Prepaid mobile plans have come a long way in the last 15 years since they were first introduced in Australia on the Telstra, Optus and Vodafone networks.
Since then, we’ve seen increasing competition in this space, especially as new resellers (also called Mobile Virtual Network Operators) started operating on the three main networks, tailoring to specific types of mobile users.
Using the towers (base stations) of the underlying carrier to provide you with coverage but with their own rate plans, billing and customer support, prepaid MVNOs will typically be able to offer a better deal than the main carriers due to their reduced overheads.
Now, there are a range of different plans offered by these different providers, including unlimited prepaid plans, prepaid caps and long expiry deals – as well as providers like Lycamobile that specialise in offering cheap international call rates.
It’s very hard to pick a single best prepaid plan, so we’ve created three comparison tables for you below, to help you find the right plan for your needs. We’ve also got some more tips at the bottom of the page to help you with choosing the right provider and plan for your needs.
Unlimited Prepaid Plans
Originally, unlimited plans were only available as a postpaid service – but very quickly, we began to see some of the prepaid MVNOs start to offer unlimited plans to prepaid customers in order to get a piece of this very popular product category. Here’s our table to help you find the best prepaid unlimited plan for your needs.
Our #1 pick for the best Unlimited Prepaid Plan is the Amaysim Unlimited plan for $44.90 per month. We like it because it includes a choice of two large data allocations – 5 GB or 7 GB of data and they offer excellent customer support from their team who are based here in Australia. Amaysim uses the Optus 3G/4G network, with blisteringly fast data speeds that you can achieve on their 4G network.
An unlimited prepaid plan is great if you find that you’re often making a lot of calls each month and sending a lot of text messages. However, with the increasing trend towards using increasing amounts of data on mobile devices, it pays to keep an eye on the data allocation that is provided with your unlimited plan as some may be too small.
Prepaid Cap Plans
Cap plans are one of the most popular types of plans for the big three networks to offer and very popular with many mobile users. In exchange for a fixed monthly amount, you receive a large allocation of credit that you can use on calls or messages, however it is important to note that the rates on a cap plan are typically heavily inflated compared to the rates that you get on the long expiry, cheap prepaid plans listed further down this page.
Our #1 pick for the best Prepaid Cap Plan is Amaysim Flexi at $19.90 per month. While you don’t get hundreds of dollars worth of calls, you do get exceptionally cheap call rates so that if you go over your cap, you aren’t punished for excessive usage.
Cheap Call Rates and Long Expiry Prepaid Plans
If you only use your mobile occasionally, then the plans below represent exceptional value. With low call and SMS rates and between 90 and 365 days before your credit expires, these plans are perfect for grandparents or young children who only need to make infrequent calls.
Our #1 pick for the best Cheap Call Rate/Long Expiry prepaid plan is Amaysim’s As You Go plan. With a really low call rate of 12c per minute with no flagfall and 12c SMS, combined with access to the Optus 3G and 4G networks and a 90 day expiry date, Amaysim has a really attractive offer. Their Australian based customer service team have won several industry awards as well.
Things to Consider When Choosing A Prepaid Mobile Plan
Call Rates, Included Value and Free Call Promotions
In order to get the best value from any prepaid mobile plan, you really need to consider your previous or estimated usage patterns and purchase the plan that best suits your needs. The good thing with prepaid is that you’re never locked in to a single provider or single rate plan. As your needs change, you can change the plan that you’re on to best suit you.
If you’re making a lot of calls, then a prepaid cap plan or an unlimited prepaid plan could be the best option – just be aware that the call rates on these plans are much higher than some of the other prepaid plans available. If you’re only using the phone occasionally, then one of the cheap prepaid plans with long expiry dates could be the best option.
It’s also worth considering which provider your friends and family are on, especially if there are any promotions that provide free calls between users on that provider. Many of the MVNOs will offer free calls between customers on their service, including Lycamobile and Amaysim (on certain plans). Some also extend that free call promotion to include calls to any number on the same network.
Telstra, Vodafone and Optus are the only providers in Australia that operate their own mobile networks. The rest of the providers that we list on this site purchase access to one of these networks, package it with their own customer support and rate plans, and sell it on to you, the end user.
In all of our comparison tables, we make it clear which network these providers are using. This way, if you’re already using a provider who is on the Optus network and you’re happy with your coverage but would like a better deal, you can easily find another provider that better suits your needs.
Included Data Allowances and Data Packs
Many of the unlimited and cap plans will include a data allowance for you to use on your mobile, and some providers will also allow you to use the Tethering or Personal Hotspot feature on your phone to share that data with a laptop computer or tablet as well.
It’s important to keep an eye on the billing unit that your provider uses, with the smallest unit representing the best value. Many providers charge per kilobyte (KB), which is the smallest unit of data. A few will charge in 10 KB blocks, and some providers still charge in 1 MB blocks. The larger the block, the more that you may find your data allocation “disappearing” due to rounding up of each data session, especially if you live or work in an area with poor coverage, or travel through mobile black spots such as lifts, train stations and car parks frequently.
If you’re looking to use your mobile for tethering, then you should also consider the network speed – ideally, you’ll be wanting a provider that allows you access to 4G, the fastest mobile data technology that is currently available.
Many of the prepaid providers that we have featured on this site do not allow you to use international roaming on your service. In other words, you can only use the service while you’re connected to their network in Australia. Apart from the big three telcos (Telstra, Optus and Vodafone), one of the only other providers that allow access to international roaming is Amaysim.
We recommend that if you do take your Australian phone and SIM card with you when you’re travelling overseas, that you pick up a local SIM card for your destination country and put that in your phone instead. This does require you to have an unlocked handset, so keep that in mind if you are thinking about buying one of the prepaid handset bundles that some of these providers offer for sale.