Choosing a mobile phone plan

There are lots of mobile phone plans and data deals out there. Each offers something different. Find out how to choose one that works for you.


How to get the best phone plan

Think about how you want to use your phone, and how much you can afford each month. This will help you choose the right plan.

Consider how you'll use your phone

Do you need a lot of data to stream music or sport, or for social media? Do you talk regularly to family or friends living overseas?

Most plans include unlimited calls and texts to Australian numbers. So check what a plan charges for:

  • data

  • international calls and texts

  • entertainment packs for music, movies and videos

Research your network coverage

Make sure that any mobile service provider you consider has a strong phone signal in the places you spend the most time. This includes where you live, work and visit frequently.

Geographic black spots will cause your phone to drop out or make it difficult to hear, so it's important to make sure you have coverage.

Check the mobile phone coverage map on the provider's website before buying a mobile service.

Work out how much you can afford each month

Doing a budget helps you sort out your money. Look at your income and expenses. Then work out what you can afford to spend on a phone plan each month.

Budget planner:

Work out how much you can afford to spend on a phone each month with Moneysmart's budget planner

Consider if you need a new phone

You can choose to keep your current phone and only pay for your usage, or buy a new phone.

If you use your current phone

  • Prepaid plans – You pay for your usage in advance, buying a certain amount of credit for calls, texts and data. When your credit is used, you can receive calls but cannot make them. You have a certain amount of time to use your credit, for example, 30 days, before that credit expires.

  • SIM only plans – You get a certain amount of credit, and usually need to sign up for a minimum 12-month contract. You are billed at the ed of each month, and if you go over your monthly limit you will be billed for extra usage. Going over your credit usage limit may mean you have to pay a lot more.

If you need a new phone

If you want a new phone (handset), you can buy it outright or on a plan.

  • Buy outright – You pay the full cost of the phone upfront, then choose a prepaid or SIM only plan for calls, text and data. This option costs more at the outset, but makes it easier to switch plans or providers when you want.

  • Buy on a plan – You sign a contract and are billed monthly, spreading out the cost of the phone. On a plan you pay for your phone, monthly usage (including data), and any excess usage. You pay nothing upfront, but don't own the phone until you've paid it off. If you want to end the contract early, it's likely you'll be charged extra fees.

Smart tip

If your provider offers you mobile phone insurance, check that it's good value for money.

Compare phone plans

Compare phone plans with different providers to get the one that's best for you.

Comparison websites can be useful, but they are businesses and may make money through promoted links. They may not cover all your options. See what to keep in mind when using comparison websites.

Features: What to look out for when comparing phone plans

Contract length

  • Look at how long you'll have to stay on that plan (usually 12, 24 or 36 months).

Network coverage

  • Check the provider's network coverage and speeds. Don't sign up to a plan if you can't get service where you live and work.

Cost for the phone

  • If you get a new phone on a plan, make sure the advertised cost includes the phone itself.

Minimum total cost

  • This is the minimum amount you'll have to pay over the length of the contract.

  • Make sure this includes the cost of the phone itself.

Data

  • Check there's enough data included for what you want.

  • Find out how much extra data will cost if you go over your monthly limit.

International calls, text and roaming

  • If you make calls overseas, find out how much they will cost (prices can depend on the country).

  • Check if an international data pack or a local SIM would be cheaper than international roaming charges.

What to do before you sign the contract

When you've decided on a phone plan, you'll need to sign a contract.

Know what you're signing up for

Make sure you understand the contract and your responsibilities. If there's anything you're not sure about, ask questions or get advice from family or friends.

If you don't know what you're signing up for, you could end up paying more than you can afford.

Get a Critical Information Summary

You can download a (CIS) for each plan on the provider's website.

A CIS is a free guide that explains:

  • what your new plan is going to cost
  • what you'll be getting for your money

(The CIS is supplied by a phone plan provider and contains information about what you will pay and what you will get for your money. The information is presented in the same way so you can easily compare one provider's price and service with others.)

Find more financial tips and tools for students at Moneysmart.gov.au

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