Day plans could suit. They deliver a fixed data provision per month plus unlimited calls and texts within Australia at a fixed price that works out as being very competitive on a per-month basis, but as they’re prepaid, you can top up once and then safely not worry about it through your entire gap year.

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Plans for students who want a new phone

For years, you’ve made do with phones most likely handed down from your parents, or simple gift phones at best. With independence comes the ability to choose your own mobile plan and a shiny new handset with it. That choice is quite wide, naturally, but our Mobile Phone Planner can help you tailor the perfect plan with a handset to match your choices. We’ve pre-populated it with an iPhone 7, but you can adjust any variable and add or remove phones easily by clicking on "Modify Results" below.

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