Best Sim only Deals

From £5/mth for 1GB, 500 mins & texts

best sim only deals

Whether you're a talker, texter or always online, we've handpicked the best Sim only deals starting at £5/month – plus we've lots of tips including how to unlock your phone and keep your number. Millions of mobile phone 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 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 :

    • 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.

  • 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.

    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.

    • 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 remind you when better deals at your usage level 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.

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

    There's also a new app called Yboo* which will track your usage and present you with the best Sim only deals. 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 7-30 days before it will start to match you to deals. Used it? 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. 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.

  • 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.

  • 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 this year we've so far seen 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.

    For more on claiming cashback and what to watch out for, see How to beat the cashback trap.

Best Sim only deals – up to 3GB of data

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 (we've ordered them in ascending price order).   

1GB data, 500 mins & unltd texts: £5/mth 

This iD Mobile* Sim only deal offers good value, plus there's no need to commit to a long contract. You can also roll over any unused data to the next month and place a limit on your bill to prevent 'bill shock'.  

Cost: £5/mth
Contract length: One month
Allowance: 1GB of data, 500 minutes & unlimited texts
Network: iD Mobile runs off the Three network
Who can get it: Anyone who isn't currently with iD Mobile

2GB, unltd mins & texts: £6/mth

This deal for newbies to Sky Mobile* gets you unlimited UK calls and texts plus enough data for light on-the-go use. 

You can also roll over any unused data for up to three years, which you can use once you have at least 1GB stored up. 

Cost: £6/mth
Contract length: 12 months
Allowance: 2GB, unlimited minutes & texts
Network: Sky Mobile runs off the O2 network
Who can get it: Newbies to Sky Mobile

  • If you're switching from another network, here's how to port (ie, move) your number to Sky Mobile.

  • You can add a bill limit to control your monthly spending if you exceed your allowance or use chargeable services which are not included, such as premium rate numbers. You can choose to set it between £0 and £100 over the price of the tariff.

    Additional data charges: If you run out of data, you can add on 1GB for a hefty £15 one-off charge. Full costs here.

    Numbers included in calls: Calls to UK mobiles, landlines and 0800/0808 are included – calls to numbers starting 084, 087, 09 or 118 cost extra.

     

  • You can use your inclusive allowance of minutes, texts and data as normal in over 30 destinations – see the full list here. If you're travelling further afield, you would incur usage charges or have to add on its Roaming Passport Plus which costs £6/day, dependent on the country you're travelling to – check your destination here before leaving to see the full costs. 

    Sky Mobile also allows you to tether, so you can connect other devices – such as a laptop or tablet – to use your phone's data.

  • Your monthly price could change: Sky Mobile may increase the price annually in line with inflation.

    You will be credit-checked: See our Credit Scores guide for full information and help.

3GB data, 500 mins & unltd texts: £7/mth 

This Sim only deal from iD Mobile* offers a fair allowance for the price, plus you don't have to commit to a long contract. You can also roll over any unused data to the next month and place a limit on your bill to prevent 'bill shock'.  

Cost: £7/mth
Contract length: One month
Allowance: 3GB of data, 500 minutes & unlimited texts
Network: iD Mobile runs off the Three network
Who can get it: Anyone who isn't currently with iD Mobile

The best of the rest...

  • iD Mobile*: (piggybacks on Three): 2.5GB data, 1,200 mins and unlimited texts – £7/mth on a one-month contract.

  • Giffgaff*: (piggybacks on O2): 2GB data, 500 mins and unlimited texts – £8/mth on a one-month deal.

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 (we've listed them in ascending price order). 

4.5GB data, 500 mins, unltd texts: £8/mth

This Sim only deal from iD Mobile* comes with a decent allowance, plus the added flexibility of a short contract, so you're not tied in.

iD Mobile – which is backed by Carphone Warehouse – also lets you roll over any data you don't use to the next month and places a limit on your bill to prevent 'bill shock'.

Cost: £8/mth
Contract length: One month
Allowance: 4.5GB of data, 500 minutes & unlimited texts 
Network: iD Mobile runs off the Three network
Who can get it: Anyone who isn't currently with iD Mobile

8GB data, unltd mins & texts: £9/mth

This Three* Sim only deal, available until Sat 31 Aug, offers a decent all-round allowance from a big name, plus you're able to use it as normal in 71 countries and territories including the US, Australia and most of Europe.

Cost: £9/mth
Contract length: 12 months
Allowance: 8GB of data, unlimited minutes & texts
Who can get it: Three newbies 

8GB data, unltd mins & texts: £10/mth

Part of the Vodafone* 'basics' range, this Sim provides a good deal from a big name – but be warned, it's UK-only so you can't use your phone abroad (or for international calls).

Vodafone also applies an automatic data cap to prevent any unexpected bills, and if you run out of data, you won't be able to get online.

Cost: £10/mth
Contract length: 12 months
Allowance: 8GB data, unlimited minutes & texts
Who can get it: Newbies to Vodafone

The best of the rest...

  • O2*: 9GB of data, unlimited mins & texts – an equivalent £11.50/mth over the 12-month contract. Via Mobiles.co.uk (part of Carphone Warehouse), you pay £19/mth but you're automatically sent a £90 cheque within two months. Factor that in and it's an equiv £11.50/mth.  

  • Giffgaff*: (piggybacks on O2) 6GB of data, unlimited mins & texts – £10/mth on a one-month deal.

Best Sim only deals – 12GB to unlimited data

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). 

12GB data, 5,000 mins & unltd texts: £12/mth

This hot Virgin Mobile* Sim only deal comes with a decent data allowance if you go via our link by Sat 31 Aug. Plus, it includes a one-month data rollover as standard, meaning any unused data at the end of each month is added to the following month's allowance.

Cost: £12/mth
Contract length: 12 months
Allowance: 12GB data, 5,000 minutes & unlimited texts
Network: Virgin Mobile runs off the EE network
Who can get it: Newbies to Virgin Mobile

20GB data, unltd mins & texts: '£13.34/mth'

This Vodafone* Sim only deal via Mobiles.co.uk offers a big allowance plus, until Sat 31 Aug, enter code 10AUTOMSE in the voucher box during checkout and you'll be sent an £80 cheque within two months. 

You'll pay £240 over the contract, but factor in the cheque and it's equivalent to £13.34/mth. 

Cost: £20/mth
Rewards: £80 cheque - enter 10AUTOMSE in the voucher box during checkout and it'll be sent within two months
Contract length: 12 months
Allowance: 20GB of data, unlimited minutes & texts
Who can get it: Vodafone newbies

What will I receive? An £80 cheque. Enter the code 10AUTOMSE in the voucher box at the basket stage and the usual £70 cheque will be boosted to £80. It will then be posted to you within two months of signing up.

What if I have difficulties? The best bet is to get in touch with Mobiles.co.uk first – contact details are here. If you still have difficulties after that, let us know and we'll do our best to help.

The best of the rest...

  • O2*: 15GB of data, unlimited mins & texts. Via Mobiles.co.uk (part of Carphone Warehouse) you pay £23/mth but you're automatically sent a £120 cheque within two months. Factor than in and it's an equiv £13/mth. 

  • O2*: 25GB of data, unlimited mins & texts – an equivalent £16.34/mth over the 12-month contract. Via Mobiles.co.uk (part of Carphone Warehouse), you pay £28/mth but you're automatically sent a £140 cheque within two months. Factor that in and it's an equiv £16.34/mth.  

  • O2*: 50GB of data, unlimited mins & texts – £20/mth on a 12-month contract, until Mon 26 Aug.

  • EE*: 20GB of data, unlimited mins & texts – £21/mth on a 12-month contract.

  • Three*: Unlimited data, mins & texts – £22/mth 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

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

If the complaint isn't resolved, Resolver will escalate it on your behalf to the free Ombudsman Services or CISAS, depending on the firm you're complaining about.

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