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International roaming with your existing prepaid plan

Reduce your global roaming costs with these handy tips.

Young travelling couple on a phone

International roaming isn't restricted to postpaid plans alone — many prepaid plans come with the option for you to take your handset overseas and get service. Be aware that most of these providers will charge you pay-as-you-go (PAYG) rates which are far more expensive than making calls or sending texts in Australia.

We go through what you need to know in regard to prepaid roaming and include up-to-date roaming rates for five of the most popular places Australians travel to: China, India, New Zealand, the UK and the US.

Telstra prepaid international roaming

Telstra has drastically simplified its roaming in recent years into a one-size-fits-all model. With Telstra, you will automatically be charged $10 a day ($5 in New Zealand) if you use your service overseas in 1 of 70 countries. You'll get unlimited standard calls and SMS, as well as 500MB of data.

After you've exceeded your data cap, you'll be charged $10 per extra 1GB of data you use. If you're not in an included country, you'll get charged PAYG rates as per the following table.

ChinaIndiaNew ZealandUnited KingdomUnited States
Make or receive calls$3.50/min$3.50/min$1.50/min$2.00/min$3.00/min
Send SMS$0.75/SMS$0.75/SMS$0.75/SMS$0.75/SMS$0.75/SMS
Cost of data$3.00/MB$3.00/MB$3.00/MB$3.00/MB$3.00/MB

Optus prepaid roaming

There are a couple of options when it comes to roaming on an Optus prepaid plan. If you're on any prepaid plan, you can buy a $20 Data Roaming pack which gives you 14 days of 10GB for use in 10 countries. There's also a $10 Travel Credit pack that gives you $10 to use on international talk, text and data roaming.

Outside of this, you'll be charged at international roaming rates that are the same no matter which plan you're on. Charges will be subtracted from your prepaid credit on Long Expiry or Daily Plus. You'll have to buy $10 or $20 of Extras Credit on Epic Data to access roaming.

ChinaIndiaNew ZealandUnited KingdomUnited States
Make or receive calls$1.00/min$1.00/min$1.00/min$1.00/min$1.00/min
Send SMS$0.50/SMS$0.50/SMS$0.50/SMS$0.50/SMS$0.50/SMS
Cost of data$0.50/MB$0.50/MB$0.50/MB$0.50/MB$0.50/MB

Finder survey: Are Australian travellers of different ages more likely to use international roaming on their current plan or buy a travel SIM?

Response75+ yrs65-74 yrs55-64 yrs45-54 yrs35-44 yrs25-34 yrs18-24 yrs
Buy a local SIM when I arrive24.14%9.71%10.47%9.33%9.64%9.63%10.31%
Keep current plan and use international roaming18.97%14.86%15.12%10.88%9.64%10.55%4.12%
Buy a travel SIM before I fly out8.62%12.57%6.98%7.25%4.06%7.34%7.22%
Source: Finder survey by Pure Profile of 1110 Australians, December 2023

Vodafone prepaid roaming

With a Vodafone prepaid plan, you can purchase 1 of 3 roaming packs for $5, $15 or $35. Expiry periods range from 1 to 7 days, data from 200MB to 2GB, 25 mins to 200 mins of standard incoming and outgoing calls and 30 to 300 SMS. These prepaid roaming add-ons only apply in 80 countries.

Otherwise, you will be charged international roaming rates that depend on the country you're in. Charges will be deducted from your prepaid credit based on your usage.

ChinaIndiaNew ZealandUnited KingdomUnited States
Make or receive calls$1.00/min$1.00/min$1.00/min$1.00/min$1.00/min
Send SMS$0.75/SMS$0.75/SMS$0.75/SMS$0.75/SMS$0.75/SMS
Cost of data$1.00/MB$1.00/MB$1.00/MB$1.00/MB$1.00/MB

More prepaid international roaming options

Some mobile providers have extra roaming options on their prepaid plans beyond simple PAYG rates deducted from your credit. Here are a couple:

  • Catch Connect. Add "Catch Extras" credit to your plan in increments of $5, $10, $20 or $50. This credit lasts for 30 days up to a maximum of $500 at a time.
  • Moose Mobile. Make a $200 prepayment before you go roaming overseas. So long as there is more than $50 left when you return to Australia, the remainder will be refunded to your account.

Is it a good idea to roam using a prepaid plan?

Roaming on a prepaid plan could come in handy in emergency situations if you need a hit of Internet while you're out and about. Just remember to turn your roaming off right after you use your phone or it'll keep incurring charges.

But if you're planning to use your mobile plan quite a bit while you're overseas, using a prepaid plan and paying often outrageous roaming rates is not always the best idea. You're likely to end up spending quite a lot of money on roaming without realising it. Fortunately, there are alternatives. We have a guide if you're interested. Consider these options instead if you're looking for a more budget-friendly way to use your phone while travelling:

  • Travel or global SIM. For example, Australia Post sells a prepaid TravelSIM that lets you stay connected while you're overseas. You can also send free texts and make free calls between your TravelSIM and other TravelSIMs. Many of these kinds of SIMs exist, from different providers.
  • Local SIMs. If you're in a foreign country, you can usually pick up a local SIM or phone plan to cover you while you're there.
  • Data services. Find some free local Wi-Fi or get an overseas pure data pack and use services like email, WhatsApp or other online messaging to get in contact without needing to call.

Image: Getty

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Sam Baran is a writer for Finder, covering topics across the tech, telco and utilities sectors. They enjoy decrypting technical jargon and helping people compare complex products easily. When they aren't writing, you'll find Sam's head buried in a book or working on their latest short story. Sam has a Bachelor of Advanced Science from the University of Sydney. See full bio

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One Response

    Default Gravatar
    parispeteSeptember 2, 2017

    I am a retired Aussie and travel constantly.
    Up to now I’ve used one prepaid Lebara phone for each country.
    Somebody recently gave me a smart phone, so I’d like to investigate having a single plan – probably based in Sydney – for worldwide use.
    I realise this will cost more, but the convenience of just one phone might make this worthwhile.
    I’d really welcome any suggestions.

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