Planhacker: Which "Unlimited" Prepaid Plan Offers The Best Deal?

Mobile plan deals with "unlimited" calls have long been a feature of the postpaid contract market, but they're now becoming increasingly common for no-contract prepaid deals as well. Which ones actually offer good value?

In recent weeks, we've seen newly-launched "unlimited" prepaid plans from Vodafone and Amaysim joining existing deals from Optus' various brands. While those plans are in fact anything but "unlimited" — you can't make international calls on them for starters — they do offer the potential to make lots of calls without being tied into a contract.

The details vary slightly, but a prepaid package of this type generally includes as many calls as you want to any landline or mobile number in Australian, texts within Australia and some sort of download allowance. The expiry period is usually 30 days (apart from Optus' $2 days deal). Voicemail, international calls and texts normally aren't covered, and 13 and 1800 numbers are typically an extra charge. Most plans let you use the credit value of the plan towards those options; those from Amaysim and Boost don't.

On plans using Optus' network, unlimited data usage for Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Foursquare, MySpace and eBay is included; on Vodafone, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, FourSquare and MySpace are free.

Many postpaid unlimited plans have a similar set of options. The obvious difference is that you won't be tied to a long-term contract with a prepaid deal. Conversely, you'll have to bring your own phone, and activating options such as overseas roaming will be trickier.

As with any mobile phone deal, you need to know your own usage habits before signing up. If you're not a heavy phone user, then going for one of these deals might actually mean you spend more money than a more conventional pay-as-you-go plan, or one with a longer expiry period. Don't be seduced by the "limitless" terminology and the idea that it's convenient into paying more than you need to. Also check on network coverage where you live: a limitless deal isn't much good if your phone never has any reception. (Note that Telstra doesn't offer any prepaid unlimited options.)

Amaysim

  • Monthly cost: $39.90
  • Network: Optus
  • Notable features: Includes 4GB of data; excess data is 5 cents/megabyte or $9.90 for a 1GB block. Australian MMS and voicemail access also included as free.
  • Comments: Given the high download allowance and cheap (by mobile standards) excess charges, this is worth considering if much of your usage will be online. If you do want to use non-standard options such as international calls a lot, the lack of any included credit could be an issue.

Boost

  • Monthly cost: $40
  • Network: Optus
  • Notable features: Includes 3GB of data.
  • Comments: A similar offering to the Amaysim bundle, but with slightly less data. Excess data is charged at a rather less reasonable $2 per megabyte.

Optus Turbo Cap Plus

  • Monthly cost: $50, $70, $100
  • Network: Optus
  • Notable features: $50 includes 3GB of data; $70 includes 4GB; $100 includes 5GB. Each cap also includes the named amount as value for non-free calls (ie you get $50 general credit on the $50 plan).
  • Comments: If you expect to make occasional international calls, these plans could be worth considering. If your main concern is Australian calls, Boost and Amaysim offer better value on the same network. Excess data is an expensive $2 per MB.

Optus $2 Days

  • Cost: $2 per day
  • Network: Optus
  • Notable features: Daily charge of $2 allows unlimited data access, and calls and texts to any network.
  • Comments: The $2 Days plan uses an unusual model, where no charges apply unless you actually use the phone. A month of access on this plan would cost $60; unless you're using several gigabytes of data on your phone, there are cheaper deals available with similar features. If your phone is not in regular use, it's a stronger contender.

Vodafone

  • Monthly cost: $35, $55
  • Network: Vodafone
  • Notable features: On the $35 plan, there's 250MB of data, and calls are only free between 7pm and 7am. The $55 plan drops the time limit and offers 1GB of data. Both include the 'face value' of the plan as additional credit. Excess data is 50 cents per megabyte.
  • Comments: The $35 plan seems poor value; for $5 a month more, you can dump the time restrictions on other networks and get more data as well. Vodafone's network woes have made it a less than popular choice with many Lifehacker readers.

Some thoughts

Given Vodafone's pricier offering, this does seem predominantly an Optus-driven market. If you don't need to make calls outside Australia and want a healthy data allowance, the Amaysim plan is hard to beat. If you do want credit for occasional use in other contexts, the $50 Optus cap is worth considering. For most people, the $2 Days deal won't be great value, but if you (for instance) travel overseas very regularly and use a different phone when you do, it might offer some value.

Know of another prepaid "unlimited" deal we've missed? (Note that free calls only to the same network are a different category.) Have your own strategy for getting better value from prepaid? Tell us in the comments.


Comments

    Amaysim's fantastic overseas rates makes it a great deal even if you just make the odd overseas call. Not seen any other come anywhere close in this area so if you have rellies or friends abroad that you may have to call sometime then go Amaysim.

    I went over my $50 optus cap by $300 this month (ouch). That was all voice calls. To pay $10 extra for the '$2 days' plans seems like a steal. I'm going to try and switch!

    No TPG in their, not prepaid, but certainly not a contract. I'm TPG ADSL2 customer and get $1000($600) for $30 for iphone... or if not a customer you go for $36 for $1000 and 2GB of data...

    Any such offerings from Telstra? I'm a prepaid customer and would be keen for something like this from them

    I don't suppose if you're on a $49 contract with Optus with 16 months left on your contract you can change to Amaysim?

    TPG.
    Not pre-paid, but no contract and you can stop whenever you like.
    $14.99/month = $700 credit.

      Interesting, but not an "unlimited" deal if I'm being picky :)

    Too much focus on the data with the Optus ($2 days) I still have an ancient phone by today's standards and use my prepaid $2 Optus phones for much longer calls than I previously could. I was always worried about how much my calls cost on previous pre-paid plans (except optus to optus 300 free minutes but that only applied to optus so was no good in the end).

    I hate texting/SMSing, let me know when you can plug a full size keyboard into a phone. Typing is so much easier.

    I don't use data at all (well until I get a new phone & then it'll only be facebook, twitter, whatever they link me too and email which have the free access, except for the email I guess which would be part of the data)

    Any plan that costs more than $30 is a rip-off & dollar days just made some changes to their terms of service but for the better, instead of the old dollar days when $40, $100, etc also expired in 30 days, they now expire in as many days as the amount of credit. So $40 = 40 days, $100 =100 days. The only potential downside is it now charges access to your voicemail as well. So if you make no calls but someone leaves you a message that will cost you $2 but I don't think that is particularly a bad thing.

    If your like me and use the optus simcard to surf the net at home *taps nose* it just walks away from the competition.

    good post

    Recent player in the unlimited prepaid market:
    redbullmobile.com.au

    Despite using the Vodafone network, it's the best value unlimited prepaid that I have found yet.

    Gah, I feel a bit spammy having dropped similar comments onto the iPhone 4 pricing sheet before discovering this. I'm only commenting because of the closing comment:
    "Know of another prepaid “unlimited” deal we’ve missed? ... Tell us in the comments."

    HI, I seem to be collecting sims these days. Just bought the Optus $2 a day. But still have my TPG deal happening. Its really good but the downside is if you go over your credit limit which is way bigger than the others it eats into your $20 emergency fund they keep and if you go over that then they try and take more money off your credit card and if like me they cant because its a debit credit card then I have to wait a couple of days until I have more money in there. The other problem is that you can check and see all the calls you make but only up to 2 days before so if you only have a small amount left it is easy to go over. They do send warning texts but heh when you gotta ring someone you still do. I stayed with them because the value is fantastic. I have sims for my 2 girls that cost $10 a month. $300 value, $150 tpg to tpg which is also Optus 1 way(figure that), $150 to everyone else. free data 250mb. The new deal is a little different with $180 and extras. I have been on 18.99 for a good while but keep going over as we cant get a home phone at our new house so uped it to 34.95 which will include huge amount of credit $1000 + extras social sites and 13/18 included heaps of data 3gb. Another downside is that you have to wait up to about 38 days for your plan changes. So I have spent my quota and my next month which kicks in, in about 5 days I think will still be my old plan. In the meantime I use my Vodafone and now my Optus $2 a day deal only when I need the extra phone. Also be prepared for possible problems if you have to talk to tpg people as they all seem to be indian and hard to communicate with sometimes. They are sticklers for the rules and wont budge and take money off ect. I tried almost cried and was going to leave. But I save heaps of money so I stayed and hope I have to never ring them again.

    Hi I have used virgin unlimited and recently switched to vodafone unlimited.
    Virgin is expensive however they do not charge you for re-routed calls like vodafone does.
    To call overseas I use calling cards. Unaware that vodafone will charge me for dialing the access number. As it is an unlimited plan vodafone should let you call on "any " landline for free. I ended up with a bill of $600 . Vodafone is the only company in large operator's group who charges for re-routed numbers and they do not disclose this info to new customers.

    Lebara is reaallyyy good. If ur an international person like me yud love it! Yu pay 39.90 a monthyu get unlimited to all australia incl 18,13 numbers and 3gb data and 10$ worth of international credit , best by far!!

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