Mobile Savings Guide

Mobile Plans are changing fast, with data limits rising and prices dropping. Use this Guide to find the cheapest plan for your needs.

Guide Contents

    How to find the right (and the cheapest) mobile plan for you

    Mobile phones have made life easier, but choosing the right plan from the vast and competitive mobile market can be enough to give you a “mobile migraine”.

    The good news is that with these tips and about 5 minutes’ work, you can get the coverage you need without paying top dollar.

    So here’s our 2-step process for picking out a cheap plan that’s right for you:

    1. Answer these 4 Questions

    It’s a case of horses for courses when it comes to selecting the best plan for you. At the end of the day it will come down to your financial situation and usage needs.

    Here are a few helpful questions provided by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission to help determine your decision:

    1. Post-paid or pre-paid? Can you commit to a long-term contract or would you prefer the flexibility of a pre-paid account, where you top up your credit when it runs out? (For more info see our Guide ‘Pre-paid versus post-paid: what does it mean?’)
    2. Contract or BYO? Do you need a handset? Or will you “BYO” (Bring Your Own)? If you need a phone, you might want to sign a contract with a handset included.
    3. Which network? What coverage do you need? Are all the networks equally good in your area? Or is one better than the others? Click here to compare* coverage in your area.
    4. How much do you use your phone? You’ll need to know roughly how many data downloads, calls and messages you want in your plan. (Try working out what you use in a day and then multiplying that by 30… you can use a data calculator like this one* to help you decide.)

    Once you can answer these 4 questions, you’re ready to…

    1. Use an online comparison tool

    There are several fantastic online tools to help us sift through the mountain of options out there. So go ahead and plug your numbers into one of these sites:

    WEBSITE COVERAGE
    whistleout.com.au*
    The most comprehensive comparison site for telco products in Australia.
    Finder.com.au
    Also comprehensive, comparing over 30 providers and over 300 plans
    youcompare.com.au*
    compares plans from 11 providers including most of the big brands

    These easy-to-use comparison sites do all the hard work for you. Then all you need to do is choose a winner and you’re on your way.

    Big Brands vs Little Brands: Which providers are on which network?

    There’s a handy trick in the telco industry that the savvy consumers know about: there are only 3 mobile networks out there and scores of providers, so you don’t need to pay Big Brand prices to get Big Brand coverage.

    Top tip

    The smaller (and cheaper) phone companies all use the same networks as their Big Brand brothers and sisters.

    That’s right – every provider uses either the Optus, Vodafone or Telstra networks.

    On the Optus and Vodafone networks, Big Brands and Little Brands use exactly the same network.

    On the Telstra network, little brands access “the vast majority of the 3G and 4G networks”, which is the language Telstra allows its re-sellers to use.

    Are the Little Brands as good as the Big Brands? It all depends what you’re after, but don’t write them off. They’re selling the same coverage – they only compete on price and service.

    Here’s a list of which Telco is linked to which network to assist your shopping:

    • Telstra Network:

      Telstra, Woolworths Mobile, Aldi Mobile, Boost Mobile, Telechoice, Lyca Mobile, Southern Phone.

    • Optus Network:

      Optus, Vaya, Virgin Mobile, Amaysim, Jeenee Mobile, Yomojo, Moose Mobile.

    • Vodafone Network:

      Vodafone, TPG, Kogan Mobile, Lebara Mobile, Think Mobile, GoTalk, Hello Mobile.

    (Did we miss any? Tell us here)

    Want to see the cheapest plans on a particular network, such as the Telstra network? Not all comparison sites offer this option, but whistleout.com.au* allows you to search by network at this link.

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    WhistleOut Cheap Mobile Plans, Telstra Network



    Pre-paid versus post-paid: what does it mean?

    Streaming funny cat content on YouTube sucks up a lot of data!

    So you need to ask yourself just how much you plan to use your phone and to what end. Is it just for quick calls and text messages, or for heavy data use like web browsing and streaming silly videos?

    Once you can answer this question, you are ready to decide whether pre-paid or post-paid is the best option for you.

    As the name suggests, the difference between “pre-paid” and “post-paid” is the actual period when you pay for usage.

    Pre-paid plans involve no monthly contracts; users pay in advance to receive a certain amount of minutes or data. Once they run out they simply recharge their accounts until they expire at which time they repeat the top-up process again.

    Pre-paid plans
    PRO: You use what you knowingly pay for so there are no surprises or bill shock later.
    CON:  It’s more than likely your per-minute rate will be higher with a pre-paid plan. What’s more, your purchased calling minutes are usually only good for 30 to 90 days, while your choice of phone is also limited.

    Post-paid operates via a contract, where you select your plan and every month your provider bills you for a pre-agreed sum. That said, if you use all your credit before the end of the month, your provider offers extra services for an added cost.

    Post-paid
    PRO: Convenience and reliability. Sometimes post-paid plans also include a phone or higher calls and data allowances.
    CON:  If budgeting is an issue for you, then pre-paid allows you to simply pay as you need it and avoid the stress of an expensive bill.

    To ‘bundle’, or not to ‘bundle’?

    To bundle or not to bundle? It’s a big cost-saving question facing households in the digital age.

    Our research suggests that bundling your Internet, mobile, landline and pay TV services with the same provider might be simpler, but you could pay extra for the privilege.

    Case study, November 2017: Bundling vs Un-bundling

    EXAMPLE 1: Telstra’s “Entertainment Plus” bundle*.

    For $130 a month with a 24-month contract, customers receive unlimited data, Telstra Gateway Frontier Modem, pay as you go calls (national and international options available) as well as your choice of Telstra TV + Foxtel Now or Foxtel from Telstra entertainment package.

    In addition to the monthly charge, new customers are also billed $99 activation fee.

    For those eager to also bundle their mobile with Telstra, we’ve added the 10GB Telstra BYO SIM only plan: Go Mobile Plus*.

    For $49 per month (12 month term) this online only offer includes unlimited national talk & text (Standard 2 min call costs $2) and international roaming day pass.

    While this bundle plan doesn’t include a mobile discount, some Telstra mobile customers do get access to bonus mobile calls.

    TOTAL COST: $179 per month plus home phone call charges plus set-up fees ($99 for the broadband).

    EXAMPLE 2: Alternatives from rival Optus.

    Like Telstra, the Optus website does not advertise a bundle option with mobile plan included.

    But after a little bargaining with the salesperson in the Adelaide call centre, we “haggled” a 10GB BYO SIM plan for $40 per month with unlimited calls and texts.

    This offer was based on the condition we also took out Optus’s 60 Plan*, which features unlimited broadband with wifi modem included (and zero set-up fee) and is priced at $60 a month for 24 months.

    For an extra $20 per month, we added the Optus Made for Entertainment package, which includes Yes TV by Fetch, Optus Sport (the official home to all English Premier League games) as well as pay as you go calls.

    TOTAL COST: $120 per month, plus the cost of calls from your home phone.

    EXAMPLE 3: Un-bundled alternatives

    Next we used the Whistleout.com.au* comparison website to completely ‘unbundle’ and get each service from a different provider.

    We selected the ‘I already have a phone’ option, and searched for plans with 10GB data and unlimited calls and texts. We pick a Vaya BYO Mobile plan* for $36/month and no lock-in contract.

    Next: broadband. Dodo’s ADSL Unlimited* plan from $29.90 per month is hard to go past for price, even when you consider the $99 upfront fee. But it does not include a modem.

    So we added a TP-Link 300Mbps router for $155 (although you might have a modem already and no need for another one).

    Finally, PAY TV. Foxtel’s POP PACK from just $15 per month provides a range of entertainment, comedy, drama and reality TV from Australia and around the world including every new HBO drama and Foxtel Originals. Sports lovers will need to spring for the premium pack from $29 per month.

    TOTAL COST: $80.90 a month, plus set up fees ($155 for the modem and $99 for the broadband).

    THE VERDICT:

    The monthly cost of mobile, broadband, home phone and Pay TV ranges from $80 to $180 and the set-up fees from zero to $254. In the end, it depends what really matters to you. Now it’s your turn to decide which option provides the most bang for your buck!

    3 Ways to Avoid Excess Data Charges

    So you’ve taken out a new phone plan with unlimited talk and text. It’s goodbye Bill Shock, right?

    Think again. It’s easy to underestimate your data usage, which is why “Data Shock” is the new “Bill Shock” among smartphone users.

    Excess data charges are often about $10 per 1GB, which can add up to hundreds over a year if you’re constantly exceeding your quota.

    According to Telco comparison site  Whistleout.com.au*, Data Shock usually comes down to a combination of mobile users exceeding their inclusions, using services not featured in their plans and taking their phone overseas.

    So, here are three top tips to help you manage your phone bill better:

    1. Switch to a pre-paid plan – If you’re a chronic data over-user, then this could be a good option for you. After all, you can’t use what you don’t have. However, it’s important to track your usage as you don’t want the headache of running out of credit just when you need your phone most!
    2. Family data sharing – Family data sharing takes a little cooperation but when it works it’s a very cost-effective way to save on your telco bills as well as keep the kids’ internet usage in check. It allows family members to share their combined data limits. Family data plans are available on most carriers now and start from around $30 a month.
    3. Avoid big data-guzzling apps – Limit the kids’ (and your own!) streaming of giant data users such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, Youtube, Netflix and Spotify. Stream them on wifi where possible, as you’re more likely to have a higher data limit. If you’re unsure how much data a particular app uses, check out this guide*, which exposes Instagram as being the worst culprit – even ahead of Netflix, Youtube and music apps.

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