Telstra's prepaid "Freedom" plans have a nasty data sting [Updated]

Telstra’s new “Freedom” prepaid plan looks a whole lot like its previous “Cap Encore” plan that I’ve been a keen user of. It would appear that there’s a nasty sting in the new plans if you’re even a moderate data user, however. Update: Now with comment from Telstra.
For a certain part of the Australian population, Telstra’s the go-to network due to its coverage, especially in regional areas where competitor coverage can be a bit hit and miss.
I’ve long been a Telstra customer on a pre-paid basis, largely because it’s a good way to minimise my overall mobile costs while keeping that same level of coverage. My plan of choice, and the one that I’ve recommended to a number of people has been Telstra’s Prepaid Cap Encore plan, largely because if you don’t use your actual recharge credit (as distinct from the call/text/data values that you get at each recharge tier) it accumulates over time.
Indeed, it’s actually how I managed to roam in Tokyo for a week for absolutely no cost at all, as recounted here.
Telstra’s changed its prepaid offerings, however, and Cap Encore is no more. It’s been replaced with what Telstra’s calling the “Freedom” offer. On the surface it’s much as it was before; my preferred recharge rate of $30 still attracts $220 “worth” of calls and texts and 400MB of data, although the cheaper no-data $20 tier appears to have vanished. If you recharge within the month, the credit would still appear to roll over.
What’s not clear is whether or not you can use that recharge credit to buy Telstra’s top up data packs. Social media discussion — and to be transparent, I was put onto this line of thinking and questioning via Twitter — suggests that this might no longer be an option, at least for new SIM contracts. It’s typical for existing telecoms customers to be “grandfathered” — which is to say that you can usually stay on them as long as you do stay on them — but if so it’s a significant blow to the overall value offering.
A specific tweet from the main Telstra account stated that

They’ll apparently be available “in the coming months“, which is worrying if you’re a prepaid customer who uses a lot of data. Telstra does offer other prepaid options, but they’re exclusively focused on either calls/texts or long expiry of prepaid credit.
To give an example, in theory under Cap Encore you could use all of a $30 recharge to buy 900MB of additional data usage (One 700MB/$20 pack and one $10/200MB pack).
Under the “Freedom” plan, it would appear you can’t do that, and as such as soon as you go over quota you’ll presumably be charged Telstra’s standard $2/MB, which means instead of being able to get 900MB of usage, you’d get a rather paltry 15MB of extra data before your credit was exhausted.
I’ve put a query through to Telstra’s media team to see if they can clarify how long prepaid customers might have to wait for “Freedom” compatible plus packs and to clarify what happens to existing Cap Encore customers.
Update: As pointed out, the support link from Telstra’s site says that existing Encore Cap customers can stay on Encore Cap, but if you choose to change — and I can’t see too many reasons why you would — you won’t be able to change back. Thanks to Shaun for pointing that out!
Update: Telstra’s clarified the issue — somewhat — regarding Freedom customers, telling me that:
“We are currently developing a new rage of data top up packs for the Pre-Paid Freedom offer that we expect to launch next month.”
Which I guess is better than “in the coming months”. The hook with the Freedom plans is meant to be the ability to choose between the “Anytime Bonus” (Free text to standard Australian mobiles and free talk to Talk to standard Telstra mobiles within Australia) or “Nights Bonus” (Free Talk and Text every night 6pm to 6am to standard Australian numbers for use within Australia), but given how important data is in the modern context, those aren’t concessions I’d argue were worth giving up the existing plus packs for, even temporarily.
Update: Telstra’s now offering data packs for Freedom customers – but you can’t use your recharge data to buy them.
Source: Twitter
Image: Karl Baron

Author: Alex

Alex Kidman is a multi-award winning Australian technology writer, former editor at Gizmodo, CNET, GameSpot, ZDNet, PC Mag, APC, Finder and as a contributor to the ABC, SMH, AFR, Courier Mail, GadgetGuy, PC & Tech Authority, Atomic and many more. He's been writing professionally since 1998, and his passions include technology, social issues, education, retro gaming and professional wrestling.

29 thoughts on “Telstra's prepaid "Freedom" plans have a nasty data sting [Updated]

  1. I’m glad we can stay on Encore Cap as I find that $30/month + getting a $20 browse plus pack every now and then when needed suits me the most
    I guess there’s no word about whether we can use the Freedom credit for Telstra MOG (or Beats, later) to subscribe like we can on Encore at this stage?

  2. I note that the new Freedom plans expire after 28 days, rather than the current Cap Encore 30 day expiry. Interestingly, Optus has just extended their prepaid plan expiry from 28 days to 30 days.

  3. Even though they’ve dropped the expiry from 30 to 28 days, they’ve also *finally* fixed the monthly auto recharge feature.
    Now, any pre-paid offer with 28-31 day expiry will last until the next scheduled automatic monthly recharge (starting from the first auto-recharge). So you can actually set & forget without losing your credit 7 times a year in the 31-day months.
    (though this will be considerably less useful if they entirely kill off the ability to spend your $30 base credit on plus packs with the new Freedom plan)

  4. My cap encore credit has never rolled over. It’s always vanished after it’s expiry time. So, say current credit expires 23:59 in 3 days so I recharge now, 15 Sept, the previous credit expires whether I’ve used it all or not on day 3 and the new credit expires 15 Oct, 28-31 days after recharge.
    I’ve never tried to use unused standard balance to purchase browse packs but would like info on how this is done, as that would save me losing my base of $30. Often I still have some credit left in my bonus pack before the month’s end as I use more data than calls and texts.
    Thank you for advice and assistance. Kim

  5. Damn, I’ve already switched to this ‘freedom’ not knowing that you can’t buy data with the existing credit. I’m going to optus soon and will just use telstra as a backup.
    Thanks for the post, though. I’m sure it will help a lot of people ! 🙂

    1. I too changed to freedom, and realized after the fact that there’s no data packs. After several phone calls to Telstra, and being told once you change from encore you cant go back to encore as it’s an old offer, I managed to get changed back from freedom to encore. It took some creative arguing on my behalf, and mentioning changing to Optus, and pointing out how underhanded it was of Telstra to not disclose upfront that there’s no data packs. I will stay on encore offer till the bring out the new data packs for the freedom offer. If you’re unhappy on the freedom offer and made the change to freedom assuming there’s be data packs available ( not unreasonable to assume this) try calling them and arguing the above points. Mentioning the O words, such as Ombudsman or changing to Optus seems to make Telstra more willing to help and vend their rules to keep you a happy Telstra customer. Expect Telstra to say ‘sorey once you change to freedom there no going back to Encore as we’re phasing Encore out. But I was able to have it reverted to Encore.

  6. Huahhhh!!! I feel so cheated!!! :'( I changed to Freedom for the double data offer, not knowing that i cannot purchase data pack & I cannot transfer any credit to my kids via creditme. And I cannot go back to CapEncore. I wished I hv read this article before. That’s it I am hopping to Optus… and warning my friends on this!! :'(

    1. I managed to argue my case successfully and got changed back to Encore. It wasn’t easy to convince them especially with their standard answer “we can’t change you back to Encore once you’ve changed to Freedom” but they did with two days and several phone calls back and forth.

  7. Good news, I contacted telstra on 15/October 14, they said we can purchase 1G of data for $15 from the $30 main credit, but can only do it by calling or online help, and credit will only last for 14 days. They are still working on making some data packs available for online purchase. I didn’t purchase any data pack, hope they will still honor it when I need it in weeks time…

  8. What no one has listed is that the new freedom plan is only 28 days. Also for andriod users can you still use your existing credit to purchase from google play as you can under the cap encore plan ?

  9. Im sticking to cap encore, dont trust any telco to do the right thing by their customers..allthey think of is how to empty your wallet!

  10. Looks like I’m finally leaving Telstra ! The only reason I was with them so I could send my credit to my kids as that option is now gone so am I……..
    So long Telstra .

  11. Got cold called and told that I need to go to freedom plan as they dont offer encore anymore…after explaining that I used over 3gig a month and was told that I cant do that on freedom and would need to go back on contract and be paying $50 a month and another $35 a month for a tablet plan but hey you get a free tablet that I would have to carry that around with me to use it as a hotspot…when I told him I already have a wifi hotspot and it costs $180 for 12gig he said wow thats pricey …who’s that with…telstra of course…oh well that’s not too bad he then said. Whats got me is if i stick with encore the price change for extra data has gone from $40 for 3gig to $40 for just 1 gig now. Outrageous

  12. Telstra have done it again!. Trying to rip people off, they have cut their own throat. Customers who were happy to be “taken” by them before with encore (less than half the data allowance, compared to other providers ) are now being ripped off even more. “Freedom” lets people think they are getting more for less cost. I don’t know if “Mr Morse code ” Tony A-butt has shares with Telstra, but it is very similar to his pre-election promises. Customers will be leaving in droves because, even with less coverage, the other providers offer better value for money over Telstra. Wake up Telstra, your cash cows have had enough. Try giving more value for money, and you will take (all) the customers away from the competition. Signed -: Disgusted.

  13. Finally they are starting to sort this mess out. If you call Telstra now on 1258880, they can top up your data from your credit ($15 for 1GB or $5 for 250MB to be used in 14 days). Apparently they are working on this option to be available as a self-service (currently you can top up yourself but have to pay extra for it).
    So in the end the Freedom is finally looking as a better value than CapEncore. Examples:
    – Freedom: $30 recharge, $220 for calls and 2.8GB data (800MB double data + 2x 1GB data top up). Plus Anytime Bonus or Nights Bonus. All to use within 28 days (data top up added on day 1 and day 14 as each lasts 14 days only).
    – Cap Encore: $30 recharge, $220 for calls and 1.3GB data (400MB within recharge + 700MB for $20, +200MB for $10). Nights Bonus. All to us within 30 days.
    So really the only advantage for Cap Encore is the 30 days of credit use, even if they finish the double data promo on Freedom because another comparison: 3GB Browse Plus Pack on Cap Encore costs $49 and lasts 30 days, whereas it’s $45 on Freedom and lasts 42 days (3x 1GB@$15 14 days apart).

      1. Well I just got 1GB for $15 of my credit by calling Telstra. And then SMS with reference to the customer rep to get in touch next time I need to top up data from my credit balance.

        1. That’s genuinely interesting — and certainly contrary to what Telstra representatives have told me on the record. I’ll investigate further.

          1. Yes, I know — that’s part of the reason why I checked with Telstra representatives for an on-the-record statement regarding recharges for that second story linked. Your experience says different, and I’ll look into it; it’s not entirely unknown for phone reps to do something that isn’t standard company line stuff, but equally there may have been a change of position at Telstra.

  14. “it’s not entirely unknown for phone reps to do something that isn’t standard company line stuff”
    Right, because I was about to switch to Simplicity to be able to use my credit for Browse Plus Packs (and was also considering switching to Optus later).
    But after reading a few comments, stating that some were able to switch back to Encore I also decided to give them a call to try that. However, I didn’t feel like shouting, arguing, asking for a supervisor etc. – I just said that there is a big rave on the internet about what they’ve done with data for Freedom regardless of the double bonus – and I have read that people were able to switch back to Encore. She said they know about the rave and working on improving the Freedom but she can’t switch me back to Encore as it’s greyed out for her in the system. Then she said that actually she can top up my data from my prepaid credit and Telstra is working on making this available as a self service (#111#, Telstra app, online…) too.
    But you are right that the official statement for data top up seems to be “Not available for purchase using existing credit.” as stated here:

    1. Just got comment back from Telstra regarding this, and they’re quite firm that there’s no ability to use prepaid credit to purchase Freedom top-ups; to quote exactly what I’ve been told:
      “No you can’t use Pre-paid credit to buy data top-ups under the Freedom offer. This is only available to our cap encore customers.”
      So anyone enabled to do so by call centre operatives is presumably doing so outside Telstra’s set rules; I wouldn’t count or budget on being able to do so long term.

  15. i am thinking of going to another carrier because i have been ripped off by false advertising by the freedom first offer cant top up data from my prepaid account telstra as done it to me again i thought it was a good offer

  16. Telstra rarely if ever has that much to offer its customers comparatively speaking and there is always a catch to beware of.The opposition is generally more upfront. Even the coverage and connectivity is poor and the 24/7 impossible to connect because they are always experiencing higher than normal inquiries…..O can only wonder why….shame Telstra feel I have been rorted for too long.

  17. Also very frustrated…ran out of data but still have all my recharge credit and call credit but cant use the internet. So will have to recharge again just for data…no doubt end up with a shit load of recharge credit that i cant use. Think might leave telstra. So hard to contact them by fone.

  18. I changed to the freedom plus and was unaware you couldn’t buy plus packs from the main balance.
    Only plus pack you can currently buy out of your main balance is a ‘intbrowser’ pack for international roaming and cant be used in australia.
    Since iv switched to the freedom offer iv now acumulated over $220 in main balance, $1500 in call credit to any australian number and a further $1400 in international calls.
    None of which I use and just accumulates because I barely make calls and 90% of my usage is data and as I keep running out of data I keep having to recharge which other than the data I get with the recharge the rest is useless.
    Its also still better value to recharge $30 than to buy the $20 top up which as previously discussed doesn’t come out of your existing balance.
    I believe Telstra won’t bring out data packs to be able to purchase from the main balance as the would pressume people like me who have now accumulated a huge main balance will use it as soon as the packs are made available and people wouldn’t then need to recharge for ages and would be able to transfer their hundreds of dollars of main credit for huge amounts of data… I can’t see Telstra letting that happen.
    I think they will just come out with a new batch of prepaid plans.
    But what’s the bet if you change to a new plan they will say you can’t till you use up all your existing credit or lose it when you change over.

  19. Has anyone else noticed that if you recharge BEFORE the expiry of your previous recharge, Telstra set the next 28 days from the date you make the payment, NOT when the previous period ends?
    If this is a common practice across the country Telstra will be making fortune taking money by double charging for these few days. I have just spent 30+ minutes getting some days reinstated that had mysteriously dissappeared.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.