What is a PAYG plan ?
PAYG or Pay As You Go plans are some of the cheapest phone plans in Australia. The plan structure / charging method may well be different to what you’ve experienced in the past.
With a PAYG plan, the phone company charges you per minute for voice calls and SMS access. They don’t include any data in PAYG plans, at all which means these plans are almost certainly not right for you if you have a smartphone of any sort.
An annual PAYG plan bill can be as little as $50. Some people (on other plan types) spend that per month !
PAYG plans make sense for savvy shoppers who are not hooked on their phone as a cornerstone of their life and especially those with ‘candy bar’ phones.
How does data work on a PAYG plan ?
Like all services on a PAYG plan, data is charged for at the point of use and according to how much you use.
Our advice is to watch out when it comes to data on a PAYG plan! Check the rates the phone company is proposing for data in the plan. They are extremely high!
If you use any data at all during the the month you will be better off with a cheap phone plan which has a small data inclusion, rather than a PAYG plan.
Why don’t the phone companies talk about PAYG plans ?
Phone companies have hero phone plans they like to sell. More than 90% of the market buy one of the top 7 phone plans the phone companies sell.
PAYG plans are more of a ‘niche’ offering. They service very low usage customers -that is, people who don’t use their phone a lot) perfectly. Very low usage customers are not the ideal target for phone companies, for obvious reasons which is why you don’t hear a lot about PAYG plans these days.
Are PAYG plans 3G or 4G ?
Can I keep my existing phone number if I move to a PAYG plan ?
Yes you can. This is a common question and we explain the answer in detail here.
In short, if you click through and buy a plan from any provider listed on this page, you will be asked if you want to keep your number. If you select ‘yes’ then the SIM that is delivered to you will have that phone number assigned to it.
- For people who make less than 1 call per day
- Provides cheap access to the phone network when you need it
- Useful if people call you more than you call them
- Ensure your phone is unlocked before purchase
- Don't buy a PAYG plan if you use a lot of data
- Plans aren't often marketed
The key things you need to know about PAYG plans!
- PAYG SIM plans are popular but rarely mentioned in the marketing material released by the phone companies.
- As a result, PAYG plans can be hard to find.
- Of the 16 or so phone companies we feature on the site, only 3 have PAYG plans.
- We suggest them to people who typically make around one call and send one SMS a day.
- If you have a smartphone, a PAYG plan is almost certainly not the right plan for you.
What is a PAYG Plan ?
PAYG plans appeal to those who make a phone call or send an SMS once a day.
‘PAYG’ or ‘Pay As You Go’ plans are something of an ‘under the counter’ phone plan offering in Australia. They’re actually extremely popular. You’d never know it : PAYG plans don’t often get marketed on the websites you see when you’re researching for a SIM to buy. PAYG is not what the telcos talk to their customers or prospects about. A quick scan of the Telstra, Optus and Vodafone sites will show you – there’s a lot of talk about SIM Only or prepaid plans. There’s no section for PAYG.
It could be that the profitability of the plans is to blame – perhaps this type of tariff doesn’t make enough money to warrant the major telcos’ attention. It could be the fact that their marketing teams already struggle to articulate value in the long list of prepaid and postpaid plans they have available. Many people, for example, are not even clear on the differences between prepaid and postpaid. Whatever the reason, the phone companies don’t usually talk about the PAYG segment. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be considering them.
PAYG plans appeal to those who need only very limited access to a phone to make a call or send an SMS. Typically we recommend them to people who want to make just one call a day. In some ways, PAYG all boils down to these three things:
- Do you just make one call a day ?:
It’s critical you’re clear on this point. If you’re not sure, it’s probably worth going back through your call history on your phone, and checking. The rates for the calls you make are low on PAYG plans. But, don’t ignore the information you have available to you just because you want one of these plans. If your history says you make more than one call a day, then a PAYG plan is probably not the right plan for you! I write for a phone plan comparison site. I advise people on how to get the right plan. I tried a PAYG plan because I felt like I didn’t make many calls and I wanted to save some money. It turned out that I ended up paying more for my PAYG plan than if I’d spent $30 on an unlimited plan from a smaller phone company.
- Data is very, very expensive on PAYG plans:
If you have a smartphone, PAYG plans are almost certainly not right for you. Data on a PAYG plan can cost $50 per GB (see below.)
- Remember, you can still receive calls:
The other critical fact to remember is that when you’re on a PAYG plan, you can still receive as many calls as you want to. If you are the center of your social circle and everyone calls you, you won’t be charged extra on your plan.
PAYG plans are a genius solution for plans which last forever and service ‘casual’ usage.
Australian PAYG Plans – the good bits
There is no differentiation of service when you take a phone plan. Whether you’re on a $120 a month 24 month contract plan or a lowly PAYG plan, you’ve get the same thing. You’ll get all the same network coverage, all the same customer support, all the same 4G data speeds including super fast (carrier aggregated) fast data. You may even get access to customer loyalty schemes too and the ever increasing range of content. PAYG is an affordable ‘back door’ in to the phone company you love.
If you have a smartphone, forget PAYG
If you have a smartphone, PAYG is almost certainly not the right suite of plans for you. Smartphones are designed with a computer interface in mind. Their entire structure is around the screen. Design and usability decisions are made to facilitate the use of apps and other services on the phone, which rely on mobile data being delivered, often over the phone company network.
Check our ‘Typical PAYG Rates’ section, below and you will see: Data on this sort of plan starts at about 5 cent per MB and rises to 7 cents with some phone companies. This might not sound like much but there’s a reason the phone companies have expressed it in the way they have. A MB is 1/1024th of a GB. And most smartphone users will use, as an absolute minimum of one GB of data each month. To work out what that would cost you, you need to multiply the 5 cents by 1024 and express it in dollars. Even if you’re maths isn’t too good, you’ll quickly see that PAYG plans charge at least $50 per GB of data. If you check out our cheap phone plans, you will see tens of plans with unlimited Australian voice and SMS and more than 1GB of data for under $30, let alone $50.
There is one exception to this – extremely advanced and confident users – and we give them specialized advice below. If you do end up on a PAYG plan, and you find that it is costing you more than it should, don’t worry. You will always be able to move off your PAYG plan and on to something a little more suitable at the end of the month.
Typical Australian PAYG rates and inclusions
PAYG plans are an extremely savvy way of dealing with low usage. Multiply your usage by these prices for individual transactions and use our chart, below, to determine if these plans are right for you.
- With PAYG, it’s all about the price per minute, cost per SMS and costs per MB.
- Typical voice rates (for calls within Australia to other Australian mobiles or landlines) are generally 11 or 12 cents per minute. If you made one call per day, of a standard 2 minute duration on a plan which was 12 cents per minute, you’d end up being charged $7.20 per month.
- Since SMSs are charged at the same rate, you can see the cost progression in the charts we’ve included on this page.
- Where one call a day makes this an extremely attractive set of plans, any more and you would be better off looking at cheaper non PAYG plans.
- Remember, this indicative usage / cost chart for PAYG Plans does not include any data at all. We are assuming that you are not using any data as part of your plan because it is so prohibitively expensive.
- PAYG plans are generally sent to you if ordered online, free of charge, like any other SIM. They too are often subject to next day delivery.
PAYG Plans can be bought either prepaid or postpaid
This can be hard to understand if you don’t have experience with the concept. Multiple payment methodologies for plans, however, is increasingly common. There is a difference, between the price plan and the payment method. It is absolutely possible to have a single price plan (for example, a PAYG price plan) which is made available with either a prepaid or a postpaid payment methodology.
The price plan is what’s set up in the billing system of the phone company. For PAYG plans, we covered this above. You’ll get a charge of around 15 cents per minute for a phone call, as an example.
The payment methodology, prepaid or postpaid is how bills (from the billing system) are applied. If you go to the Amaysim site, for example, you’ll see that their PAYG plans are available as either prepaid or postpaid.
We advise that you monitor all usage with the app
With any phone plan, we advise installing and using the self service app from your service provider. They are almost universal these days.
Self Service Apps like this are free, will help you keep track of your spending, especially around data. If you choose a PAYG plan and it’s not right for you, the app will tell you quickly and you will be able to switch out.
PAYG vs Long Expiry plans
PAYG and Long expiry plans are extremely similar in nature. Again, Long Expiry plans, typically offered as part of a prepaid range are not heavily marketed.
Long Expiry plans are used for bizarre things like having a phone number you want to keep and ‘parking’ it while you are overseas for a while. They are used by people who want to keep a phone in their car’s glove box in order to be able to use it in case of emergency. They are used by older people who don’t want to pay for a mobile phone regularly because they can’t see the value.
The commonalities with PAYG plans are the rates for calls, usually expressed in minutes and very similar between the two plans types. Critically, the validity period, the time for which the SIM will remain active once it has been started is very long on both plans. Most of the phone companies which provide them require a minimum payment, and then activate the SIM for 12 months.
What are your other alternatives to PAYG plans ?
Almost the entirety of the telco plan stable can be described as either prepaid or postpaid. This is made all the more complicated by terms industry insiders use which lack clear definition. For example, SIM Only plans actually comprise prepaid plans. Every prepaid plan is a SIM Only plan. Not every SIM Only plan is a prepaid plan, however.
But remember, PAYG plans are an unusual aspect of the Australian market. There are no direct equivalents. The closest, as we’ve seen is the long expiry prepaid plan. Other alternatives to PAYG plans would be used as alternatives rather than substitutes. For example, if you found you were using your phone to make a couple of calls and texts each day, our chart, above, would tell you that this level of usage was costing over $20 per month and you might like to consider an equivalent spend with Vaya, OVO or Boost Mobile who will give you a great deal more in terms of plan inclusion for that spend level.
PAYG plans are special. They represent pretty much the minimum in terms of commitment that you can make to a phone company, while ensuring you get the same access to network services that everyone else does. They are hard to beat if you are one of the lucky people in the small segment they suit.
PAYG works well for a very small segment or ‘group’ of people – But be careful of these things
PAYG plans are a valuable component of the list of options available to those who know what they’re up to and are shopping for a plan. The ‘under the counter’ nature of the means you kind of have to know about them before you will find one.
- Think carefully about your data needs – especially since data speeds are now 4G: Our major concern with PAYG is the advent of 4G data speeds and the move to smartphones. There are not many people these days who have a simple feature phone. But data isn’t the only thing to be careful of when weighing up these plans.
- Be realitic about your usage of services like voicemail: PAYG plans offer you the same services as other plans but, used individually, they can become expensive. Voicemail retrieval, MMSs ( 49 cents each with Amaysim! ) 19 numbers, Roaming and International Calls are all inexpensive per minute but if used regularly would push you out of the people for whom PAYG plans make sense.
Some really ‘advanced’ stuff: Going ‘Data only’ with PAYG voice
Telcos are in a bit of a tough spot. Data pricing has fallen 75% in the last 2 years. Voice and SMS are commoditized to the point where they are offered at rates which I would consider not far from ‘free’ (in the sense that they are included in a plan without much cost.)
As we move more and more in to the world of data plans being the primary consideration for people buying a new phone plan, the more ‘sophisticated’ phone user has a chance to consider a whole new range of plans. In this circumstance, for a confident user, PAYG voice and SMS rates on a data led plan, might be worth consideration.
We’ve actually covered this concept in some depth on our data plans page. The idea is that you save money by using a data plan from a phone company. One which was designed to go in to your tablet computer or mobile broadband dongle.
By picking one of those plans which has PAYG voice rates, you can get cheap data (cheap because it was designed to appeal to tablet and dongle users, not phone users) and the same PAYG rates you would get on any other SIM for your voice and SMS needs.
This is an advanced ‘trick’. You need to be sure that you have a smartphone and you are prepared to take such an atypical path. However, it is perfectly legal and acceptable to do it. You won’t lose support if you call your phone company for assistance in getting it working. It’s just a back door in to telco that is not often used.
Which phone companies offer PAYG plans in Australia
We don’t feature every phone company in Australia. We have a selection and we pick and show our favourites because we believe that together, this range offers you the best deals and they short cut the time it takes for you to make the right decision. When it comes to PAYG, the list is already pretty short.
- Vodafone Prepaid 365 Plus $30.00. $40 and $50 rates.
- 20c standarad national calls and text
- 4c per MB for data.
- Free delivery!
Cmobile Red PAYG:
- 10c per minute standard national calls
- 10c standard national TXT
- 2c per MB data
- A minimum annual fee of $50 applies
- Plan includes $50 call credit with 12 months expiry period
- $50 included call credit can be used for any call types!
- 15c/min standard calls to mobile & landlines
- 29c/min calls to 13 numbers, free calls to 18 numbers in Australia
- 15c/min voicemail retrieval
- 15c per standard SMS, 49c per standard MMS
- 15.4c/MB data, or add a data plan
- Data plans start from $10/1GB and last for 28 days
These Australian operators, featured on WhatPhone don’t offer PAYG Plans
Click the hyperlink to see a full review of these phone companies.
- Amaysim: Prepaid plan provider. Does not offer PAYG plans.
- Belong Mobile: Postpaid plan provider. Does not offer PAYG plans.
- Moose Mobile: Postpaid plan provider. Does not offer PAYG plans.
- Southern Phone: Postpaid plan provider. Does not offer PAYG plans.
- Spintel: Postpaid plan provider. Does not offer PAYG plans.
- Woolworths Mobile: Postpaid plan provider. Does not offer PAYG plans.
- Boost Mobile: Prepaid plan provider. Does not offer PAYG plans.
- OVO Mobile: Prepaid plan provider. Does not offer PAYG plans.
- Vaya Mobile: Postpaid plan provider. Does not offer PAYG plans.
- Telstra: Offer Prepaid and Postpaid Plans but do not offer PAYG plans.
- Optus: Offer Prepaid and Postpaid Plans but do not offer PAYG plans.
PAYG in Australia Summed Up
PAYG plans are all too rare. They can also be hard to find. It took extensive research to pull this page together and we only considered (what we consider to be the top) 16 phone companies in the country. It’s possible that the reason you and customers like you love PAYG plans so much is exactly the reason they’re so fare in Australia. PAYG plans are about the cheapest way you can connect your phone to the phone company network for a year.
PAYG plans let you receive as many calls as anyone else – free of charge. They charge extremely reasonable rates for SMS. You must absolutely not use PAYG plans to service your data needs. If you have a smartphone, for example, where data is part of your telco requirement, you should probably consider these cheap phone plans instead of paying exorbitant PAYG data rates.
Our suggestion is that you enjoy these Pay As You go phone plan rates for as long as you can. One can only speculate about the future of plans like these but when we do, at WhatPhone, we predict that they will end and end at some point soon. The SIM and management of the customer alone cost more than a low spend PAYG customer would generate for the phone company over the course of a year. Remember, PAYG customers can call the telco’s call center just as much as any other customer – and that costs the phone company real money. The SIM and delivery ( getting it to you free of charge, next business day, as most phone companies now offer ) will cost them a minimum of $5. These plans are great for users but at best must be marginally profitable for those that offer them.
As we move in to a world where 4G data speeds are superseded by 5G ( scheduled to start in 2019 and get going in earnest in 2020) it is hard to see that PAYG plans will continue to be produced. The whole world is addicted to data and smartphones. PAYG addresses neither.
PAYG is a niche and it won’t last forever. If you want one of these plans take it today. They’re hard to find in the retail stores operated by the phone companies, so you’re better off ordering online.