Planhacker: Comparing Unlimited Prepaid Phone Deals

There are dozens of prepaid plans on the market which offer "unlimited" calls in Australia without tying you to a contract, but which offer the best value? Planhacker rounds up every deal currently on offer.

Picture by Sven Leichner

We looked at this category back in June last year, but there have been a number of additions to the market since, including Red Bull and Savvytel, and changes to existing provider offerings. This time around, we've also done a full spreadsheet so you can compare and rank the options that matter to you.

To appear on this listing, prepaid plans must offer unlimited calls to standard Australian mobile and landline numbers, as well as free texting to Australian mobiles. While every plan will include a "fair use" call to prevent you hanging on the phone 24/7, in practice you shouldn't have to spend more than the specified amount each month or track how long you're on the phone for if you're only making calls to these kinds of numbers.

Telstra doesn't offer any plans that fit this description to prepaid customers, so your network choice is Optus and Vodafone. Should you choose the latter, you're essentially picking between Vodafone itself and Red Bull. (Vodafone's biggest MVNO operator is Crazy John's, but it doesn't offer any "unlimited" plans either.)

As well as having more wholesale customers, Optus is generally reckoned to have the better coverage of the two. In 2011, Vodafone spent large amounts of money to try and improve its oft-derided network, but we haven't tested the effectiveness of those upgrades in recent months, and got poor results the last time we did.

Incidentally, when we discussed this back in June, several readers mentioned TPG's no-contract prepaid plans. These don't fit our criteria for this listing, since they do have an assigned dollar value, rather than offering "unlimited" Australian calls and texts. We've also excluded the $35 Vodafone All-Time plan, since it limits the times of day when you can make free calls.

In the table below, we've listed all the unlimited prepaid plans we know of. For each, we've identified which network they use; how much you pay for a recharge and how long that lasts; how much data usage that includes; what you'll be charged for excess data; and any charges for voicemail. The vast majority of these plans offer free access to voicemail and allow MMS as well as basic text messages, but we've noted the ones that don't. We haven't included additional special deals such as online-only bonuses or cheap handset offers.

The 'call credit' column indicates whether your monthly fee also includes credit which can be used for other options (such as 1300 numbers, international calls, excess data or voicemail charges). Plans that don't include credit will often let you purchase add-on credit to access those options. In practice, these unlimited plans make the most sense if you know virtually all your calling will be to standard Australian numbers. If you find yourself regularly buying 'top ups' for other purposes, a different plan structure might give you better value.

Here's the table: you can click on any column header to sort or filter, so you can view (for example) only plans running on a specific network or with a particular expiry period.

In practice, the most competitive space is around the $40 a month mark, where Amaysim, Boost, Red Bull and Savvytel all have similar offerings. Plans below that price tend to have minimal data inclusions and less than 30 days to expiry; higher-priced plans offer longer expiry but have few other extra inclusions.

A few quirks to note: on the Red Bull access 365 plan, data access is 5GB per month -- you can't chew through the whole allowance in a week. Calls to 1300 and 1800 numbers are also free on the Red Bull plan.

The $2 Days plans from Optus work unusually: on any given day you use them to make a call or send a text, you'll immediately be charged $2 but can then make as many calls (and use as much data as you like). As such, they're bad value if you use your phone to make calls or send texts every day (since you'll chew up all the credit well ahead of the expiry period), but potentially useful if you alternate between busy and non-busy periods, or can safely assume you'll receive calls more often than you make them.

Given the wide range of pricing variation, I'd be especially wary of the Optus-utilising plans charging $2 a megabyte for excess data if you're a smartphone user.

Hit the links below for plan details direct from each provider:

Know of a plan that we've missed? Got experience (good or bad) with one of these deals? Tell us in the comments.

Lifehacker's weekly Planhacker column rounds up the best communication deals.


Comments

    Are there no Telstra plans?

      To quote directly from the article: "Telstra doesn't offer any plans that fit this description to prepaid customers."

    I'll stay with Telstra for the pure fact that it's the best for getting signal wherever I usually go.

    Also the other day i accidentally smashed my 1gig data by 300mb, it was going to cost and extra $75. It was my own fault but i called to find out exactly what i was being charged per MB. Instead and without asking they refunded the $75 and wished me a happy day.

    Telstra's stepping up its game. I used to be pro Optus but lately they are not getting the great feedback as they used, well from the people I've been speaking to anyway.

    I'll never touch the Vodafone network, you pay for what you get there..

      I work in remote areas all over Australia and Telstra is the only choice. Since they introduced prepaid Cap plans there prices for calls and Data have become very reasonable . Before that I hated Telstra with a passion for there rediculus pricing
      Paul

    I use the Telstra Pre-Paid Cap+ plan. For $60 I get $60 credit and $940 bonus credit. It's not unlimited but I have yet to use it all within the month, and I make 3 or 4 calls per week to P.N.G. (averaging about 20 minutes per call), plus using it for work and calling family.

    I also get 3 GB of data per month, which I can top up to 7 GB by purchasing a $59 Browse Plus Pack. The $59 comes from my $60 credit, leaving me with $1 credit and the $940 Bonus Credit.

    So that equals $941 for calls and text messages, plus 7 GB of data per month, all for $60.

    And Telstra has far better coverage than Vodafone and Optus. I could almost never get coverage with Vodafone!

      Good old Telstra... no unlimited call plans but you can pay 50% more than the likes of the Optus MVNOs AND have to navigate a minefield of dollar-value crazy top-up plans JUST to get to a point where you still don't get unlimited calls but you get more data. No wonder they're losing market share...

    Oops! Make that 3 or 4 calls per "MONTH" not week. :)

    What about Lebara? Barely any of the plans you have listed include any sort of call credit and they all charge an arm and a leg for international.

    From the website:
    "Lebara Mega Plan Includes unlimited standard national calls and SMS plus $10 of credit for you use on international calls, international SMS, mobile internet and more for $39.90/30days"

    http://www.lebara.com.au/mega

      Lebara don't give any data in their mega plan I don't think so are only preferable if you value the $10 of international calls per month more than a few gig of data you get elsewhere.

      If you want data and want to make internaitonal calls then AmaySIM have comparable rates (but with NO flag-fall) to Lebara on their Unlimited plan.

      As an aside I always recommend that anyone with a smartphone use Rebtel for routing their international calls if they have an unlimited local calls plan (if not, calls can be initiated over wifi/data anyway). This way the international call costs are irrelevant although it is always good to know that should you need to make a call directly from your mobile operator you won't be shafted like you are on the non-AmaySIM/Lebara deals...

    Way to post lots of food when so many people including me are trying to get in shapeee, then again, I clicked it because of the food :P

    Live Connected offers a range of very competitive unlimited plans, I am surprised not to see them here.

    I realise that it's technically not unlimited, but for me data's a lot more important than calls... Woolworths Mobile (Optus network) gives 5GB of data for $29, with 45 day expiry (which will add up over time if you don't need to recharge before the 45 days.) It does only come with $500 worth of calls so doesn't fit the unlimited category, but as mentioned before, for me data's a lot more important than calls.

    Re the Red Bull 365: I wonder about the wisdom of paying up front for a year's service with an outfit, when they have only been in business all of four months. How can I be sure they will be in for the long haul?

    I wouldn't quite call all of these plans prepaid, you can actually over spend with several of them on call types that they don't cover eg Amaysim, Savvy. I would call them prepay monthly plans. You may prepay your payment but there is a monthly commitment which can be broken. You can also over spend on the $40 each month depending on how you use your phone.

    You are also missing the lebara mobile mega plan, think mobile and transact also has one.

    Thank you for taking the trouble to do all that~~~!! *Hugs* even if you have missed out on a few.

    Best is Lebara Mobile. For $29.90, You will get Unlimited Talk & Text + 3GB data. You can call any network. If you need some credit for overseas, recharge $9.90 Mega top up voucher

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