There’s no such thing as the "best phone plan for everyone", but that shouldn’t stop you finding the your ideal plan.
Shopping around for the best mobile phone plan can get a little confusing these days. Before you even start looking you need to decide whether you want a prepaid or a postpaid plan, if you want to get a phone on contract, and how much you want to spend every month. Then you need to consider a huge range of providers, work out how much data you need every month and whether you need to make and receive lots of phone calls.
Once all that's done, there's questions about bonuses like unmetered Netflix streaming or access to a nationwide Wi-Fi network. Do you want cheap movie tickets? Are you going to update your phone more frequently than every two years?
Basically, all this adds up to a simple maxim: There is no universal "best phone plan". Everyone is different and has different needs, and there are various phone plans out there to meet those needs. It’s all about selecting the plan that works best for you.
What makes a plan the "best" plan?
Think about how you use your phone. You may send texts every few minutes to your friends, or you may prefer to spend the bulk of your time streaming Netflix on the train. You may make heaps of phone calls, or you may just want a phone that lets people contact you in case of emergency without being used otherwise.
No matter how you use your phone, ultimately the best phone plan is the one that takes into account who you are and how you use your device. Sadly, there's no one-size-fits-all plan that suits every phone user. If there was, the telcos would probably make even more money.
How do you choose a phone plan?
As with most decisions, the hard work is done in the preparation and planning. If you understand your usage needs, then you'll be able to find the phone plan that best suits those needs.
There are some key factors that you should absolutely consider as part of your preparation. The three main differentiators telcos use for their plans are calls (and texts), included data and price. Consider how much allowance you need for those three components, and use that to springboard your research. The fact that many of today's plans include unlimited standard national calls and texts makes it even easier for you.
Defining your budget will refine your plan choices significantly. If you want 20GB of data a month but can only afford a $40 plan, you may not get what you want. But thanks to the huge range of MVNOs on the market now, there's a good chance you'll get a pretty solid data offering somewhere.
There are plenty of other things to consider as well. Do you like getting bonuses as part of your contract? Do you want the freedom to chop and change providers to get a better deal? Do you make international calls? Each provider offers something a little bit different with each of their plans, so it's worth comparing the different offerings using our mobile plan comparison tool to find the ideal plan for your needs.
What are the different types of phone plans to consider?
There are two main types of plans you need to think about before signing a contract or buying a SIM card.
- Prepaid plans. With these types of plans, you pay in advance for the mobile services you will use. When you use up all of your allotted data, calls or texts (or the expiry period ends), you won't be charged more money automatically - your phone service will instead just stop working. To prevent this from happening, you recharge your phone by purchasing another batch of credit in advance, which usually costs $10 or more. This credit lets you make phone calls, use data and send SMS messages. Prepaid plans are ideal for those who don’t want to commit to a contract. They are a good option for kids, as they allow you to control their spending and phone use by pre-purchasing their credit for them. There are also long expiry options, which let you prepay in bulk, saving significant sums of money.
- Postpaid plans. These plans require you to sign a contract that lasts anywhere between one and 24 months. Every month, you will be given a certain amount of usage for phone calls, texts and data, and if you exceed that amount you will be automatically billed for the excess usage. If you break your contract before it expires, you will also be charged a fee. Heavy phone users are best suited to postpaid plans, as these plans tend to offer greater data inclusions alongside unlimited talk and text. There's also the option to bundle a new phone with a contract, which can be a more affordable way to upgrade your smartphone.
How to compare phone plans to find the best plan for you
- Cost per billing cycle. Cost is usually the driving factor for most people when deciding what plan is best. It’s important to compare how much you will be charged every month, or how often you would need to purchase credit. First, find out how much you can afford to spend every billing cycle on your phone and this will help you compare phones. If you’re a light user, you should be aiming to spend between $15-$30 per month. If you’re a heavy user, expect high data plans to run above $100 per month on major networks.
- Data. Data allows you to use the internet on the go without Wi-Fi. In the smartphone age, data is becoming increasingly important to phone users, with apps from Facebook to Google Maps all needing a data connection. Figure out if you’re a light user of data, a heavy user or if whether you need data at all, and compare phone plans based on this to find the best one for you. Typically, light users should be looking for data inclusions of around 1GB per month, while heavy users should look for data inclusions with more than 8GB per month.
- Excess data and its charges. If you do use data, you need to watch out for excess data charges as it can end up costing you if you go over your data allowance. Compare the excess data charges for each plan and look for one with minimal excess data charges. Many major plans have a standard fee of $10/GB for extra data, but some don't, so it's worth checking.
- Network. The quality of the network you use is an extremely important consideration. Ultimately, all providers use all or parts of either the Telstra, Optus or Vodafone 3G and 4G networks. Coverage is different for each network, and currently Telstra's 4G network is capable of faster speeds with certain devices. If you travel frequently, international roaming offers like Vodafone's $5/day service could be an important decision.
- Service quality. For some people, the level of service you receive is an important deciding factor. Check out and compare the level of customer service on offer and compare plans accordingly.
Frequently asked questions
Can I bring my existing number to a new phone plan?
In most circumstances, you can bring your existing number to a new plan. It’s best to check this first directly with the service carrier to see if you can keep your number. Our guide to mobile number porting will help guide you through the process.
Is it cheaper to purchase my phone and plan together?
There's no definitive answer, but our comparison engine conveniently lets you compare the overall costs between buying a phone on contract or buying it outright and then getting a cheaper SIM plan. Simply select the phone you want to buy, then choose the Outright vs Contract button above the table.