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
Destination Call cost Text cost Data cost
China $3.50/minute 75c $3/MB
Indonesia $4.00/minute 75c $3/MB
New Zealand $1.50/minute 75c $3/MB
UK $2.00/minute 75c $3/MB
USA $3.00/minute 75c $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
Destination Call cost Text cost Data cost
China $1.00/minute 50c 50c/MB
Indonesia $1.00/minute 50c 50c/MB
New Zealand $1.00/minute 50c 50c/MB
UK $1.00/minute 50c 50c/MB
USA $1.00/minute 50c 50c/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 Type Text Cost Data Cost
365 Day, Pay as you go, TXT & Talk, TXT & Data 75c $51.20/MB
Combo, Flexi Cap & Prepaid Cap $3.50 $51.20/MB
Vodafone All-time 75c $51.20/MB

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

Vodafone Prepaid Call Costs
Destination Call cost: 365 Day, Pay as you go, TXT and Talk, TXT and Data Call cost: Combo, Flexi and Prepaid cap Call cost: Vodafone All-Time
China N/A N/A N/A
Indonesia $2.78/minute 12.90/minute $2.80/minute
New Zealand 78c/minute $5.40/minute 80c/minute
UK $2.28/minute $8.40/minute $2.30/minute
USA $2.78/minute $12.90/minute $2.80/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 Kidman is a multi-award-winning consumer technology journalist and the Tech & Telco Editor at finder.com.au. He's been writing about consumer technology topics for more than two decades, and enjoys breaking down complex topics into their component parts. He has written for just about every major Australian technology publication, and is a former editor of Gizmodo Australia, PC Mag Australia, and CNET.com.au.

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2 Responses

  1. 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.

    • Default Gravatar
      LiezlSeptember 4, 2017

      Hi Parispete,

      Thanks for reaching out.

      Most travel SIMs sold in Australia are designed to work in multiple countries, but the way they charge for services can vary widely depending on where you’re travelling and the services you wish to access. You may compare roaming plans and charges on this page and see which one suits you best. Alternatively, you may also forgo using global roaming and purchase a travel pack from your mobile carrier. You can check this page for more data pack and SIM card options.

      I hope this has helped.

      Cheers,
      Liezl

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