Best Sim only Deals

Under £5/mth for 1GB, unlimited 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 less than £5/month – plus we've lots of tips including how to unlock your phone and keep your number.

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.

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 have such terms, including EE, O2, Three, Virgin Mobile and Vodafone.

    Changes are usually made in accordance with the Retail Prices Index (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 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 the FAQ tab of 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.  

    There's also a relatively new app called Yboo which, once downloaded, 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 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 compared

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 2GB, 4GB to 9GB and 15GB to unlimited data.

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 2GB

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 £4.90/mth

Until Wed 12 Jun

This pay-upfront deal from Smarty* gives newbies 1GB of data and unlimited minutes and texts for £6.25/mth. Plus, activate your Sim by Wed 26 Jun and you'll get your second month for 'free'. You can also claim a £10 Amazon voucher after three months. Spend that and over a year it's an equiv £4.90/mth, though there's no minimum term. 

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 and 8GB plans if you need a different allowance as standard. 

Cost: £6.25/mth 
Rewards: £10 Amazon voucher which you must claim, and £6.25 off your second month, essentially making it 'free' if you stay on the same plan. See 'Rewards' tab for full information
Allowance: 1GB data, unlimited mins & texts. Each plan lasts 30 days 
Network: Smarty (owned by and uses the Three network)
Anything else? You pay upfront each month. You're credited for any data you haven't used at the end of the month, so you'll never pay for more than you use

What rewards can I claim? Activate your Sim by Wed 26 June and your second month will be discounted by £6.25, making it 'free' if you stay on the same plan.

You can also claim a £10 Amazon voucher if you keep the Sim active for at least three months – you'll be emailed instructions on claiming within 90 days.

What if I have difficulties? Try getting in touch with Smarty first. If after that you still have difficulties, please let us know and we will do our best to help.

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

  • There are four 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 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 none of your 1GB data allowance this month and your next month would cost £5. 

    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 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 (it also offers this plan with unlimited minutes for £6/mth*)
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.

  • 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. 

    iD 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: 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, 500 mins, unltd texts – £8/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. 

4.5GB, 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

  • 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.

  • 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. 

    iD 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: 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.

8GB, unltd mins & texts: £10/mth

Via this link, this Three* Sim only deal offers a decent all-round allowance from a big name, plus you're able to use it abroad, unlike the Vodafone Sim below. 

Three's 'Go Roam' lets you use your allowance for free in 71 countries and territories including the US, Australia and most of Europe.

Cost: £10/mth
Contract length: 12 months
Allowance: 8GB of data, unlimited minutes & texts
Who can get it: Three newbies 

8GB, 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, though 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 & unlimited texts
Who can get it: Newbies to Vodafone
Anything else? It's a UK-only plan, so roaming is not allowed. This means you can't make international calls or use your phone abroad (except emergency calls)

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

  • Additional charges: Vodafone applies a cap on your data, so you won't be able to get online – or incur any extra charges – if you run out. If you choose to turn off your data cap and exceed your allowance, it's a hefty £6.50 per 250MB.

    Numbers included in allowance: Calls to UK mobiles and landlines are included. Calls to 084 and 087 numbers are extra – see call costs. Calls to 090 numbers and MMS picture messages are blocked.

  • Can I use this Sim abroad? No, this is the main feature that's removed as part of the 'basics' range. It's a UK-only plan, so roaming is not allowed. This means you can't make international calls or use your phone abroad (except emergency calls).

    Is tethering allowed? Vodafone 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: Vodafone 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...

  • O2*: 9GB of data, unlimited mins and texts – an equiv £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 equivalent £11.50/mth.  

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

Best Sim only deals 15GB 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. 

15GB, unltd mins & texts: '£13/mth'

 

This Sim only deal from O2* via Mobiles.co.uk (part of Carphone Warehouse) offers a decent allowance from a big name, plus you'll automatically receive a £120 cheque. 

You'll pay £276 over the contract, but factor in the cheque and it's £156, equivalent to £13/mth. 

Cost: £23/mth
Rewards: A £120 cheque, sent within two months 
Contract length: 12 months
Allowance: 15GB of data, unlimited minutes & texts
Who can get it: O2 newbies

What will I receive? A £120 cheque will 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.

  • If you're switching from another network, here's how to port (ie, move) your number to O2*.

  • You can add a spend cap to control any extra charges over and above your monthly price. You can choose to set it up to £200 over the cost of the tariff.

    Additional data charges: Exceed your allowance and it's £1/day for 50MB of data, 55p/min for calls to UK mobiles or landlines and 15p per text. You can also add a data bolt-on from £3.50 for 100MB.

    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 49 destinations, largely in the EU – see the full list here. If you're travelling further afield, you would incur usage charges, depending on the country you're in at the time – select your destination here before travelling to see the full costs.


    O2 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: O2 may increase the price annually in line with inflation.

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

100GB, unltd mins & texts: '£15.67/mth'

This Vodafone* Sim only deal for newbies offers a huge data allowance. If you'll use this amount of data, this a good deal from a big-name provider, as you'll automatically receive a £100 cheque.

You'll pay £288 over the 12mth contract, but factor in the cheque and it's £188, equivalent to £15.67/mth. 

Cost: £24/mth
Rewards: A £100 cheque, sent to you within the first two months
Contract length: 12 months
Allowance: 100GB of data, unlimited minutes & unlimited texts
Who can get it: Newbies to Vodafone

What will I receive? A £100 cheque will 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*: 25GB of data, unlimited mins and texts – an equiv £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 equivalent £16.34/mth.  

  • Three*: Unlimited data, mins & texts – £20/mth on a 12-month contract.

  • EE*: 25GB of data, unlimited mins & texts – £23/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 like so much 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.

SPOTTED OUT OF DATE INFO/BROKEN LINKS? EMAIL: BROKENLINK@MONEYSAVINGEXPERT.COM