Virgin Mobile today announced a three-month doubling of the data allowance on its mobile contract plans. Vodafone launched a similar deal last week. While extra data is always welcome, buying a plan because it offers this kind of perk is often going to be a mistake. Here's why
Under Virgin's offer, new customers who sign up for $60 and $90 contract plans between now and 13 January will receive double their regular data allowance for the life of their contract (either 12 or 24 months). Existing customers can recontract to receive the new offer.
Vodafone's deal is similar; the data allowances on its contract and BYO plans have been doubled for customers who sign up between now and 3 January.
These aren't the first of these deals we've seen, and they're likely to recur in the future, though the details often differ. Some recent deals have an additional 1GB of data added for 12 months in a 24-month contract. That detail highlights one reason why these offers should be examined carefully; they don't always run for the life of the contract.
The more important consideration, however, is whether the plan makes sense for your needs even with enhanced data, and whether you could do better elsewhere. In most cases, choosing a prepaid deal will get you the same or better entitlements with no lock-in, which is why we always recommend considering that option first.
Under the new deal, for instance, Virgin's $60 plan offers you 3GB of data, unlimited texts and $700 of call credit. If you bring your own phone, that drops to $50 a month. That's not a terrible deal, but it's entirely possible to do better elsewhere on the Optus network (which Virgin Mobile uses).
For instance, you can scored 4GB a month and unlimited calls on Amaysim for $39.95 a month. If you want 4G access (which Amaysim doesn't offer), Optus' $2 days deal also costs $60 a month, and doesn't lock you in. $50 a month on Telstra's Encore Cap can score you 3.8GB of data and $900 of calling credit.
It's not surprising that mobile phone network providers try to seduce customers with these sorts of deals, but that doesn't mean we have to fall for it. Shop around and make sure you're receiving a deal that gives you maximum value with minimum commitment. If your circumstances change, being tied to a 24-month contract can be really irritating and expensive.