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Virgin Media makes it easier to get cheaper broadband if you're on benefits – here's how it compares and how to get it

Millions more households on low incomes may now be able to get Virgin Media's discounted broadband social tariffs, as the provider has expanded the list of qualifying benefits and made it easier to sign up. Below we explain who's eligible for the cheaper deals, how they compare and how to get them.

Virgin currently offers two broadband social tariffs – 'Essential broadband', with speeds of 15Mb for £12.50 a month and 'Essential broadband plus', with speeds of 54Mb for £20 a month.

Of course, just because you qualify for a social tariff doesn't mean you can't get a cheaper deal elsewhere – so always use our Broadband Unbundled tool first to compare offers (we're working on providing better links to information on social tariffs from within the tool).

For more info on how to cut broadband costs, including what to do if you're struggling financially, see our Cheap broadband guide.

Who can get Virgin Media's social tariffs

Previously, only those getting universal credit could take out Virgin's 'Essential broadband' plans.

But from today (Wednesday 1 March), you can sign up if you get any of the following:

  • Income-based employment support allowance (ESA)
  • Income-based jobseeker's allowance (JSA)
  • Income support
  • Pension credit
  • Universal credit

Both new and existing customers are eligible.

Virgin's social tariff is among the cheapest on the market – but it's also one of the slowest

Virgin offers one of the cheapest social tariffs at £12.50 a month. But, at just 15Mb, it's also among the slowest. This speed is perfectly fine for most online tasks, but might not be enough if multiple people in your home will be using the internet at the same time (for example, if one person is streaming TV and another is making a video call or gaming online).

If you need more speed, there are other options out there. For example:

  • Vodafone offers a much faster package of 38Mb for £12 a month – though this price is only guaranteed for the first 12 months of your contract. It's widely available as it runs off the Openreach network.
  • BT offers 36Mb for £15 a month (plus a one-off £9.99 connection fee), which also runs off Openreach.

  • Hyperoptic is among the providers offering a 50Mb plan for £15 a month (with no connection fees) – but it's only available in certain areas.

  • Virgin itself offers a 54Mb social tariff – but at £20, it's a pricier option.

For more options, see our full list of Broadband social tariffs.

Already with Virgin Media? You can switch to its social tariff penalty-free

If you've already got Virgin broadband, you can still get the discounted rates – even if you're still in contract. Virgin says you won't have to pay any early exit fees or extra charges.

To switch, just follow the steps below.

How to sign up for Virgin's social tariff

Virgin has made it easier to take up its social tariffs, as it can now automatically check your eligibility with the Department for Work and Pensions – so you shouldn't have to provide any extra evidence of your benefits.

Here's what to do if you want to sign up:

  1. Start an online live chat with Virgin. You'll need to provide some details, such as your full name, postcode and date of birth. 

  2. Agree to an eligibility check. You'll also be asked for your consent for Virgin to confirm your eligibility status directly with the Department for Work and Pensions.

  3. Set up. After confirming your eligibility, Virgin will get you up and running on the social tariff.

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