Optus has expanded its prepaid phone range with a new series of "Dollar Days" plans. They're a potentially appealing option for relatively infrequent phone users, but require careful analysis if you're going to get the best value from them.
The model for the Dollar Days plans is somewhat different to standard prepaid caps, so I'll try and explain the logic. As with most prepaid plans, you top up with a specified amount which has a set expiry period (14 days for $10, $15 or $20 top-ups; 30 days for $30, $40 or $50; 60 days for $70 or $100). Credit rolls over if you top up before it expires.
When signing up, you choose whether you want to standardly use the $1 Days, $2 Days or $3 Days option. This is the amount that you'll get charged on each day you use the phone to make calls or send texts — if you don't use the phone at all, no charge is made. (Days are based on Sydney time, so users in other states might need to do some slightly messy calculations in that respect.)
For $1 a day, you can make unlimited calls to landlines, as well as unlimited calls and texts to other Optus-connected mobiles. For $2 a day, you can also call or text phones or any other network. For $3 a day, you get unlimited mobile browsing for the day as well. If you spend $3 a day across five weekdays, you get the same deal for free across the weekend.
As with most Optus plans, mobile browsing on Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, LinkedIn, FourSquare and eBay is free of charge across the range. International calls aren't included as standard on any of the options, and are charged at set rates.
So what happens if you do something that's not covered on your standard plan, such as calling a non-Optus mobile on the $1 plan? You're automatically "bumped up" to the next relevant plan and sent a text message which tells you that has happened, and that you can now use the options available on that plan for the rest of the day. You can change the default plan which you're charged for once a month.
Part of me thinks this is quite a neat idea for infrequent users, especially if they know most of their regular contacts are also on Optus and so can work with the $1 plan. That said, you'd only have to make one mobile call to a non-Optus phone to double your effective daily charge on that plan.
Someone using the $3 Days option constantly would be spending $60 a month, at which point going onto a contract plan looks like a better deal as you'll get a phone included for less money. I realise though that for some people, prepaid is the only option available, and a fixed rate of $3 a day is easier to manage than the massive amounts often charged for casual mobile data (though Optus itself has recently improved in this area).
The new plans will go on sale from this Sunday. Like the sound of them, or think it sounds too fiddly/potentially expensive? Share your views in the comments.