As the cost of living increases, it’s more important than ever to make sure you are saving money where you can, and getting the most out of anything you pay a monthly fee for.
To help combat price increases, there are a range of ways to cut costs, including on your mobile phone bill. We explain how you could save tens or even hundreds of pounds on your existing contract, or when you’re looking to buy a new handset.
- For more tips, check out our guide seven mobile provider perks that can save you money.
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1. Think twice before getting a contract phone
If you’re shopping for a new phone, make sure you do the math before jumping into a long-term contract.
While contracts allow you to spread the expense, they can often cost more in the long run. You may also be stuck with mid-contract price riseswhich vary depending on the provider.
If you can afford to buy the phone outright, a low-cost Sim-only deal for just the right amount of data you need can help make future payments more predictable. And with plenty of 30-day rolling contracts to choose from, it’s easy to switch providers if you see something better.
Our mobile phone contract calculator can help you work out whether contract or Sim-only is the way to go.
2. Don’t overpay for data
It’s common to see premium phones sold on contract with tantalizingly high data deals, but don’t be fooled. If you’re not a heavy data user, most of that will go to waste. An important way to make sure you’re getting the best deal is keeping track of the data and minutes you use so you know how much you need.
That’s another benefit of being on a rolling monthly Sim-only plan – you can switch to a higher or lower data limit as circumstances change.
To stay on top of your data usage and see which apps are eating into your allowance, check in with our guide how to keep track of your mobile data.
3. Look outside the ‘big four’
There are more than 80m active mobile subscriptions in the UK, according to telecoms regulator Ofcom, and the majority of customers are with one of the ‘big four’ networks – EE, O2, Three and Vodafone. It’s easy to be reassured by a big brand, but the big four are often at the more expensive end of the market, particularly for low data packages. In order to attract customers, virtual providers are often running deals on their packages which can mean extra savings.
To find out which of the smaller networks perform best, read our guide to them best and worst UK mobile networks.
4. Haggle for a better deal
You should start haggling a month before your contract ends, as your provider should be in a position to offer you a better deal before your next payment. Compare Sim-only deals on Which? Switch Mobile so you know what deals are available and how much you should be paying. Be prepared to mention prices you’ve found elsewhere.
If you’ve had any problems with your provider, such as poor coverage or inefficient customer service, mention it while haggling as it could give you an advantage. Along with a price discount, see if you can get any extra perks included, such as more data or savings with companies partnered with the network. Just be sure you want and will use any perks that are offered.
If your provider isn’t budging, or the deal they offer isn’t enough, say you’d like to leave and want to speak to the retentions team, who will be able to offer you better discounts. You can always change your mind and back out if you’d like to stay after all.
For more tips on haggling, read our guide on how to haggle for the best broadband dealwhere much of the advice applies to your mobile contract.
5. Switch mobile provider
If haggling doesn’t get you the price and deal you’re after, don’t be afraid to move on and find a new mobile provider.
With the introduction of text-to-switch, it’s easier than ever to change your mobile provider. Find out more in our guide on how to switch mobile provider.
Networks are always looking to entice new customers, so you can often find great introductory deals. Just be aware of price increases after the honeymoon period.
Before you switch providers, use Which? Switch Mobile to find the best Sim-only and contract phone deals.
6. Consider Pay as you Go (PAYG) instead of a rolling Sim
Consider how often you need to call, text or use data. If you primarily use the internet when connected to wi-fi, and for the odd emergency phone call, it might not even be worth having a cheap monthly Sim deal – especially since the emergence of free chat apps have made it straightforward to call using data.
Check your provider’s PAYG rates to see how much it costs to use data or make calls when you need to. One of the cheapest is iD Mobile, which charges 1p per MB of data, and 3p a minute for a phone call. Check the T&Cs carefully though, since on this deal you need to top up £10 every two months. Another cheap PAYG option is Asda Mobile, which runs on Vodafone. Here you’ll pay 4p per MB for data, and 4p per minute for a phone call.
PAYG works by adding money to your account, or ‘topping up’ when you need to, so it’s easy to stay in control of how much you’re spending.
7. Check your roaming charges
If you plan to travel, make sure you know exactly what charges you will face for using your phone data. Since Brexit, EE, Three and Vodafone have all introduced new charges for using your data in Europe, whereas O2 has not.
If you want to use data while traveling beyond Europe, the cost can vary dramatically depending on your provider. Check your contract carefully to avoid a large unexpected bill.
It’s also worth checking to see if you have any roaming ‘add-ons’ tied to your bill. If these aren’t needed, removing them could save a little extra.
Our guide to mobile roaming costs and international calls explains the charges you might face for using data in Europe and further afield.
8. Weigh up mobile phone insurance
Carefully consider any extras that are bundled into your mobile phone contract. You may not need them and it could work out cheaper to buy them separately, if necessary. For example, mobile phone insurance can cover you if your phone is stolen, suffers damage, breaks or suffers other misfortune.
However, it may not be worthwhile paying for as the cost can be surprisingly high for something you, hopefully, won’t ever need. Insurance for the latest phones can cost as much as £10 a month.
If you have contents insurance you may be able to cover your mobile phone through personal possessions cover. This protects your belongings whenever you leave your home and could even offer protection when you travel abroad.
For more, read our guide on how to get the best mobile phone insurance cover.
9. Look for useful perks
Look for perks, such as rollover data, that can allow you to take a cheaper bundle than you might otherwise, or worthwhile add-ons such as free subscriptions and discounted tickets or meals.
Sky Mobile has a feature where at the end of each month, any unused data is automatically rolled over into your Sky Piggybank. It can then be used to top up your data in the future, or exchanged for a variety of rewards. This type of perk is useful as it means you don’t spend money on wasted data.
Other perks such as O2’s offer of up to six months free Disney+ to new and upgrading customers may be worthwhile if it’s something you would use. Similarly, Three customers can use the Three+ app to get £3 weekend cinema tickets, 20% off Uber Eats, and two main courses for £10 at Frankie & Benny’s, as well as access to festival tickets ahead of general release.
10. Think twice before choosing a high-end phone
While it’s tempting to want to buy the newest iPhone or flagship Android handset, you’re paying a significant premium for these devices, no matter how tempting the monthly repayment fee might look.
Over the past couple of years mobile phone reviews have revealed models that can match flagship performance for a fraction of the cost. You could also consider a second-hand or refurbished mobile phone to keep the cost down.
Read our guide to the best mobile phone and Sim-only deals to see our pick of the latest bargains on handsets and Sim bundles.