Finding the right deal on a mobile phone contract can save you hundreds in the long run. We run through some of the best ways to cut your bills.
As the cost of living increases, it’s more important than ever to make sure you are saving money where you can, and getting the most out of anything you pay a monthly fee for. To help combat price increases, there are a range of ways to cut costs, including on your mobile phone bill. We explain how you could save tens or even hundreds of pounds on your existing contract, or when you’re looking to buy a new handset.
1. Think twice before getting a contract phone
If you’re shopping for a new phone, make sure you do the maths before jumping into a long-term contract. While contracts allow you to spread the expense, they can often cost more in the long run.
You may also be stuck with mid-contract price rises, which vary depending on the provider. If you can afford to buy the phone outright, a low-cost Sim-only deal for just the right amount of data you need can help make future payments more predictable.
And with plenty of 30-day rolling contracts to choose from, it’s easy to switch provider if you see something better. Our mobile phone contract calculator can help you work out whether contract or Sim-only is the way to go.
Potential saving: over £200
Three is selling the iPhone 12 on a 24-month contract with 4GB of data at £42 per month, plus £29 up front – £1,037 over the term. Purchase an iPhone 12 outright for £629 with a rolling 30-day contract with Smarty for 4GB of data at £5 per month, and you could pay just £749 over the same period.
2. Don’t overpay for data
It’s common to see premium phones sold on contract with tantalisingly high data deals, but don’t be fooled. If you’re not a heavy data user, most of that will go to waste. An important way to make sure you’re getting the best deal is keeping track of the data and minutes you use so you know how much you need.
That’s another benefit of being on a rolling monthly Sim-only plan – you can switch to a higher or lower data limit as circumstances change.
Potential saving: £336
per year A low data contract such as 5GB of data from ID Mobile costs £6 a month, whereas 100GB of data from EE costs £34 a month. There are plenty of options between these extremes, such as 60GB of data from SMARTY for £10 a month.
3. Look outside the ‘big four’
There are more than 80m active mobile subscriptions in the UK, according to telecoms regulator Ofcom, and the majority of customers are with one of the ‘big four’ networks – EE, O2, Three and Vodafone. It’s easy to be reassured by a big brand, but the big four are often at the more expensive end of the market, particularly for low data packages.
In order to attract customers, virtual providers are often running deals on their packages which can mean extra savings. To find out which of the smaller networks perform best, read our guide to the best and worst UK mobile networks.
Potential saving: £240
in the first year A 10 GB Sim-only deal with EE costs £27 a month. Smarty is offering 12GB of 5G data for £4 a month for the first three months, and £8 a month thereafter.
4. Haggle for a better deal
You should start haggling a month before your contract ends, as your provider should be in a position to offer you a better deal before your next payment.
Compare Sim-only deals on Which? Switch Mobile so you know what deals are available and how much you should be paying. Be prepared to mention prices you’ve found elsewhere. If you’ve had any problems with your provider, such as poor coverage or inefficient customer service, mention it while haggling as it could give you an advantage.
Along with a price discount, see if you can get any extra perks included, such as more data or savings with companies partnered with the network. Just be sure you want and will use any perks that are offered. If your provider isn’t budging, or the deal they offer isn’t enough, say you’d like to leave and want to speak to the retentions team, who will be able to offer you better discounts.
You can always change your mind and back out if you’d like to stay after all. For more tips on haggling, read our guide on how to haggle for the best broadband deal, where much of the advice applies to your mobile contract.
Potential saving: £34 per year
In a recent survey, the average mobile customer saved £34 a year by haggling, or 9%. Customers with the major providers saved even more: the average Three customer saved around £45 a year by haggling, and the average EE customer saved £75.
5. Switch mobile provider
If haggling doesn’t get you the price and deal you’re after, don’t be afraid to move on and find a new mobile provider. With the introduction of text-to-switch, it’s easier than ever to change your mobile provider. Find out more in our guide on how to switch mobile provider.
Networks are always looking to entice new customers, so you can often find great introductory deals. Just be aware of price increases after the honeymoon period. Before you switch providers, use Which? Switch Mobile to find the latest deals.
Potential saving: £40
In a recent survey, switching mobile providers netted an average annual saving of £40, or 12%. Customers departing O2 and Three made the largest savings on
6. Consider Pay as you Go (PAYG) instead of a rolling Sim
Consider how often you need to call, text or use data. If you primarily use the internet when connected to wi-fi, and for the odd emergency phone call, it might not even be worth having a cheap monthly Sim deal – especially since the emergence of free chat apps have made it straightforward to call using data.
Check your provider’s PAYG rates to see how much it costs to use data or make calls when you need to. One of the cheapest is iD Mobile, which charges 1p per MB of data, and 3p a minute for a phone call. Check the T&Cs carefully though, since on this deal you need to top up £10 every two months. Another cheap PAYG option is Asda Mobile, which runs on Vodafone.
Here you’ll pay 4p per MB for data, and 4p per minute for a phone call. PAYG works by adding money to your account, or ‘topping up’ when you need to, so it’s easy to stay in control of how much you’re spending.
Potential saving: £5-20
per month 4GB of data with Three on a 1-month contract costs £19 per month. This equates to 380MB of data, or 190 minutes worth of calls.
7. Check your roaming charges
If you plan to travel, make sure you know exactly what charges you will face for using your phone data. Since Brexit, EE, Three and Vodafone have all introduced new charges for using your data in Europe, whereas O2 has not.
If you want to use data while travelling beyond Europe, the cost can vary dramatically depending on your provider. Check your contract carefully to avoid a large unexpected bill.
It’s also worth checking to see if you have any roaming ‘add-ons’ tied to your bill. If these aren’t needed, removing them could save a little extra. Our guide to mobile roaming costs and international calls explains the charges you might face for using data in Europe and further afield.
Potential saving: £5.80 per MB of data
in the US Using data when roaming in the US varies dramatically between providers. Plusnet charges £6 per MB, compared to just 20p per MB with Giffgaff.
8. Weigh up mobile phone insurance
Carefully consider any extras that are bundled into your mobile phone contract. You may not need them and it could work out cheaper to buy them separately, if necessary. For example, mobile phone insurance can cover you if your phone is stolen, suffers damage, breaks or suffers other misfortune.
However, it may not be worthwhile paying for as the cost can be surprisingly high for something you, hopefully, won’t ever need. Insurance for the latest phones can cost as much as £10 a month. If you have contents insurance you may be able to cover your mobile phone through personal possessions cover.
This protects your belongings whenever you leave your home and could even offer protection when you travel abroad. For more, read our guide on how to get the best mobile phone insurance cover.
Potential saving: up to £120 per year
Insurance for the latest phones can cost £10 a month. Your contents insurance may already cover accidental damage to a phone in and out of the home, or could be added for a relatively small outlay.
9. Look for useful perks
Look for perks, such as rollover data, that can allow you to take a cheaper bundle than you might otherwise, or worthwhile add-ons such as free subscriptions and discounted tickets or meals. Sky Mobile has a feature where at the end of each month, any unused data is automatically rolled over into your Sky Piggybank.
It can then be used to top up your data in the future, or exchanged for a variety of rewards. This type of perk is useful as it means you don’t spend money on wasted data.
Other perks such as O2’s offer of up to six months free Disney+ to new and upgrading customers may be worthwhile if it’s something you would use. Similarly, Three customers can use the Three+ app to get £3 weekend cinema tickets, 20% off Uber Eats, and two main courses for £10 at Frankie & Benny’s, as well as access to festival tickets ahead of general release.
Potential saving: varies 6 months of Disney+ costs £47.94, so could be a worthwhile saving if you would use this subscription service.
10. Think twice before choosing a high-end phone
While it’s tempting to want to buy the newest iPhone or flagship Android handset, you’re paying a significant premium for these devices, no matter how tempting the monthly repayment fee might look. Over the past couple of years our mobile phone reviews have revealed models that can match flagship performance for a fraction of the cost. You could also consider a second-hand or refurbished mobile phone to keep the cost down.
Potential saving: over £700
The difference in price between two Best Buy mobile phones, both of which scored 80% in our lab tests, is £749. If you buy on contract, this could represent a saving of around £25 per month.