Mobile Meltdown: Which Plan is Right for Me?

How to choose a new mobile phone plan when there are literally hundreds of options? How to navigate the confusing array of different products to find the right one?

My ex is about to cut off my mobile phone.  This sounds dramatic, but actually it is a good and inevitable thing.  As I sort out the spiderweb of our joint finances and investments, this is one key change that I want to get a hold off.  And get the right plan for me so that it doesn’t end up costing me a fortune.

There are so many *deals*, but it depends on what is right for me and my usage (and the fact my kids tend to borrow my phone to play games – not proud of this but sometimes it happens).  I also already have a phone so am only interested in a SIM pack.  The questions I am asking myself are:

How many phone calls do I make a month?  

I usually think I don’t make many calls, but in reality there are a few a close friends and family members I call from time to time and then speak to for an inordinate amount of time.  Sometimes I speak to them on the land-line, but more often on the mobile.  I can’t tell from my phone records how many calls I make, or for how long, but I was not billed any excess charges with my current provider (which included $450 of calls).  Which surprised me a bit as there were a few long phone calls in there.

Which reminds me, who uses a land-line these days?  Well, I still do but it is becoming increasingly marginal except by cold callers. I think it might also be time to turn it off.

In my search, I have also focused on phone plans where there are discounts for people you call frequently.  In my case, mainly my Dad and my sister.  But this often rewards people with the same plan and there is little consistency with the plans my family uses.  So I am probably better just to get an option with lots of free calls.

Much much data do I use or need?

To be honest, I often have no idea how much I actually use.  I am currently on a plan that has 1.5GB and mostly I cope with that okay.  I think I probably use about 60/70% of the phone data, so I could probably downsize to 1GB.  Over Christmas I was away in Melbourne and uploaded a few too many family shots and nearly overloaded.  Perhaps if I was smarter I could have found a way to connect with my dad’s wifi at home, or free wifi when I was out.  It is easy to get lazy when it is so easy just to have data connected.

My dilemma is whether or not to risk going down a bit, and if so, whether or not I can purchase additional phone usage.  As an avid social networker who loves to share pictures on Facebook and Instagram, the assurance of having enough data is important to me to pay a bit of extra money. I have decided to stick with 1.5GB.

Which type of Coverage?

Telstra generally has much better coverage than Optus or Vodafone, especially in rural or remote areas.  But apparently all three telcos are much better than European counterparts.  It is possible to check coverage online.

I live in Canberra, and generally Telstra has much better coverage than Optus or Vodafone but it is not a huge issue unless I spend a lot of time on holiday at the Coast or doing long trips outside of Canberra.  (That said I was at a Canberra conference venue last week where only Telstra was available.)  Being in Canberra though means that some of the cheaper options are not available as it is not a ‘major’ capital city.

Which Plan Is Right for Me?

TRANSACT

My starting point is the product I am currently on: TRANSACT, a local ACT product now owned by iiNet.  It uses the Vodafone network.  I also get some discount from bundling electricity and gas services.

I am on a $20/month ‘casual conversation plan that includes $450 worth of calls, and 1.5GB of data.  Calls are charged at the following rates:

2 min call $2.15
25¢ standard SMS
50¢ standard MMS
Call connection fee 35c

When I first signed up I think they had free calls between other TRANSACT users, but I am unsure if they have this or not.  It is a month-to-month plan.

ALDI mobile

I do nearly all my grocery shopping at ALDI, so I guess you could say I am a fan.  They also have a good range of mobile products, and is a winner in the 2015 Money Magazine round up for the best low-cost, low usage PAYG mobile phone.  It uses ‘part of’ Telstra networks, and claims it reaches 98.5% of the population.

I looked at first at the M Value Pack for $20 (30 days).  It includes 300 minutes of calls (10c/min, SMS 10c each), free ALDI to ALDI calls, and also 400MB of data.  This probably wouldn’t be enough for me, but you can upgrade (once only per month) to another 300MB of data for $7.  Even with the upgrade, I would sometimes run out of data each month.

The next plan up is the L Value Pack for $30 (30 days).  It includes 650 minutes of calls, 2200 SMS, free ALDI to ALDI calls and 1.25GB of data.  You can purchase an additional 1GB for $10.  Good plan, but more expensive than what I am currently on.

I am probably too much of a frequent user to look at Pay as You Go options.  But for infrequent use, ALDI has a $30 plan with 365 days credit expiry.  Costs are: calls 12c per min, SMS 12c each, MMS 35c eac, data 5c per MB

Vaya Mobile

Frugal friends on the popular Simple Savings website speak highly about Vaya.  They also won a 2015 Money Magazine award for having the best mobile plan average usage. The product I am interested in is their 4G Sim card Power Plan 18.  There is no contract, and you pay $18/month.  It includes $650 of calls (90c/minute, 35c flag fall, unlimited SMS), 1.5GB of data and free Vaya to Vaya calls.

It uses the Optus network.  Reports on its customer service are variable, but mostly positive.   It currently has a special offer for March that includes free delivery on products, including SIM cards, first month free.

Comparison site

I found this mobile phone/table comparison site useful:  http://www.whistleout.com.au/.  It  had a whole lot of options that I had not considered before, including Jeenee mobile.

Jeenee Mobile

I was quite intrigued by the Australian telecommunications company Jeenee Mobile.  The company supports Australians with disability; the parent company is Community Connections Australia.   It donates a $35 Smart Phone Pack to people living with disability (check for at the bottom of the page for conditions).  It looks like an ethical company with a good product.  It won the 2015 Money Magazine award for the best high-usage mobile plan ($35/month for 3GB of data and $650 worth of calls).

Their $25 SIM Pack Plan (no contract) includes $500 worth of calls (90c/minute plus 35c flagfall), unlimited SMS and 1.5GB in data.  They are currently offering a deal with free setup on the SIM card before 31 March.

Telstra

Telstra have the best coverage in Australia, and with a network of shopfronts, arguably the best service as well.  Price wise, though, they are more expensive than the other options I investigated.

Telstra currently has a special offer running until 27 April where you can get 1GB/month bonus on mobile phone plans.  Their cheapest plan is S Talk & MMS at $45/month. It includes $550 value talk (99c per minute plus 40c connection fee) and MMS (50c each).  The plan usually only includes 500MB data, but they will provide 1GB bonus for plans before 27 April.  The plan is for a 12 month minimum term.

Conclusion
For me it is looking like Vaya Mobile has the best product for my budget and usage.  But I am a little concerned about coverage, so maybe ALDI (although more expensive for what I want) might be a better option.
Which product would you go with?
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