top sim only deals

Best Sim only Deals

From '£3.90/mth' for 1GB of data, 300 mins & unltd texts

Whether you're a talker, texter or always online, we've handpicked the best Sim-only deals starting at '£3.90/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, and now's a great time as Sim-only prices have plummeted. 
 

The MSE Cheap Mobile Finder

Our Cheap Mobile Finder tool compares more than 50 different retailers and resellers, covering all major networks to find your top deal. We've the pick of the deals in this guide, but use the tool for loads more options.

illustration

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 and can be the ideal solution if you're happy with your handset as it's normally much cheaper than a traditional mobile contract.

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 or a rolling 30-day basis. Most deals are for new customers and most providers carry out a credit check when you sign up (though some one-month rolling Sim providers don't). 

If you don't use your phone much, or want to avoid any credit checks, you can opt for a traditional Pay-as-you-go Sim. There are not many about now, but you can find the best in our Pay-as-you-go guide.

The top Sim-only need-to-knows

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

  • 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.

      It's important to remember that the Sim-only deals listed below and in our Cheap Mobile Finder are mostly for newbies of that provider. If you apply for a deal that's with your current provider and attempt to switch your current number to it, it'll likely be rejected by your network.

  • If you don't get close to using your allowance of minutes, data and texts each month, you're essentially overpaying for your contract. Bust your limit though, and the extra charges can be costly.

    In our last MSE data usage poll, 78% of the 4,000 respondents said they use less than 3GB a month, while only 7% of people actually use more than 10GB a month.

    If you want to check your usage, our handy Data Calculator in our Cheap Mobile Finder tool can help you. Key in your usage (for when you're not using Wi-Fi) and it'll give you a general idea of how much data you need.

    Alternatively, if you're an EE, O2, Tesco Mobile, Three or Vodafone customer, you could use Billmonitor*. It's currently the only tool that'll tap in to your actual mobile bill. Once you've provided your login details for your mobile provider, it will analyse your bills from the last three months to determine your average usage and suggest deals based on this.

  • 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 around £10 to unlock it – see our Mobile Unlocking guide for a full list of providers' unlocking policies and how to do it.

    From December 2021, new rules will mean mobile companies will be banned from selling 'locked' phones which only work with their network. This means people who buy a phone from then will be able to switch networks using their existing handset, without unlocking it.

  • 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. However, some of these networks don't offer services such as wifi-calling, so check if this is important to you. See a full list of which provider is on which network in our Mobile Piggybacking guide.

    Alternatively, all the networks have coverage checkers on their sites, including EE*O2*, Three* and Vodafone*.

    If you have a 5G handset, and want to take advantage of 5G speeds with your Sim, check out our 5G guide for more info on where you can get 5G. It's worth bearing in mind that some piggybackers, eg, Smarty and iD Mobile, don't yet support 5G so it's worth checking first if the Sim is also 5G capable.

    If you can only get 3G/4G where you live/work, the quality of the signal you'll receive will depend on where you are. Across all the networks, big cities and towns should have a decent 4G signal – while those in rural areas can struggle to get even 3G.

    If you have the time (and patience), for a more accurate indication of a providers signal in your area, you could get 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 you pay. If you have a contract deal and you're nearing the end of your fixed term, your network will be frantically trying to keep you, so it's the best time to haggle. Long-term customers have a better chance of success here.

    Our latest poll showed the best mobile providers to haggle with are Sky Mobile and Three. 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.

    Before you call your provider, arm yourself with 'new customer' deals

    All of the deals below and in our Cheap Mobile Finder are for new customers of that provider, but you could use the deals listed here to try and haggle yourself a better one with your current provider.

  • Mobile networks are permitted to increase your monthly tariff price 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, but recently, some firms have chosen to change the way their prices rise each year, opting to increase by inflation, plus a percentage amount on top. We've seen such recent announcements from all of the biggies, including EEThree, O2 and Vodafone.

    If a provider hikes your monthly bill 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 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.
  • If you're willing to commit to a Sim-only contract, there are a few final things you need to be aware of...

    • Mobile networks are permitted to increase your monthly tariff price 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, but recently some firms have chosen to change the way their prices rise each year, opting to increase by inflation, plus a percentage amount on top. We've seen such recent announcements from all of the biggies, including EEO2Three and Vodafone.

      If a provider hikes your monthly bill and its T&Cs don't allow this, you can leave your contract penalty-free.

    • If you choose to opt for a pay-monthly Sim, most providers will carry out a credit check, so if you tend to struggle getting credit, you may want to check your credit score before applying.

      MoneySavingExpert.com's free Credit Club gives you your free Experian credit score and credit report. While it won't tell you for definite whether you'll pass a credit check for a contract, it will give you a general idea of whether you'll be seen as a good or bad credit risk.

      If you think you're unlikely to pass a credit check, or tried and were declined, it could be better to opt for a 30-day rolling Sim (check for providers that don't do credit checks on these Sims), or a pay-as-you-go Sim instead.

    • The deals here and on most comparison sites, including our Cheap Mobile Finder, are geared towards new customers of the relevant network.

      If you're already with that network, even if your existing contract is up and you try to get the deal, you'll have trouble porting (ie, moving) your current phone number to your new plan. Of course, you can still get the deal if you take out a separate new contract. But if you do, you may be left with a new phone number.

      There is a way around this, though it's a bit of work. You can get the deal on a separate new contract, and also get yourself a free pay-as-you-go Sim from a different network.

      Port (ie, move) your existing number across to the free pay-as-you-go Sim, then port it again to the new contract once it's been set up. To port your number over, you'll need to request a porting authorisation code from your provider.

Top 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 data for everyday on-the-go use. 

MSE analysis

Up to 3GB – what we'd go for

For us, at this data level, this Lebara deal with 3GB/mth of data, unlimited minutes and texts stands out. It's £3.67/mth for the first six months, then £4.90/mth, making it equivalent to £4.29/mth over a 12-month period (though it is a one-month contract, so you can cancel at any time). 

In our most recent poll, 78% told us they use 3GB of data or less each month, so it's enough data for most.

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 (1) CONTRACT
LENGTH
DATA MINS TEXTS

Lebara* (Vodafone)

MSE Blagged

Equiv £3.41/mth over 12 months - £2.92/mth for the first six months, then £3.90/mth (2) One month 1GB 300 Unltd

Lebara* (Vodafone)
MSE Blagged

Top pick

Equiv £4.29/mth over 12 months - £3.67/mth for the first six months, then £4.90/mth (2) One month 3GB Unltd Unltd

Talkmobile* (Vodafone)

 

£4.95/mth One month 3GB Unltd Unltd
Smarty* (Three's no-frills network) £5/mth One month 3GB Unltd Unltd
Three* £5/mth 12 months 2GB 200 Unltd
iD Mobile* (Three) £5/mth One month 1GB Unltd Untld
Asda Mobile* (Vodafone) £5/mth One month 1GB 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. (2) It's a one-month Sim, but to help you compare, we calculate the equivalent cost over a 12-month period.

Top 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

 

For us, this Plusnet deal with 4GB/mth of data, unlimited minutes and texts stands out. It's £7/mth, but you'll get sent a £25 prepaid Mastercard, which is almost as good as cash. Factor it in and it's equivalent to £4.92/mth. 

If you need more data, then there's this 8GB Talkmobile Sim (which uses the Vodafone network). It's £8/mth, but you can claim a £25 Amazon, M&S or Tesco voucher within four months of joining. If you'd have spent that anyway, factor it in and it's equivalent to £5.92/mth over the 12-month contract.

PROVIDER (network it uses) COST (1) CONTRACT LENGTH DATA MINS TEXTS

Plusnet* (EE)

Top pick

Equiv £4.92/mth - it's £7/mth but you'll get a £25 prepaid Mastercard 12 months 4GB Unltd Unltd

Lebara* (Vodafone)
MSE Blagged

 

Equiv £5.16/mth over 12 months - £4.42/mth for the first six months, then £5.90/mth (2) One month 5GB Unltd Unltd
Vodafone Basics* (no EU roaming or 5G) Equiv £5.59/mth – it's £6/mth but you get £5 automatic cashback within 3mths with code MSE5 12 months 4GB Unltd Unltd
TalkMobile* (Vodafone's no-frills provider)
MSE Blagged
£5.95/mth One month 4GB Unltd Unltd
O2* £6/mth 12 months  4GB Unltd Unltd
Three* £6/mth 12 months 4GB Unltd Unltd
Vodafone* £6/mth 12 months 4GB Unltd Unltd

Talkmobile* (uses Vodafone)

Top pick

 

Equiv 5.92/mth over 12 months - you can claim a £25 Amazon, Tesco or M&S voucher within 4mths

Ends 11.59pm Thu 30 Sep

12 months 8GB Unltd Unltd
Three* Equiv £6.13/mth – it's £8/mth but you get £45 automatic cashback within 3mths 24 months 8GB Unltd Unltd
Three* Equiv £6.34/mth – it's £8/mth but you get £20 automatic cashback within three months 12 months 8GB Unltd Unltd
Talkmobile* (Vodafone) £6.50/mth One month 7GB 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. (2) It's a one-month Sim, but to help you compare, we calculate the equivalent cost over a 12-month period.

Top 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. Our top pick is our Blagged 12GB Plusnet Sim (which uses EE). You pay £8/mth, but you'll get an automatic £20 prepaid Mastercard, which is almost as good as cash, within 45 days. Factor that in and it's equivalent to £6.34/mth over the 12-month contract.

If you don't want to worry about scoffing your whole allowance, you'll want an unlimited data Sim. Our top pick is this Three deal via Fonehouse. It's £18/mth, but you get an automatic £50 cashback within three months. Factor it in and it's equivalent to £13.84/mth over the 12-month contract.

PROVIDER (network it uses) COST (1) CONTRACT LENGTH DATA MINS TEXTS

Plusnet* (uses EE)

Top pick

MSE Blagged

Equiv £6.34 – it's £8/mth but you get £20 prepaid Mastercard within 45 days 12 months 12GB Unltd Unltd
Three* Equiv £6.67 – it's £10/mth but you get £40 automatic cashback within three months 12 months 12GB Unltd Untld

Talkmobile* (Vodafone's no-frills provider)

 

Equiv £6.75/mth – it's £8/mth but you get £15 automatic cashback within three months 12 months 12GB Unltd Unltd
Smarty* (Three's no-frills provider) Equiv £7/mth over 12 months – £4/mth for the first three months, then £8/mth (2) One month 12GB Unltd Unltd
iD Mobile*
(Three)
£7/mth 12 months 10GB Unltd Unltd

Vodafone Basics* (no EU roaming or 5G)

via Fonehouse

£8/mth 12 months 15GB Unltd Unltd
Talkmobile*(Vodafone's no frills provider)

Equiv £7.70/mth over 12 months – £6.80/mth for the first three months, then £8/mth (2)

One month 12GB Unltd Unltd
Lebara* (Vodafone) Equiv £7.79/mth over 12 months – £6.67/mth for the first six months, then £8.90/mth (2) One month 10GB Unltd Unltd
iD Mobile* (Three) £8/mth One month 12GB Unltd Unltd
Plusnet* £8/mth One month 12GB Unltd Unltd
Vodafone* Equiv £11/mth – it's £16/mth with £60 automatic cashback with code 10BACK 12 months 100GB Unltd Unltd
Three*
via Fonehouse
MSE Blagged
Equiv £11.25/mth – it's £15/mth but you get £45 automatic cashback within three months 12 months 100GB Unltd Unltd

Three*

via Fonehouse

Top pick

 

Equiv £13.84/mth – you pay £18/mth, but you get £50 cashback within three months 12 months Unltd 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. (2) It's a one-month Sim, but to help you compare, we calculate the equivalent cost over a 12-month period.

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.

RESOLVER – FREE COMPLAINTS TOOL*

If the company won't help, 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 voucherhelp@moneysavingexpert.com as that's usually quicker.

Spotted out of date info/broken links? Email: brokenlink@moneysavingexpert.com