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Which is more cost effective when it comes to mobile phone plans? Billpay or prepay?

In a time when data is definitely king when it comes to mobile phone packages, who’s coming up trumps when it comes to competitive pricing; billpay or prepay? Do you really need unlimited calls and texts and are you paying more than you should for them? bonkers.ie investigates…

Since the advent of smartphones (which really wasn’t all that long ago when you think about it), it hardly warrants mentioning that the way we use our mobile phones has undergone a dramatic transformation.

Before smartphones, customers relied heavily on mobiles for calls and texts as primary methods of communication and finding a price plan and provider that met your own personal requirements where those two needs were concerned could sometimes be a challenge. Billpay and prepay structures were starkly different and designed to meet contrasting requirements.

But now data packages have been introduced into the mix, and these more often than not can cancel out the need for call and text packages altogether, which begs the question, do we really need them anymore anyway? And are we paying for more than we need? Let’s take a look at some of the changes in the last few years to find out…

How we used our mobiles in days gone by

Billpay users:

Back before smartphones, it made sense for those who used their phones for work to choose billpay because it meant peace of mind. You could make as many calls and texts that you wanted and know that you weren’t going to run out of service at an inopportune moment (during an important business call, for example) even if it ultimately meant paying a little extra. It also meant you were eligible to take up contracts for the latest phone models (which of course still applies today).

Prepay users:  

On the flip side, for the more frugal, great peace of mind also came from knowing that you couldn’t exceed what you were capable of paying with a prepay plan. Once you’d used up your credit that was it - your phone wasn’t going to work again until you topped it up. The benefits of prepay phones were that they were generally a lot cheaper to run, and there was no contract to worry about,  though you missed out on the cheaper price of handsets as compared to billpay contracts.

What’s changed?

Reading through the above descriptions you’d be forgiven for thinking that not a lot has changed since the introduction of smartphones; you can still get better phones for lower initial prices on billpay and prepay phones still run out of credit and need to be topped up for continual service.

However, the introduction of easy access to high speed internet on our phones has led to a huge shift in terms of what we need from our phones and how we use them, which has consequently had a major effect on pricing structures.

Are phone calls and texts becoming obsolete?  

Beginning with the introduction of simple email and culminating with the likes of apps like WhatsApp, Facebook messenger, Snapchat etc. combined with the widespread penetration of 3G and 4G network coverage across the country, the need for an SMS service (and its associated costs) has been virtually wiped out. The attitude for many is, for example; “Why pay for a text message package when you can send unlimited texts for free on WhatsApp?”

It’s a similar case when it comes to calls; nowadays you can make free national and international calls over data or WiFi using apps like FaceTime, Skype and Viber as well all of those already mentioned above, not to mention the fact that the popularity of voice calls, in general, has fallen in recent years in the face of so many alternative options.

You can even find memes and pop culture references littered across social media and modern sitcoms on TV that poke fun at the millennial generation in particular for going to great lengths to avoid having to go through the ordeal of making an actual voice call or leave a voicemail.

Data is king

The result, of course, is that data is king. In order for data to take care of both calls and texts, you need more of it. Thankfully, mobile phone package and price plans across the board have begun to reflect this usage trend, with data packages becoming a key selling point with many networks.  

Prepay plans start to look a lot more like billpay plans

A side effect of the data trend is that prepay plans, in particular, have more or less begun to emulate billpay pricing structures (though on a cheaper scale and without the associated contract). Back in the day, on a prepay plan, you would have topped up your phone by X amount and calls would be priced per minute and texts would have had a set rate per message. When the credit ran out, that was it. However, with the introduction of data into the mix, things began to change…

Nowadays you’ll find with most prepay plans that you pay a set amount per month which will get you a package that includes a limited amount of calls, texts and data (how much and which elements are included will depend on your preferences) which you can use during that month.

You’ll get to “keep” the credit that you paid, which will then be used for anything that wasn’t included in your package or for when the month comes to an end and you haven’t topped up again.

Prepay vs. billpay: which option is more cost effective?

So, if people are using more data and have less of a need for calls and texts, what’s the most cost effective payment method? Prepay or billpay? We decided to compare each method like-for-like. Down below you’ll find a comparison table of all of the major networks detailing a sim-only billpay plan and corresponding prepay plan from each to give you an idea of how they stack up.

It’s important to note that the list is not exhaustive and that there are more plans available from each provider, the chart merely illustrates one example from each network.  

Price

Calls

Texts

Data allowance

Extras

Three Prepay

€20 per 28 days

Free Three to Three calls

Unlimited to any network

60GB

Free Deezer access for 3 months 

Three Billpay

€30

Unlimited to any network

Unlimited to any network

60GB

Free Deezer access for 3 months

Vodafone Prepay

€30 per 28 days

Unlimited to any network

Unlimited to any network

8GB

Any unused data rolls over to next month

Vodafone Billpay

€25 per month for 6 months, €30 per month thereafter (12 month contract)

Unlimited to any network

Unlimited to any network

10GB

100 international minutes and texts + 3 month trial of Secure Net

eir Prepay

€20 per month 

Not included in bundle (use credit)

Unlimited to any network

15GB

Unlimited social media usage (i.e. social media usage not counted towards data allowance)

€120 bonus credit (top up by €20 every month and get bonus €10 every month for 12 months) 

eir Billpay

Same as prepay

Same as prepay

Same as prepay

Same as prepay

Same as prepay

Tesco Mobile Prepay

€15 per 30 days

Unlimited to any network

Free Tesco Mobile to Tesco Mobile Texts

10GB

Earn double Clubcard points when you top-up

Tesco Mobile Billpay

€25 per month

Unlimited to any network

Unlimited to any network

20GB

-

Virgin Mobile Prepay

€10 per month for 6 months, €25 per month thereafter

Unlimited to any network

Unlimited to any network

30GB

-

Virgin Mobile Billpay

Same as prepay

Same as prepay

Same as prepay

Same as prepay

Same as prepay

Lyca Mobile Prepay

€15 per 30 days

Unlimited to any network

Unlimited to any network

15GB

-

Lyca Mobile Billpay

Same as prepay

Same as prepay

Same as prepay

Same as prepay

Same as prepay

48 Go Conquer Prepay

€20 per month

1,000 any network minutes

Unlimited to any network

8GB

Unlimited Whatsapp messaging

48 Go Conquer Billpay

Same as prepay

Same as prepay

Same as prepay

Same as prepay

Same as prepay

The results

There are a number of interesting results that we can draw from the table:

  1. Good news for data lovers! Most networks on the list provide the same data allowance regardless of plan type, which of course means that if data is most important to you, and you’re not too pushed about calls and texts (as we’ve been discussing, has become a trend), switching over from the more expensive plan (most often sim-only billpay to prepay) you could save yourself upwards of €10 a month and not lose any of your data allowance. Happy days! If you’re a real data guzzler, Three looks like your best bet as it has a data allowance of 60GB.  

  2. The lines are blurring. As was anticipated, prepay plans are beginning to emulate billpay pricing structures and a few networks have even done away with a distinction between the two - making it much easier for consumers to make a cost effective choice that won't tie them into a long contract. 

  3. Get what you pay for. When you choose a more expensive billpay plan over a prepay one, you're not only paying for those extra calls and texts but you also generally get much better perks as evidenced in the chart above, which depending on your interests and preferences, might be something you might consider in addition to calls, texts and data. 

Lifestyle:

At the end of the day, the right plan for your needs will be entirely personal to you. It might be the case that you have no need for calls and texts but equally, you could be the complete opposite and have no need at all for data.

Choosing a mobile price plan can be difficult and confusing so it’s good to know your options before making any decisions. If you have any questions or comments, we’re always happy to help here at bonkers.ie. Leave a comment below and we’ll get back to you as soon as we can.

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If you're in the market for a new smartphone, try and look out for a model that is NFC enabled. Why? You'll be able to access handy banking apps Apple Pay or Google Pay. What are those? Check out the video below to find out: 

  


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