Mobile phone deals and plans

How to get the best mobile deal

There are many mobile phone plans and each one offers something different.

Here we show you the things to consider and the questions to ask to help you choose the right phone and plan for you.

Consider your mobile phone options

Consider these mobile phone options to work out what type of plan is best for you.

  • Phone - Use a phone you already own or get a new phone as part of a plan.
  • Paying for usage - Pre-pay for your usage or receive a bill and pay each month.
  • Contract - Get a fixed-term contract (usually 12 to 24 months) or a month-to-month contract.
  • Handset costs - Pay a one-off cost for the phone when you start a plan or pay off the cost of your phone in the monthly fee.
  • Data usage - Have unlimited usage or choose a 'cap' (a limit you cannot go over).
  • Package - Bundle your mobile phone plan with landline and internet or keep your mobile arrangement separate.

Smart tip

If you're travelling, get an International Data Pack before you leave Australia. This can make it cheaper to use data in other countries.

It's also important to consider what you'll be using the phone for. Will you use it for texting, calls, emails, social networking, taking and sending photos, watching videos, playing games, overseas communication or other things? All of these can affect how much your phone deal will cost.

Are most of your friends or family already with a particular network? If you'll be calling or texting them often, it might work out cheaper for you to use the same network.

Questions to ask before you buy a phone plan

Ask these questions in your service provider's store, over the phone or you can check their website.


Questions to ask

  • Do you have good coverage in my local area and other places I'll want to use the phone?
  • Can I see a coverage map to check coverage?
Contract length and cost
  • How long is the contract?
  • What's the minimum I'll have to pay each month and the total I'll pay over the contract period?
Call costs
  • Are calls charged for each second or for a block of time?
  • What calls are not included in the plan, like calling overseas or certain numbers?
  • Is there a flag fall with the plan?
Monthly limits
  • What happens after I use up the included value for the month?
  • Will the plan prevent me from going over a cap or can I continue using it but get charged extra?
  • What are the excess usage costs for going over the monthly allowance or limit for texts, voice calls and data?
Changing or cancelling my contract
  • What will I have to pay if I end the contract early? (This cost can be quite high.)
  • Can I switch to a cheaper or more expensive plan if I want to?
  • Will I have to pay extra to change?
Locked phones
  • Is the phone locked to your network? (If the phone is locked, it means you can't use the phone on another provider's network.)
  • Is there an extra cost for unlocking the phone? (Some plans automatically unlock the phone at the end of the contract period.)
Using the phone overseas
  • What will it cost to make and receive voice calls, send texts and use data overseas?
  • How can I keep track of my costs when I use the phone overseas? (International roaming usually incurs extra charges.)
  • What does the warranty cover and how long is it for?
Saving money
  • Will 'bundling' my mobile phone save money?
  • Can I get free calls to phones on the same network, cheaper calls at certain times of the day or free social networking?
  • Will I be charged extra for paying my bill in certain ways? (e.g. over-the-counter, credit card, etc.).
  • What's the cheapest way to pay?

Tricky phone terminology

Here we explain the words used in mobile plans to help you understand your phone contract and save money.

  • Allowance/limit - An 'allowance' is one part of your included value. For example, if you choose a plan that costs $50 a month, it may give you a $300 'allowance' for calls and texts each month. Your allowance is sometimes called your 'limit'.
  • Cap - Some plans let you go over your monthly allowance or limit. In these cases, you will be charged extra ― sometimes a lot extra! With other plans, you will be automatically prevented from using more than your limit in a month.
  • Contract - Once you decide on a plan that suits you, you sign a 'contract'. This is a legal agreement saying you accept everything described in the plan.
  • Data - 'Data' includes internet use, emails, live video chat, app updates, downloads and sending pictures in a text message (MMS). Data does not include texting (SMS), voice calls, listening to voice messages or taking photos.
  • Included/excluded value - 'Included value' means everything you get for your regular monthly payment. 'Excluded value' is anything you have to pay extra for. For example, 1300 and 1800 numbers are part of the 'included value' in some plans but not others.
  • Plan - A 'mobile phone plan' is what a mobile service provider will provide you with, how they will charge you for using your phone and how you will pay. Within each plan, there is a range of services that will be charged in different ways.
  • Pre-paid - 'Pre-paid' means you will use a mobile phone that you already own and pay in advance for using your phone on a mobile service provider's network - that is, you buy credit. When your credit is all used up, you can receive calls, but you can't make calls. Sometimes you lose your remaining credit if you don't use it all within a certain time period, for example 30 days.

Signing a phone contract

When you've decided on a mobile plan, you'll need to sign a contract. Before you do, it's important to ask questions if there's anything you don't understand.

Ask for a critical information summary

Don't be scared off by the name ― the Critical Information Summary (CIS) is a free document that a company must give you about their phone or service. The CIS will help you to understand what your new phone service is really going to cost you and what you'll be getting for your money.

Ask for a CIS from your mobile service provider before you buy or sign anything, whether it's from their website, over the phone or at one of the provider's shops.

Read about Critical Information Summaries on the ACMA website.

Understand your mobile phone contract

You can end up with debts of hundreds of dollars if you sign a mobile contract you don't understand. Asking a mobile-savvy friend or relative to read and help you understand your contract before you sign can save you lots of money.

A service provider must make its contracts available on its website - it's the law.

Related links

Last updated: 05 Dec 2018