Almost everything we do these days requires being online or connected in some way. As such, having your phone up and running as soon as possible when you land in a Australia can make your life a lot easier. Now there are two ways to do just that: a prepaid or a post-paid local SIM card plan.
So why would you even want a local SIM card anyway? Couldn’t you just use your regular SIM card or WiFi since it’s seemingly everywhere these days?
Well you could use your regular international SIM card but a benefit of getting a local SIM is that it will be a lot cheaper than using your home provider, as paying international rates on a regular basis will quickly result in a growing phone bill. As for relying on WiFi, well you could try but there will be times where you’ll find yourself in a WiFi free spot and you’ll wish you had a local SIM card.
Here’s our tops tips to get you connected
Choose a provider
There is plenty of competition in Australia’s mobile phone market with over 20 providers offering plans, which means a good deal for students is never far away.
The three biggest operators – Telstra, Optus and Vodafone – are worthwhile if you are willing to enter into a long term contract and want to upgrade your phone. Smaller providers offer cheaper short term and prepaid deals, which are generally better suited to international students. Aldi Mobile, Moose, amaysim and Lebara Mobile tend to be the pick of the bunch among students.
Prepaid vs. Post-paid
Once you have chosen a provider, you then need to choose whether you want a prepaid or a post-paid plan. Prepaid means you pay upfront for calls, texting and data, and have greater control over how much you spend.
With a post-paid plan, you enter into a minimum one year contract (usually these come in 12, 24 or 26 month plans) and pay a fixed amount per month for a quota of calls, texts and data. This option suits long-term users and anyone looking to upgrade their phone, with many plans offering a free or heavily discounted new phone as part of the deal.
The pros and cons of a prepaid plan
The main benefit of a prepaid plan is that it’s a “get what you pay for” kind of deal, meaning that there’s no hidden charges anywhere. Once you’ve used up all the call credit and data, that’s it and you’ll have to recharge your SIM card with more credit. Other benefits include a very quick and easy purchasing process since there’s no contract stuff to deal with, and some providers offer new phones at a discount as part of the package.
As for the downsides of a prepaid plan, most have a set expiry period – usually 30 days from activation – meaning that you have only a limited amount of time to use your data and credit before it expires and you’ll be required to recharge your SIM. While there’s no hidden charges, you may run out of credit and be unable to make a call or use mobile data when you really need to.
The pros and cons of a post-paid plan
The biggest pro of post-paid plans is that you can call, text, and go online anytime you want without worrying about using up all your credit (unlike a prepaid plan). Post-paid plans also usually offer better value than prepaid plans and are the most common – and affordable – way of getting a brand new phone if you’re not willing to pay for one right up front.
While you’ll always be able to use your phone on a post-paid plan, the biggest downside is the risk of racking up extra charges to going over your monthly plan limit. Excessive data charges are very expensive – usually $10 per GB – and it’s very easy to incur very expensive extra charges if you’re not careful. It’s also not as simple as recharging your plan with more credit if you run out either as you’re forced to wait until the next month for your data to be restored.
Getting out of a post-paid plan isn’t easy either as you’re locked into a contract. Not only do you have to go through your service provider to cancel a post-paid plan, you’ll usually have to pay a pricy early exit fee.
Buy a SIM card
You can buy prepaid SIMs at supermarkets, phone retail stores and a range of retail shops. When you have used up your credit, you can top up online or buy more credit at a retail store. For a plan, you will need to go into a phone retail store to fill out the relevant forms and pass an identity check.
To get a SIM, you are required by Australian law to show your passport. You also need to provide a valid Australian address, be it a hostel where you are staying temporarily or a permanent street address.
Costs involved with prepaid and post-paid plans
For prepaid plans, these start from as low as $10 a month and typically hover around the $30 a month mark. If you’re on a budget or you don’t use your phones that often, you can get away with around $15-20 of credit per month for calls, texts and data. If you are hungrier for data and international calling, prices will start from around $40 per month and can go as high as $150 for a prepaid SIM plan with 100GB of data that lasts for 365 days.
For a post-paid plans, you have the choice of SIM-only plans, which means you have to supply your own phone. These range from anywhere between $10 a month to over $100 a month depending on how much data you want. If you want to add a new phone on top of your plan, costs can jump from anywhere between $100 to $160 a month depending on the type of phone you want.
To wrap up
Make sure you choose an option within your budget, and don’t over-commit to a contract if you are unable to complete the payments. If you’re not sure what is the best option for you, start with prepaid, and when you have seen what your patterns of usage are, then you can explore a plan option that is right for you.
The big operators tend to offer student discounts – contact them direct to find the best provider to suit your needs!