So you’ve found what looks like a great mobile phone plan deal. You compared all your options, and found one with decent inclusions and an affordable price tag. But you check out the carrier benefits that go along with your plan?
Benefits picture from Shutterstock
If you answered “no”, that may well be because there aren’t any. Despite fierce competition, telcos generally offer pitiful incentives to get you on their billing list, and most of those benefits are in the form of bundles that actually mean you have to spend more money with the carrier. In a few rare cases, however, you can find extra benefits that could make a carrier more worthwhile. We’ve highlighted some of the main ones here.
Most Virgin-branded companies aren’t actually part of a larger group (Richard Branson is a master at licensing the brand out), but overlaps often occur. For instance, Virgin Mobile (which is actually owned by Optus) offers benefits from Virgin Money and Virgin Australia. Right now, the most prominent offer on the Virgin Family Perks page is $50 in mobile credit if you purchase car insurance through Virgin Money.
The most notable benefit Virgin has offered in this field has been crediting 10 per cent of the base fare when you purchase a flight on Virgin Australia back to your mobile account. Right now, that benefit isn’t visible on the site, but that could well be a consequence of Virgin Australia’s own back-end system upgrade. If it does return, it’s a solid extra, especially given Virgin Australia’s popularity with Lifehacker readers.
Yes, we know: Vodafone. But there are some interesting extras, such as its mobile TV pack. With 4G on the horizon, fast streaming of television shows is a great draw to the carrier. From $8 a month on postpaid services, $16 a month for prepaid accounts, or $2 per episode, you can watch shows from a selection of channels including Cartoon Network, Nickelodeon, MTV and CNN.
If you find that TV isn’t reason enough to stick with the Vodafone service, you can always invoke its Network Guarantee: within 30 days, pay for what you’ve used, return your handset with the packaging and seek your mobile service elsewhere.
Telstra’s approach to perks tends to be entirely bundle-centric, but, like Vodafone, it does have a TV offering in the form of Mobile Foxtel. There are three channel bundles: Value ($8 a month or $2 a week on prepaid), Ultimate ($15 a month or $3.75 a week on prepaid) and Ultimate Pack+Sport ($20 a month or $5 a week on prepaid). All bundles include free access to ABC1 and SBS1.
Telstra’s other obvious benefit is the ability to earn flybuys points. However, this only applies to prepaid recharges purchased at Coles, Kmart, Target or Coles Express.
Optus’ plans offer a number of additional perks. One we’ve discussed before is the ability to earn Qantas Frequent Flyer points from your bill. Personal account holders earn 2 points per dollar on each bill (and signing up via Optus avoids the joining fee).
Not much of a flyer? Optus’ other bonus offer is ‘yes’ Tickets. In practice, discount shows and competitions are rare and not always worth the trouble. The main reason you’d bother signing up is for the Movie Rewards. You can purchase $10 movie vouchers for use in a bunch of cinemas across the country, most notably Hoyts theatres. That’s a solid saving on existing ticket prices, and there aren’t many restrictions (other than sessions after 5pm on Saturdays being blocked).
Guest contributor Kelly Vieira writes for MobilePhoneFinder.com.au, a mobile handset and plan comparison tool for Australians. Lifehacker’s weekly Planhacker column rounds up the best communication deals.