Planhacker: The Best No-Contract Deal On Each Australian Mobile Network (August 2014)

Contract phone plans are a poor deal: you're stuck with the same handset and network for two years and you often have smaller data and call allowances than with a no-contract prepaid or month-by-month deal. We've eliminated the also-rans and come up with one firm recommendation for the best value no-contract prepaid deal on each of Australia's mobile networks.

Phone picture from Shutterstock

We haven't updated this list since last December, and there have been several changes on the market since that time, including plan updates from Optus and Amaysim this week and tweaks from Telstra and Vodafone. So we've revised and updated our recommendations.

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, which eliminates deals that involve having a landline phone or internet service with someone.
  • It had to offer a decent allowance for Australian calling, SMS and data. We're particularly concerned with data, since that's the area where most contract plans are stingy.
  • 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 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 allowance. Tweaking Telstra's Beyond Talk Cap plan does make that possible, but it's a confusing plan that requires careful explanation. (The relevant plan used to be called the Encore Cap. We had earlier assumed you could do this with the new Freedom Cap plan, but that turns out not to be possible.)

Here's how you can use the Beyond Talk deal to get a decent data allowance without a contract, albeit without much actual call credit:

  • Buy the $50 recharge. This includes unlimited texts, 400MB of data and 500 minutes of "bonus talk" call credit for calls.
  • The problem with this plan on the face of it is that it only includes 400MB of data, which isn't a lot. However, there is an option to add extra data without spending any extra money. Here's how.
  • You can spend your $50 of credit to buy a $49 Browse Plus Pack, which adds 3GB of data to the 400MB 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. That will chew into your call credit but is a good deal if you don't make a lot of outbound calls.

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 still easily the best-value deal on the Telstra network. (The recharge credit rolls over, so if you don't need as much data, you can save it up and use it when you'll need to tether or if you want credit to use overseas.)

Optus

Our favourite plan here is still Amaysim Unlimited. For $44.90 over 30 days, you score unlimited calls and texts to Australian numbers and 5GB 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 price of the plan recently went up (for the first time in three years), but the data allowance also increased at the same time. 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 prepaid choice is probably Optus' My Prepaid Daily Plus plan (formerly $2 Days). 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. The problem though is that you can't use more than 500MB in a single day without incurring extra costs. Check out our detailed writeup if that's of interest.

Vodafone

We couldn't find a spectacularly appealing Vodafone deal. Vodafone MVNO Lebara offers 2GB of data with unlimited calls and texts to Australian numbers for $29.90 over 30 days. Note that it uses Vodafone's older 3G network, not the newer 4G network. The data allocation is fairly meagre, but it was the best we could come up with at that price).

If you want 4G, the $50 a month Red SIM Plan does technically break our conditions (it's not under $50), but offers 3GB a month of data and unllimited calls and texts.


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 also have casual plans but you have to ask in store or on the phone.

    http://www.telstra.com.au/help/download/document/personal-critical-information-summary-mobile-accelerate-casual-plan-25.pdf but you can only add an extra 250MB extra data for $5 making a total of 450MB (good if you don't use that much data)

    http://www.telstra.com.au/help/download/document/personal-critical-information-summary-mobile-accelerate-casual-plan-35.pdf Same deal here, you can only add an extra 250MB extra data for $5 making a total of 550MB (good if you don't use that much data but more calls for extra $10)

    http://www.telstra.com.au/help/download/document/personal-critical-information-summary-mobile-accelerate-casual-plan-55.pdf this is the only casual plan you can put more than 250MB data.

    These are the available data packs for Telstra

    http://www.telstra.com.au/mobile-phones/plans-and-rates/data-packs-australia/

    Angus, your info regarding the Telstra Freedom offer is incorrect.

    Sadly, you are no longer able to purchase the Browse Plus packs while on that offer. While it does allow you to purchase them via the website, this is most likely an oversight on Telstra's part and will be corrected. The Critical Information Summary states that they are not compatible and I have confirmed this with one of their chat representatives.

    Edit: My mistake, not the critical information summary... Page 17 of the Special Promotions PDF:
    http://www.telstra.com.au/customer-terms/download/document/promotions.pdf

    Last edited 06/08/14 10:48 am

      They would be contradicting themselves then because this is what it says on the website:
      If you want more data than what's included in your offer, adding a Browse Plus Pack is the easy way to keep browsing.

        Yep, I quoted that bit to Telstra - they advised that they haven't updated the website yet - seems it might have only changed yesterday based on the date the T&C were updated.

          Thanks for this, will update the post accordingly!

    According to the new Terms and Conditions the Telstra Freedom Cap deal no longer allows Browse Plus purchases from your existing credit.

    Aldi Mobile has an "L Value Pack", $35 for the month, which includes 1GB of data and enough calling and texting that I've never managed to exhaust it, on the Telstra 3G network (no 4G). An extra gig of data is $10 if you do manage to use it all.

    Worth a mention is that pre-paid phones locked to the Telstra network will work with an Aldi sim (well, the ones I've tried do).

    Still nothing can beat the deal I'm on and will most likely never change it because it doesn't exist anymore:

    Virgin Mobile BYO 39 (costs $29/Month)
    - $450 work of calls and SMS
    - 2GB data (originally the plan was 1GB but they had a double data deal at the time, with no expiry)
    - 4G
    - Rollover unused credit from last month

      https://www.spintel.net.au/products/mobile

      $36 for unlimited calls and texts with 2.5Gb of data. go over the data and its just $10 per Gb.

      http://www.vaya.net.au/downloads/Flexi%20Plan.pdf

      I'm still on the old $11 plan here. $500 worth of calls and SMS, 1.5GB data measured in 1kB blocks. Honestly could have just gone with the $7 though, from what I've seen of bills (I rarely look at them, probably not the best :P) I only use about $30 of calls and messages a month, and the most data I've ever used in a month would maybe be 22MB, otherwise generally under 5MB.

      No idea what I'm going to do when the plan reaches the end of its stretch next year though, haven't really seen much around that's anywhere near as cheap. I came off Vodafone prepaid for this where $50 credit was lasting me a good 9 months, so anything approaching $20 a month or over is ridiculously expensive to me.

      Last edited 06/08/14 12:49 pm

      I'm actually on an even better plan than you ricadam (sorry). I get $450 worth of calls, 2.2GB data, 4G and rollover and only pay $19 per month with BYO (was originally a special offer giving an additional 2GB of data to the Big Plan). My wife switched over to it at the same time and we've not found anything even close to offering the same now!

    I've also just confirmed with Telstra that you can no longer purchase Browse Plus Packs while connected to the Freedom offer. However, you can on the Beyond Talk offer. So if you recharged $50 on the Beyond Talk offer you would get:
    - $50 main credit that you can use to purchase $49/3GB
    - 400MB data (plus the 3GB above)
    - 500 mins Bonus Talk to standard Australian numbers
    - Unlimited texts to standard Australian numbers
    Seems pretty good to me, unless I'm missing something.

    http://www.vaya.net.au/?option=Mobile&4Gsimonly

    Vaya is also giving good deals on 4G they use Optus network $29 for 2.5GB data and $650 of calls

    Also on the Telstra freedom plan, your "freedom credit" can be used to dial international numbers whilst you're in Australia (as outlined in the fine print of the critical information summary). Which is what happens on the current Encore cap thing.

    Telstra is going to charge us $50 for 400MB as long as people are willing to spend that much, but it's a kind of monopoly...

    Unfortunately my place of residence is in a bit of a blackspot for sodafone and optarse.
    I'll have to stick with Aldi I think, [email protected]$30/30days plus topping up the prepaid for whatever calls I make.

    I'm a cheapskate in that I only pay $16 a month for 1GB data (used to be 1.5GB) and $500 worth of calls, my wife barely uses the phone and is on the $6 a month plan which has data charged at some no doubt crazy rate but has 50 minutes of calls.
    It's optus network but it's not that bad, just not as good as telstra. Only once have I gone over data allowance and that was due to my phone downloading automatically on a fresh install.

    Your Telstra option should note that you'll have no access to retrieve your voice mail. It's not included in the "bonus talk" minutes and the minimum call cost for any call is $1.28 for the first minute (or part). That's going to be a big problem for some people.

    There is a way to get your voice mail messages using "bonus talk" rather than credit:
    (From http://whirlpool.net.au/wiki/telstraprepaid)

    "
    If you want MessageBank but don’t want to pay the standard 101 retrieval cost from your account balance, then a workaround is to call your own number which will divert to MessageBank, then press "#" to interrupt the recorded message and type in your six digit PIN. This will be treated as a standard call rather than the special 101 charge. You can streamline this by creating a saved contact which has your number followed by a comma to create a pause # and then the 6 digit PIN. For example, if your phone number is 0400 123 123 and your pin is 456789 then save your contact as 0400 123 123,#456789#.

    you will first need to setup your greeting and a pin before this will work

    Please note: For this to work correctly, your greeting needs to be longer than 5 seconds to give it time to pause and then interupt your greeting by pressing hash.
    "
    Hope this helps :-)

    I have been on Optus prepaid for about 2.5 years now, its just $40 pm unlimited calls, texts, and 3gb of data.....I love it, never a problem, ever.
    Unfortunately this is no longer offered by Optus so if I was to try another plan and didnt like it, I can't come back to it, so i will stick to this one.

    I switched from Aldi (telstra) to Amaysim (optus) a couple of weeks ago because Aldi would halve their data allowance every month or two. But on Amaysim, I'm getting network dropouts almost every day. Go into and out of airplane mode, restart phone etc will sometimes fix it, but sometimes not (like right now). Pretty unimpressed so far, and will probably change both mine and my wife's.

    If nobody has mentioned, Vaya PowerPlan V2 18 had been great for me with 1.5 GB data and $650 calls credit.

    Just got told by LiveConnected that ive been with them for 2 years now, and that since costs have gone up i can stay on my $11.99 plan but have to pay a $9.90 price fix fee. There dont seem to be any plans under $20 that give you 1GB+ of data and 60mins+ of calls.

    I am shocked that prepaid has gone to hell in the last 2 years, seems like the big 3 are pushing up prices to get people onto postpaid, it doesn't look like buying a phone outright and going prepaid is much cheaper anymore, pretty soon it'll cost more and you'll get less.

    Last edited 12/09/14 3:05 pm

    I don’t understand why is Optus tricking it's customers into paying $10-20 more for "unlimited minutes" on their contracted My Plan Plus services, as opposed to the month-to-month My Plan sim only services…

    It appears as if Optus is blatantly tricking customers into contracts and using the ‘hidden costs’ to subsidise handsets, in addition to the additional handset payments charged..

    Take the $60 plan + $19 repayment for the new iPhone. Over 24 months it seems like you are only paying $456 for the phone.. Great! but that’s WRONG!

    In fact the $60 plan is made up of a promotional 2.5gb @ $25 ($0.0098 per MB) and also unlimited minutes @ $35...

    Compare this to the sim only plan of $45 where you get 2gb @ $20 ($0.0098 per MB) but unlimited minutes @ $25...

    In other words, you are paying an extra $10, or $240 over the life of the plan and you are in turn paying $696 for the phone..

    Sure it's still cheaper than buying outright, but is this right to charge different customers a different price for the same product and mislead customers about the real repayment costs?

    ANOTHER Example..

    Take the $80 My Plan Plus. Only a $2 repayment, so literally $48 for the phone.. AWESOME! Again, WRONG!

    On this plan it now costs $45 for unlimited minutes (remember these same unlimited minutes were only $25 for the $45 sim only plan) and the promotional 5gb of data costs $35 ($0.0068 per MB)..

    Compared to the $60 My Plan Sim only service, again unlimited minutes are $25, and 5gb of data costs $35... So this is a difference of $20, or $480 over the life of the plan.. Meaning the phone is actually costing you $528...

    How can Optus so blatantly lie to your customers? Shouldn't you just be honest and show the real repayments for phones on contracts?

      But if you got a cheaper phone on the 60 dollar plan then there would be no extra handset repayment cost, thus meaning your paying 15 a month for the handset. That isnt bad, they can't just give out free phones.

      Honestly what your saying I find stupid. All carriers provide a discount off of their post-paid plans to people who go sim-only, optus just happens to have quite a good one.

      Also, that 80 dollar plan that you make out to be some monster is good value compared to your first option, it only ends up 3 dollars a month more than the first option with an extra 3gb of data.

      Maybe it would be good if we had a carrier that had cheap plans that then charged customers on top of the credit for the phone. But honestly I think without the bonus subsidy you get the price would go up for the average consumer(ie. That iphone that costs 696 or 528 would end up at 869 dollars. Maybe they'd provide a discount for being in a 24 month cpntract, but then theyd end up with similar plans to Telechoice.

    "We’re not aiming to list every prepaid plan from every MVNO provider here."

    May I ask why? The MVNOs almost always have the BEST deals out there, regardless of network.
    Here is our research report which proves it, if you care to look:
    http://spendinghacker.com.au/best-mobile-plans-in-australia/

    Do any mobile operators give a family bundle or discount? I'm lucky enough to pay for 4 pre-paid accounts each month - (4 x $30 on Optus) but as the kids use more data downloads than calls, they are complaining and my wallet is shrinking!

    Any thoughts/recommendations??

    Thanks

      Amaysim have pay as you go plans where you can have a data pack of 2.5 GB for $19.95 p/m there are also some other offers for more or less

        Hi Cyba, Amaysim have great deals but I find their internet speed so slow as to be non existent. Although I have been with them a while I am going to have a look at what Telstra have to offer tomorrow.

    Have you looked into Just Mobile ??

    Lets be honest telstra and optus must be the most deplorable and corrupt companies in Australia. Try phoning optus to complain, you just cannot get through. Plus it takes approx 3mins to get to the service you want just to be told its not available. Very annoying. The thing is we are constantly being ripped off by this monopoly called telstra and optus. We do have vodafone but they are completely useless.

    I personally still use the Encore cap plan. I dont know why everyone uses the $50 one and why it is used as a standard for comparison. I purchase the $60 recharge. With this I get the original $60 plus $940 of calls and texts. It gives 3gb of data aswell. Then I purchase a $59 data pack which gives 4gb. Thats 7gb total so far. And then I use that $940 on data aswell which gives atleast 500mb.
    What I want to know, which I cant find out, is what does the new Freedom plan offer with a $60 recharge?

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