In the past I’d happily sign up to a two year mobile contract so I could get my hands on the latest iPhone, paying more than £35 each month plus a sizeable upfront fee.
Now that’s all changed. I’m spending just £11 a month on my mobile phone bill. Here’s how you too can save on your mobile phone contract.
I was with O2 for probably 10 years, but last October I moved to Three and bought a new handset direct from Apple. Over a two years I’ll be more than £350 better off than upgrading with O2 as I usually would. It’s a crazy saving!
I can’t promise you’ll cut your bills by as much as this, but follow these tips and there’s no reason you should be paying more than £12 a month.
Go SIM only
The best prices are often with SIM only deals. Here you keep your old handset or buy a new one separately and pay just for your minutes, texts and data.
You can get contracts that run from 30 days to a year, giving you far more flexibility than the 18 and 24 month deals you’re tied to with handsets.
Since you aren’t paying for a new phone, the monthly costs are also considerably less. A decent number of minutes, texts and data available for £12 with GiffGaff. If you follow the rest of my tips as I did, you might even be able to pay less.
If you are after a new phone at the same time it’s worth checking what offers you can get, but I’m a convert to the SIM only contract.
Don’t just stick to the big companies
There are actually only four different phone networks – O2, EE, Three and Vodafone. All the others “piggyback” on one of these.
This means you get exactly the same reception as someone on the host network. The difference is just in customer service, though you don’t get the benefits from the big brands, such as O2 Priority Moments with Tesco Mobile.
You’ll usually find the SIM only deals on these smaller companies far cheaper than the main brands. Here are the main smaller networks and the hosts they use.
- GiffGaff and Tesco Mobile use O2
- Asda Mobile, Virgin, BT, Post Office Mobile and The People’s Operator use EE
- Sainsbury’s Mobile and Talk Talk use Vodafone
- ID Mobile uses Three
If you want to see what signal will be like on a different network, the Ofcom Mobile Coverage checker will show you reception across the four main companies.
It’s also relatively easy to bring your number with you. My move from O2 to Three took less than 24 hours though it might take a few weeks. Just ask for a PAC number.
Don’t pay for more minutes/ text/ data than you’ll actually use
One of the biggest ways we waste money on our mobiles is via upselling.
When I called to sign up with Three, the sales person said “It’s only £3 more for double the data”. Sounds good. Except I didn’t need 8GB. I didn’t really need 4GB but that was the only tariff that had enough minutes.
You’ll probably have an idea of how many minutes and texts you use each month. Your bills will tell you if you don’t. Data is a little trickier. Fortunately most providers have a calculator to help you work it out.
I like GiffGaff’s “How Much Data Do I Need” tool as it’s pretty easy to use. As a rule, unless you are constantly streaming TV and music, you’ll not need more than 1GB or 2GB.
Compare prices and cashback
Just as you would with your gas or broadband, it’s important to see what other networks are offering. MoneySupermarket or BillMonitor are decent price comparison sites, though they don’t include all the SIM only networks.
Make sure you also check retailers such as Carphone Warehouse too as they often have their own deals.
Factor in the extras and freebies
I wouldn’t recommend choosing a new phone based purely on extras, but if prices are similar it’s worth seeing what you can get.
The reason I chose Three over GiffGaff was they let you use your inclusive data, texts and minutes abroad. Since I was off on my honeymoon, a 30 day SIM only deal was a perfect way to access maps and other local information without shelling out extra cash.
Call your network to see if they’ll negotiate
Though less effective than it used to be, it’s still worth calling your network to see if they can match or beat the total savings you’ll get from the tips above.
Get put through to the ‘terminations’ or ‘disconnection’ team as they’ll usually have more sway.
I even did this with Three after my initial 30 day SIM deal ended. No longer needing the overseas boost I asked for my PAC code with the full intention of moving elsewhere, only to be offered a £18 a month contract for just £11. Bonus!
Don’t wait for your contract to end to do this
Whatever you do, don’t let your existing contract run over at the higher monthly price. In fact, if you’re already in a contract, you’ll often be allowed an “early upgrade”. Generally this is the last month of your contract.
You can’t switch to a different network, but you can usually move to a cheaper 30 day SIM only tariff. Before I moved to Three, I did this with O2, cutting £15 off my final month’s bill.