Compare and get the best mobile phone deals – Forbes Advisor UK
Choosing the right mobile phone deal can be a bit of a minefield – should you go for a monthly contract, a SIM only deal, or should you pay as you go?
To help you make the right decision and make sure you don’t pay for services you never use, our guide walks you through the different options and the pros and cons of each.
What is a SIM only plan?
SIM only offers can be a good choice if you are happy with your existing device and don’t need to upgrade it. And because you don’t need to pay for a new phone as part of your plan, SIM-only plans are usually much cheaper than monthly plans.
A SIM only plan will give you a monthly allowance of calls, texts and data for a fixed price. They also offer more flexibility, with most operating on a rolling 30-day basis, so you can easily cancel or switch to another plan if yours is no longer right for you.
If you prefer to stay longer, you can also choose between 12-month and 24-month plans.
You can also choose a dual SIM device that allows you to use two SIM cards with two different networks. This can be beneficial if you live in an area where the signal is weak or if you want to use a device as both a work phone and a home phone.
Dual SIM phones can also be useful for those who travel frequently, allowing you to have one SIM card for home and one for your away.
- Can be an easy way to save money
- You don’t need to lock yourself into a long contract
- There may not be a full credit check, which makes it a good option if your credit score isn’t up to par.
- You won’t get a new handset, so if your phone stops working, it’s up to you to get it repaired or replaced.
- Penalties may apply for early cancellation of offers of 12 or 24 months
- You may need to unlock your handset
How does pay-per-use work?
Similar to SIM card only, but you will need to provide your own handset if you choose a pay-as-you-go (PAYG) agreement. You then buy credit in advance and pay only for the minutes, data, and text messages you use. If you run out of credit, all you have to do is top up your balance.
Some mobile phone providers also offer data, text, and minutes plans if you top up your credit by a certain amount each month, which may be better value for money. Overall, however, this type of offer is best suited for those who don’t use their phones too often.
- Useful for those who rarely use their phone
- Credit checks are usually not done
- You will not be bound by a contract
- It may be more expensive than the SIM card only
- There is no new handset, so it’s up to you to pay for the necessary repairs
- If you run out of credit, you won’t be able to use your phone unless you need to call emergency services
How does the monthly payment work?
A paid monthly contract lets you choose a plan that includes a new handset, as well as a fixed amount of data, minutes, and SMS each month, all for a fixed monthly price. If you exceed your allowance for the month, you will be charged additional fees.
You can usually choose between a 12-month, 18-month, or 24-month contract. Longer contracts are generally cheaper, while shorter contracts offer more flexibility.
If you have to terminate your contract early, the penalty charges can be steep – they are often the equivalent of the amount you would have paid had the contract been maintained.
For example, if you paid £ 30 per month and left your contract for another 10 months, you would pay £ 300.
- You will be able to choose from a range of new and modern handsets
- If your phone breaks down, you may be entitled to a free repair or replacement under your contract as long as you pay
- your bills on time, a monthly contract can help improve your credit rating
- You’ll need a full credit check – if you have a bad credit history, you could be turned down
- You’ll be bound for at least a year, potentially two, and the termination fee can be expensive if you have to leave early.
- Charges can also be high for going over your monthly allowance
Which option is right for me?
In deciding which option is best for you, the biggest questions you’ll need to ask yourself are whether you need a new handset and what is your budget.
If you can get by with your existing handset, or are happy to buy a cheap basic phone, a SIM-only deal is likely to make the most financial sense – or PAYG if you don’t use your phone too often.
On the other hand, if you are looking for a high-end cell phone and you make a lot of calls and use a lot of data, a monthly contract is probably the best choice.
You’ll also have the option to upgrade your phone when your contract ends – or sooner in some cases.
Always compare offers carefully to make sure you only pay for what you need.