Hi Lifehacker, There are relatively few public phones these days, though there are some in prominent locations, like the ones at Flinders Street station in Melbourne. There is a long notice telling you to please insert coins and that no change will be given — but nowhere does it tell you how much to put in for a local call. This secret would be of great value to locals and tourists who need to make a call. Any insights? Thanks, Change For Good
Picture: Getty Images/Michael Dodge
In an era where there more mobile phones than citizens in Australia, payphones are indeed something of a rarity. They tend to fall into two categories: those provided by Telstra as part of its universal service obligation requirements (some of which are in very remote locations), and those set up by other companies (generally in higher-traffic sites such as shopping malls or stations). Telstra is maximising the value of its existing payphones by using them as wireless hotspots, but I still wouldn't expect to see an increase in their numbers.
But if you do need one and you need to make a local call, what will you pay? Telstra's customer terms specify how much will be charged for a local call: 50 cents. I'd be surprised if any commercial payphone provider charges less.
So if you do encounter a payphone without a clearly displayed minimum charge (itself arguably a violation of consumer law), 50 cents is likely to be the minimum — and that's a certainty if it's a Telstra-operated phone. If that doesn't work, add a little more. (If any readers have used the payphones at Flinders Street and know the charges, please tell us in the comments.)
Calling to a mobile is a lot more expensive — Telstra's charges are 50 cents per 35 seconds or part thereof. Either way, if you are planning to use a payphone, 50 cent pieces are probably the thing to stock up on. Some payphone models won't accept smaller coins, though that should be indicated on the phone itself.
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