Choosing a mobile plan

There are many different mobile plans on offer, so choosing a plan that suits your needs can be difficult. We provide information on how to understand different plans, and how to pick one that is right for you.

Types of mobile phone plans

Mobile phone plans are available at a range of different price points. Most offer voice, SMS and data inclusions for a single fee.

Some distinguishing features include how and when you pay for the service, whether or not you have an ongoing contract, and what happens once you exhaust your plan’s included value.

Some plans also include a dollar value of included usage. Check the Critical Information Summary (CIS) for how your usage will be charged against this.

Many providers refer to their plans as either prepaid or post-paid plans. Prepaid plans always require you to pay up front for your service, while most post-paid plans will issue a bill at the end of the month. Many providers offer both of these types of plans. It may be worth comparing both prepaid and post-paid plans to find the plan that best suits your requirements.

Inclusions in mobile phone plans

The right plan for you will depend on your circumstances and the way you use your phone.

It's important to look at the Critical Information Summary for a plan. These summaries include key information like call, SMS and data inclusions, termination fees and the length of any contract.

When considering what plan to choose, there are a few things to think about.

What are the call and SMS inclusions?

A vast majority of mobile phone plans, both postpaid and prepaid, offer unlimited national calls and SMS inclusions.

For these plans, you generally don’t need to worry about the number of standard calls to landlines or calls and SMS to other Australian mobiles you make.

There are also a very small number of prepaid plans that offer an included number of calls and SMS. For example, you might get 500 minutes worth of voice calls and 500 SMS each month.

There are also some prepaid plans that are pay-as-you go. For example, you might buy $20 of credit and each time you make a call or send an SMS the provider will deduct that credit at a certain rate.

For these plans, it's important to look at the Critical Information Summary to find out the exact call and SMS rates, as each provider may be different.

Premium SMS

Be aware of competitions or quizzes where you enter by sending an SMS to a ‘19’ number or entering your mobile number into a website. You might be unintentionally signing up to an expensive premium ‘subscription’ service where you have to pay an ongoing cost every week.

To immediately stop any premium service subscription, reply STOP to the sender. See also: 19SMS

What is the data inclusion?

Data inclusions are generally measured in gigabytes (GB) and can vary significantly between mobile phone plans. It’s important to know how much data you need before comparing plans.

Some mobile phone plans will automatically ‘top-up’ your data if you exceed your monthly inclusion. This can be expensive — for example, many providers charge $10 for an additional 1GB of data.

Some providers allow you to ‘roll over’ unused data from one month to the next. The amount of data that can be rolled over is usually capped at a certain number of GB. Check the Critical Information Summary to ensure you know how this mechanism works for your plan.

There are also mobile phone plans available that do not attract an additional charge for excess data, but may limit the download speed available to the consumer after a particular amount of data has been used in the billing period.  

Does the mobile phone plan come with a handset or other accessories such as watches or earphones?

Post-paid plans often provide you with an option to buy a mobile phone handset to go with your service contract.

If you choose to buy a handset, you will pay the handset off in equal monthly instalments over the term of the contract. Once your contract is finished, you will own the phone.

Providers may offer a handset and other accessories on 12 or 24 month terms, but with a service contract that is month-to-month. Although this allows you to change service providers easily, you may have to pay off the balance left owing on the handset or other accessories before leaving your provider.

If you already have a handset, many providers also offer SIM-only plans on 12 month or month-to-month contracts.

What other services are included?

There are a range of additional services and offers that may be included in mobile phone plans, for example:

  • international call minutes (usually to select countries)
  • calls to 13/1300/1800 numbers
  • calls to special services numbers (12, 14, 15 numbers)
  • international roaming inclusions (calls/text made and received while overseas
  • content and entertainment inclusions (e.g. free streaming of music, subscription video services such as Netflix or Stan, and content deals for sporting events, such as AFL, NRL and English Premier League).

Check with your provider to see if streaming this included content counts towards your data quota.

See also: Using your mobile overseas

What geographic coverage can you expect?

It is important to understand the geographic coverage a mobile phone provider offers before deciding if a mobile phone plan is right for you, as not all providers offer the same coverage.

For more information on comparing coverage see: Mobile phone coverage

Estimating your mobile phone usage

Before you choose a plan it's a good idea to estimate how much and for what purposes you are likely to use your mobile phone. This will help you choose a plan that suits your usage, and make sure you don’t end up with a plan that gives you more than you need.

To estimate your usage needs you’ll need to know roughly how you use your service, and how much data the things you do online typically use. Many online services are available that can help you work out how much data certain applications and websites are likely to require.

See also: Mobile data usage

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