What does Snapchatting thousands of selfies to friends, drunk texting your exes and calling mum once a week to let her know you’re alive have in common?
A mobile phone.
But when it comes to everyone’s preferred mobile phone plan, the options are as wide-ranging as Kanye West’s ridiculous Twitter rants.
Choosing a cheap phone and a cheap plan could mean saving big bucks, but it could also mean getting very little data. A pricier phone and plan usually means getting a cooler gadget, but if data is going to waste, then so is your money.
Whether you’ve been thinking about switching plans or searching for your very first one (I promise I’m not judging you), there’s really one HUGE question you should consider first:
Pre-Paid or Post-Paid?
Pre-paid means you pay as you go. You recharge your phone with a desired amount of credit after you use it up or it expires. Credit will allot you a set amount of data, texts and more, depending on the offer you choose.
Many expiry dates are 30 days, so your credit lasts you until A. it runs out or B. the expiry date rolls around. You can also pay for credit that doesn’t expire for two or more months, with some pre-paid amounts lasting you a whole year before expiring.
Pros: No contracts and greater flexibility in changing what you get for your credit. What you pay is what you get and you won’t have any hidden charges for using excess data.
Cons: if you run out of credit or forget your credit is going to expire, you won’t be able to use your mobile phone until you recharge. Data rollover, international calls and more special features are less likely to be included in pay-as-you-go plans, too.
Post-Paid, on the other hand, is a contract. You agree to pay a set amount every month for either one or two years. Some fixed-term contracts include a specific phone in their offer. This usually lessens the amount you pay upfront when setting up your plan because you can pay off the phone in monthly installments.
Pros: You know exactly what data you’re allotted every month for the term of your contract. Special features, like international calls, data roaming, and sharing data could be included in or added on to these plans.
Con: Nasty hidden fees for going over on your calls, texts, Internet data, etc. per month. Also, it’s a locked in contract and if you want to quit at anytime, you’ll likely have to pay an exit fee.
While you can obviously find plans that vary from these descriptions or plans where you pay your phone and carrier separately, you’ll end up falling into a decision between signing a contract or paying as you go.
Can I budget a year or two-year plan into my income at the moment or is that too much of a commitment financially?
Do I use my phone a lot or sporadically?
How much data do I really need per month?
Are all the services I want included in this contract or will I have to pay extra for them?
Which network provider covers me where I need my phone most (at home, at work, etc)?
If you’re REALLY confused as to which initial plan is best for you, go with a pre-paid plan until you get a feel for how much data and credit you really use.
And folks, do your research. If you go to a phone store blind, they’ll likely convince you to buy the priciest phone and plan in store whether you needed it or not.