What is a Prepaid ‘Recharge Expiry’ ?

prepaid user

60 seconds guide:

  • A recharge expiry is a timeframe during which your prepaid service will connect you to a phone company’s network.
  • In normal speak, that means a recharge expiry is the time during which your prepaid service will work.
  • The most common recharge expiries are usually of 28-30 days in duration.
  • Other recharge expiries are available in Australia, from 1 day to 365 days.
  • Even the best prepaid plans all come with a recharge expiry although this aspect of your service can be known by other names. For example, ’28 day recharge’ (Vodafone) or ‘All to use in Australia in 28 days’ (Telstra)
  • Most prepaid services come with at least the phone plan features you know and love : Voice, SMS and a data inclusion.
  • Those prepaid service features (and any others you have) will (almost always) reset at the end of your recharge expiry.
  • Picking the wrong recharge expiry on the most common plans can cost you $40 a year.

Introducing the most common prepaid term – prepaid expiry

A recharge expiry is a window in time during which you can use the network facilities provided with your prepaid service. That typically means you will get a defined credit limit consisting of at least 3 pla components: Voice, SMS and data. When the credit you have for those services runs out, or the recharge expiry term is reached, you will need to recharge to be able to continue using the service.

While your credit expiry is live you can:

  • Can make and receive calls:
    During your valid prepaid expiry period, you will be entitled to make and receive voice calls within Australia to Australian numbers. Most prepaid plans these days have unlimited calls and SMS in Australia to other Australian numbers so your plan won’t run out of those features at all.
  • Send and receive SMS:
    You will also be able to send and receive SMS. Again, mostly, current prepaid plans are provided with unlimited SMS for use in Australia to Australian mobiles.
  • You can access the internet:
    You will be able to use the data provided to you in your prepaid plan to access the internet over the cellular network of your provider.
  • You may now get streamed audio:
    An increasing range of prepaid plans, including those from Telstra prepaid, Boost Mobile prepaid, Optus prepaid and Virgin prepaid offer data free streaming audio services.
  • Or streamed video as part of your plan:
    In some cases, even streamed video (SVOD) are ‘data free’ although they use much more data.

Prepaid services are defined by the fact that you pay the phone companies up front for the voice, SMS and data services you will use. As a result, recharge expiries are the most fundamental element of prepaid services. That means you can expect to see a prepaid expiry period on any prepaid service, including voice based services, PAYG and prepaid data plans (also known as mobile broadband or tablet sim only data plans. )

Some ‘gotchas’ to be aware of when it comes to prepaid expiry

  • Use it or lose it!:
    At the end of your prepaid expiry period, any services (voice, SMS or data) that you have not used will be forfeit.
  • You can still receive calls if you’ve used all your credit but you still have:
    One point to note – you will still be able to receive calls while your prepaid expiry is valid, even if you have used up your credit towards every entitlement including the ability to make calls.
  • If you recharge early, you will lose what you have:
    Phone companies have never been the fairest lot when it comes to your entitlements. As usual, they win both ways when it comes to prepaid expiries. If you recharge before the end of your prepaid expiry, you forfeit any unused entitlements. If you get to the end of your recharge expiry and you have not used everything you were entitled to, you will forfeit it then anyway.

There’s always an exception:
Rollover credit from Optus and Telstra’s prepaid services. You have to recharge before expiry to get it.

  • The only exception to these rules:
    Prepaid rollover from Optus prepaid. With rollover, so long as you recharge before your prepaid expiry is up, you will keep the inclusions.

If there are some simple terms here that you don’t understand, don’t worry. You can read our separate, dedicated article If you want to know the difference between prepaid, postpaid and month to month plans.

Other names for recharge expiry

Unfortunately, part of the confusion in the industry as to exactly what a recharge expiry window entitles its users to comes from the fact that there is no specific, unique term used across the industry to describe this particular prepaid plan characteristic.

  • Vodafone:
    Vodafone describe their service as having a ‘28 day recharge’.
  • Optus favors:
    ‘Expiry period’ the title of this article.
  • Telstra say:
    ‘All to use in Australia in 28 days’: Which avoids stating any prepaid expiry term whatsoever!
  • Recharge window:
    Others describe prepaid expiry as a recharge window.

The key thing to remember is that prepaid and expiry periods are two sides of the same coin. If a plan has this feature or character then it is a prepaid plan. And, conversely, if you’re looking at a prepaid plan, it will have a feature like this.

Other recharge expiries

As we have long labored to point out, prepaid plans are a range, not a single type of plans. Recharge expiry durations of everything from a day to a year

  • Long expiry plans:
    Long expiry plans typically have durations of 186 to 365 days
  • Daily expiry plans:
    Optus offers prepaid plans which can be used on some days and not on others. We consider them some of the most innovative in the industry.
  • Multi-month recharge expiry plans:
    Kogan Mobile are one of the few phone companies to offer a range of 3 month and 12 month (pay in advance) prepaid plans.

The recharge expiry is probably more important than you think

It may not seem much but the usual difference in prepaid expiries between the 2 main denominations of recharge expiry may well be bigger than you think. Remember, the two most common prepaid expiries are 28 days and 30 days. Consider the number of prepaid recharges you would need in order to cover the 365 days in a year with a prepaid plan from:

  • OVO Mobile and Lebara both have a 30 day recharge expiry window.
  • Vodafone, Optus, Telstra and most other prepaid providers have a 28 day recharge window.

In the course of a year then with a 28 day recharge expiry, you’d need to recharge 13 times. With a 30 day recharge expiry, you’d only need to recharge 12 times. That’s a 7% cost difference. On a $40 plan, it’s an extra $40 per year!

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