top sim only deals

Best Sim only Deals

From £4/mth for 500MB of data, 200 mins & unltd texts

Whether you're a talker, texter or always online, we've handpicked the best Sim-only deals starting at £4/month – plus we've lots of tips including how to unlock your phone and keep your number. Millions of mobile users are out of contract and overpaying, yet it's simple to ditch pricey providers, so check how much you could save. 

What is a Sim-only deal?

A Sim is the little chip that slots into your phone. A Sim-only deal covers just the mobile service, ie, it gives you a set monthly allowance of minutes, texts and data.

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. 

Most deals are for new customers and providers carry out a credit check when you sign up, so if you struggle getting credit, you may want to check your credit score before applying. Although you're not paying for a phone, you'll still have to sign up to a contract – typically they're on a 12-month (remember to check the price when it ends) or a rolling 30-day basis. 

Sim-only need-to-knows

Here are the key points to understand when looking for a Sim-only contract.

  • switching to another network

    Switching to a cheaper deal with another network is really easy. Under rules from regulator Ofcom, which came into effect on 1 July 2019, 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:

    • Request a switching code by text. Simply text 'PAC' for free to 65075 on any network and you'll be sent your 'porting authorisation code' (PAC) immediately via text so you can keep your number. To get a new number, text 'STAC' to 75075.

      Its text must include important info such as any exit penalties, outstanding handset costs or credit balances.

    • You need to give the switching code to your new provider within 30 days. You'll then be switched within one working day. You won't need to contact your old provider again.

    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. 

    If you're still in contract you could be charged early termination fees for leaving – check how much you'd be charged by sending a text with the word 'INFO' to 85075.

    • 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.

      The number switch takes place the next working day after you give your PAC to the new provider.

      It's a different process if you're swapping within the same provider.

      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.

  • data allowance

    Don't be sold on overly generous allowances you'll never use. Do you really need unlimited minutes or 20GB of data? Most don't use anywhere near that – so check your actual past usage with an online tool.

    Billmonitor* is a tool that is accredited by Ofcom that will analyse your bills from the last three months to determine your average usage and suggest deals based on this.

    HandsetExpert provides a quick and easy way to give you a rough idea on your monthly data usage.

    It works for customers of EE, O2, Tesco Mobile, Three and Vodafone. It's not the most user-friendly site, but it gives a detailed bill analysis.

    CompareMyMobile* and HandsetExpert are also useful for when you're ready to locate the best deal.

  • 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. If still in contract or you bought it on pay-as-you-go, you may be charged up to £15 to unlock it – see our Mobile Unlocking guide for a full list of providers' unlocking policies and how to do it.

  • mobile signal strength

    You can get an idea of signal strength in a particular area with Ofcom's Telecoms Coverage Checker. 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. See a full list of which provider is on which network in our Mobile Piggybacking guide.

    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.

  • haggle with provider

    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.

    Our poll showed the best mobile providers to haggle with are EE and Vodafone  – see our Mobile Phone Haggling guide for help with getting a better deal. 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. 

  • Mobile networks are permitted to increase your monthly tariff price up to inflation each year, but only if their T&Cs state so before you sign up. And all the major networks have such terms, including EE, O2, Three, Virgin Mobile and Vodafone.

    Changes are usually made in line with the Retail Prices Index (RPI, a measure of inflation) between February and April each year. Occasionally some firms will choose not to exercise this right, but last year we saw price rise announcements from all of the biggies including EEVodafoneVirgin MobileO2 and Three.  

    If a provider hikes your monthly bill by more than RPI – or hikes it and its T&Cs don't allow this – then you can leave your contract penalty-free.

  • It's possible to nab extra savings through cashback on some deals. There are three types of cashback available, and they all work differently:

    1. Redemption cashback. The biggest discounts are on 'cashback redemption' deals through mobile reseller sites. These require you to send off your bills at several points throughout your contract and get paid in instalments – miss one and you'll lose out.
    2. Automatic cashback. These deals, also via resellers, are where you're sent a cheque automatically within a few months without having to claim, though usually they don't offer as big a discount. Some deals can also offer part manual, part automatic cashback.
    3. Cashback via cashback sites. It's possible sometimes to beat the deals below with some powerhouse offers via dedicated cashback websites. However, don't think of this type of cashback as guaranteed – there are often problems. Read our Top Cashback Sites guide for full info.

Best Sim-only deals – up to 3GB of data

If you don't use much data or you usually connect to Wi-Fi when out and about, these are our top picks of the best Sim-only deals with enough 4G data for everyday on-the-go use. 

MSE analysis

Up to 3GB – what we'd go for

For us, at this data level, our blagged deal for a Lebara Sim with 2GB of data, unlimited minutes and texts for £5/mth stands out. In our most recent poll, 56% told us they use 2GB of data or less each month, so it's enough data for most.

Lebara uses Vodafone's network, so if that isn't suitable for you, or you want a bit more data, Virgin Mobile, which runs off the EE network, offers 3GB of data with unlimited minutes and texts for £6/mth over the 12-month contract.

Rarely use your mobile? A pay-as-you-go Sim might be more suitable – see our Pay-as-you-go guide for more.

PROVIDER (network it uses) COST CONTRACT
Lebara* (Vodafone) £3.99/mth One month 500MB 200 Unltd
Lebara* (Vodafone)
Top pick
MSE Blagged, via our link
£5/mth One month 2GB Unltd Unltd
TalkMobile* (Vodafone's no-frills provider) £5/mth One month 1GB Unltd Unltd
Virgin Mobile* (EE)
Top pick
£6/mth 12 months 3GB Unltd Unltd
iD Mobile* (Three) £6/mth One month 2GB Unltd Unltd
Note: All data, mins and texts allowances are per month. All deals are for newbies of that provider

Best Sim-only deals – 4GB to 9GB of data

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. 

MSE analysis logo

4GB to 9GB Sims – what we'd go for

The standout right now is our blagged deal via Fonehouse for an 8GB Three Sim with unlimited minutes and texts. You pay £8/mth, but you'll get £20 cashback paid into your bank account within three months, making it an equivalent £6.33/mth over the 12-month contract – the cheapest 8GB Sim we've ever seen.

If Three isn't great in your area, there's this deal with TalkMobile (Vodafone's no-frills provider), with 9GB of data, unlimited minutes and texts. It's £4.50/mth for the first three months, then £9/mth for the remaining nine months – equivalent to £7.88/mth over the 12-month contract.

MSE Blagged, via Fonehouse
Top pick
Equiv £6.33/mth – You pay £8/mth, but you get £20 automatic cashback within 3mths.
Ends 11.59pm Wed 30 Sep.
12 months 8GB Unltd Unltd
iD Mobile* (Three)
MSE Blagged
£7/mth One month 6GB Unltd Unltd
TalkMobile* (Vodafone's no-frills provider) 
Top pick
Equiv £7.88/mth – it's £4.50 for the first 3mths, then £9/mth for the remaining 9mths.
Ends 11.59pm Wed 30 Sep.
12 months 9GB Unltd Unltd
Lebara* (Vodafone) 
MSE Blagged, via our link
£7.99/mth One month 8GB Unltd Unltd
Three* £8/mth 12 months 8GB Unltd Unltd
Virgin Mobile* (EE) £8/mth 12 months 8GB Unltd Unltd
Note: All data, mins and texts allowances are per month. All deals are for newbies of that provider. (1) With an equivalent price, we add up all fixed costs, deduct any promotional cash or vouchers, then average it over the contract length to help you compare.

Best Sim-only deals – 10GB to unlimited data

For the data fiends out there, these are our top picks of the best Sim-only deals with chunky data allowances each month, plus a healthy number of minutes. 

MSE analysis logo

10GB to unlimited data Sims – what we'd go for

Right now there's a bevy of top Sims for data gobblers. Smarty (Three's no-frills provider) is offering 30GB of data and unlimited minutes and texts for just £10/mth on a one-month contract, so you can cancel at anytime.

If you don't want to worry about scoffing your whole allowance, you'll want an unlimited data Sim. Our top pick is iD Mobile's unlimited Sim for £18/mth on a one-month contract, so you can cancel at any time. iD Mobile uses the Three network and won't limit download speeds, unlike some other networks with unlimited data plans (we don't include those here), so it's good for tethering.

MSE Blagged
£8/mth 12 months 12GB Unltd Unltd
Smarty* (Three's no-frills provider)
Top pick
£10/mth One month 30GB Unltd Unltd
Voxi* (Vodafone) £10/mth –  via our link you can also claim a £10 Amazon voucher after 3mths. See how to claim. One month (1) 12GB Unltd Unltd
O2* £10/mth 12 months 10GB Unltd Unltd
Vodafone* Equiv £12.50/mth – you pay £20/mth, but you get a £90 cheque sent to you within 3mths. 12 months 100GB Unltd Unltd
Virgin Media*
Equiv £14.32/mth – you pay £16/mth but you get a £20 Amazon voucher within six months of purchase. 12 months 50GB Unltd Unltd
Lebara* (Vodafone)
MSE Blagged
£14.99/mth One month 15GB Unltd Unltd
£18/mth 12 months Unltd Unltd Unltd
iD Mobile* (Three)
Top pick
£18/mth One month Unltd Unltd Unltd
Note: All data, mins and texts allowances are per month. All deals are for newbies of that provider. (1) It's a one-month contract, but to qualify for the £10 Amazon voucher, you must sign up to Voxi for at least three months.

How to complain about your network

The mobile industry doesn't have the best customer service reputation and while a provider may be good for some, it can be hell for others. Common problems include limited network coverage, slow data speeds, unexpected charges and more. It's always worth trying to call your provider first, but if not then...

Free tool to help you complain

This tool helps you draft and manage your complaint. It's totally free to use, and it's offered by Resolver, a firm we work with to help people get complaints justice.

If the complaint isn't resolved, Resolver can escalate it to the free Ombudsman Services (or CISAS if you're complaining about Virgin Mobile).

Important: if your issue is about a voucher or incentive that was part of an MSE Blagged deal, then instead just let us know by emailing as that's usually quicker.