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Cheap mobile plans

You can spend relatively little on a mobile plan these days, but you should still compare the value on offer to get the best deal.

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Low-cost phone plans

The good news is that it’s really unnecessary to spend much on a phone plan.

The bad news is that unless your needs are very moderate, you’re not going to get much value out of the very lowest-cost plans, with many providers offering up simple seven-day expiry or as-you-go value that could be burnt through rather quickly. If you’re travelling to New Zealand or just need a number for very short-term purposes (we won’t judge), they’re OK – but they are rarely good “value”.

Where you can see better value at a very low cost is with a long-expiry pay as you go (PAYG) plan. These allow you to recharge very low amounts with 365-day expiry and quite low call, text and data rates.

For example, if all you need is a plan that keeps a number that people can contact you on, but you don’t intend to make too many outbound calls or browse online, they’re a good fit for the very price-conscious.

Cheap phone plans with 10GB or more

With the shift to more plans offering unlimited calls and texts, data has become the key difference for most mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs), and that means you can score a 10GB plan for a surprisingly small amount per month, as low as $40.

Are cheap phone plans worth it?

The word “cheap” has a lot of baggage attached to it because we often equate “cheap” with “shoddy”.

However, in the mobile space it’s entirely possible to get a “cheap” plan that doesn’t deliver shoddy value as long as you compare properly and you’re fully aware of what you’re getting, and more significantly what you’re not getting with your low-cost plan.

The trick is being aware of the pitfalls that can be associated with very low-cost plans and there are pitfalls to be aware of when choosing a cheap mobile plan, depending on your circumstances and needs:

  • Few bundled phone choices. If you need a new handset with your plan, your choices for bundled phones with no repayments are going to be limited to just a few budget phones. You may be better off buying a handset outright and pairing that up with a SIM-only plan.
  • Low-cost, short expiry plans can add up. A day-to-day, pay-as-you-go or seven-day plan may have an appealingly low price point, but if you’re using them over the medium to long term, the costs can quickly accelerate over what you’d pay on a more standard prepaid or monthly plan.
  • Excess usage fees eating up credit. If you’re a prepaid user, it’s worth checking your options for excess data usage, as some providers simply cut your data access, while others offer data boost bundles at varying prices.
  • Coverage. Most of the current providers operate on Spark and Vodafone’s network, and some on 2degrees’ network. The latter is important for regional coverage, as they typically advertise as being on “parts of” the Spark 3G or 4G network. That’s a smaller footprint than the “full” Spark network, and one that also offers slower data speeds. Check carefully for the areas you live, work and travel in to ensure you’re not paying for coverage you can’t get.
  • Extra SIM charges. It’s becoming less common, but some providers will charge you a flat fee for the SIM used in your handset.

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