Prepaid might seem like a bit of a dirty word, but the latest prepaid recharges can now go toe-to-toe with postpaid plans in terms of value - which makes them very handy if you're a cash-strapped student (or a parent footing the bill.) Here are some excellent 'back-to-school' plans to consider.
Better yet, prepaid plans are fool-proof. Since they have a hard cap, you can’t get caught unawares by excess fees. This is great if you’ve got a fixed budget you want to stick to. It also makes prepaid plans perfect for kids - there's no way your offspring can rack up a massive bill for you to foot.
So if you've finally decided to give your kid their first phone, you're looking for a new plan for them for back to school, or just want to nab a bargain for yourself, we're taking a look at some of the best value prepaid deals around.
Prepaid plans with at least 2GB
Opting for a small plan doesn't mean you can't get a great deal. TPG wins in terms of data-for-dollar, offering 4GB for $19.99 per month. Better yet, you'll get your first six months for just $10. You will however need to pay $10 upfront in setup costs.
It’s worth noting that TPG will automatically take $10 out of your prepaid balance if you go over your allowance, but only if there is balance available. If you've got insufficient funds, your data will become inactivate until you top up or make your next full recharge.
Unlike most prepaid plans, TPG's recharges last the length of the month, rather than a set amount of days. This means you'll only need to recharge 12 times per year, as opposed to 13 as with some 28-day offers.
Spending a little more can double your data: $30 for 8GB on a 28-day recharge through Telstra. Telstra's prepaid plans currently come with a 22GB Data Bank bonus on your first five recharges. These plans let you save up to 200GB of unused data in between recharges, which can then be used when you've exhausted your standard inclusion - provided you have an active recharge. After five charges, that leaves you with a massive 110GB of data you can tap in to at any time.
To get this bonus, you'll need to make your first recharge by February 5 next year, all other recharges by June 30.
Prepaid plans with at least 10GB
$30 per recharge is about the standard if you're after 10GB on a prepaid plan, but there are a few offers worth calling out. Once again, TPG will give you a discounted rate for your first six months. That means you can get 10GB for $15 per month for half a year.
Optus and Boost Mobile are both doing 50% off deals on their starter packs. In the case of Boost, $15 will get you a 12GB plan if you sign up before January 21. On Optus, $20 will get you a 20GB plan. You will however pay full price after your first recharge.
amaysim has a similar promo and will sell you your first 10GB recharge for $10 if you sign up before January 31.
When signing up for a prepaid plan, one thing to keep an eye on is recharge expiry periods as they can vary drastically between providers. 28-day is quite common, which means recharging 13 times per year. At the same time, Vodafone has some higher end plans with 35-day expiries, which can mean recharging as little as 10 times per year.
No-contract SIM-only plans with at least 1GB
And just for a bit of variety, here's a whole heap of contract-free SIM only plans. You're typically looking at $10 for 1GB when it comes to these, but SpinTel will do 2GB for $9.95 per month. These plans will attract extra excess usage charges: if you go over your 1GB limit, you'll typically be charged an extra $10 for each extra gig, which will instantly double the price of your plan. These are for responsible kids – and adults – only.
Alex Choros is Managing Editor at WhistleOut, Australia's phone and internet comparison website. He's now had far too many phone plan related dreams.