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Why opt for SIM-only plans?
SIM-only plans really do offer what they say on the tin: a SIM card for your mobile device of choice, and usually a monthly quota of postpaid usage across calls, texts and data. They differ from classic handset plans in that there is no actual handset included, as it's assumed you'll either be buying a brand-new handset to drop your SIM card into or using one you already own with your new carrier.
What kind of SIM card will I get?
Mobile SIM cards currently come in three different sizes: full, micro or nano. You'll only need one size for your device, so it's really just a question of matching up the SIM card to your phone. Most providers offer a three-size SIM package, where you can use the SIM full size, or pop out the micro or nano-sized version to use in your device. If in doubt, check the specifications for your phone or tablet. Most newer devices will default to nano-SIMs, but if you're using an older device, a micro or full-sized SIM may be required.
What do I get on a SIM-only plan?
Inclusions vary, but typically you should get the following:
- An amount of standard national calls. Many plans offer an unlimited amount.
- An amount of SMS. Again, it's increasingly common to get these as unlimited inclusions.
- A data quota. Typically measured in gigabytes (GB), this is the amount of data you're allowed to use on the network each month. If you go over the limit, you'll generally simply be charged a flat $10 for every GB, or part thereof, that you use until your next billing cycle.
What won't I get?
Many SIM-only plans do now include a quota of international calls, but it's hardly universal, so if you want to call friends or relatives overseas, it'll cost you extra. While standard calls are typically covered, premium services such as premium SMS or operator-assisted calls typically are not, and these will incur additional charges. Some carriers may charge you for checking your voicemail.
Finally, you're usually not covered for any kind of international roaming, so if you use your phone overseas you can incur significant charges.
Benefits of a SIM-only plan
- No handset repayment: If you do need a new phone, a handset plan can make more financial sense. If you have your own phone, a SIM-only plan saves you the cost of handset repayment fees every month. That's more money in your pocket to do with as you please.
- Shorter-term commitment: SIM-only plans are typically available on 12-month or month-to-month rolling terms. You're welcome to stay as long as you like, but if you're not happy with your provider, or a better competing offer pops up, it's easy to transition without incurring penalties for breaking your contract.
- More leverage with your telco: As you have the flexibility to leave, it also gives you the flexibility to bargain with your telco. Even if you're happy after, say, a 12-month SIM-only contract, it's worth contacting your provider to see if they'll offer you a better deal. It only takes a little time, but you could get a large benefit.
Disadvantages of a SIM-only plan
- Lesser value: If you're not committing to the carrier for a longer term, perhaps going with a month-to-month plan, it's less inclined to entice you with tasty deals.
- SIM card costs: SIM cards are cheap and simple, but some carriers still insist on charging a fee simply to send them to you if you're opting for a SIM-only plan.
- Prepaid gives you more control: An advantage of a postpaid contract SIM is that your data is generally topped up at $10 per GB. This is handy for heavy users, but in terms of controlling your spend, prepaid could be a better match.