It's normally much cheaper than a traditional mobile contract, as Sim only deals don't bundle in the cost of the phone itself. You'll have to have your own handset to put the Sim into already, or buy one separately. Although you're not paying for a phone, you'll still have to sign up to a contract — typically they're on a month remember to check the price when it ends or a rolling day basis.
Switching to a cheaper deal with another network has got a lot easier. Under new rules from regulator Ofcom, which came into effect on 1 July, you no longer have to call your current provider to ditch it, so you avoid the hard sell of it trying to make you stay. Here's how to switch providers and keep your number :. What's more, if you're out of your minimum contract period, mobile providers are now banned from charging you for the remainder of your notice period after you've switched which is typically 30 days , putting an end to paying for your old and new contract at the same time.
Though the process varies by provider and you may be able to do it on the phone, once you've got your new temporary number from your new network, you'll usually then need to fill in an online form. If you're switching from another provider, the links below tell you each network's process for porting.
If you're switching to a new tariff on the same network, for example if you're on pay-as-you-go and upgrading to a contract, you shouldn't need to carry out this process — just call your mobile provider's customer service helpline and they should be able to sort it. Don't be sold on overly generous allowances you'll never use. Do you really need unlimited minutes or 10GB of data? Most don't use anywhere near that — so check your actual past usage with an online tool.
Best data only SIM deals
There are two sites accredited by Ofcom to choose from. Both will analyse your bills from the last three months to determine your average usage and suggest deals based on this. It even shows you where it may be cheaper to opt for a lower allowance and pay extra for the data you actually need, though you'll usually need to have it downloaded for days before it will start to match you to deals.
Let us know what you think in our feedback thread. If you bought your phone on a traditional contract, it may be locked to the network that sold it to you to check, pop in another network's Sim and see if it works. If you find it's locked, you'll usually need to unlock it so your new provider's Sim will work. If you're out of contract, your network must do this for free. This will show you results for four main networks — EE, O2, Three and Vodafone — but 'piggyback' networks use their signal too, and generally offer far better value, so don't think your options are limited to one of the biggies.
For a more accurate indication than Ofcom's checker can give you, it may be worth picking up a free pay-as-you-go Sim from the network you're considering, topping it up with a bit of credit and putting it to the test before committing. Haggling on monthly mobile phone contracts can slash the price.
If you have a contract deal and you're nearing the end of your fixed term, the network will be frantic to keep you, so it's the best time to haggle. Long-term customers have a better chance at success here. Bear in mind though it's usually harder to haggle on a contract for a new phone, particularly if you're after the latest model.
It's possible to nab extra savings through cashback on some deals. There are three types of cashback available, and they all work differently:. If you're usually connected to Wi-Fi everywhere you go, these are our top picks of the best Sim only deals with enough 4G data for everyday on-the-go use. You can also roll over any unused data to the next month and place a limit on your bill to prevent 'bill shock'.
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You can add a bill limit to control your monthly spending if you usually exceed your allowance or use chargeable services which are not included, such as premium rate numbers. If you exceed your allowance, it's Full charges here. If you're often online while on the go, these are our top picks of the best Sim only deals with a good amount of data each month and a decent number of minutes. What can I claim? Once your service is activated, you'll be emailed instructions on how to get it within 30 days. What if I have difficulties? You can add a bill limit to control your spending if you exceed your allowance or use chargeable services which are not included, such as premium rate numbers.
See the full costs here. Can I use this Sim abroad? Is tethering allowed? For the data fiends out there, these are our top picks of the best Sim only deals with bundles of data each month, plus a healthy number of minutes we've listed them in ascending price order. What will I receive? The best bet is to get in touch with Mobiles. You can add a spend cap to control any extra charges over and above your monthly price. Best Sim only Deals. If you go through it, it can sometimes result in a payment or benefit to the site.
It's worth noting this means the third party used may be named on any credit agreements. We aim to look at all available products.
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If it isn't possible to get an affiliate link for the top deal, it is still included in exactly the same way, just with a non-paying link. The registered office address of both MoneySupermarket. Deals Hunter Blog.
We think it's important you understand the strengths and limitations of the site. We're a journalistic website and aim to provide the best MoneySaving guides, tips, tools and techniques, but can't guarantee to be perfect, so do note you use the information at your own risk and we can't accept liability if things go wrong. Its stance of putting consumers first is protected and enshrined in the legally-binding MSE Editorial Code.
MoneySavers Arms Time to relax The MSE mobile menu not all pages are optimised yet. Insurance Go to full Insurance section. Shopping Go to full Shopping section. Where can I buy a monthly SIM-only? You can order your SIM only from any of the mobile phone providers e. This can be done online, in-store or over the phone if you choose.
However, if you buy online you can take advantage of Internet exclusive offers. What if I don't want a contract?
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Giffgaff offer a free SIM card with changeable bundles or "goodybags" on a monthly basis and we recommend them as an alternative to contracts. What are the best SIM Only contracts?
The best SIM Only will depend entirely on your allowance requirements and your budget. There is something for everyone, whatever type of user you are. What are the lengths available? Available on mainly 1-month and month contracts, the most popular length of contract is months because of the extra value that they offer. The 1-month contracts offer better flexibility and are a better option if you will need to cancel or upgrade or phone.
For more information on unlocking your mobile you can consult our guide. How old do you need to be to get a SIM contract? You must be 18 years old or over to be eligible for a contract whether it is a SIM or a mobile phone contract. You can however, elect an adult such as your parent to make the purchase for you. Yes, there are SIM cards that are data-only.
Compare the best SIM only deals
If you are looking for a data SIM for a tablet device then you will find these under the mobile broadband category of many of the top networks or you can search for Data Only SIMs under the Plan Type filter option. How much can I save with a SIM-only deal? This will depend on how much you are spending on your mobile phone bill at the moment and also whether you buy a new phone or use your existing one.
To workout your savings check out our special calculator that does the hard work for you! What is better? A contract phone or SIM-only? Pound for pound though, SIM-only contracts offer up to three times better value than a mobile contract tariff. If you own a phone already and are looking for a new contract then a SIM-only contract will be the best option for you. If you are looking at getting a new phone entirely then we always recommend checking out what deals there are on mobile phone contracts and calculating the total cost of ownership compared to buying the handset outright and using a SIM-card with it whether it is a PAYG SIM or contract.
If buying a new phone then the main disadvantage will be the initial outlay of the phone, particularly if you are getting a high-end Smartphone. This needs to be considered based on your personal cash flow though it may be outweighed by the savings that can be made by opting for a cheap SIM-only.
Can I upgrade to a mobile phone contract on a SIM-only? This minimum term varies between providers and the term 1, 3, 6 or 12 months. Vodafone — For-1 month contracts you can upgrade after 3 consecutive months and for month contracts you can upgrade within 75 days of your contract ending. O2 — If you are on a 1-month contract you can upgrade after 6 consecutive months and for month contracts you can upgrade after 9 months.
Virgin — You will be eligible for an upgrade after 30 days. NB: Early upgrades are possible however, check with your provider as you may be required to pay off the remainder of your contract. Can I keep the same mobile phone number? For more information on porting your number over to another network consult our guide here. If you need to cancel your current day or month contract then all you have to do is call your network provider and speak to a customer advisor and ask to cancel your contract. If you have a month deal and it is yet to finish then you will need to pay the remaining amount monthly tariff x months left of contract.
You can use your SIM plan when you go travelling abroad however you will be charged the international roaming rates by your network provider. Depending on which network you are with you may be able to get an add-on package that includes data-roaming or international calls. This will help lower the expensive costs of using your mobile phone abroad however there are cheaper alternatives such as getting a local SIM, using Wi-Fi hotspots, calling with Skype, etc.
Always check what the costs are when using your phone abroad and turn off your data access so that you are not burdened with unexpected roaming charges when you get back home. Check out all the SIM deals we've got from a bunch of UK networks on our comparison tool right here:.
Enter all the criteria for what you need from your SIM, and make sure '0 minutes' is selected in the allowance section of the sidebar. This'll show you all the deals with a data allowance but no call time. Then it's just a case of finding one you like, and clicking through to the provider to sign up. A good variety of networks have deals on data-only SIMs - use our comparison tool to see which ones offer plans that fit what you're looking for. Look out for networks with additional benefits that would suit you, too.
Giffgaff is nice and cheap, for instance; EE has the UK's widest 4G coverage; and O2 gives you free access to its Wi-Fi hotspots, a very useful extra for using your tablet out and about. The ideal monthly data allowance will all depend on how you use your device. If you only plan on using mobile internet a little bit, or as a backup when you can't connect to Wi-Fi, a 1GB allowance should be more than enough. Browsing the web, social media, email, and using most apps uses around MB data per hour. If you're doing this every single day, you'll likely need a good 3GB or so.