SIM-only plans offer a solution to make the most of the smartphone you already own.
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What is a SIM-only mobile plan?
As the name suggests, a SIM-only mobile phone plan concentrates on providing only a mobile phone SIM card, through which mobile call, text and data services are delivered. It doesn't include a bundled phone, so if you need a new handset consider a contract plan instead.
SIM only mobile phone plans operate on a postpaid basis with a set level of supplied calls, texts and data usage. You are then billed at the end of each billing cycle, typically monthly, for your service. If you use more than your allowance, you may end up paying more.
- Enjoy freedom without running out of credit
- Better choice for travelling internationally
- Flexibility of a month-to-month prepaid plan
- Switch plans, carriers or phones at your convenience (usually monthly)
- Potential for bill shock as in postpaid contract plans
- No phone inclusion - you'll need to BYO
What’s the difference between SIM-only and prepaid mobile plans?
On one level, there’s not much difference between a postpaid SIM only plan and a prepaid one, because all the telco will provide you is a tiny sliver of plastic to fit into your phone. Depending on your device, you will need a regular, micro or nano SIM card.
With a prepaid plan you pay for your usage upfront and that’s all you’ll get unless you buy add-on packs to cover additional usage. Postpaid SIM only packs won’t "run out" of value, but instead charge you on a predetermined basis for additional usage. These days this is most pertinent in relation to data usage, as many SIM only plans offer unlimited calls and texts within Australia as standard.
The other big difference between SIM plans and prepaid plans is in the level of value you’re offered at the same price tier. In return for the prospect of additional cash for month-to-month SIM plans, or a minimum overall spend in the case of 12 or 24 month SIM only contracts, you can often get more data, or better call and text packages than on some prepaid plans. As always, it pays to do your research.Back to topBack to top
How should I compare SIM only plans?
- Monthly minimum cost: The monthly minimum is the least you’ll pay each month for a SIM only plan. You do need to remember that any additional usage (such as roaming, overseas calls or excess data) will incur additional costs, but you’ll never spend less than the minimum, because the contract is structured that way.
- Data charging: Different SIM only plans come with different levels of data, and with the rise of "unlimited" call/texts packages, this is a key differentiator. If you spend a lot of time on Facebook or watching YouTube videos, go for a plan with plenty of data, but also make sure you can easily buy data top-ups. It's also important to check whether your provider counts data charges per KB block, rather than a larger amount as this will eat up your data quickly. We have a guide to how different providers count data if you want to know more.
- Network coverage: SIM only plans can be procured from a large number of providers, but they will only ever be using one of three different networks. Telstra, Optus and Vodafone provide the infrastructure for every mobile provider, so it’s worth checking both coverage and expected speeds for the SIM only carrier of your choice, as not every MVNO has access to the full 4G network of its parent provider.While network coverage maps are largely indicative rather than entirely accurate, they're a good gauge of overall coverage that can help you decide which provider to choose. Our guide to the difference between 3G and 4G covers this in more detail.
- International coverage:
One of the key benefits of a contract plan is that pretty much any supported global roaming country will be open to you to use – for a fee. If you travel regularly, it’s well worth looking at the relative costs for global roaming usage in your most common destinations, as that could make a given provider much better value than a competitor. The flip side of this is that if you don’t travel but do make a lot of calls to international destinations, it’s well worth checking if your destination of choice is on a reduced or even free call list with a given provider. As the value equation has shifted away from national fixed line and mobile calls to data, we’re seeing more providers offer packages that include international calling provisions as an added extra.
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