When choosing a new mobile phone contract, one of the first decisions you’ll need to make is whether to opt for a SIM-only mobile phone deal or purchase a phone and contract together. It’s not always an easy decision to make, as each of these options have many pros and cons. In this guide we’ll be quickly running you through the options available, and then explaining why a SIM-only deal may (or may not) be for you.
With a SIM-only contract, you pay a single monthly amount and get the benefits of an ongoing contract. This is usually in the form of better-value call time, text messages and data services.
Like typical pay-monthly mobile phone deals, you'll usually get a set amount of inclusive minutes and texts each month, after which you’ll be charged for going over your free allocation.
However, as the name suggests, you won't actually get a physical phone with this deal. This suits people who are happy with their current handset and don’t see a need to upgrade their phone.
If this sounds like you then a SIM-only deal can be a great way to save money. What's more, if you don’t fancy committing to a long-term contract, many SIM-only deals require just 30 days notice for cancellation as they commonly operate on a one-month rolling contract. Some mobile networks even allow you to upgrade or downgrade your package each month as you please.
The name here is self-explanatory. With a pay as you go deal you simply pay for credit in advance, and then data, minutes and texts are deducted from your credit as you go along.
There's no contract, so you can leave the network whenever you like and there isn’t a need for a credit check like with long-term contracts.
The downside is that again there's no handset and if you use the phone a lot than you’ll have to pay more. If you do use the phone a lot, then a contract is probably better value for money than pay as you go.
These deals are good for anyone who's happy with their phone, doesn't want to commit to a contract or rarely uses their mobile to make outgoing calls.
If this sounds like you, then it’s still a good idea to compare mobile phone deals from different networks.
With a monthly contract you agree to pay a monthly fee, which usually includes a fixed amount of call time, data and texts.
It can often be very good value compared to a pay as you go deal and you will also get a new handset (although you're likely to pay much more for the newest models).
Some mobile networks separate the amount you're paying for the handset and the amount you pay for the package, so the cost will fall once the initial contract is finished and the cost of the handset has been paid off.
This kind of mobile phone deal is good for anyone who makes a lot of calls and texts, and anyone who wants a new phone.
However, the downside is that you can be locked into a long-term contract that lasts for anything from 12 to 24 months and sometimes even more. If you always want the newest model, then you have to compare whether you want to shell out for a newer handset plus your contract or lose the benefits of a monthly contract.
Handsets are pricey – the cost of a phone on its own can roll into hundreds (and now thousands) of pounds, especially if you like your phones loaded up with features. A SIM-only deal is usually worth it if you don’t need a new handset and you are happy with the minutes, texts and data included in the deal itself. So if you already have a phone that you like, consider a SIM-only deal when looking for your next mobile phone contract.
It’s worth noting, however, that you might need to unlock your existing phone if it’s tied to a particular network network (usually the network of the first contract the phone was purchased with).