Roaming with your existing prepaid mobile plan

Reduce your global roaming costs with these handy tips.

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 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 simply not offering any kind of global roaming at all.

Roaming with Telstra prepaid

Global roaming is automatically activated on Telstra's prepaid plans, with an alert SMS indicating the rates you’ll pay when you land at your destination and a connection 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 a prepaid plan with Telstra for five popular destinations.

Prices collected on 19 September 2019

DestinationCall costText costData cost
China$3.50/minute65c$3/MB
Indonesia$4.00/minute65c$3/MB
New Zealand$1.50/minute65c$3/MB
UK$2.00/minute65c$3/MB
USA$3.00/minute65c$3/MB

Telstra also offers a range of International Roaming Browse Plus packs you can add to your prepaid service. These include a fixed amount of data for use exclusively while you're roaming and work out significantly cheaper than the $3 per MB cost of pay-as-you-go data.

Prices collected on 19 September 2019

$29 add-on$85 add-on$160 add-on
Data100MB300MB600MB
Expiry30 days30 days30 days

Roaming with Optus prepaid

As with its postpaid plans, Optus splits the available roaming world into two distinct zones with set pricing, regardless of 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 Travel Credit add-ons instead of using your existing credit balance should you so wish.

Optus’s 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’s Zone 1 designation for charging purposes:

Prices collected on 19 September 2019

DestinationCall costText costData cost
China$1.00/minute50c50c/MB
Indonesia$1.00/minute50c50c/MB
New Zealand$1.00/minute50c50c/MB
UK$1.00/minute50c50c/MB
USA$1.00/minute50c50c/MB

Roaming with Vodafone prepaid

Unfortunately, Vodafone’s prepaid roaming offerings are distinct from its $5 Roaming offer for postpaid plan customers. You can choose to pay-as-you-go according to Vodafone's global roaming rates, or you can purchase a range of prepaid roaming add-ons that cover a select number of the most popular destinations in America, Europe, Asia and Africa. These prepaid roaming add-ons come with an allotment of incoming and outgoing call minutes, a quota of texts and a data cap. These add-ons are short-term solutions, operating on either a three-day or seven-day expiry.

Prices collected on 19 September 2019

$25 roaming add-on$25 roaming data add-on$35 roaming add-on$35 roaming data add-on
Expiry3 days3 days7 days7 days
Data100MB200MB250MB500MB
Incoming/outgoing call minutes30minsN/A60minsN/A
Text messages30 SMSN/A60 SMSN/A
Price$25$25$35$35

For destinations that aren't covered by the prepaid roaming add-ons, Vodafone charges fixed rates across all its current prepaid plans. So long as the country you're visiting is covered by Vodafone's roaming service (you can check the full list here), you'll be charged at the following rates:

Prices collected on 19 September 2019

Calls$1 per 60 seconds (making and receiving)
Text messages$0.75 per message sent
MMS$0.75 per message sent
Data$1 per MB

Roaming with other providers

For other providers, the accessibility of global roaming varies widely. None of the carriers using parts of Telstra’s 3G network 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.

Global roaming alternatives

If roaming with your existing prepaid plan isn't an option, there are plenty of alternatives you can consider. Purchasing a prepaid SIM from the country you're travelling to is often a very affordable option, as is buying a prepaid travel SIM prior to departure. You can learn about these options and more in our guide to global roaming.


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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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