You can spend relatively little on a mobile plan these days, but you should still compare the value on offer to get the best deal.
Finder's favourite cheap mobile plan
Why we like it
Pennytel's 1GB XS plan is a great choice for folks who only need a basic mobile service. For just $10.99 a month, you get unlimited standard talk and text plus 1GB of data, and there are no lock-in contracts to worry about.
Low-cost phone plans
The good news here is that it's really unnecessary to spend much on a phone plan.
Cheap phone plans with 10GB or more
According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, the average mobile handset user downloaded 3GB of data per month around June 2018. Importantly, this did not include all downloads, as the ABS curiously only counts "revenue-generating downloads". We assume this means the average user needs a good bit more than 3GB per month – 10GB is a more reasonable number by today's standards.
With the shift to more plans offering unlimited calls and texts, data has become the key difference for most MVNOs, and that means you can score a 10GB plan for a surprisingly small amount per month, as low as $40.
Here are your current choices for plans at $40 per month or less with more than 10GB:
It's also worth considering plans from Kogan Mobile and other MVNOs that operate on 90- or 365-day prepaid spaces. You pay a lump sum up-front for those plans and get a monthly quota of data to use each month, with frequent deals offering significant value at a price point that equates out to under $40 per month.
Are cheap phone plans worth it?
The word "cheap" has a lot of emotional baggage attached to it because we often equate "cheap" with "shoddy".
However, in the mobile space it's entirely possible to get a "cheap" plan that doesn't deliver shoddy value as long as you compare properly and you're fully aware of what you're getting, and more significantly what you're not getting with your low-cost plan.
The trick is being aware of the pitfalls that can be associated with very low-cost plans. Providers are obliged to offer up a Critical Information Summary (CIS) of charges that you can accrue on any plan, which can make it easier to control your spend and be aware of what you're getting with a given plan, so you should solidly check that before signing up for any plan.
There are other pitfalls to be aware of when choosing a cheap mobile plan, depending on your circumstances and needs:
- Few bundled phone choices. If you need a new handset with your plan, your choices for bundled phones with no repayments are going to be limited to just a few budget phones. You may be better off buying a handset outright and pairing that up with a SIM-only plan.
- Low-cost, short expiry plans can add up. A day-to-day, PAYG or seven-day plan may have an appealingly low price point, but if you're using them over the medium to long term, the costs can quickly accelerate over what you'd pay on a more standard prepaid or postpaid monthly plan.
- Excess usage fees eating up credit. If you're on a postpaid plan, excess data usage is typically charged at $10/GB once you go over, but not always. Check the CIS to see what you'll pay for extra data. If you're a prepaid user, it's worth checking your options for excess data usage, as some providers simply cut your data access, while others offer data boost bundles at varying prices.
- Coverage. Most of the current MVNOs operate on Optus 4G network, but there are those that use Vodafone's network, and some on Telstra's wholesale network. The latter is important for regional coverage, as they typically advertise as being on "parts of" Telstra's 3G or 4G network. That's a smaller footprint than the "full" Telstra network, and one that also offers slower data speeds. Check carefully for the areas you live, work and travel in to ensure you're not paying for coverage you can't get.
- Extra SIM charges. It's becoming less common, but some providers will charge you a flat fee for the SIM used in your handset.
- Prepaid or postpaid. Prepaid plans offer budget certainty while at the lower price points there's not much difference with a postpaid plan. However, if you're willing to sign up to a 12- or 24-month contract for a higher data plan, a postpaid plan can make a lot more sense, as long as you're happy to stay with that provider over one or two years.