Understanding mobile charges | ACMA

Understanding mobile charges


It’s important to familiarise yourself with your mobile charge structure so you don’t exceed your limit.

Rates for phone calls and text messages (SMS) can vary depending on who you are calling, and the type of mobile charge structure you are using.

Examples of mobile charge structures include the following:  

  • calls to Australian landlines and mobile phones
  • calls to international landlines and mobile phones
  • calls to ‘13’, ‘1300’ and ‘18’, ‘1800’ numbers
  • charges for using your mobile phone overseas
  • charges for SMS
  • Mobile premium services
  • charges for incomplete calls

Calls to Australian landlines and mobile phones

Australian landline and mobile phone call costs can vary depending on your mobile charge structure.

One way these calls are calculated is on a ‘per minute’ rate plus a connection fee basis. A connection fee is also known as ‘flagfall’.

For example, if you have $200 credit, and your service provider charges $2.15 per minute plus a 25-cent connection fee—a total of $4.55 will be deducted from your credit.

Another example of a mobile charge structure is where you receive ‘call minutes’ credit instead of monetary credit.

For example, if you have 300 call minutes, a two-minute call would be deducted from the total—leaving you with a call minute balance of 298 minutes. Generally, you’ll be charged extra if you use up all of your credit or included value. These extra charges should be based at the same rate.

Calls to international landlines and mobile phones

International landline and mobile phone call costs can often be complex and expensive, with international roaming charges easily amounting to hundreds of dollars.

So before you make any calls—check your call charge structure with your service provider. They are required to provide you with a critical information summary that outlines their services and key pricing information.

Calls to ‘13’, ‘1300’ and ‘18’, ‘1800’ numbers

Call costs to ‘13’, ‘1300’, ‘18’ and ‘1800’ numbers can vary based on either the ‘included value’ in your post-paid plan or pre-paid credit structure.

Most mobile phone plans include calls to ‘13’ and ‘1300’ numbers, which may be charged at a similar call rate to landline calls. However, you may be charged extra if you exceed your limits or if your plan doesn’t have these call included.

Free calls to ‘18’ and ‘1800’ numbers are offered by most service providers, however some providers may not offer this for free. Make sure you check what your plan offers before making these types of calls.

Charges for using your mobile phone overseas

Using your mobile phone, laptop or tablet overseas will usually be much more expensive than at home—especially if you have international mobile roaming (IMR) switched on.

The IMR service allows you to use your SIM card from your mobile or tablet and keep your same service provider here in Australia while allowing you to ‘roam’ overseas networks. However it’s important to be aware that overseas charges for receiving calls and casual use of data (maps, social media, email, internet browsing)—are often very expensive.  

For example, using 1 MB of data in Australia can cost up to 10-cents—whereas the same data usage could cost upwards of fifteen dollars overseas. 

For more information on managing roaming use while overseas, see our international mobile roaming standard page.

Charges for SMS

Standard SMS charges are usually offered in either your ‘included value’ for a post-paid plan, or a credit for a pre-paid service.

For example, if you plan has $300 worth of ‘included value’ and you send ten SMS’ charged at 20-cents each—a total of $2 will be charged, leaving you with a balance of $298.

Mobile premium services

Mobile premium services provide information and entertainment services that are delivered to your mobile phone and cost more than standard SMS (text message) or MMS (multimedia message).

For more information on accessing mobile premium services, see our mobile premium services page.

Charges for incomplete calls

Did you know that you may be charged the cost of a call even if you have just left a voicemail?

When you make a call that is answered by a ‘message bank’ or voicemail service—this is flagged as a connection and you will be charged for leaving the message.

Voicemail services are considered an ‘opt-in’ service, so to disable—you will need to ‘opt out’ by contacting your service provider.

It is also important to note that Telstra, Optus and Vodafone will charge you for a call even if it is unsuccessful. For example, if a phone is engaged, switched off, out of range, or just goes unanswered. This functionality is applied to every call unless you chose to ‘opt out’.


Your phone bill may include charges for calls made before the current billing period. This is known as backbilling.

Backbilling may be caused by a delay in:

  • your service provider receiving call charging information from overseas service providers
  • the transfer of billing information between your service provider and other Australian-based service providers.

However, the Telecommunications Consumer Protections code states that a service provide must not bill for charges older than 160 days from when they were incurred by the customer.

Last updated: 10 January 2019