30+ Cheap Mobile Tips

Cheapest way to get a handset, mobile phone rights & more

cheap mobile tips

Whether your phone's rarely out of your hand or you only use it for the odd call, the chances are you're massively overpaying for the minutes, texts and data that you use. Millions are even caught out paying up to £38/mth for a handset they already own, so if you haven't switched in a while you're likely being ripped off. 

If you're paying more than £10/mth for your mobile, stop. The price of using a mobile has dropped over the past few years, and we'll tell you how to make big savings on handsets too...

30+ cheap mobile tips, including...

  1. If you're paying more than £10/mth, STOP

    How much is your mobile bill each month? If you're paying more than about £10/mth, then you need to ask yourself why.

    That's because with prices having dived you can now get a decent amount of mins, texts and data for under £10/mth on a Sim-only deal - see our full list of top picks in the Best Sim only Deals guide.

    Of course, there are valid reasons why you may be paying more. These include:

    • You're paying off the cost of a handset.
    • Your credit score means you can't get a contract (though there are cheap PAYG deals too).
    • You roam abroad.
    • You're paying more for a really hefty data allowance.

    If one of the above applies, then at least there's a reason for your bill being higher – though you still may be able to save.

    If you pay for your mobile on a contract and you're outside your minimum term, also STOP! In effect, you're paying for a handset you've already bought.

    Don't just settle for the same deal, provider and price each year. Mobile tariffs are coming down in price, so if anything you should be paying less each year, not more.

  2. Before looking for a new deal, ask yourself whether you REALLY need a new high-end handset

    The latest top-end smartphones typically go for £700+, but there are plenty of cheaper handsets out there with the same core functions as the flagship handsets from the likes of Apple and Samsung.

    We're MoneySavingExpert not MobilePhoneExpert, so we won't attempt to give a rundown of which models you should be looking for – see this comprehensive article on the best cheap phones by TechRadar, and CNET has a good guide to picking a new handset (including low-end options).

    While buying a new handset outright is usually cheapest with top-end smartphones, with older phones it can more often be the case that traditional contracts win. Compare handset prices on MobilePhoneChecker*, or see our Mobile Contract Tips for more info.

  3. Buying a new handset? Do it the cheapest way

    If you definitely do need a new mobile phone, then there are essentially three ways to get one. Each has benefits and drawbacks – here's a quick rundown:

    1. Buying it outright and getting a cheap Sim’s usually cheapest

    Straightforward – buy the handset at the cheapest price you can find, and pair it with a cheap Sim-only deal.

    Typically much cheaper over two years than getting a contract with a network, plus you can choose whichever network and Sim-only plan suits you best. You can also avoid a credit check if you opt for a pay-as-you-go deal.

    For many, the initial outlay's simply unaffordable (£700+ for the top handsets).

    How to do it: Get the handset at the best price possible. Giffgaff* is competitive, and also compare on MobilePhoneChecker*. If you can't afford the full amount upfront, one option is to spread the cost by buying on a 0% credit card (or by buying it on finance). If you're going for an iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max or iPhone XR, see if you can spread the cost interest-free.

    2. Can’t afford to pay it all upfront? Check finance deals

    Relatively new in the UK, mobile financing allows you to get the cost of the handset loaned to you under an agreement over a fixed period. You can then choose a cheap Sim-only deal either from the finance provider or independently.

    Freedom to pair your handset with a Sim-only deal, and a much lower upfront cost thanks to a loan which has a clear APR, transparent pricing and ends once fully repaid.

    It costs more than buying the phone upfront yourself – except with Apple's 0% financing on the iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max and iPhone XR.

    How to do it: There are a few providers to choose from, and they work a little differently. See Mobile financing below for full info.

    3. See how contract deals compare

    For many, the only way they've ever got a new phone is via a two-year contract with a network that bundles the cost of the handset in with monthly service – usually at a hefty markup. This can often be the most expensive way to buy a phone, though in a few cases it can actually be the cheapest.

    In a few rare cases it's possible to find contracts via resellers such as Mobiles.co.uk* (owned by Carphone Warehouse) that cost LESS than buying the handset yourself and pairing with a cheap Sim.

    In many cases the phone will cost £100s more. Plus you'll be locked in, usually for two years. 

    How to do it: There's a huge range of tariffs out there, many of which are utterly poor value. For a full tips on finding the right one, see the Mobile Contract Tips guide. Also, see our top-pick iPhone and Samsung contracts.

    To get an idea of what's best of you, MobilePhoneChecker's Build Your Own Mobile Phone Contracts* tool does a pretty robust job of comparing what's out there.

  4. Choose the right type of plan: contract, Sim-only or pay-as-you-go

    There are three different types of plans to choose from. Here's how they work:

    Contract with handset – low upfront cost but typically higher cost overall

    With a traditional mobile phone contract you pay a monthly fee and get a handset plus an inclusive bundle with a certain allowance of minutes, texts and data.

    • Handset price is spread out – but it costs you more in the long term, and there are cheaper ways to spread the cost.

    • You'll be locked in for 24 months in the majority of cases.

    • You'll be credit checked.

    See Mobile Contract Tips for full details on how to find the right contract and everything else you need to consider before tying into that lengthy commitment. Find a few top-pick tariffs and other tips in Cheap iPhone Deals and Cheap Samsung Deals.

    Sim-only contract – if you've a handset you like and want flexibility

    There are two types of Sim-only deals – 30-day rolling contracts which you are free to leave with a months' notice, or fixed term contracts, usually locking you in for 12 months (often, though not always, better value).

    • Great value if you already have a handset or can afford to buy yourself.
    • Rolling 30-day contracts offer maximum flexibility.
    • Often good for heavy data users.

    For tips on finding the best deal and our own top picks, see the Sim only guide.

    PAYG – no ties and never go over your allowance

    If you pay for your mobile via pay-as-you-go, you won't be tied into any contract – simply pay in advance for what you use via top-ups, online or on the phone. Pay-as-you-go packs, however, auto-renew.

    • PAYG doesn't require any credit check.

    • Easier to budget.

    • Generally more expensive for medium or heavy users.

    For all things pay-as-you-go, including our top-pick Sims, see the Best Pay-as-you-go Sim Deals guide.

  5. Spread the cost of an iPhone XS, XS Max or XR INTEREST-FREE with Apple

    iPhone Payments

    iPhone Payments is Apple's interest-free financing scheme – it's available for the iPhone XS, XS Max and XR. This allows you to buy the phone for Apple's standard price but pay a smaller amount upfront and the rest in 20 monthly instalments.

    But be careful not to get caught out. Apple offers another plan – its iPhone Upgrade Programme – which gives you the option to swap handsets and includes AppleCare, its extended warranty and technical support service, but this scheme can usually be beaten by other methods. See our full analysis here (the examples are old but the same principles apply).

    You'll be credit-checked and will need to be accepted for what's technically an interest-free loan. Here's what it costs:

    • iPhone XS – £69 upfront, then £46.50/mth for 20 months for the 64GB model (£54/mth for 256GB or £64/mth for 512GB)
    • iPhone XS Max – £69 upfront, then £51.50/mth for 20 months for the 64GB model (£59/mth for 256GB or £69/mth for 512GB)
    • iPhone XR – £69 upfront, then £34/mth for 20 months for the 64GB model (£36.50/mth for 128GB or £41.50/mth for 256GB)

    Here's how to pay this way:

    1. You can ONLY get iPhone Payments in store – first, reserve the model you want. It's best to reserve your iPhone XS, XS Max or XR online before visiting a store. 

    2. When you collect the phone, ensure you opt for iPhone Payments. You'll need to take bank details, a valid photo ID and your current mobile plus other personal info – see Apple's website for a full list. You'll need to be a UK resident aged 18+, have a UK bank account and have lived in the UK for three or more years.

    3. If accepted (it could take up to an hour), you'll pay £69 upfront and the rest in 20 monthly instalments. Your loan will be with Barclays, the finance provider behind the scheme, at 0% APR. Monthly repayments are made by direct debit. If you don't keep up with them, Barclays would take the same action as any other loan provider – it could result in a mark on your credit file, for example.

    Once you've got the phone you'll then need to find a separate cheap Sim only deal.

  6. Get a LOW interest rate with mobile financing

    Mobile contracts from networks are typically vastly overpriced – equivalent to getting a loan with an APR of up to 30% in some cases. If you can't get approved for 0% finance, as an alternative, specialist mobile finance providers will loan you the money for a handset at a cost. Then just pair it with a cheap Sim-only deal and off you go.

    There are two main providers to try:

    • Get a potential cheap-ish loan on many types of phone with Unshackled. With Unshackled.com* (finance provided by Zopa, Omni, Vanquis and Amigo), you're loaned the cost of a handset at an APR based on your credit history.

      It's a two-stage process. Firstly, you apply (and there's a soft search on your credit file, which won't impact your credit score). Then you'll be told the rate you'll be offered, and can decide whether or not to accept (in which case there'll be a hard search on your file). 

      The lowest rate offered is 9.7% but representative APR is 27.7% for 24 months, and can go as high as 49.9%, so watch out. Look at the rate you're offered before deciding to accept. There are lots of factors to weigh up, including the actual cost of the phone, but:

      • If it's 9.7% to 18.9%, it may be a good deal (especially as you can't get standard loans for less than a grand).
      • If it's more than 18.9%, you may be better trying Giffgaff – see below. (That assumes the price of the phone's similar – if Giffgaff's cheaper, start checking it even if you have a lower APR.)
      • If it's closer to 49.9%, you're almost certainly better off going elsewhere.
    • Or try Giffgaff at 18.9% to 21.6% APR. The Giffgaff* PAYG network offers financing on phones (it's partnered with Ratesetter) at between 18.9% APR and 21.6% APR depending on how much you choose to pay up front and the period of time over which you spread the repayments.

    It's worth checking the loan rate and the cost of the phone you want on both Unshackled.com and Giffgaff to compare what you will actually pay in total.

  7. Many providers allow early upgrades

    If you're happy to stick with your current provider, then it's often possible to upgrade your handset before your current contract comes to an end.

    Don't forget the cheapest deals usually come from switching provider – so don't fall for the upgrade trap – but if you're willing to haggle this info might be useful. The following table sets out the major providers' early upgrade policies:

    How early can you upgrade?

    EE (incl T-Mobile and Orange) Switch to a new phone and plan up to 45 days before your contract ends.
    O2 O2 Refresh splits your monthly statement into a cost for the handset and cost for your allowance. You can pay off the handset part of your contract whenever you want and upgrade without also having to pay off the 'allowance' segment – you'll just continue paying it alongside the 'new device segment of the bill.
    Vodafone Upgrade up to 60 days before your contract ends if you're on a Red or Red Value Bundle, or up to 30 days if on a standard plan.
    Three Upgrade up to 30 days before your contract ends.
    Tesco Mobile If you're on an Anytime Upgrade plan – the same system as O2 Refresh above; If you're on another type of pay monthly tariff, your early upgrade fee will be what you have left to pay on your contract minus VAT. You'll get a 30% discount on this fee if you choose an Anytime Upgrade deal when you upgrade.
    Virgin Mobile Its 'Freestyle' Contracts allow you to pay off the handset and buy a new phone to use with your existing airtime contract. On other contracts you can upgrade up to 30 days before your contract ends.
  8. Don't upgrade to get more space - increase your storage for free

    No matter how much storage space your mobile phone's got, it'll eventually fill up with photos, videos, apps and more, severely limiting what you're able to do with it. The natural response to this is to pay out for memory cards or online storage, or even upgrade to a new phone with more space - and a significantly bigger price tag.

    However, it's highly likely you'd be splashing your cash unnecessarily, as there's a variety of very simple things you can do on Android and iOS devices to save anything from a few MB to bundles of GBs without spending a penny.

    Some of these may seem obvious, such as moving photos and videos online, but did you know you can get unlimited FREE online storage, via the Google Photos app? Speaking of apps, there's also a quick trick for working out which apps you use the least so you know which ones to bin. Spring cleaning your remaining apps could also save you GBs, as could hunting down and deleting hidden downloads.

    Sounds too good to be true? Here's what forumite Browntoa had to say: "I backup all photos, videos, documents and downloads on Google Photos or Google Drive, which are both free, and empty the cache on my Android phone's storage on a regular basis. The first time I freed up 1.8GB."

    For step-by-step instructions, see our How to increase phone storage guide.

  9. Happy with your handset? Haggle down the contract costs

    If you don't want to switch, and are near or past your contract's end, you're wielding a powerful weapon... your loyalty. When approaching the end of your contract, make sure you demand the very best deal possible – not just of your network, but of any out there.

    The mobile world's a mature market. Everyone has a handset, so networks fight hard to win custom from elsewhere AND keep their own. If your provider won't give you a good enough deal, let it know. The aim's to get through to 'customer disconnections', which internally is often called 'retentions' as its job is to keep you.

    We know this method works, as you regularly tell us it does. David says: "I took your advice and phoned my provider, EE, as they were charging me £15.59 a month for Sim only. I am now paying £6 a month with same provider. Thanks for the inspiration."

    Full help on how to do this in our Mobile Phone Haggling guide.

  10. In some cases it can actually be cheaper to get a 30% APR loan than a handset on contract

    If you don't have the readies to pay upfront for a handset, think long and hard before tying yourself into a lengthy contract instead – even if it offers you the phone 'free' or at a much-reduced upfront cost.

    Although the cost of the handset can be wrapped up in the monthly tariff, you'll nearly always be paying a significant amount extra in the long-run – which is why you should always calculate and compare the total cost over the lifetime of the contract.

    When we crunched the numbers in May 2016, we calculated that in some cases it'd actually be cheaper to buy a handset direct with a 30% APR two-year loan (typical contract length) than take a contract. (Of course, we're not suggesting you do that.)

    We worked out how much extra users would pay with six of the UK's biggest mobile providers if they were to get a 16GB iPhone 6s or a Samsung Galaxy S7 on a two-year contract, as opposed to buying the handset directly and taking out the same network's equivalent Sim-only deal.

    The table below displays the 'effective APR', which is the interest rate you could afford to pay on a loan to buy the handset upfront plus get the equivalent Sim-only plan on the same network and it STILL be cheaper than taking out a similar contract deal from each network.

    'Effective APR' of popular phones

    Vodafone 15.6% Cheaper on contract
    EE (incl T-Mobile & Orange) 34% 13%
    O2 21% 8.5%
    Virgin Mobile (1) 26% 13%
    Three 19% 1.5%
    Tesco Mobile 7.7% 4.7%
    Table correct as of 25 May 2016. (1) New Virgin Media customers. Figures rounded to the nearest %.

    Mobile providers say that a contract isn't a loan (so they don't usually display an APR) but effectively it is one as you're credit-checked. Even if a network offers you a deal where you can pay the cost of the handset and your tariff off separately you're likely to be paying a premium.

  11. Buying your phone on a 0% card is a free way to spread the cost (and stash it in the freezer)

    If you want a snazzy phone but can't afford to buy the handset upfront, you're best off saving up.

    But if you really can't wait, then instead of paying mobile providers' inflated prices, you might want to consider taking out a credit card with a lengthy 0% credit card spending offer, buying the phone upfront, then stashing the card in a bowl of water in the freezer (so you won't be tempted to use it again) and getting a cheap Sim-only deal.

    See the Best 0% Credit Cards guide for our current top-picks. Remember you must always ensure you meet the minimum repayments and clear it before the 0% term ends or the cards will start charging interest. Use our Credit Card Eligibility Calculator or the free MoneySavingExpert.com Credit Club (a way to keep track of your credit record) to see which cards you're most likely to get.

  12. Get a 'granny in a glovebox' – grab a cheap emergency phone

    A 'granny in a glovebox' phone is great to stash in your car as an emergency second mobile, to give to your kids or if you only need to use a phone very occasionally.

    One of the cheapest we've found is the Alcatel 20.45X which is £5.99. O2 offers the cheapest ‘traditional’ pay-as-you-go rates – where you top up with credit and are then charged for each minute and text as opposed to pay-as-you-go bundles that you have to renew every month. Bundles are generally cheaper but don’t make sense for an emergency or a spare handset.

    If you're after a phone with web access, one example of a cheap smartphone is the Alcatel Pixi 4 (4) via EE – it cost £19.99 when you buy £20 of EE credit.

  13. Mapping tool shows mobile signal strength – check before you commit to a contract

    The major providers all have maps indicating what coverage they offer. But telecoms regulator Ofcom has its own mobile and broadband checker (and smartphone app) which goes beyond what the networks' own tools do.

    Before committing to a contract, check signal strength in the places you use your phone most, eg, at home and at work. Having no coverage isn't sufficient grounds to return your phone (though normal consumer rights do apply), so it's your responsibility to check.

    • Ofcom's tool uses the networks' data on coverage, but it says it builds on this with information gathered from its own field tests. The regulator's also used its own research to determine what threshold of signal it believes is required for a clear call connection – and it's higher than that set by the networks, so in theory you should get a more robust picture of the service you're likely to get.

      The tool's by no means perfect and you may find you don't agree with the results it shows. If so, Ofcom says it wants to know so it can improve it in the future (on the tool, click the 'your feedback' link below the map).

    • Enter your postcode or town and select a network from the dropdown – choose EE, O2, Three or Vodafone (if you're with any other network, then it's 'piggybacking' on the signal of one of these four – see our provider table for which). You can then check call, 3G and 4G coverage on the map, selecting indoor or outdoor.

    What are my rights if I'm unhappy with my mobile coverage?

    It very much depends. Under the Consumer Contracts Regulations, if you ordered online or over the phone you can cancel your mobile contract up to 14 days after you sign up (30 days if with Vodafone), for any reason. But if you buy in store or a problem arises after that, it can be tricky.  

    • Ofcom says it expects providers to deal "fairly and sympathetically" with customers who have signal issues because of mobile network problems – for example, if a provider switches off a mast or there are faults with the network. In these circumstances the customer should be offered compensation or be allowed to leave the contract early without penalty.

      However, if the reason for the loss of coverage is unclear or in dispute – say, if there's bad weather – it's less clear cut. In these cases Ofcom says you have "clear rights to seek redress or a resolution" to a complaint. In the first instance complain directly to your network, and if it's not able to help then go through its official complaints procedure.

      If after eight weeks the response you've got isn't up to scratch (or you haven't had one) you can go through an alternative dispute resolution (ADR) scheme. These are independent schemes which can investigate the complaint – if they find in your favour, they can order the mobile phone provider to pay out up to £5,000 in compensation for any loss you may have suffered.

      Alternatively, go to free complaints-handling company Resolver, which will help you with your claim. If it doesn't get anywhere with the provider, it'll escalate your complaint on your behalf to the relevant ADR scheme.

  14. Networks can increase costs by inflation if they warn you first

    If there's a warning in your T&Cs about mid-contract price hikes in line with inflation, then firms are permitted to do this under the regulator's rules. All the mjor networks do this, including EE, O2, Three, Virgin Mobile and Vodafone.

    For those firms that do, adjustments are made in line with figures based on the Retail Prices Index – a measure of inflation.

    You're protected against other types of mid-contract price increases though – see below for more info.

  15. Lock your Sim AND your handset – or risk losing £1,000s if it's nicked

    Most lock their smartphones instinctively these days. Yet even if your handset is locked, if someone steals it there's nothing to stop them using your Sim in another phone. If your phone is stolen make sure to ring your network to deactivate the Sim. Some have had £1,000s racked up on their bills after their (locked) phones were stolen.

    To prevent this, you can lock your Sim with a four-digit PIN, so whenever it's put into a new handset (or in some cases, such as with iPhones, when the phone it's in is restarted) service won't be available until it's unlocked.

    Lock your Sim

    You can find instructions online for locking your Sim on an iPhoneAndroid phone (may vary by handset) or Windows Phone. Your Sim may already have a default PIN (even if it's not activated) which you'll need to enter to change it – contact your network for this.

    Note: if you enter your PIN incorrectly three times you may need a Personal Unblocking Key (PUK) code to enable your Sim again. You should be able to get this from your network.

    Lock your handset

    As we said, most do this already. If not though it's vital you do – you don't want those with light fingers getting access to your personal data and other sensitive info.

    See screen-locking instructions for iPhonesAndroid (again, this may vary by handset) and Windows Phone.

  16. Make sure you've the right size Sim

    Sim cards come in three sizes – standard, micro and nano – and which one you'll need depends on your handset. All iPhone models from the iPhone 5 onwards use a nano Sim, as do many Android phones less than 4 years old, such as the Samsung Galaxy S6 onwards.

    Many other Android phones, including the Samsung S5, Note 4 and Windows phones, take micro Sims, which are slightly larger than nano Sims. The iPhone 4 and 4S also take micro Sims.

    Standard-size Sims haven't been used in smartphones for the past few years and not many take them anymore. If you're upgrading to a newer handset, most networks can very easily swap your Sim card for the right one if you ask.

  17. Consider the contract length – don't end up in a two-year 'relationship' you can't afford

    If you sign up for a contract you're essentially committing to a phone company (and often a handset too) for the length of the contract.

    This means you must think carefully about your budget and if you can afford the ongoing monthly payments. The amount of time varies between deals – a few last 12 months, but most high-end smartphone contracts now span 24 months.

    Before you sign up to a contract make sure you're happy to be locked in for the minimum term. If you want to leave early then it's likely you'll have to pay termination fees which cover the cost of the contract.

    Some providers have started to offer tariffs which make it easier for customers to upgrade early. (See above for full details.)

  18. Don't ditch your digits! Get a PAC to keep your number when you switch

    Transferring – or 'porting' – your old mobile number is easy when you switch phone provider. All you need to do is get your PAC (porting authorisation code) from your existing provider, then give it to your new one.

    Most networks will ask you to request a switch of number before you start using your new phone, but some will still do it after the new contract is set up. It usually only takes a couple of days.

    Trick for existing EE and Vodafone customers to keep their number

    If you take out a deal on your existing network that's intended for new customers and isn't specifically an upgrade (EE and Vodafone tend to run deals like this) you won't be able to keep your old number as you can't technically port it within the same network. When you terminate the old contract you'll lose it.

    The only way to get a new customer deal and keep your number would be to get yourself a pay-as-you-go Sim from a different network, port your existing number across to it, then port the number again to the new contract once it's been set up. It sounds complicated but in reality wouldn't take more than week to get it moved back and forth.

    Alternatively, if you're out of contract you could always just call up your network and say you want to move to the new customer deal – if they say no, just threaten to leave (and do the trick above if they still won't budge).

  19. Recycle your old handset and earn £100s

    If you're getting a new handset, recycle the old one and you could earn £100s, depending on the make, model and condition of the phone.

    There are a raft of companies willing to recycle your phone for cash, yet be warned – the differences in what they'll offer are huge. For help, see our Sell Old Mobiles guide.

    You can get up to £400 for some handsets – of course, others are virtually worthless, but it's worth a quick try. At the time of writing, for example, a 32GB iPhone 7 could fetch up to £309.

    Once you agree to sell, most companies send you a freepost bag for your phone. You post it, then they give you the cash.

    These sites are all about instant prices though. If you're prepared to put in a little more effort and flog your handset on eBay, you can often beat their prices. See our full eBay Selling Tricks guide for more info.

  20. 'Piggybacking' means you do have a choice of mobile provider – even if you can only get signal with one network

    If you live somewhere with rubbish phone signal and only get coverage on one or two networks, fear not. You may assume your choice of provider is limited – but switching to a 'piggyback' deal can allow you to cut bills without your signal dropping.

    There are only four UK networks – EE, Vodafone, Three and O2. All the others piggyback on and buy space from one of these four. For example, Tesco and Giffgaff are on O2, Asda is on EE and TalkMobile is on Vodafone.

    You're still using the same network as the larger company so the reliability's the same, but it's normally cheaper or you get more for your money. There are lots of piggybackers to choose from – see our full mobile piggybacking guide & list to see which you can move to, paying less with the same signal.

  21. Know how to unlock your phone so you have maximum choice of provider

    Unlocking your phone means you can use any network's Sim, which gives you the freedom to switch providers and hopefully cut your mobile phone bill.

    Some handsets are unlocked when you buy them – usually if you purchase them directly from the manufacturer (as with iPhones, for example). But if you got your handset from a network it will often be 'locked' to that specific provider.

    Networks can no longer charge you for unlocking your phone if you're out of your contract's minimum term - but if you're still in it, or on pay-as-you-go, they may. There are other ways you may be able to unlock your phone for free too - see our Mobile Unlocking guide for full details.

  22. Decide whether you need mobile phone insurance – and if you do, get it from as little as £70/year

    The best mobile phones don't just make calls. They're our diaries, contact books, cameras, games consoles and more – so lose it, break it or have it nicked and there can be tears.

    Insurers play on this fear with hefty prices and unnecessary cover. But you can get cheap smartphone and iPhone insurance from £70/year.

    But do you really need insurance? Deciding whether to get a policy comes down to the fact that you know yourself better than insurers will.

    • How likely are you to lose or damage your phone? If your mobile's been permanently attached to your hand and you haven't broken or lost it in the last 10 years, the chances you'll lose or break it in the future are slim. If you have smashed or misplaced a phone in the past, however, it might be worth considering. It's important to know yourself, then you can play the odds.

    • Are you worried about mobile phone theft? Theft of mobile phones is falling, according to a Home Office report – but these numbers are often questioned because it's believed a high proportion of mobile theft is never reported. If you live in a crime hotspot then insuring your phone for theft might be a good idea.

    If you decide that insurance is for you, don't just get what is offered by your network provider, think about a specialist insurerself-insuring and/or covering your phone on your home insurance or a package bank account. Full info and best buys in Mobile Phone Insurance.

  23. Beware of exceeding your data allowance – it could add £100s/yr to your bill

    If you use up your data allowance before the end of each month it could end up costing you. The majority of networks will ask you to pay an extra chunk of cash if you want to extend your allowance, yet some won't warn you and will charge you for each Mb you go over - often at eye-watering rates. 

    There are a number of ways to avoid this:

    • Use Wi-Fi whenever possible - but not for emails, online banking or anything that could make your personal information vulnerable to hackers when using public Wi-Fi – see below for how to do this.

    • If you really need more then speak to your network about upping your allowance – this may cost but it'll be cheaper than exceeding your limit and you can try to haggle.

    • Make sure any apps you use aren't eating up your allowance.
  24. Be sure you understand what 'unlimited' includes

    Many mobile contract and Sim-only deals offer 'unlimited' minutes, texts or data, but it's important to understand what that actually covers.

    Unlimited minutes are to UK landlines and mobiles, and unlimited texts to UK mobiles – other calls/texts and roaming outside the UK may cost more. Always make sure you know exactly what's covered and what you'll have to pay extra for.

    Similarly some networks place 'fair usage' caps on their 'unlimited' tariffs, (confusingly) limiting the allowance you actually get. Where a provider does this on a plan we write about we'll say so, but it's worth checking yourself before signing up.

  25. Use free Wi-Fi spots to save on data costs

    If you've a smartphone, you may find you can keep costs down by taking a smaller data plan and using free Wi-Fi while you're out and about. However, be careful not to use public Wi-Fi for online banking, accessing email or anything that could make your personal information vulnerable to hackers. For more tips on staying safe online, visit Action Fraud.

    There are Wi-Fi hotspots dotted all over the UK (and abroad), many of which are free. McDonald's, Starbucks and Wetherspoons and Walkabout pubs all offer free wireless internet.

    Find out more about free Wi-Fi hotspots and how to save on mobile data costs in the Free Wi-Fi and Mobile Broadband guides.

  26. Avoid roaming charges – don't get hit with a huge holiday bill

    Head abroad and your mobile provider may hike prices massively, and even charge for receiving calls as well. Yet you can cut the cost substantially by using networks' hidden deals or by getting a specialist Sim card to use overseas.

    Get more info on the cost of using your phone abroad and the various specialist Sims available in the Cheap Mobile and Data Roaming guide.

  27. Cut the cost of calling abroad – or do it for free

    Calling someone overseas from your mobile often costs big bucks, yet it doesn't have to be that way. Making free internet phone calls (VoIP) sounds complicated, but it's very easy, especially if you have a smartphone.

    Our Free Web Calls guide has details on apps that let you call for nowt, how to make free calls via the internet and the best way to call friends who don't use VoIP.

    Alternatively, if you want to call a foreign mobile or landline number, it's possible to do this for next to nothing – see the Cheap International Calls guide.

  28. If your phone is faulty, then it's the responsibility of the retailer to fix it

    All the usual consumer rights apply when you buy a mobile phone. The phone must be of satisfactory quality and fit for purpose. (See the Consumer Rights guide for more info.)

    Remember here, the responsibility lies with the retailer, not the manufacturer. So if you discover a problem after buying a new phone, it's the retailer who must sort the problem for you.

    If the fault is minor, it's reasonable to accept a repair. If not, you're entitled to a refund, although the retailer can deduct an amount for the use you've already had.

  29. If you think you've been mis-sold your mobile contract then you have rights

    If you think you've been mis-sold, either by the mobile phone company or by a company selling on its behalf, you need to know your rights. Your first action should be to inform the provider and follow its complaints procedure. Or, use free complaints firm Resolver, which will help you with your claim.

    After that, if you are still unhappy and feel the issue has not been resolved, Resolver will appeal on your behalf to one of two Alternative Dispute Resolution schemes – Ombudsman Services: Communications and CISAS – which act as middlemen between mobile phone providers and users.

  30. You have rights if your mobile phone provider hikes prices mid-contract

    If you're locked into a phone contract and your provider decides to hike prices, then you may be able to get out of the deal without paying a penalty. 

    Mobile phone firms are allowed to apply annual price hikes, usually in line with inflation (see above), which affect customers who are mid-contract, provided it is in the terms and conditions. 

    However, there is a rule set by telecoms regulator Ofcom that means you can escape your contract penalty-free if you can successfully prove you've suffered "material detriment".  In these cases providers need to give at least 30 days' notice of any such rises and allow users to leave the contract without penalty if they wish to leave.

  31. If you've switched providers recently, check whether you're owed cash

    If you've switched mobile provider within the last six years and still had money remaining in your account when you left then it's possible to claim it back.

    Many providers don't refund credit automatically when you leave, so it's worth checking. See our Reclaim Phone Credit guide for full details.

  32. 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, then instead let us know by emailing voucherhelp@moneysavingexpert.com as that's usually quicker.