Best Sim only Deals

Pay £5mth for 1GB, 500 mins & unltd texts

best sim only deals

We've rounded up the best Sim only deals from £5/month whether you're a talker, texter or always online. If out of contract and free to switch, for most people, there's no point paying more than £10/mth as that'll get you plenty of mins, texts and data – plus we've lots more tips incl how to unlock your phone and keep your number.

Sim only is often cheapest

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.

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

  • 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. Sadly all the major networks bar Tesco Mobile have such terms – EE, O2, Three, Virgin Mobile and Vodafone.

    Changes are made in accordance with the Retail Prices Index (a measure of inflation) in February/March each year. Occasionally some firms will choose not to exercise this right, but last year all the big boys hiked prices – see the Mobile customers hit with mid-contract price rises MSE news story for details of the changes we saw last year.

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

  • Most providers will carry out a credit check if you're taking out a Sim only contract (though not all will – we say so in our top picks). 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's better to opt for a pay-as-you-go deal instead.

  • Some particularly strong promotions on Sim only deals may not be available to existing customers of the network, even if you're out of your minimum contract term. 

    Of course, you can always call and ask them to match it (see our Mobile Phone Haggling guide for help). 

    If they won't play ball, you may not be able to get the deal. However, in many cases there's a way round this – you can temporarily port (ie, move) your number to a different network, then come back to your previous network as a 'new customer'. It's not as complicated as it sounds – see full details of the number porting trick.

  • On 12-month (and even some one-month) contracts you might receive special pricing or 'extra' allowance for a fixed period – usually for the duration of the contract.

    This means the price can shoot up or your allowance drops when the contract is up, so make sure you're on the ball when the time comes to either haggle yourself a better deal or look elsewhere.

  • It's possible to nab extra savings through cashback on some deals. There are three types of cashback available, and they all work a little 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 be part manual, part automatic cashback.
    3. Cashback via cashback sites. It's possible to sometimes beat the deals above with some powerhouse offers via dedicated cashback websites. However, don't think of this type of cashback as guaranteed – there are often problems. Read the 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.

Sim only need-to-knows

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

  • Don't be sold on overly generous allowances that you'll never use. Do you really need unlimited minutes or 10GB 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* 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 the 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'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.

  • 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.

  • When you contacted your current network to give notice, you should have been offered something called a PAC (porting authorisation code). 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.

    The number switch usually takes place the next working day after you gave 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.

Best Sim only deals – top picks

Once you know which network(s) you're happy to go with and what allowance you need, find the best Sim only 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 3GB, 4GB to 9GB and 12GB to 30GB.

Best Sim only deals from MoneySavingExpert

In each category we've listed the best Sim only deal or deals we could find, but because signal is crucial for some, 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 – our favourite is MobilePhoneChecker* – or try Ctrlio and HandsetExpert.

Best Sim only deals up to 3GB

If you're usually connected to Wi-Fi everywhere you go, these are our top picks of the best Sim only deals with enough data for everyday on-the-go use.  

1GB, unltd mins & texts: equiv £4.69/mth

Until: Mon 4 Feb

This pay-upfront deal from Smarty* gives newbies 1GB of data + unlimited minutes and texts for £6.25/mth. 

Plus, activate your Sim by Mon 18 Feb, and you'll get the next three months 'free'. There's no min term, but choose to keep it a year and it's an equiv £4.69/mth.

You can add more data if you need it – each extra 1GB costs £1.25/mth – and you're credited for any data you don't use, paid at the same rate. It also offers 2GB, 4GB & 8GB plans if you need more as standard. 

Cost: £6.25/mth
Allowance: 1GB data, unlimited mins & texts. Each plan lasts 30 days. 
Rewards: Pay for your first month, and you'll receive £6.25 off your second, third and fourth months, essentially making them free if you stay on the same plan – just make sure to activate your Sim by Mon 18 Feb. 
Network: Smarty (owned by and uses the Three network)
Anything else? You pay upfront each month. You're also credited for any data you haven't used at the end of the month, so you'll never pay for more than you use.

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

  • There are three plans you can move between which provide more data as standard per month:

    Smarty plans

    Cost per month
    £6.25* £7.50* £10* £15*
    Data 1GB 2GB 4GB 8GB
    Calls Unlimited
    Texts Unlimited

    If you want more data you can buy more at a cost of £1.25 per GB – the same rate as if you'd have opted for a bundle above.

    No matter your plan, if you don't end up using all the data for that month, you'll get the value of it back (1p per 8MB/£1.25 per 1GB) applied as a credit against your next bill. For example, use no data this month and your next month would cost £5, use 1GB and it's £6.25. 

    Calls to UK mobiles, landlines and 0800/0808 are included – 09 numbers are blocked. You'll need to buy a cash add-on (from £5) for roaming, calling international numbers or those starting 084, 087, 118 and 101.

  • Tethering is permitted. You can use your Smarty plan as normal when you're abroad in most of Europe, including any EU country, Switzerland, Norway, Liechtenstein and Iceland. A full list of included countries and territories in Europe is here. If you're travelling outside Europe you'll need to buy add-ons for data, calls and texts.

  • Your basic monthly price could change. You won't be credit-checked.

1GB, 500 mins, unltd text: £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

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

  • 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 £25 over the price of the tariff.

    Additional charges: 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. Full charges here.

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

  • Can I use this Sim abroad? You can use your inclusive allowance of minutes, texts and data as normal in 50 destinations, largely in the EU – see the full list here. If you're travelling further afield, you would incur usage charges, dependent on the country you're in at the time – select your destination here before travelling to see the full costs. 

    Is tethering allowed? You can't use this Sim for tethering, so connecting other devices – such as a laptop or tablet – to use your phone's data is a no no. 

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

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

The best of the rest...

  • Giffgaff* (piggybacks on O2): 2GB data, 250 mins, unltd texts – £7.50/mth on a one-month bundle.

Best Sim only deals 4GB to 9GB

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. 

4GB, unltd mins & texts: '£6.67/mth'

Until: Tue 5 Feb

We've blagged this Plusnet* Sim only deal with a decent allowance - plus it comes with a £40 cheque, automatically sent to you within 30 days. 

You'll pay £120 over the contract, but factor in the cheque and it's £80, equivalent to £6.67/mth. 

Cost: £10/mth
Rewards: You're automatically sent a £40 cheque from Plusnet within 30 days of signing up.
Contract length: 12 months
Allowance: 4GB of data, unlimited minutes & unlimited texts
Network: Plusnet runs off the EE network
Who can get it: New and existing customers to Plusnet

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

  • You can add a bill limit to control your spending if you exceed your allowance or use chargeable services which are not included, such as premium rate numbers. It's initially set at £10 over the price of the tariff, but you can ask to change this to £0 or set it higher.

    Additional charges: If you exceed your allowance, it's £1.50/day for data (capped at 250MB), 40p/min for calls to UK mobiles or landlines and 12.5p per text. See the full costs here.

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

  • Can I use this Sim abroad? You can use your inclusive allowance of minutes, texts and data as normal in over 40 countries across the EU – see the full list here. If you're travelling further afield, you would incur usage charges, dependent on the country you're in at the time – select your destination here before travelling to see the full costs. 

    Is tethering allowed? Plusnet allow 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: Plusnet may increase the price annually in line with inflation.

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

APPLY*   

4GB, unltd mins & texts: equiv £7.50/mth 

Until: Mon 4 Feb

This pay-upfront deal from Smarty* gives newbies 4GB of data + unlimited minutes and texts for £10/mth. 

Plus, activate your Sim by Mon 18 Feb and you'll get the next three months 'free'. There's no min term, but choose to keep it a year and it's an equiv £7.50/mth.

You can add more data if you need it – each extra 1GB costs £1.25/mth – and you're credited for any data you don't use, paid at the same rate. It also offers 1GB, 2GB or 8GB plans if you need more or regularly use less. 

Cost: £10/mth
Allowance: 4GB data, unlimited mins & texts. Each plan lasts 30 days. 
Rewards: Pay for your first month, and you'll receive £10 off your second, third and fourth months, essentially making them free if you stay on the same plan – just make sure to activate your Sim by Mon 18 Feb.
Network: Smarty (owned by and uses the Three network)
Anything else? You pay upfront each month. You're also credited for any data you haven't used at the end of the month, so you'll never pay for more than you use.

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

  • There are three plans you can move between which provide more data as standard per month:

    Smarty plans

    Cost per month
    £6.25* £7.50* £10* £15*
    Data 1GB 2GB 4GB 8GB
    Calls Unlimited
    Texts Unlimited

    If you want more data you can buy more at a cost of £1.25 per GB – the same rate as if you'd have opted for a bundle above.

    No matter your plan, if you don't end up using all the data for that month, you'll get the value of it back (1p per 8MB/£1.25 per 1GB) applied as a credit against your next bill. For example, use no data this month and your next month would cost £5, use 1GB and it's £6.25. 

    Calls to UK mobiles, landlines and 0800/0808 are included – 09 numbers are blocked. You'll need to buy a cash add-on (from £5) for roaming, calling international numbers or those starting 084, 087, 118 and 101.

  • Tethering is permitted. You can use your Smarty plan as normal when you're abroad in most of Europe, including any EU country, Switzerland, Norway, Liechtenstein and Iceland. A full list of included countries and territories in Europe is here. If you're travelling outside Europe you'll need to buy add-ons for data, calls and texts.

  • Your basic monthly price could change. You won't be credit-checked.

4GB, 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: 4GB 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

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

  • 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 £25 over the price of the tariff.

    Additional charges: 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. Full charges here.

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

  • Can I use this Sim abroad? You can use your inclusive allowance of minutes, texts and data as normal in 50 destinations, largely in the EU – see the full list here. If you're travelling further afield, you would incur usage charges, dependent on the country you're in at the time – select your destination here before travelling to see the full costs. 

    Is tethering allowed? You can't use this Sim for tethering, so connecting other devices – such as a laptop or tablet – to use your phone's data is a no no.

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

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

9GB, 300 mins & unltd texts: £10/mth

This iD Mobile* Sim only deal offers a decent allowance for the price, plus the flexibility of a short contract, meaning you're not tied in.

Any data you don't use is rolled over to the next month and you can configure a spending limit with iD Mobile – which is part of the Carphone Warehouse group – to prevent bill shock.

Cost: £10/mth
Contract length: One month
Allowance: 9GB of data, 300 minutes & unlimited texts
Network: iD Mobile runs off the Three network
Who can get it: Anyone who isn't currently with iD Mobile

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

  • 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 £25 over the price of the tariff.

    Additional charges: 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. Full charges here.

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

  • Can I use this Sim abroad? You can use your inclusive allowance of minutes, texts and data as normal in 50 destinations, largely in the EU – see the full list here. If you're travelling further afield, you would incur usage charges, dependent on the country you're in at the time – select your destination here before travelling to see the full costs.

    Is tethering allowed? You can't use this Sim for tethering, so connecting other devices – such as a laptop or tablet – to use your phone's data is a no no.

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

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

APPLY* 

The best of the rest...

  • Virgin Mobile* (piggybacks on EE): 6GB data, 1,500 mins & unlimited texts – £9/mth on a 12-month contract.

  • Giffgaff* (piggybacks on O2): 4GB of data, unltd mins, unltd texts – £12/mth on a one-month bundle.

Best Sim only deals 12GB to 30GB

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. 

12GB, unltd mins & texts: £12/mth

Until: Thu 31 Jan

We've blagged this Virgin Mobile* Sim which includes a one month data rollover as standard - meaning any unused data at the end of each month is then added to the following month's allowance.

It's only available online via our special link, so you won't be able to get it by going direct or by calling up.

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

  • If you're switching from another network, here's how to port (ie, move) your number to Virgin 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 amend this at any point via your online account or via the Virgin Mobile app. 

    Additional data charges: If you exceed your allowance, it's £3/day per GB for data.

    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.

     

  • Can I use this Sim abroad? You can use your inclusive allowance of minutes, texts and data as normal in 43 destinations within Europe – you find the full list on this page. If you're travelling further afield, you would incur usage charges, dependent on the country you're in at the time – select your destination here before travelling to see the full costs.

    Is tethering allowed? Virgin Mobile allow 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: Virgin 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.

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

This Vodafone* Sim only deal offers a healthy allowance plus you'll receive a third back in the form of cashback, which is sent to you automatically.

If you need this amount of data and prefer a big-name, this is a good deal.

Cost: £20/mth + receive £80 auto cashback. You'll pay £240 over the contract, but factor in the cashback and it's an equiv £13.34/mth.
Rewards: You're automatically sent an £80 cheque from Mobiles.co.uk within two months of signing up.
Contract length: 12 months
Allowance: 20GB of data, unlimited minutes & unlimited texts
Who can get it: Newbies to Vodafone

The best of the rest...

  • Virgin Mobile* (piggybacks on EE): 30GB of data, 2,500 mins and unlimited texts – £16/mth on a 12-month contract.

  • Three*: 30GB of data, unlimited mins & texts – £17/mth on a 12-month contract.

  • Tesco Mobile* (piggybacks on O2): 20GB of data, 5,000 mins and 5,000 texts – £18/month on a 12-month contract. 

  • EE*: 25GB of data, unlimited mins & texts - £20/mth on a 12-month contract.
  • Three*: Unlimited data, minutes & texts - £20/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 totally free and offered by a firm called Resolver, which we like so much we work with it 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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