Best Sim only deals

From £5/mth for 1GB of data, 1,000 mins & unltd 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 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 20GB of data? Most don't use anywhere near that – so check your actual past usage with an online tool.

    Billmonitor*
     is a tool that is accredited by Ofcom that will analyse your bills from the last three months to determine your average usage and suggest deals based on this.

    It 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.

    CompareMyMobile* 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 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.

Best Sim only deals – up to 3GB of data

If you don't use much data or you usually connect to Wi-Fi when out and about, these are our top picks of the best Sim only deals with enough 4G data for everyday on-the-go use. 

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Up to 3GB Sims – what we'd go for

For us, at this data level, the Virgin Media Sim with 2GB of data, 1,000 and unlimited texts for £6/mth stands out. You get a decent allowance for a cheap price, giving you a little buffer if you're a very low user, so you won't risk running out before the end of the month.

Virgin Mobile uses EE's network, so if that isn't suitable for you, or you definitely know you won't need that much data, iD Mobile, which runs off the Three network, offers 1GB of data with 1,000 minutes and unlimited texts for £5/mth.

Rarely use your mobile? A pay-as-you-go Sim might be more suitable – see our Pay-as-you-go guide for more.

PROVIDER (network it uses) COST CONTRACT
LENGTH
DATA MINS TEXTS
iD Mobile* (Three) £5/mth One month 1GB 1,000 Unltd
Talkmobile* (Vodafone) £5/mth One month 1GB Unltd Unltd
iD Mobile* (Three) £6/mth One month 2GB 1,000 Unltd
Virgin Mobile* (EE) – top pick £6/mth 12 months 2GB 1,000 Unltd
Vodafone Basics*  UK only, no roaming £6/mth 12 months 1.5GB Unltd Unltd
iD Mobile* (Three) £7/mth  One month 3GB 500 Unltd
Virgin Mobile* (EE) £7/mth (1) 12 months 3GB 1,500 Unltd
Note: All data, mins and texts allowances are per month. (1) Available until Tue 25 Feb

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. 

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4GB to 9GB Sims – what we'd go for

The standout deal at this level of data is this 6GB Sim from Smarty which runs off the Three network. If you order your Sim before before Mon 9 Mar, activate and set to 'auto renew' each month, you'll get 6GB of data (normally 2GB) for up to 12 months. Don't worry, it's still a one-month contract so you can still cancel anytime.

If the Three network isn't for you, our alternative is the Voxi Sim for £10/mth. You get 8GB of data on a one month rolling contract. Voxi piggybacks off the Vodafone network so if you know you can get Vodafone in your area, this may be a suitable alternative. Plus, Voxi comes with unlimited data across social and chat apps (Facebook, WhatsApp etc) as standard.

PROVIDER (network it uses) COST CONTRACT LENGTH DATA MINS TEXTS
Smarty* (Three) - top pick £7/mth  One month 6GB (1) Unltd Unltd
iD Mobile* (Three)  £8/mth One month 4.5GB 500 Unltd
Three* £8/mth 12 months 8GB Unltd Unltd
Virgin Mobile* (EE) £8/mth 12 months 8GB 5000 Unltd
Vodafone Basics*  UK only, no roaming £10/mth 12 months 5GB Unltd Unltd
Voxi* (Vodafone) £10/mth One month 8GB (2) Unltd Unltd
Giffgaff* (O2) £10/mth One month 6GB Unltd Unltd
(1) You normally get 2GB data but order your Sim before Mon 9 Mar and activate and set to 'auto renew' each month before Sun 23 Mar and you can get triple data for up to 12 months. Don't worry, it's still a one month contract so you can still cancel anytime. (2) All Voxi plans offer unlimited data for social and chat apps as standard. Note: All data, mins and texts allowances are per month.

Best Sim only deals – 10GB 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). 

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10GB to unlimited data Sims – what we'd go for

Right now there's a bevy of top Sims for data gobblers. Smarty is offering the standout deal, with a massive 30GB of data, with unlimited minutes and texts for just £10/mth – plus it's a one-month contract, so you can cancel at any time.

If you don't want to worry about scoffing your whole allowance, you'll want an unlimited data Sim. Three's unlimited Sim on a 12-month contract is £18/mth. What's more, Three won't limit download speeds, unlike some other networks with unlimited data plans.

PROVIDER (network it uses) COST CONTRACT LENGTH DATA MINS TEXTS
O2* Equiv £11.67/mth (1)
12 months 20GB Unltd Unltd
Smarty* (Three) – top pick £10/mth One month 30GB Unltd Unltd
Sky Mobile* (O2) £10/mth 12 months 10GB Unltd Unltd
Vodafone*
MSE Blagged, via Fonehouse
Equiv £13.34/mth (2) 12 months 20GB Unltd Unltd
EE*
MSE Blagged, via Fonehouse
Equiv £16.17/mth (3) 12 months 20GB Unltd Unltd
Three* £18/mth 12 months Unltd Unltd Unltd
O2* £20/mth 12 months 50GB Unltd Unltd
(1) You pay £20/mth, but you'll receive a cheque for £100 within two months, making it equiv to £11.67/mth over the 12mth contract.  (2) You pay £20/mth, but £80 will be automatically paid into your bank account after 90 days, making it an equiv £13.34/mth over the 12mth contract. (3) You pay £22/mth, but £70 will automatically be paid into your bank account after 90 days, making it an equiv £16.17/mth. Note: All data, mins and texts allowances are per month.
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