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What’s the best mobile phone contract for me?

Modern mobile phones are incredibly useful gadgets boasting high standards of manufacture and engineering. But they won’t last forever, so buying a new one is going to be something you do many times over the years. Not only will you be looking for the right price and the perfect handset, you’ll also want the very best mobile phone contract to suit your needs. Whether you’re after the flashiest flagship or a bargain budget device, read our guide to finding the best mobile phone contract that’s right for you.

Finding something perfectly suited to you and your budget is absolutely essential when it comes to mobile phones. That’s why so many gadget lovers contact the team at Gadget Cover when searching for mobile phone insurance to protect their device from harm.

Mobile phone contracts 101 – getting to know the different deals on offer

When you’re looking for a new mobile phone contract, you’ll need to consider the three basic types of deal: pay monthly, SIM-only, or pay as you go (PAYG). Every contract will allow you to use a set amount of calling minutes, text messages and data allowance. While monthly contracts and PAYG may also provide the handset for no (or a minimum) up-front payment. Let’s take a deeper look at these contracts and the pros and cons of each, so you can work out which one is right for you.

Texting

Pay monthly deal

Signing up to a pay monthly contract means you pay a single monthly fee for a fixed period of time – usually either 12, 18 or 24 months. Many people choose this option as you’ll get the phone of your choice and a set number of minutes, texts and data to use every month. The amount you pay is often tied to what phone you choose as this is usually the most expensive component of your monthly plan.

While 12-month contracts often let you change your deal, and even your device at the end of the term, they can be more expensive. 24-month deals tend to offer the best value with lower monthly costs. You’re also more likely to pay less for the handset or even get one with no upfront charge.

Be aware that if you cancel your contract early, you may have to pay a termination fee. And if you lose or break your phone, you’ll still have to meet the monthly payment. Buying a new handset can be very costly, that’s why so many people take out mobile phone insurance to protect against this loss.

Pros of pay monthly

  • Spread the cost of a flagship phone
    The monthly fee not only includes calls, texts and data but also goes towards the phone itself. It’s a popular way to get the latest iPhone or Android device at a more affordable price.
  • Good value
    By paying upfront for a fixed number of minutes, texts and data you could save money compared to paying for it on a usage basis. However, it's crucial to think about how you plan to use your phone. You’ll want to find a deal that perfectly matches your typical usage. The cost of calls, texts and data over your monthly limit can quickly add up.
  • Hassle free
    Once you’ve set up a monthly direct debit, you’ll never need to worry about being cut off because you ‘forgot’ to top up your credit.
  • Build up your credit rating
    Paying your bills on time and in full is a great way to build up your credit score.
  • Free gifts
    From priority booking for gigs and free BT Sport to free international roaming, many network providers offer a number of benefits if you take out a monthly contract with them. For more on the best mobile phone perks on offer read this handy guide.

Cons of pay monthly

  • Bill shock
    If you’re not strict with your usage then you could be in for a nasty shock at the end of the month. Ask to set up a monthly cap to keep any overspend under control. Right from the start, it pays to be honest with yourself about what your usage will be. For those who enjoy surfing the web, checking social media, streaming movies, and watching YouTube (and, who doesn’t?) then you need to carefully work out a realistic monthly data allowance. How much mobile data you’ll need can be a particularly tricky conundrum. Check out our Gadget Cover guide to help you out.
  • Credit check
    You'll need to pass a credit check and be over 18 to take out a monthly contract. If your credit history is not so good, then this can be an issue.
  • Locked in
    By being tied to a particular network provider for up to two years this might be a problem if coverage is poor in your area. Or if you really want to get a new phone in the meantime. Be aware that while many networks will let you move to a more expensive package during your contract, few will let you move to a cheaper one.

With the bewildering array of deals out there, taking out a mobile contract isn’t as simple as it used to be. Fortunately, finding mobile phone insurance is pretty straightforward if you go to Gadget Cover.

Is a pay monthly deal right for you?

Pay monthly deals are great for those who use their mobile phones a lot and want to get their hands on the very latest smartphone. Paying monthly could get you a big discount on a swanky new phone if you know how to shop around. But if you spend less than £10 to £15 a month and are happy using an older phone, then there could be better options.

It’s worth remembering that when signing up to such a long-term deal, picking the right network is extremely important. You’ll want the best network coverage and signal strength in your area to make sure you’ll be able to use your phone everywhere you will need it. Not just at home, but also at work or when you’re with your family and friends. All the networks have handy postcode checkers on their websites. But it might not be wise to rely on these. You’re better off asking someone who already uses the network in that area.

To get the Gadget Cover take on this important question, read our guide to which company has the best mobile phone coverage in the UK.

SIM-only deal

As you’ll probably already be aware, SIM is short for 'Subscriber Identity Module' and is a small plastic card with a tiny chip that slots into your phone. Its purpose is to identify who you are and let the phone connect to the correct network. When you sign up to a SIM-only deal you’ll be sent a SIM which, once slotted into your phone, will tell the network your monthly allowance of minutes, texts and data. If you don’t already have a handset, you’ll need to buy one.

Pros of SIM-only

  • Flexibility
    These types of deals have proven very popular among consumers. Because contracts are often very short, you’re not tied long-term to one network provider. So, if the deal doesn’t work out or you’re unhappy with the service then you can simply swap. Provided you give the required notice.
  • Cheaper deals
    Because you’re not paying back the cost of a handset and are only paying for the calls, texts and data, these deals can be much cheaper.
  • You can keep your favourite handset
    Just because you’re not happy with a provider, doesn’t mean you have to give up your phone. Just pop in a new SIM and off you go. This could be a more eco-friendly option, too!
  • Upgrade your phone whenever you want
    If you’ve had enough of your old phone and fancy an upgrade then buy an unlocked handset and slip your SIM inside. Simple! Better yet, there are some great deals on refurbished or low-cost handsets out there.
  • Try other network providers
    Depending where you live, there could be a range of networks on offer. Many SIM-only contracts have just a 30-day minimum term. This means it’s an easy way to try out a new network before signing up for a longer contract.
  • A good 'stop-gap'
    Perhaps you’re waiting for a particular handset to be released but don’t want to sign up to a new long-term plan? Simply get a SIM-only deal to tide you over while you wait.
  • Less rigorous credit check
    Because it’s a shorter-term deal, providers aren’t as rigorous in their credit check as those for a 12 or 24-month contact.

Woman on phone

Cons of SIM-only

  • You don’t get a phone as part of the deal
    If you don’t already have a phone then you’ll need to take this cost into account. SIM-free phones can be surprisingly expensive as they’re not locked in to a particular provider.
  • Check if you’re locked in
    Is your current phone locked in to a particular provider? If it is then you’ll need to pay to get it unlocked if you want to switch.
  • Check for restrictive terms
    As with any contract, it’s always worth checking the small print so you know exactly what you’re signing up to.
  • Heavy users might find them expensive
    When comparing the costs of calls, texts or data to monthly contracts, the price can be expensive.

Is a SIM-only deal right for you?

With modern handsets boasting such excellent build quality, many consumers feel they don’t need a new phone every time they want to change provider. With that in mind, SIM-only contracts have really exploded in popularity over the last few years.

If you already have a perfectly good handset then why pay out for a new one? Also, the ability to shop around means you'll find it simpler to negotiate a contract more suited to your changing needs and budget.

Find more pros and cons of SIM-only contracts in this Gadget Cover guide.

PAYG deals

With household budgets under intense pressure, many consumers are looking for a way out of expensive contracts. Providers have realised this and have been adapting their PAYG offering as a way to meet this need.

PAYG is a type of plan you can purchase for your existing mobile phone, where you only pay for what you use. Rather than paying a fixed monthly amount and either overpaying or needing more than you bought, the idea of PAYG is to give you complete control over your budget.

With no strict contract, you have the ability to add or change parts of it whenever it suits you. Providers are promising customers a cheaper monthly bill, more freedom on changing and updating bundles, and ultimate flexibility with no contracts or commitments. An enticing offer indeed.

Pros of PAYG

  • Great value
    PAYG deals have come a long way in the past couple of years. With no minimum monthly charges and some very reasonably priced PAYG phones on the market, there’s never been a better time for PAYG. Particularly if you’re a lighter user.
  • No bill shocks
    Using pre-paid credit means you won’t get any unwelcome surprises at the end of the month. You’ll be able to keep an eye on spending at all times.
  • Easy top up
    Topping up your PAYG account is easy to do. Either online, over the phone or by text message. Some providers also supply you with a top-up card you can charge in certain locations.
  • Cheaper prices
    Operators such as Vodafone, Three, Tesco Mobile, and Asda Mobile are all offering bargain PAYG mobile contracts. Some of the PAYG bundles you can get offer really great value.
  • No contract
    Service not up to scratch? Moved house and network coverage has fallen? No problem, simply walk away whenever you want.
  • No credit check
    Having a patchy credit history shouldn’t stop you from having a mobile.
  • Available to under 18s
    Unlike some other mobile phone contracts, PAYG is suitable for children.
  • Free boosts and other incentives
    Many networks offer rewards for topping-up your PAYG phone.
  • Switch for a cheaper deal
    Switching to a cheaper PAYG deal could save you a lot of money, especially if you've been on the same deal for years.

Cons of PAYG

  • You need a handset
    If you don’t already have a phone then you’ll need one for PAYG. There’s a fairly wide choice of handsets to suit all budgets. However, if you want a smartphone with more features, then these can be expensive to pay for up front.
  • PAYG may be locked
    If you buy a PAYG phone then it will be locked to your chosen network. If you later decide to change you may have to pay to unlock the phone.
  • Not great for heavy users
    If you run out of credit you could be cut off mid-call. Very frustrating!
  • Could be deactivated
    Very light users also need to know that if they don't use the PAYG mobile for a long time, say 180 days, your provider may think the number is no longer being used and deactivate it.

Is PAYG right for you?

If you already have a phone that you’re happy with, and aren’t tempted to upgrade to a new handset, you could consider simply switching to PAYG and save some money. But they are best suited to light users who don’t make many calls or use much data.

Looking for flexibility and the reassurance of knowing you’ll never be charged for going over your allowance? Then PAYG is well worth considering.

Mobile

10 top tips on choosing the right mobile phone contract for you

While you’re busy weighing up the pros and cons of the different types of contracts be sure to bear these 10 top tips in mind.

  1. Do your research
    Shopping around for a great deal has never been easier. But with the number of deals on offer, working out what’s best for you can be bewildering. Check out tech buying advice websites like TechRadar for the very latest insights. It’s a great resource for comparing mobile phone deals to find the best and cheapest prices in the UK on Samsung, Apple, Google, OnePlus and more. Consumer champion Which? is also a must-read. 
  2. Don’t just focus on the big names
    When it comes to phone manufacturers and network providers, don’t be dazzled by a big name. There are lots of smaller operators that can offer very attractive deals.
  3. Think about what you really need
    Working out what you actually need will save you money in the long run. Why pay for something you don’t use? Similarly, be honest about your use. If you go over your allowance you could be hit by big penalties.
  4. Keep an eye out for promotions and deals
    From cashback offers to Black Friday deals and special events, it can be worth your while waiting for a deal.
  5. Consider a refurbished or second-hand phone
    With so many people swapping phones on a regular basis, there’s a huge market for nearly new phones.
  6. Don’t skimp on mobile phone insurance
    When you're carrying a smartphone worth hundreds of pounds, it's nice to know that it's covered in case of an accident, theft or loss. Choosing mobile phone insurance is a big decision. Get it right, first time, by contacting Gadget Cover.
  7. Be aware of roaming charges
    Roaming charges could be making a comeback. If you plan on travelling abroad then check before you sign up. And remember to ensure your mobile phone insurance covers you for foreign travel.
  8. Check the coverage in your area
    We’ve already mentioned it, but it bears repeating! You don’t want to get stuck with no signal.
  9. Don’t be blinded by perks
    Because if your phone gets broken, lost, or stolen those perfect perks will seem like a distant memory! That’s why mobile phone insurance is so invaluable.
  10. Read our ultimate guide to buying a mobile phone. There’s a lot more there for you to consider.

Protect your gadget with mobile phone insurance

At Gadget Cover we’re all about arranging policies to protect you from common issues such as accidental damage, liquid damage, theft, breakdown and unauthorised usage. And for an additional premium, policies can also cover you for loss, too.

Get a quick quote for mobile insurance from Gadget Cover today.

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