What happens if I stay on my old mobile plan?

Alex Kidman 10 January 2017

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When your contract expires, you stay on the same plan as long as you keep paying, but this isn’t always the best option.

If you’ve signed up for a 24-month contract, or even if you’ve just signed up for a 28-day prepaid plan, the time will come when your contract ends.

That doesn’t spell the end of your service, though. As long as you keep paying your monthly contract fees or topping up your prepaid, you'll remain connected. Once the contract period is over, either side can terminate at the agreed notice period (typically a month), but telcos don’t often enforce this.

It’s not hard to see why. It’s in the interest of a telco to keep you on board as a customer, and anything that adds friction is something that’s likely to see you at least considering other offers. Exact figures are near impossible to come by, but it’s quite certain that a large number of folks stay on the same plan, month in and month out, without ever changing. This often isn’t the best idea in order to get the best value for money, even if you don’t want to switch carriers.

The downsides of staying on the same plan

The biggest downside to sticking with the same plan, especially if it’s a 24-month contract, is that plan provisions change on a constant basis and usually tick upwards in terms of included value. In the past couple of years we’ve seen a huge growth in the number of plans that offer unlimited standard national calls and texts. Your older plan probably still has either call minutes or a “credit” for calls that limits your usage in this respect.

More significantly, with the massive growth in mobile data usage, we’ve seen more plans with multi-gigabyte data allowances pop up, even at budget price points. Sticking with an older plan means you’re paying more for your data, and may also miss out on the near-standard $10/GB excess charging most telcos opt for.

The upsides of staying on the same plan

This is not to say that there are no circumstances in which sticking to your existing plan is a good idea. For some plans, the shift in value isn’t always a positive one, especially if you’re looking at prepaid deals where issues like 28-day or 30-day expiry come into play, or other recharge bonuses or extra features are considered.

Any carrier will happily switch you to a new plan if your existing contract has expired, but it’s well worth weighing up the relative costs of doing so. Once a plan is no longer offered, the standard is that anyone on that plan will usually be accommodated on it for as long as they keep paying, but if you switch away from it, there’s no switching back to the old plan, because it simply won’t exist anymore.

My contract has expired: What should I do?

If you’re after the greatest value for your money, and you should be, your best option is to consider and compare the deal you’re currently on with not only your existing provider but across the wide variety of both carriers and mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs) offering services in Australia. It’s trivial to keep your existing number if you switch providers, with most instances only taking a few minutes to change from one telco to another.

Even if you don’t want to change providers, you should definitely investigate the current offers from your existing provider, because the odds are pretty good that in the two years or more since you signed up, the included value at the price you’re paying monthly has increased markedly. That means you could be getting more calls, texts or data inclusions for your current spend, or even shift down to a lower tier plan price if you’re satisfied with what you’re currently getting.

If you’re happy with your current handset, you should consider going on a “SIM-only” plan, either over a 12-month term or on a month-to-month basis. Once your contract has concluded, any handset offered on that plan is yours to keep, so if you don’t feel the need to upgrade, why contract for a longer term?

On the other hand, if you’re keen on upgrading your current phone, whether due to a couple of years of knocks, bumps and maybe a screen break or two, or simply because you fancy something new and shiny, you could consider an entirely new phone plan with a bundled handset. Some carriers offer “phone upgrade” plans that allow you to swap out a phone for a new handset, but if you’ve concluded your term there’s no point in pursuing those, as they’re primarily aimed at people who are only a year into their two-year terms.

After a shiny new mobile and plan? Here’s the current pricing on Apple’s iPhone 7 across carriers, but you can adjust the variables to suit your needs and find the ideal plan for you.

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