Prepaid Mobile Plans in Australia

Whether it is for Google Map for driving, or sharing your selfies to Facebook and Instagram, there's always a good reason to need internet access when traveling in Australia. 

If you do not want the hassle of hunting for free wifi, why not buy a prepaid card for on the go data access?

Not all prepaid mobile plains are created equally. This goes the same for Australia's prepaid plans. The three main telecom companies in Australia (Telstra, Optus, Vodafone) each have their own different strengths and weaknesses.

Since I am on the topic of mobile data, my focus below will be on prepaid plans with better data offerings.

I was so busy trying to share my trip experience online that I couldn't focus on the trip...

Pro Tip: If you are arriving at Perth International Airport T1, the first thing to note is that you will be greeted by Optus and Vodafone shops once you exit Arrival Hall (Ground floor). Telstra does not have its own shop, but take the elevator up to Departure Hall (Level 1) and Newslink sells Telstra sims.

The current cheapest data plan is the $30 recharge for Freedom Plus, with 1.3GB data, unlimited calls to other Telstra numbers, $250 call credit for all other calls, $30 recharge credit.

With each recharge, the data and call credit are good to use for 28 days and expires thereafter. You can rollover unused data and/or call credit with your next recharge.

Local and International calls both incur a flat connection fee of 39cents. Calls are charged by per minute block.

Some examples of call rates: local Australia calls (89cents), US (99cents), China/Hong Kong/Malaysia/Singapore ($1.29), United Kingdom/Canada ($2.49)

Except for free calls to other Telstra numbers, you can see the call charges are quite hefty. Also it does seems like the recharge credit cannot be used to buy their data top up packs. Meaning you have to recharge again when your data is used up, or purchase the top up packs separately.

The strength of Telstra though comes in the coverage, especially in less urban areas. This would be good if you are driving out of the major cities and using Google Maps for locating directions or GPS navigation.

Refer to the below links for more info on the Freedom Plus plan and international call rates

The current main prepaid offerings are monthly vs daily. 

The cheapest Monthly Plus plan is $30 recharge for 1.5GB data, unlimited calls to Australian mobiles and landlines. You also get $5 Extra Credit for international calls, roaming and premium services. Unused data expires after 30 days, but can be rolled over by recharging, up to a max of 10GB. 

Pro Tip: Optus is having an online promotion for extra 1.5GB data. You must purchase the "$30 Prepaid SIM Pack" online, activate the Monthly Plus plan before 30 Sep 2015, and do a $30 recharge before 15 Nov 2015.

The Daily Plus plan is a $2 per day plan, minimum recharge of $10. It offers 500MB data per day, and "auto bump" of 524MB for another $2 if you used up the first 500MB. It similarly offers unlimited calls to Australian mobiles and landlines. Day ends at 11.59pm. Each recharge goes into your MyCredit balance which will be used to deduct the daily $2 fee

For both monthly and daily plans, there are no connection fees for both local and international calls. Calls are charged by per minute block.

Some examples of call rates: US/Canada/Malaysia (4cents), China/Hong Kong (3cents), Singapore (2cents), United Kingdom (10cents) .

You can see that Optus has very competitive prepaid offering (free local calls, low international calls, no connection fees). The Monthly Plus plan may be more useful for local Australians or fellow travelers staying long. The Daily Plus plan is actually more useful for short trips to Australia and definitely Optus target for travelers, as can be seen by the big advertisement outside the Optus shop in Perth Airport.

My own experience using the Optus Daily Plus plan is that the 500MB data should be sufficient for your surfing and GPS needs. In fact, my partner shared the data over phone tethering and I have never seen the usage exceed more than 300MB. The downside for Optus is the spotty coverage outside of cities. The coverage along the road from Perth to Busselton is still ok, but once you are on the road from Bunbury to Albany and Albany to Perth, there are long stretches of no signal until you reach the next small city (Wadpole/Denmark etc..). That just means you cannot search for locations using Google Map in your phone, but otherwise GPS should still function. Fortunately the road connecting the small cities towards Southern part of Western Australia is pretty much just one straight road. So you should do fine. If not, you can refer to my article on how to take the long haul buses.

Refer to the below links for the two Plus plans and international call rates

Pro Tip: Vodafone is currently having an online promotion for $50 Prepaid Combo Starter pack at half price $25. with 4GB data, unlimited calls to Australia numbers, unlimited international calls to 10 countries, and 90mins for international calls to other selected countries, $50 Combo credit. Offer valid till 13 Oct 2015.

The cheapest regular data plan is the $30 Combo starter pack with 1.5GB, unlimited calls to Australia numbers, $30 Combo credit.

Data and Combo credit are valid for 28 days before expiry, no rollover feature.

International calls incur a connection fee of 40cents, charged by per minute block.

Some example call rates: US/United Kingdom/China/Hong Kong/Malaysia/Singapore  ($2), Canada ($1)

Refer to the below links for more info on the Combo starter pack and international call rates