SIM-only mobile plans compared: The best Australian picks for every budget

A SIM card being held up by two fingers
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

With the cost of premium smartphones skyrocketing in recent years, picking up the latest handset on a contract has become prohibitively expensive for many Australians — even when those handset repayments are spread out over 36 months. This is why a growing number of Aussies are embracing SIM-only mobile plans.

Is your current phone already good enough for your daily needs? With yearly smartphone updates becoming increasingly minute, chances are your existing handset still has a couple of years left in its life.

Alternatively, you could opt to search out a bargain and buy your next handset outright, saving yourself money in the long run.

In either of these scenarios, a SIM-only plan could be the right choice for your lifestyle. Dropping handset repayments entirely will not only cut down the cost of your monthly phone bill, it will also grant you the opportunity to bump up your plan and get more data than you normally would.

Major carriers like Telstra, Optus and Vodafone offer a number of great SIM-only plans for every budget, but you can save even more money by checking out what Australia's smaller telcos (or mobile virtual network operators — aka MVNOs) have to offer.

As we mentioned in our cheap mobile plans comparison, it's relatively easy to find SIM-only options which provide a decent amount of data, along with unlimited national calls and texts, starting at just AU$10 per month.

Editor's Choice: Best SIM-only plan

Moose Mobile | 25GB data | No lock-in contract | AU$16.80p/m (first 12 months, then AU$23.80p/m) (opens in new tab)

Moose Mobile | 25GB data | No lock-in contract | AU$16.80p/m (first 12 months, then AU$23.80p/m) (opens in new tab)

When it comes to value for money, it's hard to beat Moose Mobile's 16.80 SIM Only Promo plan, which offers an incredible discount for the first 12 months. For the first year, you'll pay just AU$16.80 per month for 25GB of data, after which the price goes up to AU$23.80 per month — which is still quite reasonable. Please note, Moose Mobile uses the Optus 4G Plus network.

Total minimum cost is AU$16.80 | Total cost for first year: AU$201.60 | Yearly cost after discount: AU$285.60

Best cheap SIM-only plan

Catch Connect | 18GB data | No lock-in contract | AU$15p/m (opens in new tab)

Catch Connect | 18GB data | No lock-in contract | AU$15p/m (opens in new tab)

In our estimation, Catch's 18GB 30 Day Plan is the easily the best option for those who want a hefty amount of monthly data at a price than can still be considered cheap. Best of all, that affordable AU$15 monthy price won't suddenly jump up after the first six months, as is the case with several other telcos offering a similar service. There are no lock-in contracts, however, Catch's plan will automatically renew every 30 days until you deactivate it. Catch's service runs on the Optus Network.

Total minimum cost is AU$15 | Total cost per year: AU$180

Best 5G SIM-only plan

iiNet (opens in new tab)

iiNet | 40GB data | No lock-in contract | AU$15p/m (first six months, then AU$29.99p/m) (opens in new tab)

If you're willing to stomach a price doubling after the first six months, iiNet's 40GB is pretty good value. Initially priced at AU$15 per month for the first 6 months, then jumps to AU$29.99 per month. On top of the 40GB you get with the plan, you can also receive 80GB bonus data when bundled with an active iiNet internet plan, which is pretty good. Please note, iiNet's service runs on the Vodafone network.

Total minimum cost is AU$40 | Total cost for first year: AU$269.94 | Yearly cost after discount: AU$359.88

How we pick the best SIM-only mobile plans

In order to narrow down our list of choices, our team searches for a balance of several factors which we believe most people are looking for from a SIM-only plan. 

Value for money is our top priority — the best SIM-only plans will offer a reasonable amount of data without becoming too expensive. On average, each Australian uses around 12GB of data per month, which is why we've set that amount as the minimum monthly allowance. 

SIM-only plans should also offer unlimited calls and text to standard numbers in Australia. Even the most affordable options provide this these days, so you should definitely avoid any plan which imposes a limit on either of them.

Network coverage is another important factor to consider when choosing a SIM-only plan. Depending on the telco you go with, all Aussies will get access to either the Telstra, Optus or Vodafone network. 

In terms of coverage, Telstra's network has the widest-reaching 4G and 5G coverage in Australia, with Optus a close second. Vodafone's network size may come in third place, but it's worth noting that its 5G coverage has grown by leaps and bounds, reportedly reaching 85% of the population across 10 major Australian cities and regions.

Additionally, we also take perks into consideration, even if they aren't the main reason for our selections. These can include such things as bonus international minutes, rollover data, access to streaming services and even discounts on your groceries.

Stephen Lambrechts

Stephen Lambrechts is the Managing Editor of Tom's Guide AU and has written professionally across the categories of tech, film, television and gaming for over a dozen years. Before Tom's Guide, he spent several years as a Senior Journalist at TechRadar, had a brief stint as Editor in Chief at Official Xbox Magazine Australia, and has written for such mags and sites as APC, TechLife Australia, T3, FilmInk, AskMen and IGN. He's an expert when it comes to smartphones, TVs, gaming and streaming. In his spare time, he enjoys watching obscure horror movies on physical media, keeping an eye on the latest retro sneaker releases, listening to vinyl and other non-hipster stuff.