If you live in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) then the odds are quite significant that you are a new Canadian. As you probably know, around half of all residents of the GTA were born abroad. (Just under half but that rate will surely continue to rise over the coming years.) So, it’s more than likely that you need to keep in touch with friends and family back in your home country. That leads to the next question: which phone plan work the best for you?

 

To answer that you should realize that what we’re really asking is: How do you prefer to communicate with family and friends back home?

Text or call? https://pixabay.com/illustrations/iphone-hand-smartphone-mobile-1935983/

  • Text?
  • Photos/Pictures?
  • Text and photos?
  • Emails?
  • Emitting sounds using your vocal cords which are then organized into meaningful patterns of communication by means of agreed-upon syntax and grammar? (Also known as actually talking.)
  • Hand-written letters mailed by registered post?

How you communicate to family and friends back home matters because actually speaking on your phone tends to be the most expensive option unless you’re leaving voice messages on WhatsApp – especially if the person you’re speaking to is in Xinxiang or Bangalore. And as you’ll see below, most GTA phone plans give you unlimited international text, pictures, and often voice messages as well, but unlimited talk is only for Canada. And data is expensive in Canada. 5 GB is a fairly common base level but if you want to stream live-action sports on your phone you’ll need more and in Canada that means you’ll be paying well over $70 in many cases.

 

Like What’s Up with Mobile Rates in Canada, eh?   

Here’s the problem. Canada is one of the most expensive mobile phone markets among developed countries. An annual study for the government of Canada by Wall Communications on telephony and internet costs found that Canada’s pricing for most mobile packages was well above those in G7 European countries as well as Australia, which has prices similar to European countries. For example, in 2018 for what’s called level-5 services (unlimited text and talk in Canada but no international talk with 5 GB of data), Canada had an average monthly cost of over $87 compared to:

  • an average of $55 for G7 + Australia countries (France, Germany, US, UK, Italy, Japan, and of course Canada comprise the so-called G7 countries).
  • Japan and the US had prices fairly close to Canada’s, but
  • France, Germany, UK, Italy, and Australia have much cheaper monthly rates, often about half as much.

Sorry mate. Get used to it.

So, it is all the more important for you to hunt down the cheapest plan with the kind of features you need. And which is available in the GTA. Because, as you’ll see, there’s some good plans with reasonable (by Canadian standards) pricing but that are only available dans le Quebec.

 

What is BYO?

It means Bring Your Own Phone, basically, and it involves purchasing a phone outright (either new or used) rather than buying a phone on an installment plan that’s wrapped into your monthly phone bill. That means having the cash upfront to buy a phone. You might have to consider this option because as a new arrival you won’t have much of a credit history in Canada and some providers will not let you buy a phone through your plan unless they can do a credit check on you. (Please check out our article on how to establish credit history quickly in Canada here.)

The good news is that since there’s no installment plan BYO mobile plans tend to be cheaper. The trickier part is making sure your phone is compatible in Canada. As well you have to make sure your phone is unlocked if you are changing providers in order for your SIM card to function.  

So, if you bring one in from overseas it’s vital to make sure it will operate to Canadian standards. But don’t despair, you can head to this website in order to see if your phone will work in Canada:

https://willmyphonework.net/

But let’s say you want to buy a new phone in Canada rather than bring your old phone in. The cost is generally from a few hundred dollars to almost $2,000 for the latest iPhone. For example, at Best Buy some reasonable prices for unlocked phones were advertised on this page as follows:

Brand Model Data Price*
iPhone 7 128 GB $329.97
Samsung Galaxy A50 64 GB $399.99
Samsung Galaxy A70 128 GB $549.99
iPhone XR 64 GB $749.99
Samsung Galaxy Note 10+ 256 GB $1,359.99
Samsung Galaxy J3 16 GB $189.95
Nokia 3310 3 GB $89.99

*Please note that these prices are shown for information purposes only. Go to the linked page and/or contact Best Buy Canada to get current prices for unlocked phones. Or contact any other seller of mobile phones that does business in Canada.

And here’s another benefit to buying an unlocked phone once you arrive in Canada. You can switch providers when you wish (assuming you are on a monthly plan without a contract) as you won’t have to pay off the remaining balance on a phone purchased through the provider’s plan.  

But if you are able to get a phone through a plan (because perhaps your credit history is established in Canada) you can go for a nice iPhone or top of the line Galaxy and pay it off at around $20 to $30 a month over a 2-year period, for example. But remember that you’ll be locked into that plan until you pay off your phone. If you’re fine with that then go ahead and get a really cool phone on a big GigaByte plan! And livestream whatever and whenever you want! Of course, it won’t be cheap.

One final point about unlocked phones that you may decide to purchase in Canada. In the table above, please note that the GB shown are the phone’s specifications, NOT the data available through your provider. The data levels offered by your provider for mid-range more affordable plans will generally be much lower. Say around 5 to 12 GB.

 

BYO Plans

Provider/International? Talk + Text in Canada Data Price*
Fido: By the Month $30 Plan
Unlimited International text messages
Unlimited text and talk Canada-wide only on weekends & evenings + 250 minutes Nope $30 per month does NOT include cost of phone
Fido: By the Month $35 Plan
Unlimited International text messages
Unlimited text and talk Canada-wide only on weekends & evenings + 500 minutes Nope $35 per month does NOT include cost of phone
Fido: By the Month $45 Plan
Unlimited International text/picture/video messages
Unlimited text and talk Canada-wide only on weekends & evenings + 500 minutes Nope $35 per month when you bring your own phone
Fido: $60 Plan
Unlimited International text/picture/video messages
Unlimited text and talk Canada-wide only on weekends & evenings + 500 minutes 4 GB $50 per month when you bring your own phone
Freedom: $50 Big Gig Unlimited 10 GB Plan
Unlimited global text/picture/video messaging
$0.05/minute calls in Canada with unlimited incoming calls 12 GB
Includes 2 GB bonus data
$45 per month when you bring your own phone
Freedom: $60 Big Gig Unlimited + Talk 10 GB Plan
Unlimited global text/picture/video messaging
Unlimited talk & text in Canada 12 GB
Includes 2 GB bonus data
$50 per month excludes phone costs
Freedom: Prepaid Talk & Text Plan
Unlimited global text/picture/video messaging
Unlimited talk & text in Canada No data $19 per month plus $10 upfront excludes phone costs
Koodo: $35 Prepaid Base Plan
Unlimited international text/picture messages
Unlimited talk & text Province-wide (in our GTA case, Ontario) No data $35 per month plus $10 upfront excludes phone costs
Koodo: $50 – Tab Medium plan with 2 GB Data
Unlimited international text/picture messages
500 minutes Canada-wide talk 4 GB including 2 GB bonus $50 per month excluding phone costs
Koodo: $60 – Tab Medium Plan with 5 GB Data
Unlimited international text/picture messages
500 minutes Canada-wide talk 7 GB including 2 GB bonus $60 month excluding phone costs
Lucky Mobile: Unlimited Canada-wide Calling Plan – 4.5 GB
Unlimited international text messages
Unlimited Canada-wide talk and texts 5 GB including 0.5 top-up bonus $40 per month excluding phone costs (BYO or buy new phone)
Lucky Mobile: Unlimited Canada-wide & US Calling plan – 8 GB
Unlimited international text messages
Unlimited Canada-wide + US talk and texts 8.5 GB including 0.5 top-up bonus $50 per month excluding phone costs (BYO or buy new phone)
Chatr: $50 Nationwide Talk, Text, & Data Plan
Unlimited international text
Unlimited talk & text in Canada and US 8.5 GB including 0.5 GB bons $50 per month excluding phone costs
Public: Unlimited Canada-wide Talk, Text + 8 GB + 500 MB Bonus
 
Canada-wide talk & text (no international text messages) 8.5 GB including 0.5 GB bonus $48 per month excluding phone costs

*These prices are provided as examples and for information purposes only. To find out current rates/prices please contact your provider.

 

Contract Plans in Canada

Provider/International? Talk/Text Canada Data Price*
Rogers: Infinite +10
Unlimited text/picture/video messages
Unlimited talk & text Canada-wide 10 GB at full speed $75 per month with a contract but excluding phone costs
Telus: Simple Share 5
Unlimited text/picture/video messages
Unlimited talk & text Canada-wide 5 GB $70 a month with a contract but excluding phone costs
Bell Mobility: Connect Everything Share Plan – Unlimited Canada Calling
Unlimited text/picture/video messages
Unlimited talk & text Canada-wide 9 GB $70 per month with a contract but with $40 upfront. Excluding phone costs.
Cityfone: Smartphone plan
Unlimited international texts
Unlimited talk & texts Canada-wide 4.5 GB $80 per month with contract excluding phone costs
Videotron: 7 GB + 2 GB Bonus Premium Plan
Unlimited text/picture/video messages
Unlimited talk & text Canada-wide 9 GB including 2 GB bonus $80 per month with contract excluding phone costs

*Provided as an example and only for information purposes. For current prices please contact your provider.

As one can clearly see, plans with a contract (which tend to be for 24 months) are ridiculously expensive in Canada. And guess what isn’t included in the prices the table listed above? That’s right, the monthly installment payments you’ll have to make and on that oh-so-cute iPhone you just had to have. So, pre-paid is cheaper. A lot cheaper. Even accounting for that phone you had to buy beforehand. Even if you spend say $700 on a phone, taking into account the difference with a contract plan, you’ll have saved that difference within less than 24 months.

 

Contract or Pre-Paid – What’s the Difference?

You should note that the types of plans listed above may not involve credit checks as they are often what is called pre-paid. Another way of saying that is to state that there is no contact. A plan with a contract is generally a post-paid plan which you pay at the end of your billing period, rather than upfront at the start of your billing period. Let’s take a closer look at the two types of phone plans.

 

Phone Contracts in Canada

  • A plan with a contract allows you to pay at the end of the month as stated above and it also has another important difference. If you exceed data or talk or any other limits from your plan, you won’t be cut off (unlike a pre-paid plan). But you will be charged what are called overage fees which can be very, very expensive.
  • You do get perks (gifts or benefits) from using a plan with a contract. For example, a rewards program from your provider, just like any other loyalty program in Canada.
  • You can also set up automated payments through your bank to ensure you’re never late on your phone bill. As well, as we mentioned in our blog on establishing a credit rating in Canada, it’s a good way to build up your credit history. As long as you always make sure there’s enough money in your account to pay your phone (and other) bills!
  • However, you will need to undergo a credit check to ensure you are eligible for a contract plan. The good news is that even if your Canadian credit history is just getting established phone companies (like Fido or Lucky, for example) tend to be quite flexible in assessing your credit as a new Canadian. Understand this does NOT mean you’re guaranteed a thumbs up. It does mean that you should gladly talk to your provider and see how you can get them to do a credit check so you can opt for a post-paid/contract plan. As an international student, some providers may accept your study permit along with other information in order to get you a monthly plan with a contract.

 

Pre-Paid Phone Plans in Canada

  • The good news is you don’t need a credit check with a pre-paid plan.
  • You do have to BYO – bring your own phone since pre-paid plans are all BYO, and of course that includes buying a new phone once you arrive in Canada.
  • But of course, you enjoy cheaper rates with a pre-paid plan, especially seeing the cost of amortizing (paying by installments) your plan’s phone are not included.
  • If you exceed your limits, you get cut off, however. That means having to top up with fresh cash in order to use your phone again.
  • And as we said at the beginning, you can leave the plan at the end of the month rather than having to wait until your phone is paid off.

 

Adding it all up, it might be best to start with a more modest plan and see how well it fits your needs. It depends on your budget and that depends on your salary and your financial conditions when you arrive in Canada. Remember, while Toronto is an astonishingly diverse city where people from around the world can find communities that welcome them, it is not a cheap city to live in. And that’s especially true for phone plans. Expenses add up, so starting with a cheaper plan until you’re sure that:

  • you can afford the plan, and
  • you actually really need the extra data/video/etc. that come with a more expensive plan,

is a good idea for anybody new to the GTA


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