Avoid overpaying for your mobile phone

 Ten ways to ring up savings

1. It’s cheaper to buy a new phone outright. The popular 18-month or two year deals where you pay monthly appear more affordable but there is a financing charge rolled in with the minutes and data.

2. Be aware of when your contract ends. The phone firm (usually called a network) doesn’t automatically shift you on to a cheaper deal when you’ve paid off the handset. You’ll keep paying the original monthly amount until YOU change it.

3. If you want to switch, give notice to the network before the contract ends. Usually the required period is 30 days, for which you’ll be charged even if you leave immediately. This could mean paying both the old contract and the new contract until the notice period finishes.

4. Now you’re the proud owner of a mobile phone, you just need a SIM-only deal (no handset included). These are usually 12-month (sometimes cheaper) or rolling 30-day contracts. They offer fixed amounts of data, minutes and texts to be used in a month. The more data you use, the more expensive it gets.

5. Work out how much data you really need. If you spend a lot of time near your home, office or school wifi, you might need just 1GB or 2GB a month, not 20GB.

6. Loyalty sometimes pays. Check out if the network can offer you any discounts to stay. It’s also less hassle. If you want to keep the same number at a new network, you’ll need to get a PAC code from the old network and transfer it across. This can take a few days during which you’ll have to use a temporary number.

7. If you can’t get a decent price from your existing network, shop around. The easiest way is via a comparison website such as Go Compare or MoneySuperMarket*.

8. Look out for family discounts. You might get up to 15% off your partner’s or kids’ phones if you add them to the same deal. Some networks throw in deals on broadband while others offer gift vouchers or other perks.

9. Make sure you have a cap on your data usage in place to stop unexpected bills. Many networks also offer a safety buffer between the cap and your monthly allowances. You’ll have to pay for it if you breach it but it’s useful in an emergency. Being able to roll over unused data from one month to the next is handy too.

10. Networks reserve the right to raise their prices in line with inflation during the term of your contract. What you end up paying might be (a bit) higher than what you first signed up to so factor that in at the start. Keep an eye on your bills and be prepared to keep moving contracts.


More stuff:

  • Which? has advice on which mobile phone to buy here.
  • See our SMM guide to mobile phone insurance. 
  • MoneySavingExpert has many more saving tips for mobiles here


Last updated 25 September 2018.