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Best Sim only Deals

Pay £4.99/mth for 1.5GB, 750 mins & unltd texts

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Nick and Weleid | Edited by Steve N

Updated Weekly

best cheap sim only deals from £5Sim prices have dived recently. For most there's no point paying over £10/month as that'll get you enough calls, texts and data – and if you're out of contract and hit by the price hikes from EE, O2, Three and Vodafone, now's a good time to switch and save.

This guide lists everything you need to know when looking for a new Sim only plan, including how to check your usage and which are the best deals for you.

Is Sim only right for you? Before you read this guide...

  • Are you happy with your current phone or able to buy a new one upfront? Sim only's probably a good bet. Read on...
  • Concerned about a credit check or want tighter control over your bill? Pay-as-you-go may be a better option.
  • Want a new phone but can't afford to buy it upfront? Traditional mobile contracts usually cost more – for other options, see Buying a new handset and our Cheap iPhone and Cheap Samsung guides.

Sim only need-to-knows

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

  • Sim only is usually cheaper than a traditional mobile contract as it doesn't include the 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.

    Although you're not paying for a phone, you'll still have to sign up to a contract to get a Sim only deal – typically deals are offered on a 12-month contract, or on a rolling 30-day contract.

    Things to watch out for

    You'll probably be credit-checked

    Prices can rise with inflation each year

    Some deals are for new customers only

    Check promo period end-dates

    You can save more with cashback – though be warned...

  • Choose a Sim with the allowance YOU need

    choose the right allowance

    Don't be sold on overly generous allowances that you'll never use. Do you really need unlimited minutes or 6GB of data? Most don't use anywhere near that – check your actual past usage with an online tool.

    There are two sites accredited by regulator 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.

    • Billmonitor* 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.
    • Ctrlio will handily remind you when better deals at your usage become available (monthly or just at the end of your contract). Currently it can read the bills of EE, Giffgaff, O2, Three and Vodafone customers.

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

  • You'll need to have an unlocked phone – it's usually free to get it done

    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 the Mobile Unlocking guide for a full list of providers' unlocking policies and how to do it.

  • Check signal strength where you live/work

    check your signal strength simonly

    You can get an idea of signal strength in a particular area with Ofcom's Telecoms Coverage Checker.

    This'll show you results for one of the four main networks – EE, O2, Three and Vodafone – but 'piggyback' networks use their signal 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.

  • Switching from a contract? Serve your notice to leave ASAP

    Most contracts require at least 30 days' notice to cancel, meaning as a minimum you'll have to pay for this many days once you tell your provider you're leaving. Plans roll over at the same price, and if yours came with a handset this could be £50+/month – so you don't want to be paying for it any longer than necessary. According to Ofcom, there are 1.5 million customers still paying for the price of the handset as the contract has ended.

    The first thing to do before even looking for a new deal is to call a month before your minimum term is up and request your PAC (porting authorisation code) to keep your number. Use those 30 days to find yourself a new deal while running down the clock.

    If you change your mind you can always tell your network that you've decided to stay – plus it's more likely to get in touch with a better deal once it thinks you're serious about going elsewhere.

  • You can keep your number – here's how

    pac code keep your number

    When you contacted your current network to give notice, you should have been offered something called a 'porting authorisation code' or PAC. You'll need this if you want to keep your number when you move to a new network. If you didn't get it, you should still be able to do so by contacting your network as long as your existing contract hasn't been terminated yet.

    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 (it's a different process if you're swapping within the same provider).

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

Sim only top picks

Once you know which network(s) you're happy to go with and what allowance you need, find the best deal you can that fits with this. We've listed our top-pick deals below, sorted by value for money and levels of data allowance – up to 1.5GB, 4GB to 10GB and 10GB to 45GB.

In each category we've listed the best deal or deals we could find, but because for some signal is crucial, we've also listed the top alternatives for each of the other networks (or a network that piggybacks on it). All deals come with 4G data unless otherwise stated.

Can't find one that fits your criteria? Use a comparison site to see what else is out there – the most comprehensive and our favourite is MobilePhoneChecker*, or try newbie Ctrlio.

Up to 1.5GB

If you're usually connected to Wifi everywhere you go, these are our top picks with enough data for everyday on-the-go use.

The People's Operator

1.5GB, 750 mins, unltd texts: £4.99/mth*

1MTH CONTRACT

This deal we've blagged from TPO* is good if you don't need masses of data or minutes. It's available for anyone who doesn't have a TPO contract.

It costs £4.99/mth and comes with 750 minutes, unlimited texts and 1.5GB of data on a one-month rolling contract. The company's had mixed customer service reviews in the past, but we've seen fewer complaints recently. It'll also give 10% of your monthly spend (pre-VAT) to a charity of your choice – a nice touch.

If you're looking for a different allowance, TPO also offer these good value 30-day rolling contract deals:


Need-to-knows
  • 30-day rolling contract; contracts terminate 30 days after the day of the month you join TPO.
  • Runs off the Three network.
  • If you're switching from another network, here's how to port (ie, move) your number to TPO.
  • Calls to UK mobiles and landlines are included. Calls to 084 and 087 numbers are extra – see call costs.
  • If you exceed your allowance, it's 3p/MB for data, 10p/min for calls to UK mobiles or landlines and 10p per text.
  • Roaming is allowed with this network but you must ask TPO to activate it – its best to do this before you travel. If you are travelling outside the EU, you will also need to add a £50 credit to your account.
  • Tethering isn't allowed with this network.
  • TPO may increase the price annually in line with inflation.
  • You won't be credit-checked, though it'll carry out a basic ID check.
  • TPO only supports 3G or 4G phones, it won't work in older 2G models.
iD Mobile

1GB, 500 mins, unltd texts: £5/mth*

1MTH CONTRACT

Owned by Carphone Warehouse, iD Mobile* offers a good value deal without the need to commit to a long contract. It's available to anyone who isn't currently with iD Mobile.

It costs £5/mth and comes with 500 minutes, unlimited texts and 1GB of data on a one-month rolling contract. ID also allows you to roll over any unused data to the next month, and limits your bill to no more than £5 over the tariff price to avoid bill shock.

Need-to-knows
  • One-month contract.
  • Runs off the Three network.
  • Includes data rollover – keep any unused data from one month to the next.
  • If you're switching from another network, here's how to port (ie, move) your number to iD
  • If you exceed your allowance, it's 10.24p/MB for data, 40p/min for calls to UK mobiles or landlines and 14p per text.
  • Tethering isn't allowed with this network.
  • iD may increase the price annually in line with inflation.
  • You'll be credit-checked – see our Credit Scores guide.

If you can't get Three signal where you live...

These are our top pick lower use tariffs running on other networks:

  • Vodafone*: 1GB data, unlimited mins and texts - £6/mth on a 12 month contract. Warning: This is a UK-only plan – roaming is not allowed; you can't make international calls or use your phone abroad (except emergency calls).
  • Giffgaff* (piggybacks on O2): 1GB data, 250 mins, unltd texts – £7.50/mth on a one-month bundle.

4GB to 10GB

If you're often online while on-the-go, these are our top picks with a good amount of data each month and a decent number of minutes.

Virgin Mobile

5GB, 2,500 mins, unltd texts: £9/mth*

12MTH CONTRACT

If you're not in contract with Virgin Mobile*, until Thu 31 May you can get this 12 month contract with 2,500 minutes, unlimited texts and 5GB of data.

Virgin Mobile piggybacks on EE's network and includes a one month data rollover as standard - meaning you keep any unused data at the end of each month to use in the next.

Need-to-knows
  • 12-month contract.
  • Runs off the EE network.
  • Includes a one month data rollover - keep any unused data from one month to the next.
  • Switching from another network? Here's how to port (ie, move) your number to Virgin Mobile.
  • If you exceed your allowance, its £3/day per GB for data, 50p/min for calls to UK mobiles or landlines and 15p per text.
  • Tethering is not allowed with this network.
  • Virgin Mobile may increase the price annually in line with inflation.
  • You'll be credit-checked – see our Credit Scores guide.
iD Mobile

10GB, 300 mins, unltd texts: £10/mth*

1MTH CONTRACT

Owned by Carphone Warehouse, iD Mobile* offers a great value deal without the need to commit to a long contract. It's available to anyone who isn't currently with iD Mobile.

It costs £10/mth and comes with 300 minutes, unlimited texts and a huge 10GB of data on a one-month rolling contract. ID also allows you to roll over any unused data to the next month, and limits your bill to no more than £5 over the tariff price to avoid bill shock.

Need-to-knows
  • One-month contract.
  • Runs off the Three network.
  • Includes data rollover – keep any unused data from one month to the next.
  • If you're switching from another network, here's how to port (ie, move) your number to iD
  • If you exceed your allowance, it's 10.24p/MB for data, 40p/min for calls to UK mobiles or landlines and 14p per text.
  • Tethering isn't allowed with this network.
  • iD may increase the price annually in line with inflation.
  • You'll be credit-checked – see our Credit Scores guide.

If you can't get EE or Three signal where you live...

These are our top-pick Sims running off O2's, EE's and Three's signals.

  • Vodafone*: Until Thu 31 May. 5GB of data, unltd mins & texts - £10/mth over a 12 month contract. Warning: This is a UK-only plan – roaming is not allowed; you can't make international calls or use your phone abroad (except emergency calls).
  • Giffgaff* (piggybacks on O2): 4GB of data, unltd mins, unltd texts – £12/mth on a one-month bundle.

10GB to 45GB

For the data fiends out there, these are our top picks with bundles of data each month, plus a healthy number of minutes.

iD Mobile

10GB, 300 mins, unltd texts: £10/mth*

1MTH CONTRACT

Owned by Carphone Warehouse, iD Mobile* offers a great value deal without the need to commit to a long contract. It's available to anyone who isn't currently with iD Mobile.

It costs £10/mth and comes with 300 minutes, unlimited texts and a huge 10GB of data on a one-month rolling contract. ID also allows you to roll over any unused data to the next month, and limits your bill to no more than £5 over the tariff price to avoid bill shock.

Need-to-knows
  • One-month contract.
  • Runs off the Three network.
  • Includes data rollover – keep any unused data from one month to the next.
  • If you're switching from another network, here's how to port (ie, move) your number to iD
  • If you exceed your allowance, it's 10.24p/MB for data, 40p/min for calls to UK mobiles or landlines and 14p per text.
  • Tethering isn't allowed with this network.
  • iD may increase the price annually in line with inflation.
  • You'll be credit-checked – see our Credit Scores guide.
Vodafone

20GB, unltd mins & texts: '£11.67/mth'

12MTH CONTRACT

Until 11:59pm Sun 27 May, newbies to the network can get a massive 20GB of data with unlimited minutes & texts via our Vodafone link*.

It costs £20/mth but enter your email after the link to claim a £100 Amazon e-voucher. You'll be sent a link to that email four months after your purchase with instructions on how to get it - and will have a further three months to claim it.

Over the 12-month contract you'll pay £240, yet if you'd spend at Amazon anyway, factor it in and its £140, an equivalent £11.67/mth.

Need-to-knows
  • 12-month contract.
  • Vodafone newbies only.
  • If you exceed your allowance, it's £6.50 per 250MB for data, 55p/min for calls to UK mobiles or landlines and 35p per text.
  • If you're switching network, here's how to port (ie, move) your number to Vodafone*.
  • Tethering is allowed with this network.
  • Vodafone may increase the price annually in line with inflation.
  • You'll be credit-checked – see our Credit Scores guide.
Virgin Mobile

45GB, 5,000 mins, unltd texts: £18/mth*

12 MTH CONTRACT

Until Thu 31 May, if you're not in contract with Virgin Mobile*, you can get this 12 month contract with 5,000 minutes, unlimited texts and a huge 45GB of data. The usual 15GB has been boosted to 45GB with its 'lifetime triple date' offer - you will see this before you reach the basket stage.

Virgin Mobile piggybacks on EE's network and includes a one month data rollover as standard - meaning you keep any unused data at the end of each month to use in the next. Note, this data rollover only applies to the base data, not the triple lifetime data, so up to 15GB would be rolled over for this deal.

Need-to-knows
  • 12-month contract.
  • Runs off the EE network.
  • Includes a one month data rollover - keep any unused data from one month to the next.
  • Switching from another network? Here's how to port (ie, move) your number to Virgin Mobile.
  • If you exceed your allowance, it's £3/day per GB for data, 50p/min for calls to UK mobiles or landlines and 15p per text.
  • Tethering is not allowed with this network.
  • Virgin Mobile may increase the price annually in line with inflation.
  • You'll be credit-checked – see our Credit Scores guide.

If you can't get Three or EE signal where you live...

These are the best of the rest with over 6GB data (4G) a month.

  • O2*: 10GB of data, unlimited mins & texts - £17/mth on a 12-month contract.
  • Vodafone*: Until Mon 2 July. 20GB of data, unltd mins and texts – £20/month on a 12-month contract.

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 if you're having a problem

resolver complaints toolThis tool helps you draft your complaint and manage it too. It's totally free, and offered by a firm called Resolver which we like so much we work with to help people get complaints justice.

If the complaint isn't resolved, Resolver will 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, let us know by emailing voucherhelp@moneysavingexpert.com instead as that's usually quicker.

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For all the latest deals, guides and loopholes - join the 12m who get it. Don't miss out