A prepaid mobile phone plan offers an easy and affordable way to take control of your phone usage.
What is a prepaid plan?
As the name suggests, prepaid plans require regular upfront payments for your mobile phone service, as distinct from postpaid plans, which hit you with a bill at the end of each contract period. Prepaid plans can have expiry periods that range from as little as 10 days and right up to 365 days, though the majority tend to run for around 30 days.
Prepaid plans work on a recharge basis, where you pay for an allotment of calls, texts and data usage, to use within a period of time. Once you have used your call credit, or reached your expiry date, you buy another recharge to continue service on your mobile.
Recharges can be purchased directly from your phone, by calling your provider or using its website, with some larger providers also offering prepaid purchase options at supermarkets and other retail outlets.
Which mobile prepaid plans are available?
Now that you understand the basics of prepaid mobile plans, it's time to choose the right one for you. Our Mobile Phone Plan Finder above can help you sort through the available prepaid plans. You can adjust any figure you like by clicking on "Modify Results" to generate the right plan for your needs and compare against every prepaid plan in the market today.
Why would I choose a prepaid plan?
The key benefit of a prepaid plan is that it fully allows you to control your mobile spending. That's because you can only use up to the quantity of calls, texts or data that you have already paid for. If you want more service then you'll have to pay more, but you'll never be hit with an unexpected bill, because you're paying for your service upfront.
The other benefit that prepaid plans offer is that your commitment to a given provider is defined by the length of your prepaid plan, which is typically a month. If you see a better deal, or you're unhappy with the service being offered, it's easy to jump to a new carrier while retaining your existing mobile number. For a comprehensive run-through on retaining your mobile number when changing mobile providers, check out our guide on how to port your mobile number.
A prepaid plan can also be a money saver compared to a contract plan. The total cost of buying a handset outright and then paying for a prepaid service across 24 months can be cheaper than a contract deal. Our mobile phone plan comparison tool can help you decide, by helping you compare the cost of outright buy plus prepaid to a contract deal for any phone available in Australia.
Prepaid vs Contract plans
What are the downsides of prepaid plans?
The most obvious downside of a prepaid plan is that you're buying a package with a fixed value, and if you burn through that value before the end of your expiry period, then your calling, texting or data access will be cut off unless you spend more money on either a full new recharge or a top-up pack.
Prepaid plans usually have slightly more expensive data rates than their postpaid counterparts. For very low-cost prepaid plans this is also true for voice and text rates, but many mid to high-end prepaid plans now offer unlimited calls and texts packages within Australia.
You also need to pay close attention to the expiry date for a given prepaid plan, because they're not all alike. Some "month" plans will last for 30 days, while others offer a 28-day recharge cycle. Plans with long expiry dates offer longer-term value, but often at the expense of competitive data, calling or texting rates.
Can I get a phone with my prepaid plan?
The typical answer to this question is no, because prepaid plans are configured for those who already have their own phone. If you want a new mobile phone to go with a prepaid service, you're going to have to shell out for its entire cost upfront.
That said, there are a number of handsets that are sold as "prepaid" phones. These are usually cheap phones and are often locked to a given provider, so if you do want to switch providers at some point an unlocking fee may apply.
How should I compare prepaid plans?
Cost of recharge: If your usage varies, it makes sense to use the flexibility of a prepaid plan by altering your monthly recharge amount, which you can typically do without penalty. However, you need to be aware of the minimum recharge amount required to maintain your phone service.
Data charging: Different prepaid plans come with different levels of data, and with the rise of "unlimited" call/texts packages, this is a key differentiator. If you're busy on your smartphone, go for a plan with plenty of data, but also make sure you can easily buy data top-ups and that 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: While there are many prepaid providers, they're all using one of just three networks, run by Telstra, Optus and Vodafone. Not all providers have access to those carrier's 4G networks, or the full network map. 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: If you regularly make overseas calls, or travel a lot, it's worth reading the fine print on any prepaid plan. Some providers specifically target international callers with attractive rates to call overseas or even included calling minutes to popular destinations. However, if you head overseas, it's a different story; many prepaid SIMs don't offer any roaming functions for use overseas. Even if they do, the rates for prepaid roaming are generally high, so choose carefully.
Get a new prepaid mobile deal with our prepaid plan finder
|Kogan Mobile Medium 30 days||5GB||Vodafone 4G|
|Yomojo Mobile Unlimited 6GB||6GB||Optus 4G|
|OVO for Mobile $24.95||2GB||Optus 4G|
|Lycamobile Unlimited XS||2GB||Telstra 3G|
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