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New mobile plan era? Pay what you want could be the way of the future

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It might just be the shake-up the mobile phone plan market needs.

Circles.Life heralds itself as an "untelco" dedicated to making the experience of owning a mobile plan less complicated.

With its new "pay-what-you-want" mobile plans, it's bucking the recent trend of telcos restructuring their plans to get you to pay more.

Circles' new plans start from just $5 for 5GB up to $45 for 100GB.

You can increase the price and data by $1 per 1GB increments.

  • Keep in mind: Pay What You Want plans run for 6 renewals. After that, you'll be moved to an ongoing plan with the closest amount of data. For example, you can get 35GB for $15 a month for 6 renewals. This becomes 30GB for $25 a month once the renewals are up.

"Be smart if you're signing up for a time-limited deal like this one," said Finder's editor-at-large and telco expert Angus Kidman. "Set yourself a calendar reminder for 2 weeks before it expires, and then decide if you want to continue or hunt down a new bargain."

You're entitled to a refund if you're not satisfied with the service after 30 days.

Offer ends 30 April 2023.

Why the idea of "pay what you want" could be a game changer

According to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission's (ACCC) latest communications market report, advertised prices for mobile plans have stayed fairly consistent in recent years.

What has changed is the amount of data you get on a mobile plan.

The median amount of data increased across the following:

  • Entry-level plans by 20% to 12GB
  • Mid-range plans by 7% to 32GB
  • Higher-end plans by 12% to 60GB

Last month Vodafone stopped offering 5 postpaid plans (including an unlimited data plan) to simplify things for its customers.

In reality, it leaves customers with just 3 data-heavy options to choose from: 40GB, 150GB and 300GB.

These mirror Telstra's own plan changes last year with 40GB, 180GB and 300GB allowances.

That leaves just Optus out of the big 3 telcos to offer postpaid plans with 30GB, 100GB, 220GB and 360GB data allowances.

How much data do Australians need on a mobile plan?

It all still ends up being too much data for the average Aussie.

According to the ACCC, the average consumer uses just 10.2GB of data a month.

Finder's Consumer Sentiment Tracker survey points to a similar theme. Respondents reported an average of 60GB of mobile plan data with 54% of respondents saying they usually had a lot left over and just 16% reporting they used all their mobile data. 30% said they used most of it.

You can see how much data you use on your monthly bill or use our mobile data usage calculator to get an estimate.

"People often make the mistake of overestimating their data usage and pay too much 'just in case'," Kidman said. "Check your usage regularly and switch down if you're paying for excess you don't need."

Unlimited and long-expiry plans offer more choice

A couple of smaller providers offer "unlimited data plans" which work by slowing down your speed once you use up your data allowance.

This means you can keep using your plan without worrying about excess data charges.

Finder Green Award winners Belong and felix both present affordable options.

Telstra-owned Belong has 20GB, 40GB and 100GB data allowances starting from $25 a month.

Vodafone-owned felix offers truly unlimited data but caps the speeds at 20Mbps at all times. You can try it from just $17.50 a month for the first 3 months with our exclusive offer ($35 a month ongoing after).

Long-expiry plans are another way to pay less for an amount of data closer to what you might use.

While the upfront cost is higher, they tend to work out just as cheap, if not cheaper than a month-to-month plan in the long run.

Michelle Kwong's first-hand experience

How Michelle gets the best mobile plan deal

Once I realised I only used around 3GB a month on my old plan, I started looking at 5GB a month plans. Comparing my options, the month-to-month 5GB plans seemed quite expensive costing around $15–$25 a month. I ended up finding Boost's 365 long-expiry plan which uses the full Telstra network. I get 140GB for $200 working out to be around 11GB a month for $16.
— Michelle Kwong, Associate publisher for utilities at Finder

Looking for a better deal? Start comparing mobile plans today.

Image: Supplied: Nicolas Menijes

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