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What is a long expiry prepaid plan?

Let's make a long story short.

Alex Kidman
Dec 09, 2023
bullet3 min read

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Long expiry prepaid plans take the hassle out of monthly recharges, but it’s worth understanding their pros and cons before you buy.

With regular prepaid plans, you pay your telco of choice a fixed fee for service, typically for either 30 or 28 days. In return, you get mobile phone call, text and data services over that period. It’s a simple approach that appeals to anyone who wants an absolutely fixed mobile phone bill that they pay on a regular cycle.

However, it’s not the only timeframe that you should consider when choosing the right prepaid plan for you. Any plan that runs longer than a month is typically called a long expiry plan, because, well, that’s a longer expiry period than your typical monthly plan. That bit’s quite simple.

Understanding where the value in a long expiry plan lies is just a touch more complicated, but it’s well worth knowing both the pros and cons before you buy.

Long Expiry Prepaid Plan: Pros

Set and Forget: Pick the term that works for you

One of the biggest advantages to a long expiry prepaid plan is that you pay a fixed fee once to your telco, and then you mostly don’t have to stress it for the length of that term. Most long expiry plans run on either 180 or 365 day cycles, or in other words, six months or a year. There’s a definite stress relief in not having to think about recharging your phone plan, or having a direct debit fall over due to other bills.

PAYG or Not: The choice is yours

Some long expiry prepaid plans operate exactly the same way as a regular monthly prepaid plan, offering up unlimited standard national calls and texts and a data quota, but that’s not the only choice open to you. There’s also Pay As You Go (PAYG) plans. Instead of a quota on data, you “spend” the credit you pay for each call, text or data session until your credit runs out. PAYG plans aren’t great for data value in most cases, but if you predominantly call and text, they can be a good way to score a long-expiry plan for very little money. That’s especially true if you want a phone plan where people will call you, because receiving a standard call in Australia should cost you nothing.

Use your data when it suits you

For non-PAYG long expiry plans, you can absolutely expect unlimited standard national call and text provisions, but what happens with data? On most plans, you get a data quota that’s basically a lump sum. Instead of it being doled out on a monthly basis, you have your data ready to use whenever you find that you’re using it. While many monthly prepaid plans do allow for data banking, most have limits on how much you can bank or how long it lasts for, whereas with a long expiry prepaid plan, it’s yours to use whenever you want. If you’ve got a really light month’s usage ahead of you, that’s fine, because you can then enjoy more data usage later on – or vice versa.

Long Expiry Prepaid Plan: Cons

Call costs on PAYG plans can be high

If you opt to go down the PAYG route, you’re often stuck with a plan that charges you a per-minute rate for calls, rather than a per-call one as you might think. That’s fine for very short calls, but any lengthy call – and this would include all those annoying times you have to call a service and get stuck in a call queue – could burn through a significant quantity of your PAYG credit, leading to a need to recharge well before your expiry period is up.

It can be a bit too easy to burn through your data

Having a big ol’ chunk of data at your disposal is super flexible and great when you need a heavier data hit than a typical monthly prepaid plan offers.

However, it’s also something of a trap, because most long expiry plans have no systems in place for adding “extra” data beyond buying an entirely new long expiry recharge. If you know your usage patterns and can be strict with your usage then this might not be a problem… but equally one epic YouTube binge could wipe out your year’s credit inside a week.

You’re (effectively) signing up long term

One of the big benefits of monthly contracts – prepaid or postpaid – is that you’re essentially free to leave as long as your bills are actually paid. Seen a better mobile phone plan than what you’re paying? While you could leave a long expiry plan for a different plan, you’d effectively be surrendering the value of that plan if you needed to move your phone number over to that new plan. This creates something of an anchor effect, and that can get worse if you forget to cancel your plan and you’ve arranged for an automatic payment to be taken out for an entirely new year!

Best long expiry prepaid plans

If you just want to find the best long expiry prepaid plans, we’ve made that easy for you right here.

Alex Kidman
Written by
Alex Kidman
Alex Kidman is some kind of word-generating AI from the future that somehow worked out how to sneak back in time to 1998 to start its journalism career. Across that time, including editorial stints at ZDNet, CNET, Gizmodo, PC Mag and Finder, as well as contributions to every major tech masthead, nobody has quite managed to figure out this deeply held secret. Let’s keep it between us, OK?

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