We compare the global roaming deals of Telstra, Optus and Vodafone – which one is best for the frequent flyer?
One of the greatest advances for business travellers over recent years wasn't a new type of business class seat, a new airport lounge or travel app, or even an actual 'enhancement' to a frequent flyer scheme.
It was the long-overdue reduction in global roaming fees charged by Telstra, Optus and Vodafone, to the point where – for quick business trips with only a few days away – you can stay connected on your Aussie number and smartphone without worrying about coming home to a shocker of a bill.
When a local prepaid SIM is best
That said, there are still times when it's better to grab a local prepaid SIM card in whatever country you're visiting.
The longer you spend in any given country and the more often you'll be returning there, the more sense it makes to invest in a prepaid SIM card and top it up for each trip.
This approach is especially useful if your prepaid SIM works on a fast 4G network and has a generous data allowance, because it lets you skirt those additional in-room Internet fees charged by many hotels.
But there are practical advantages for business travellers to using your Aussie SIM card overseas, as long as you can keep those roaming costs are contained.
For starters, colleagues and clients can still call or text you on your regular mobile number.
You also avoid spending time hunting down and setting up a local prepaid SIM card, which can be more bother than it's worth on a very short overseas trip such as an overnighter or a two-day stay.
Vodafone's $5/day global roaming is the bee's knees for business travellers.
This lets you use your Aussie plan's data, text and voice allowance for a flat $5 a day in over 50 countries worldwide including Asia, the USA, Canada, UK and Europe. And in New Zealand, roaming is free.
An added bonus is that if your plan includes 'infinite standard national minutes' you can made free calls back to standard landline and mobile numbers in Australia.
The only caveat is that your roaming is nominally limited to 90 days per year.
Telstra boasts the most extensive network coverage within Australia, making it the default for many users – but it's well off the pace for global roaming.
Customers on a pre-paid plan need to buy a Travel Pass for the country (or countries) they're travelling to.
New Zealand needs a Zone 1 pass, which starts at $15 for three days of unlimited talk and text but a measly 225MB of data. A more useful 1GB is available in the 14 day $70 travel pass.
Most other countries in Asia, Europe, the UK and the USA are covered by a Zone 2 pass, but once again the data rates are way below what a traveller requires.
The three day 225MB Zone 2 travel pass costs $30, with a seven day 525MB allocation at $70, then 1GB for 14 days at $140 and 2.2GB across 30 days for a whopping $300.
Optus adopts the same Travel Pack approach as Telstra, although it works only in a single set of countries lumped together as Zone 1. That includes North America, Europe, the UK, Asia and New Zealand.
However, each $10 travel pack lasts for just one day of unlimited talk and text plus a laughable 50MB of data.
Need five days of coverage for your next business trip? That means buying five travel packs for a total of $50, with just 250MB to spread across your working week.
Countries outside Zone 1 – including South America, Africa and the Gulf states – attract their own rates which are typically $2/minute for calls, $2 per sent SMS and $1/MB for data.