Is Woolworths' Chatterbox prepaid good value?

Woolworths has launched Chatterbox, a bonus credit scheme for prepaid customers, but does its low calling rates equate to better value than the competition?

Joseph Hanlon Special to CNET News
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Joseph Hanlon
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Woolworths and money
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Woolworths today announced its second assault on Australia's prepaid mobile landscape, offering a new option, which includes bonus credit with each recharge applied to a customer's account.

When activating a new prepaid account with Woolworths, customers can now choose between a Simple Saver Plan and a Chatterbox plan. Both offer customers calling rates of 15¢ per 30 seconds with a 15¢ flagfall, but the Simple Saver Plan includes an extended expiry period on credit of 100 days, while the Chatterbox offers bonus credit — matching the credit purchased (AU$30 bonus credit for an AU$30 recharge) — but with a credit expiry of 30 days only.

The actual value of this credit can only be assessed when converted to actual calling minutes, so we put all the major carrier's credit allowances next to the applicable calling rates to see which company offers the best value in terms of the total time you can spend on the phone.

While most of the carriers offer capped prepaid plans, we've chosen to compare the prepaid option from each which offers the lowest per-minute calling rate. The following assumes that every call lasts one minute and that each call attracts the carrier's flagfall.

Carrier Recharge Credit Cost per call Mins per month Expiry (days)
Woolworths AU$30 AU$60 AU$0.45 132 30
Optus AU$30 AU$30 AU$0.30 100 30
Vodafone AU$30 AU$30 AU$1.13 76 60
Three AU$30 AU$30 AU$1.05 28 60
Telstra AU$30 AU$30 AU$1.15 180* 30
Virgin AU$25 AU$25 AU$0.45 66** 45
TPG AU$30 AU$30 AU$0.30 100 N/A

*180 minutes is calculated by adding the 100 minutes of bonus talk minutes plus adding Talk plus packs using the available recharge credit.
**An AU$25 recharge will buy you 55 talk minutes. 66 minutes is the credit value if AU$30 were spent, which was included for the sake of this comparison.

This comparison only takes the value of national voice calls into consideration. It should be noted that TPG also includes 3G data in the offers listed above, while others offer SMS messages on top of its calling credit — Optus (100 SMS), Vodafone (100 SMS), Three (150 SMS) and Telstra (200 SMS) — with most of the carriers also including an allocation of free calls to customers on the same network.