Roaming with your existing prepaid mobile plan

global-roaming-comparisonIt is possible to roam globally while using a prepaid phone plan, but it’s not always inexpensive to do so. Here is what you need to know to minimise your costs.

Unlike a postpaid plan, roaming with a prepaid plan minimises the possibility of outright bill shock simply because you can't spend more than the amount you've already given your telco before you travel.

The flip side to that, however is that mobile prepaid rates tend to be a lot worse than those on the postpaid side, with few roaming prepaid bargains to be had, and some prepaid providers who simply don't offer any kind of global roaming at all.

Roaming with Telstra prepaid

Telstra automatically enables roaming on prepaid contracts, with an alert SMS indicating the rates you’ll pay when you land at your destination and connect to a compatible network.

Rates vary by destination, with a full interactive map available here.

To give you a comparative view, here are the prices you’ll pay on prepaid with Telstra for five popular destinations.

Telstra Roaming Charges
DestinationCall costText costData cost
New Zealand$1.50/minute75c$3/MB

Roaming with Optus prepaid

As with its postpaid plans, Optus splits the available roaming world into two distinct zones with set pricing, whether you’re on a My Prepaid Daily or Monthly plan. The daily plans are charged against your credit balance, while the monthly plans offer the ability to purchase a $20 Travel Credit add-on or use your existing credit balance.

Optus’ overall world map of available countries has most popular destinations in zone 1, with a smattering of countries in zone 2; outside of those locations roaming is not available if you’re an Optus prepaid customer. You can check specific Optus destinations here but for comparative purposes here are the same five locations, all of which fit in Optus’ "Zone 1" designation for charging purposes:

Optus Roaming Charges
DestinationCall costText costData cost
New Zealand$1.00/minute50c50c/MB

Roaming with Vodafone prepaid

Vodafone’s prepaid roaming offerings operate on a PAYG basis only, as distinct from its $5 Roaming offer for postpaid plan customers. Pricing varies by country for calls, and for which particular Vodafone Prepaid plan you’re on. Here are the data and call rates for each type of Vodafone Prepaid plan:

Vodafone Prepaid Plan Rates
Plan TypeText CostData Cost
365 Day, Pay as you go, TXT & Talk, TXT & Data75c$51.20/MB
Combo, Flexi Cap & Prepaid Cap$3.50$51.20/MB
Vodafone All-time75c$51.20/MB

For those three plan types, this is what you pay for calls to five popular travel destinations:

Vodafone Prepaid Call Costs
DestinationCall cost: 365 Day, Pay as you go, TXT and Talk, TXT and DataCall cost: Combo, Flexi and Prepaid capCall cost: Vodafone All-Time
New Zealand78c/minute$5.40/minute80c/minute

Roaming with other providers

For other providers, the accessibility of global roaming varies widely. None of the carriers using parts of Telstra’s 3G networks offer any kind of global roaming, although Boost Mobile, which has access to Telstra’s full network does.

On the Optus and Vodafone MVNO side of the fence it varies quite widely as to whether roaming is supported or not. Your best bet if you’re using another provider is to check their roaming plans before you travel to ensure uninterrupted phone use while you’re away.

Alex Kidman

Alex is the Telco Editor at He's been writing about consumer technology topics for the best part of two decades, and enjoys breaking down complex topics into their component parts.

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