Most of us don’t think about the finer details of your phone plan. As long as you can scroll through the mindless tweets you need to read for some reason, read Reddit and receive one word text replies from your parents, it’s not a big deal.
But every so often it comes time to think about the contract you’re on, and whether or not it’s really serving your interests best as a consumer. Chances are, you’ll want to change a thing or two.
These are the things to watch out for when you’re looking for a new phone contract.
This article has been sponsored by numobile.
The first thing you’ll want to confirm is the duration of the contract you’re looking at signing up for. Most contracts will come in either 12 or 24 month periods (with some even going up to 36), with the shorter generally costing you more, particularly if you’re opting for a handset as part of the plan.
The other important thing to note is whether there are fees attached to cancelling the plan early – some plans will require you to pay the remainder of the contract out, while others will simply require you to pay the excess from the handset.
If you’re lucky, you can find a good plan that goes month-to-month (like the ones at numobile), so you’re not locked in and are free to change your plan up or down every month.
You’ll find most of the information in a plan’s critical information summary, which should include everything from the core call/SMS inclusions and caps through to termination fees and contract lengths.
Now that we’re all travelling a lot more, roaming charges are a bigger focus when it comes to scoping out a phone contract. And sure, you could circumvent it by getting a prepaid SIM while you go off gallivanting, but that isn’t always the most convenient option.
Depending on where you plan on holidaying (the EU, for example, began enforcing a cap and warning system for data roaming in 2017), the costs incurred for using your phone can vary significantly.
Knowing your regular data usage amount, you can get a rough idea of how extensive your browsing needs are – and how quickly it’ll all add up.
It’s also worth checking which countries are included in your telco’s data roaming packs. You don’t want to make the same mistake our editor did.
Ultimately, if you’re happy using Wi-Fi exclusively overseas, turn off data roaming and don’t pay any extra in your contract for it. Want to use Instagram on the go though? Turn it right back on.
In this day and age, data is king. No joke, that was the only note I had down for this subheading. We’re all online all the time, so while once we might have cared deeply about how many minutes we get, nowadays data reigns supreme.
When you’re looking at starting a new contract (or upgrading from an old one), you’re going to want to ensure that you’re signing up for a data inclusion limit that suits your needs. If you regularly stream Netflix or Twitch on your commute to work, for example, you’re not going to survive on a measly few gigabytes.
There are plenty of mobile data usage calculators online that can tell you a rough estimate of how much data you need, based on general data usage of your preferred apps and uses. Instagram is one of the most data-heavy apps, using approximately 750Mb an hour, so it’s important to know how your daily phone behaviours translate.
You may also want to look into whether your provider allows you to bank your data. This entails saving up any data you don’t use from one month and using it in the next without having to spend extra on data top-ups.
Depending on the provider you opt to sign up with, you may also have the option of upgrading your handset too. Contract options generally vary between three handset options: leasing (though Telstra has done away with these), SIM-only and handset included.
If you want to BYO (unlocked) handset, you’re best off looking at a SIM-only plan that will allow you to cut costs and pay only for the actual usage of the phone.
If you don’t have an existing handset however, your options are to either buy a new or pre-owned device outright from a phone retailer, make repayments on a new phone each month in conjunction with your plan (though a new model may add anywhere up to an additional $50-$60 a month to your bill), or lease a phone for the duration of your plan.
If you opt for a provider like numobile, you can get a pre-owned device (rigorously tested in Sydney and covered by a 12-month warranty) by paying month-to-month instead of having to buy it outright (like with most other providers).
Coverage in your area
There is one corner of my bedroom that inexplicably does not have any signal if you are on a certain network. This is not something I was aware of when moving in, but it’s something you should be aware of yourself when you start a new plan.
If you’re looking at transferring to a new provider, you’ll want to ensure that the coverage in your immediate area is strong enough to handle your phone usage style. Research the coverage across your city before signing up – most providers have a map of blackout spots, 3G areas and 4G areas.
In the coming years we’ll also be experiencing a rollout of 5G networks across Australia, so it may be worth looking forward to see how that will affect your chosen plan.
Inclusions and extras
If the idea of a cookie-cutter plan doesn’t quite work for you, you’ll want to inquire about potential extras and inclusions you can add and customise.
Some plans will give you access to streaming sites like Netflix and Stan at a discounted data rate, or allow Spotify streaming without using up your data. Some will give you a certain amount of free calling minutes for international numbers (to certain countries, with a cap) or 1800 numbers.
Depending on what you use your mobile for, it’s always recommended to see if you can add in a little extra – especially if you’re tossing up between a couple of different providers and plans.
Regardless of whether you’re an Instagram fiend or an occasional texter, you’ll want to ensure that your phone plan aligns with your needs. The best way to do that? Do your research. Know what’s in your plan. Know what you want in your plan.
Find the one that suits you and use this guide to make sure you’re not copping any surprises.