There are plenty of different mobile phone contracts out there and in the past, you may have gone straight for a phone contract, where you pay monthly for your handset, minutes, texts, and data. This can be handy if you want the latest mobile technology, but can’t afford the handset outright, as a contract like this allows you to pay off the cost of the mobile over time, but at a higher cost.

But what do you do once your contract runs out? What if you want to keep your phone, or get a cheaper one? Whatever the reason for a change, a SIM-only plan is a great choice and can often end up much cheaper than phone contracts. Plus, you get a wider range of network providers available with SIM-only.

Below we look at how SIM-only works, what a SIM-free phone means, and the benefits of getting a SIM-only plan this year.


How Does SIM-Only Work?

SIM-only works just like a normal contract, except you are not paying off the cost of a mobile handset. Instead, you will already own the phone or are paying it off separately, without a network plan included. A SIM-only plan is a type of monthly contract that allows you to choose the minutes, texts, and data usage you need, by just paying for the SIM.

A SIM card is usually free, so you only need to pay monthly for the plan you have chosen. You will not receive a phone with your SIM, so you need to have one already. People who usually chose a SIM-only plan include:

  • Someone who already has a mobile and has finished paying off their contract but isn’t interested in upgrading or changing their mobile.
  • Someone who has purchased a mobile outright from a mobile phone provider or second-hand store and requires a SIM to use their phone.
  • Someone who has purchased their mobile from a friend or has been handed down an old mobile from someone else in the family who is upgrading and requires a SIM.

Bear in mind that SIM-only is not the same as Pay As You Go (PAYG), which is where you top up your SIM as and when you need it. A SIM-only deal will be paid through direct debit each month and is the same payment for a set allowance already agreed upon between you and the provider.

What Does SIM-Free Phone Mean?

When purchasing a phone, it is good to know what SIM-free means. A SIM-free phone means it will not come included with a SIM card and you will not be able to use it to make calls, text contacts, or browse the internet until you have purchased a SIM separately. Most of the time, SIM-free phones are sold through second-hand stores, like CEX.

You can purchase SIM-free phones from some mobile providers too, such as Apple. As Apple does not have a mobile network, they don’t sell SIM cards with their phones. This means you will be getting a SIM-free phone unless you buy it from a mobile network provider rather than the Apple store itself.

If you are not sure whether you are getting a SIM-free phone, it is best to clarify this before purchasing. It is super easy to get a SIM plan and you can find SIM cards in many stores. You can also purchase a SIM online, which can be delivered to your home within a few days. You can still use your mobile for browsing the internet or using WhatsApp anywhere you can connect to Wi-Fi or another mobile hotspot.

What Are the Benefits of SIM-Only?

There are tons of advantages to choosing a SIM-only plan, rather than a contract. Before you make your decision, check out these benefits:

  • SIM-only deals are usually a lot cheaper than a phone contract, as you are only paying for your data, minutes, and texts. This cuts out the cost of a new phone, especially if you don’t particularly want or need an upgrade. For those looking to reduce their monthly outgoings due to rising prices, SIM-only could save you a lot of money.
  • Not everyone is interested in having the newest and best handset. You may already have a handset that you are happy to continue using now your phone contract is finished. So, if this sounds like you, a SIM-only plan could be your best choice.
  • Many SIM-only deals are great value for money. Calls and texts are cheap, and you can choose the data allowance you want based on your monthly usage. When you first purchased a phone contract, you may have been tempted to go for the highest data plan, only to find out you never come close to hitting the amount of data you pay for. With a SIM-only plan, you can get the best value for money with the amount of data you actually need.
  • SIM-only plans are a lot more flexible, as they are on a monthly rolling contract, so can be stopped at any time. This means you could upgrade or downgrade your plan if you need more or less data.
  • If it does come to a point where you need a new mobile, all you need to do is purchase a new mobile without a SIM card and insert your SIM. Just like that, your data can be used with your new mobile, without any 18 or 24-month contracts looming over you. It can be very frustrating to be stuck in a mobile contract if your phone is lost or stolen and you don’t have insurance. This can leave you paying for a mobile you don’t even own anymore.
  • Opting for SIM-only is better for the environment. Many people get rid of mobile phones or store them in a drawer, never to be seen again, which are perfectly fine to continue using. Making the most of your mobile will reduce your carbon footprint and the amount of electrical waste in our landfills. Even if you do fancy swapping your mobile, you should consider selling it to a second-hand or refurbished phone store, as they can get it back on the market for other users.
  • You can choose your own provider, which is very important depending on where you are in the UK. You want a provider that can offer a stable and reliable mobile network. If you are in a phone contract, you are stuck with that provider for a certain length of time, which can be frustrating if their network doesn’t provide the coverage you need in your area, or you have a bad customer service experience with them.
  • There are no rigorous credit checks when getting a SIM-only deal. Your credit history may still be checked, but this will be a lot less comprehensive than if you were trying to get a phone contract. Depending on your credit history, you may even find it difficult to be accepted for a phone contract, making a SIM-only a better option for your needs.

Can I Still Keep My Phone Number?

If you do decide to go with a SIM-only deal and previously had a phone contract elsewhere, you can still keep your mobile number. Whilst there are pros and cons to keeping your mobile number, many people still choose to keep their number for ease of use. This means you don’t have to update your mobile number with your contacts, or at your GP.

When choosing a SIM-only deal just let us know that you want to keep your mobile number. You will then need to request a PAC code from your old provider, which will allow us to transfer your mobile number over. Please bear in mind this can take a few days to complete, but once completed, your mobile number can be used with your new SIM.

Is SIM-Only a Contract?

Most SIM-only deals are not contractual to the same extent that a phone contract is. Instead of being stuck in a contract for up to 36 months, most SIM-only deals are a rolling monthly contract. This means if you aren’t happy with the service, or you want a different plan, you only have to wait until the month is up to cancel.

Some cheap SIM-only deals may be on a short contract term, such as three or six months. This is usually if you are a new customer and are getting a great deal on a SIM-only plan. If you go over your data allowance, your data will usually stop. Most SIM-only providers allow you to purchase additional data if you run out, but if this is happening every month, it may be best to go for a SIM that offers more data for your money.

To Sum Up

SIM-only deals suit a wide range of needs, and there are plenty of options to choose from. There are lots of benefits to choosing a SIM-only deal too, especially if you crave more flexibility with your mobile and want to save on your monthly outgoings.

Whatever the reason, a SIM-only phone is well worth having and may be a better option than a phone contract for your needs.