Planhacker: The Best No-Contract Phone Deal For Each Australian Mobile Phone Network

Not only does signing up to a contract for a phone leave you stuck with the same network and handset for a full two years, it can often result in less data and call allowances than if you take a no-contract prepaid or month-by-month deal. We've eliminated the also-rans and come up with one clear recommendation for the best value no-contract deal on each of Australia's main mobile networks.

Phone picture from Shutterstock

We ran a basic version of this list back in September, which made it clear that it's a topic that interests people but that we needed to offer more detail. So this is an expanded and up-to-date version of that guide.

The Rules

These are the criteria we applied when selecting plans:

  • The plan had to be a no-contract deal, which means either a classic prepaid arrangement which you recharge every month or a month-to-month deal you can cancel at any time. It also couldn't be tied into buying another service.
  • It had to offer a decent allowance for Australian calling, SMS and data.
  • It had to be priced at under $50 a month.
  • Ideally, the plan would offer 4G access, but we didn't make that a compulsory requirement (since 4G phones will also end up on 3G some of the time).
  • We made one selection for each of Australia's active networks: Telstra, Optus and Vodafone. Coverage varies, so which network suits you depends on where you live (and travel). We're not aiming to list every prepaid plan from every MVNO provider here.
  • .

If you need a really large amount of data, or are focused on being able to call overseas numbers, or only want to spend $20 a month, you'll need to do more research and choose a different plan. However, if you're paying $70 a month for a contract deal, you should crunch the numbers carefully. An outright buy and a no-contract plan is could well be cheaper when you factor in data allowances, which are typically very low on cheaper contract plans.

Telstra

Telstra's broad 4G coverage means it's a very popular choice, but it also charges a serious premium for data, which makes it difficult to find a plan that offers any reasonable amount of data. As we've noted before, this can be done via the Encore Cap deal -- but it's a confusing plan that requires careful explanation.

Here's how you can use the Encore Cap deal to get a decent calling and data allowance:

  • Buy the $50 recharge. This includes $950 worth of calling and texting credits for Australian numbers, and the ability to make free calls and texts between 6pm and 6am. While not as good as an unlimited deal, for calling and texting purposes, this should be more than adequate for most people. (And if you do use all the credit, you won't be stung with excess charges; you'll just have to recharge again.)
  • The problem with this plan on the face of it is that it only includes 800MB of data, which isn't a lot. However, there is an option to add extra data without spending any extra money. Here's how.
  • As well as $950 for call credits, the $50 recharge also includes $50 of "recharge credit", which you can spend on other services (such as dialling international or premium numbers). The important point here is that you can spend that credit to buy a $49 Browse Plus Pack, which adds 3GB of data to the 800MB you already have.

When we've written about this plan before, many people have misunderstood and assumed you have to spend $99 a month ($50 for the cap and $49 for the Browse Plus Pack). That's not how it works. That extra data can be paid for with the "recharge credit" which you are assigned when you spend the first $50.

Yes, that's a slightly fiddly arrangement. In particular, you have to 'buy' a new browse pack (via your mobile or computer) each month and can't automate the process. Nonetheless, it's easily the best-value deal on the Telstra network.

Optus

Our favourite plan here is Amaysim Unlimited . For $39.90 a month, you score unlimited calls and texts to Australian numbers and 4GB of data from a reliable, well-established provider. (It's also a lot less fiddly than the Telstra arrangement described above while offering more value.)

The one minor caveat is that Amaysim doesn't currently offer 4G (and isn't in a rush to do so. If 4G is essential, then the best choice is probably Optus' $2 Day plan. That costs $60 a month if you use it every day (which puts it out of full contention given our criteria here), but you get unlimited calls and texts in Australia and as much as 15GB of data. Check out our detailed writeup if that's of interest.

Vodafone

Vodafone's best option uses a similar approach to that described for Telstra above, though it's a little less generous. If you purchase the $49 Flexi Cap, you receive 3GB of data and $350 of "flexible credit". (You also have $650 of credit for calling Vodafone numbers, but that's not particularly useful for most purposes).

One of the thing you can spend that "flexible credit" on is additional data packs. $8 scores you 350MB of data, and there's no apparent limit on how many you can add, so this is a useful way of expanding your data allowance. However, there are no free calls or texts on this plan, so you need to balance what you spend on data with what you'll need to spend on basic communications each month.


Those are our picks. What would you go with for prepaid? Tell us in the comments.

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


Comments

    Telstra lets you roll over your unused credit each month, I rarely have to buy more than $40 sometimes $30 if i'm not in a busy month. Also I pointed out last time that spending all of your "recharge credit" before the month is out would be unwise seeing as accessing your voicemail takes money from that, not your call credits.

    Another user pointed out last time, that you can get around this by dialling your own number then once it diverts to voicemail, entering your pin code and checking them then, Using call credits instead of recharge credit.

      So it's just the 'cap credit' ($950 value on the $50 recharge) that doesn't roll over? If you purchase the $49 browse plus pack to get the 3GB will that roll over every month even if you do the $30 recharges then on?

      Sounds like I might be making a change.

        No. The 3GB you buy has a 30 day expiry on it. Any "recharge credit" rolls over but extras like data, cap credit & free calls do not roll over

          aahh ok that makes sense. cheers for clarifying

    my wife and i currently are with the Amaysim plan mentioned above. i came over from Dodo and my wife from vodafone.

    both of us now have crappy call connections - where we can hear the other person, but they cant hear us, or we dont hear anything at all while the call is connected. doesnt matter whether its to a landline or mobile. Amaysim said 'they adjusted some network settings to fix the issue' but hasnt helped

    im just wondering if anyone else experienced anything like this on Amaysim?

      Am with amaysim with ordinary prepaid, i.e. just top up when ever it runs out with however much I care to put on. I regularly phone someone in Sydney (am in Perth). Used to get echos - so I would talk and hear my own voice repeated. But doesn't happen now. Using a dumb phone then and now. cheers.

      Hi, I just want to tell you that it happened to me before as well, when I was using Virgin which uses the Optus network. The calls would also drop and internet not loading even when it showed full signal. What I have found was that it was due to network congestion on Optus plus the weaker frequency they use which made it hard to penetrate in CBD areas.

      Well that was 3 years ago. Switched to Telstra and never looked back. Seems like Optus is still having network congestion issue which would have been solved with more towers built in 1-2 years but they never admitted the issue and so they escaped the whole Vodafail phenomenon.

      Yep, unusable at our place. Seems to be an optus problem. I am in a blackspot so only telstra gives demonstrably better call and data reliability. I laugh about speeds, we are just glad to get a connection. I'd love to port away to voda or optus but they are unusable here.

      A very important distinction is that Amaysim use a portion of the Optus network - they don't necessarily (and probably don't) have access to the full network. There's a reason most Optus resellers are so cheap. To the best of my knowledge, the only reseller that can access the full network is Virgin, and even so, they have lower priority than Optus customers in times of congestion.

      Had the sameproblem with Amaysim when I moved house turned out the Optus service is crappy here. Change to Aldi simcard on Telstra 3g network all good. You need to have a look at signal strengths on Amaysim & Aldi phones & compare then take the best option. Prices & plans are similar.

      yes I can hear other person but they can hear me, I thought it is my phone, also my credit is running out when i don't use the phone. i am so confused which plan or provider to get as I had problem with telstra

    "Best" will mean different things to different users, though, depending on their needs.

    Looking at the Optus' 4G option you mentioned, unlimited calls / texts and 15GB could be much more than many need, so dropping $60 a month on that isn't really the "best deal". It also doesn't meet the "under $50" rule.

    I have the Vaya $18 a month plan, which is unlimited text, $650 of calls, and 1.5 GB of data on Optus' 4G network (with $7 extra for another GB, should you ever need it).

    These are more than I'll ever need, so for $18, this seems like one of the best deals to me.

    I want the plan where three hot women get around you and your phone on the beach.

      Thats the Unlimited Douche plan. Telstra should have it.

        I wish I could hit "Like" on your comment, Trishool.

    The title of the article is "No-Contract Phone Deal", but none of these deals comes with a phone?

    "Nonetheless, it’s easily the best-value deal on the Telstra network"
    I could be wrong but isn't the Aldi Deal better fro only $35? Oh an it uses the Telstra 3G network!
    It maybe limited to 3.5Mb connection, but who needs more than that on their mobiles anyways?

      $15 extra for 4G, full coverage, uncapped speeds and more data is probably worth it for most people. But if calls and text is just your thing then Aldi is good

    Also worth noting Vodafone pulling their usual scumbag tricks shiftiness - it's only a 28 day expiry on their prepaid plans, vs 30 days on Amaysim and Telstra. It adds up to nearly 13 "months" you need to pay for each year instead of 12.

    For an average user Vaya $18 plan needs a mention.

      Just make sure you get the $18 Power plan cause the $18 skinny plan looks to be identical but with 1.4gig less data.

    Why not Boost Mobile? Uses the real Telstra 3G network, unlimited talk and text, with 3GB of data each 30 days. Wish I had chose them instead of Virgin on a plan.

    Curious about why iiNet wasn't mentioned, as far as I can see all their "plans" are only month-to-month, and either the $30 1.5gb data or the $45 3gb data plans on Optus 4G look very good....

    Am I missing something, was hoping to see it here because I wouldnt mind jumping over to them?

      Vaya do that $30 plan for $18 and you even get $150 extra call value, next best is liveconnected at $19.90 again for more value, so yeah iinet don't even rate.

        beware of vaya!

    you know even better with VF, $50 recharge with $1000 credit, unlimited texts and 1GB included data. $16 of the included credit will get you 350MB of data with separate expiry date. purchase every 10 minutes. SO technically you can have up to 21GB of 4G data for $50... must take into account that you need some credit to use the unlimited text.

    I am sorry but we don't quite agree with your recommendations.
    The virtual operators (Amaysim being one of them) ALWAYS offer better value than the network operators themselves,

    We have prepared a comprehensive report on the matter and would be happy to offer it to the readers free of charge. We won't even ask you for your email.
    http://spendinghacker.com.au/best-mobile-plans-in-australia/

      So this thing is completely outdated. Theres three companies mentioned and of them two are no longer offering the same terms and I've never heard of the third. Aldi and Kogan have both slashed their data allowances, while new companies have emerged. Desperately needs removing and updating...

        Thanks for the comment.
        Yes, some information there needed to be updated and we have now done that. Check out the updated report.
        http://spendinghacker.com.au/best-mobile-plans-in-australia/

      SO.. you have to 'share' to get the info? u sum kinda scamma bro? infomacion scammuh!

        All you have to do to read the report is to share this page on Facebook.
        The reason why we are doing that is so that as many people as possible have access to it.

        I assure you that our intentions are good and there is no 'scam' involved. Just a genuine desire to provide quality information to aussie consumers. We are not collecting any of your personal information, not even your email.

    Boost ...uses telstra network...$40 unlimited with 2 gig data

    boost are dropping it back to 2gig

      You can still get 4GB with the Amaysim unlimited plan for the same price ($40).
      Better yet, they are offering the first month for 50% off until the end of April.

      If you want, you are welcome to check our review here:
      http://spendinghacker.com.au/best-unlimited-prepaid-mobile-plan/

    If you don't really make calls and sms but want more data and 4G on telstra, you can get a sim for mobile broadband and go for prepaid mobile broadband. If you go for the 12GB lasting 365 days it works out to 1GB/month for $15. But if you make any calls/sms it uses up your credit and reduces the amount of credit you have to use for data. But if you recharge before expiry it rolls over credit so you can rollover existing credit for another year.

    http://www.telstra.com.au/help/download/document/personal-critical-information-summary-pre-paid-data-cap.pdf

    also you can't port your existing number to that sim as the numbers used for mobile broadband are in a different pool and telstra says they can port normal numbers to it.

    Last edited 15/01/14 1:00 am

    A correction on the link provided for browse plus pack should be made. It should be http://www.telstra.com.au/mobile-phones/prepaid-mobiles/offers-rates/plus-packs/ for prepaid. The provided link is for postpaid and has different rates.

    Aldi has lost me with this one! My best two are Boost Mobile $40 unlimited with 2gb of data using Telstra NextG or as above Amaysim and having to put up with Optus. Retailers no matter where they come from just don't understand there customers!

    Vaya, $20/mo for $500 and 1.5GB

    Pretty good. Even better if you're me, and have a grandfathered plan at $11/mo for the same. Which I've never once gone over. Now THAT you can't beat.

      they have even better plan...$18 for $650 and 1.5
      and you forgot to mention free Vaya to Vaya services

        I'm grandfathered in on that plan at $11/month :)

    Thumbs down to Amaysim. Just jumped from Telstra to them, and then found that I barely get a signal, and I live 4Km from the Adelaide CBD! Their customer support just 'shrugged their shoulders' and said they couldn't do anything about it. They said that Optus hadn't rolled out 2100MHz in my area, however the Optus coverage map shows 'Great' reception for calls, SMS and data. Now looking around for an alternative. But my main point is don't go by the carrier's coverage map - it doesn't seem to bear any resemblance to what you'll actually get through a reseller. Ask the reseller before you commit!

    I have an obsolete plan from VAYA. $29 a month give me unlimited calls in Australia, unlimited SMS anywhere (even overseas), 4gb of data and I have a $100 monthly credit for international calls, no 4g though...If you join them now, have a look at the $18 Power Plan, should be enough for most of users.

    Amaysim (as any other reseller) has nothing to do with the network coverage.Why blaming them?

    I am using Amaysim unlimited in Central Victoria with good results. I have had some call quality issues but overall for what I pay, I'm very satisfied. Just did a trip to Tasmania and had reasonable coverage there, it was just a bit patchy off the major highways...
    Hope this is useful.

    Hi

    ANY pre-paid mobile with no EXPIRY data for data please ????

    It seems that vodafone has changed what you can purchase with flexible credit, and data add ons are no longer included in that. http://www.vodafone.com.au/doc/cis/prepaid/cap/30caprecharge220213.pdf

    is this true, or can someone help me figure out how to purchase data add ons with my flexible credit.

      So my Idea of the best data plan is Optus 20G business plan for $45 a month 24 month contract. And Aldi through the Telstra network $30 for 3 gig every 15 days.

    I have moved to a new area with only Telstra access and I can only use the prepaid, what are my options as Telstra are damn expensive please ?

Join the discussion!