Did you know that you could save hundreds, perhaps thousands, of extra dollars and that you could apply to do that in around five minutes? Michael Ginsburg from Spending Hacker and I review some of the mobile best plans to help you save hundreds and thousands of dollars this Christmas.
Australia has some of the highest usages of mobile phones in the world. Deloitte assesses 84% of Australians own a mobile phone, and that number is headed towards 100%.
Australia also has the most competitive prepaid mobile market on the planet. It’s cutthroat and VERY aggressive which means bad news for telcos but great news for consumers! But how many of us are still paying way too much of our plan. Are you?
Before we cut to the analysis of the best mobile phone deals, here are a few things to consider:
- The big price that big telcos charge rarely provides a better product or service. Earlier this year I went on a date with a guy who worked for a major telco. When discussing various deals he admitted that he didn’t use his company’s product at home because it was too expensive. He got a much better deal by shopping around, and so can you. There are many companies that are what are known as Mobile Virtual Network Operators (MVNOs). According to Michael from Spending Hacker there is nothing dodgy about the term ‘virtual’: rather it simply refers to the fact that they do not operate their own mobile networks. Instead, they deliver their services over one of the three physical networks that already exist in Australia and are operated by Telstra, Optus and Vodafone (and soon TPG).
- You can take your mobile number with you to your new provider. Michael from Spending Hacker notes that your right to change to a new provider, called ‘porting’, has been regulated and protected by the Australian Government for some time. When I convinced my man to switch recently he was up and running within ten minutes, but most telcos advise you to factor in a few hours.
- Always buy your mobile phone separate from the plan. Unless it is an amazing deal (which I am yet to find), generally it is best to buy a phone and shop around for the best possible price, then negotiate the phone deal separately. You can save hundreds of dollars on a mobile phone by choosing an online discount retailer ) I used Hong Kong based eGlobal for my phone and was happy with its service). Most phone plans lock you in for 12 to 24 months, and chances are there will be a much cheaper deal at the end of this period.
- Ideally, buy an unlocked phone. A ‘locked’ phone is designed to only be used with one carrier, and are often sold by big Telcos who want you to stay with their brand. However, Michael from Spending Hacker has identified how to ‘unlock it’ so that you can move to another provider.
- Review your plan regularly as things change. Australians spend over $11.6 billion annually on the ‘laxy tax’ of not getting the best deal. I haven’t compared plans for two and a half years and I must say I am surprised at some of the new providers that I had not even considered before. And I think I am a savvy shopper.
- Coverage. If you live in a remote area, or if you frequently travel to a remote area (e.g. camping, fishing), then you probably need Telstra coverage as this covers more of Australia than anywhere else. This is an important safety feature – not just one of convenience – and it is worth paying a bit extra to ensure you have a way of being able to be contacted (or to phone) in an emergency. Most mobile phone plan websites have a map where you can work out if there is coverage – I am yet to see a consolidated one that looks at all telco providers though-out Australia.
- Data. This is becoming increasingly important with people watching Netflix, Youtube, playing games etc on their phones. I love posting photos to Instagram and checking FB – for this I use around 1.5GB to 2GB a month, and I usually prefer plans that give me a bit more. If you are mostly at home and/or are vigilant about using free WiFi, you could easily get away with 500MB. There are some great bargain plans in this area if you are able to use less data.
- Rollover? If you don’t use your allowance in one month, does it roll over to the next month? Some products such as ALDI Mobile, Belong and Boost offer this. This can be very handy if you know, say, that you will have heavier usage some months (e.g. because of travel).
- Cost per call/SMS. This is not so relevant as many plans have unlimited calls, but worth comparing for the lower priced plans with limited calls. Something might look like a good deal on paper but if you make a lot of calls you could easily go over. If it is a lower priced plan, look also at free calls between the same provider as that could make a difference if you frequently call or message your partner, kids or parents.
- International calls. I don’t make many international calls, but it is always good to know that I could ring Taiwan if I had to. Some deals now include FREE international calls.
- International roaming. My Dad nearly had a heart attack last year when he was skiing in Japan – his bill (before he argued it down) was in the thousands. If you do a lot of travelling, check what your international roaming provisions are before you go.
- Is there a locked in contract? The cheaper deals are generally for 12-month contracts, and some are for products paid six months or even 365 days in advance. It might not seem to matter now, but when I was posted overseas a year earlier than I expected I must say it was annoying to have to pay for a phone contract for a year when I didn’t need it. You might also find a better deal in the 12 or 24 month since you last reviewed. Some services such as ALDI Mobile allow you to buy value packs each month.
Kogans has a range of plans on sale until 31 December 2017. They also have a range of ‘new customer’ specials – try getting 11GB of data for $4.90 (new customers, one month only).
ALDI Mobile had a 365 mobile plan on sale mid-year. It was incredibly good value and in my area sold out in the first day. I have used the ALDI Mobile plans for around 18 months and found was a reliable and easy to use service. Unfortunately they have gotten rid of the $20 plan which means I have to spend at least $25/month to get the data I want, so I am now searching for a better deal. I have, however, recommended it to my boyfriend and his family who live in a rural area with only Telstra reception. They were previously paying $70 a month with Telstra. They now save $45 each a month ($540/year) – combined $135/month or $1,620 a year. That’s a lot of Christmas ham and turkey right there.
Vaya is offering $5 off a month for all 12 month contracts purchased before 15 November (promo code: TAKE5).
TPG is currently offering half price on the first six months for new customers. There is no lock-in contract. TPG is building its own network.
Lyca Mobile is offering up to 70% for new national and international SIM card customers for the first month only. Its Unlimited Plan M includes free international calls to 15 countries.
Amaysim is offering $5 a month off for up to six months for new customers who sign up before 19 November.
Best low usage (e.g. for kids or grandparents or poor students)
|12 month contract
|12 month contract, supports people with disability
|$9.95/30 days Unlimited SMS, $200 calls within Australia
|Kids plan comes with a Family Zone cyber safety account. and/or Triple J listeners (free radio streaming)
Best for remote areas
|Unused data stored or you can ‘gift’ to a Belong user; month by month no contract; double data in the first month.
|You can buy a SIM card for $5 from any store, and be up and running within an hour. Good data coverage, unlimited calls, good coverage
|Double data with your first two recharges; data rollover; free Apple Music streaming; no contracts
| Up to 7GB
Up to 11GB
| $29.99 month
|Month to month, good international call inclusions, best for someone who travels a lot or who has family overseas
Best for amateur Instagrammers (basically, what is best for me)
|365 day special – limited time
|12 month contract
|Optus 4G plus
|6 month upfront deal. Vaya has won every average user award for Money Magazine for the last four years
|TPG and Vodafone 4G (establishing its own network)
|Up to 50% off for the first six months – no contract
|Parent of Vaya
|Current $5 month offer for 5GB, 10GB and 14GB plans. No contract
Ms Frugal Ears note: I used Vaya back in 2015/16. I discontinued as my phone was cutting out, and I ‘splurged’ on an ALDI Mobile month to month plan. I lived in a different house then (which was in the suburbs), and my phone also died due to age. So it is possible that a) it was a coverage problem b) I won’t have that where I now live or c) the coverage was fine but my phone had issues.
Best for people who watch videos and play games on their phones
|1st six months, $34.99 after that
|365 day special
|12 month contract
Ms Frugal Ears verdict
Looking at all the evidence, my ALDI Mobile $25/30 days (note many ‘monthly’ plans are only for 28) is not too bad. That said, I can take advantage of some special deals and do better.
I have ordered a $4.90 Kogans large 11GB card, which comes with double data. I am using this to trial what the Vodafone network is like in my area. So I will save $20.10 in the next month. If I pay for the 365 in advance special offer, I would receive 1.5 GB and save $12.32/month or $147.84 a year, or purchase 6GB and save $8.10/month or $97.20 a year. But I’m not that keen to be locked into a contract.
The next best deal for me is 4GB with TPG, month to month, with a current offer of only $15 a month for up to six months. This would save me $60 in six months and give me more data.
I am also interested in the Vaya 1.5GB plan ($14/month) and 3GB plan ($22/month) for six months. This would give me savings of $132 a year and $36 respectively. I probably would only switch from ALDI Mobile for the lower deal, though, and I am a little unsure if I could survive on only 1.5GB.
I am interested in the Belong $25/month 5GB product. Although this is the same as what I am currently paying it gives me 2GB a month more data for the same price as what I am currently paying.
Bendigo Bank’s 2GB 12 month contract at $14.50 a month is also very good value. This would save me at least $126 a year, but I am less keen to be locked into a 12 month contract.
Total saved: $20 for a one month Kogans card plus up to $147.84 a year if I switched to the Kogans 1.5GB 365 prepaid option. Alternatively, I would save $60 in six months by taking advantage of TPG’s special offer. Assuming I go with Kogans and factoring in the one month special, I would save $13.98 a month or $167 a year
Your challenge if you choose to accept is to see if you can get a better mobile phone deal on your phone. I thought I had a pretty fabulous deal and I do – but there are always better deals out there. Make sure you join us on the Frugal Dare to Millionaire Facebook Group to share your savings!