This guide will compare prepaid mobile data plans in Barbados between Digicel* and Flow (at 13 Nov 2015) and provide some adaptable guidelines for comparing mobile data plans in your country. One of the major telecommunications giants in Barbados, recently amended its mobile data plans and has effectively made the prepaid cell phone market more complicated. I’ve been using a prepaid mobile phone since 2008 and for me, it’s the more economical option. I added a prepaid data plan in 2013 and I am able to manage my data usage based on the limits provided. Now that this change has been put into effect, will it still be more economical to use a prepaid data service? How can I effectively compare prepaid mobile data plans to see which one is right for me?
Mobile data allows you to have wireless access to the internet anytime and almost anywhere. It is essentially wi-fi on the go and allows you to connect to your preferred online content. Many people use mobile data to access email, communicate with others, play games and use their favourite applications. Your mobile carrier provides mobile data packages of megabytes (MB) or gigabytes (GB) for a fee and there are usually some specific terms and conditions of the plan. You are allotted a certain amount of data, and if you go over that limit, you are charged overage rates. The trick is to keep track of your allowance and switch off your data when you are at home or in range of a free wi-fi hot spot, turn off background apps and restrict your video and music streaming.
Prepaid mobile data plans are structured so that you receive a specific allowance of data that is “supposed” to last you for a specific period of time. Service providers currently offer data plans that last from as little as one day to a maximum of 30 days. You can keep track of how much data you use, by downloading an app (I currently use Onavo), inputting how much data you have and the length of the plan. You can periodically check the app to see how much data you have used. Some service providers also send a reminder when you have used 75% of your data plan.
Price is extremely important when it comes to prepaid mobile data plans. Generally, mobile data is more expensive than your at home broadband service, but it is possible to find a deal that works with your budget. Even with prepaid data plans, you will be charged when you exceed the limits of the plan. This overage range is much higher than the plan rate. But because the prepaid mobile data plans in the Caribbean are strictly limited to data, it’s easy to breakdown the cost per MB to see exactly how you’re spending. For example, in the infographic below, Flow has an overage rate of $0.51 per MB. However, if you had to select the 1GB plan for 7 days at 11.99, your rate would be $0.01 per MB. The major issue that pops up with the prepaid mobile data plan is that the price you are willing to pay, might not match with the data that you need for the period of time you are looking for.
The beauty of most prepaid mobile data plans is that there is no contract. This aligns with the general idea of a prepaid cell phone, which gives you some flexibility in how you you use your phone. Without a contract (in the Caribbean), this means that you are free to switch to another service provider with ease, but you will have to get a new number. Several restrictions might apply to no-contract prepaid mobile data plans and unfortunately, they can make your options seem unattractive. One big negative factor is that the data is limited to the country that you are in and can not be used when you travel. For example, if you buy your prepaid mobile data plans in Grenada and you travel to St. Vincent, you will not be able to use that data in St. Vincent.
My Challenge with Prepaid Mobile Data Plans
Your usage patterns and your budget should determine which plan is right for you. Personally, I use my mobile data to connect with friends via social media, check my email and rarely surf the internet. As a rule, I limit all of my downloads and app updates to wi-fi and this really helps me to stay under my limit. But since one of my mobile plans is with the company that recently changed its prepaid mobile data plans, I have to decide which plan I will use going forward.
In the past, I used either the 30 day plan which gave me 500MB for $15.99 or the 30 day plan which gave me 1GB for $19.99. They have now eliminated both of these and instead offer a 7 day, 500 MB plan for $9.99 and a 30 day, 2 GB plan for $34.99. Neither of these plans are suitable to my needs which are:
1. Data – I typically use about 500MB per month and that is because of implementing the tips that I alluded to earlier. The new 500MB plan is restricted to seven days, and will not be suitable.
2. Duration – I always use the 30 day plan, because I find it convenient to monitor and hassle-free. 30 day plans now start at $34.99 with a minimum of 2GB of data.
3. Price – My budget for this particular service provider is capped at $30.00, which includes both data and minutes. I rarely make calls on my phone and any phone calls that I make are limited to under one minute.
4. Contract – I am not tied to any provider and I can literally jump ship. The only con is that you aren’t allowed vanity numbers and you will have to get a new number..
Based on these factors, it means that I will have to make one of the following choices:
1. Increase the money that I have allocated for my mobile expenses to at least $40, so that I can have data. But this means that I will be paying for data that I will not use.
2. Switch to Digicel* even though I already have a prepaid mobile service with them and I will have to get a new number.
3. Forego the mobile data plan and use wi-fi wherever possible.
4. Sign up for a post paid plan that has a data and minutes package with either service provider.
In the interim, I will stick to option 3. What would you do if you were in my shoes? Would you cut back on another expense, make the switch, stick to wi-fi or join the post paid world? Leave your comments down below or leave a message on Facebook or Twitter. Remember to share the infographic above and save it to your money and finance board in Pinterest.
Just remember that you always have a choice when it comes to saving. If your bank is not working, then you should investigate credit unions.