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 consumer information on how to understand different plans and how to pick one that is right for you.

Types of mobile phone plans

There are two main types of plans that mobile phone providers offer: postpaid and prepaid plans. Both plans usually offer voice, data and SMS inclusions for a single fee. However, there are also some key difference between the two.

Postpaid plans

Prepaid plans*

  • Pay for service after you use it - usually a monthly bill
  • Pay for the service before you use it – such as buying credit for your phone
  • Often must sign up to a contract (typically month-to-month or 12 to 24 months)
  • Don't need to sign up to a contract
  • Excess charges are usually incurred if you exceed your inclusions
  • No excess charges. When you run out of credit you have to buy more (recharge)
  • Often have early exit fees
  • Can opt out at any time. Credit will expire if not used within certain timeframe

*Prepaid plans can have inclusions or pay-as-you-go credit.

Inclusions in mobile phone plans

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

It is important to always 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?

Many mobile phone plans, both postpaid and prepaid, now offer unlimited national calls and SMS inclusions.

There are also some prepaid plans that offer an included number of calls and SMS. For example, you might get $500 minutes worth of voice calls and 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 is important to look at the critical information summary to find out the exact call and SMS rates, as each provider may be different.

The diagram below shows how two prepaid plans that both offer $500 of included voice and SMS value can end up giving you different volumes of calls and SMS.

Plan

Included value voice calls

Call rate (per minute)

Flagfall (connection charge)

SMS rate (per SMS)

Number of 2 minute calls or SMS

A

$500

30c

0c

30c

833 calls or
833 SMS

B

$500

19c

10c

15c

1315 calls or
3333 SMS

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.

We have some information about understanding your data usage [make this a link to the relevant section].

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.

Does the mobile phone plan come with a handset?

Postpaid plans often provide you with an option to buy or lease a mobile phone handset. The cost of buying or leasing the handset will be included in your monthly payment.

Leasing a handset means that you have the option of returning it or buying the mobile phone at the end of the contract. It is often cheaper to lease a handset under a postpaid plan than to buy one. You will also have the option of upgrading your handset after 12 months of your contract. However,  to upgrade your handset, you generally have to return your current handset in ‘good working order’ and pay a one-off upgrade fee. Talk to your provider about your options if you want a new handset.  

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.

If you already have a mobile phone 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 – also see [insert link to overseas section])
  • 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).

What geographic coverage can you expect?

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

Estimating your mobile phone usage

Before you choose a plan it is 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 many calls you make, how many messages you send and how much data you use in a month. You can do this by looking at previous phone bills to give you an idea of how much you’ve used in previous months.

See also: Managing your mobile data usage

Your consumer rights for mobile services

Consumers have rights when they buy any product or service, including mobile phones.

Phone providers must provide clear and accurate information in advertising, contracts and bills.

If there is a problem with your handset, you may be entitled to a repair, replacement or refund. If there is a problem with your service, you may be entitled to cancel it. You may also be entitled to compensation for damages and loss.

If it’s not right, use your rights

More information

Consumer rights & guarantees
Contracts
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