Best SIM-only deals, contracts and plans
Compare the cheapest and best SIM-only deals from the leading networks including BT, Virgin Media, Vodafone, EE, O2, Three and many more. Use our comparison to compare prices, contracts, minutes, texts and data usage.
Buyers guide to the best SIM-only deals
How do I compare different SIM-only plans?
If you’re happy with your current handset but want a better value tariff, a SIM only deal could provide the ideal solution. You’ll sign up to a new contract but instead of being supplied with a new phone, you just get a new SIM card instead with a bundle of minutes, texts and internet data.
Our comparison table above makes it easy to choose the right one for your circumstances and allows you to reorder the deals by contract length, monthly cost or the amount of inclusive calls, texts or internet allowance.
When looking for a new mobile deal, it’s important to compare the signal strength of different networks to avoid signing up to a contract, only to find it tricky to make a call or send a text in your area. Each provider has a coverage checker on their respective websites, where you can enter your postcode and see the level of 2G, 3G and 4G coverage.
As you may know, 4G is the fastest mobile signal widely available, delivering mobile broadband at a faster speed than ever before. Coverage is patchy for those providers that have 4G signal, which makes it even more important to check your area first before signing up to a contract.
Check the detail
As is always the case with signing up to a new service, the devil is in the detail so it’s important to read through the small print to avoid being caught out. Key issues to look out for include penalties if you exceed your allowance or want to cancel your contract, and the rates for calls, texts and data usage outside of the plan.
Look out for any fair usage and traffic management policies as they can put limitations on some seemingly unlimited plans, and if you want to use your handset for tethering, check which providers permit it as not all of them do. Finally, if you initially took your phone out on a pay monthly contract, the handset may be tied to the network and might need to be unlocked before it will accept a new SIM card from a rival provider.
Why choose a SIM-only deal?
If you’re happy with your existing handset, it makes sense to hold onto it and just get a new SIM plan rather than forking out for a brand new phone and contract, and here’s why.
The cheapest SIM-only deals start from just £5 per month and are great for light talkers, whereas medium to heavy users can get their hands on plenty of minutes, texts and data from £7 to £15 per month. Value for money varies widely throughout the market however, and while many are generous and affordable, others aren’t so competitive, so it pays to thoroughly compare using the table above.
With a choice of flexible contract lengths
Different contract lengths are one of the main draws of SIM-only deals. If you’re after flexibility, you’ll like the option of one-month rolling contracts that can be cancelled at any time if you no longer need the plan or fancy switching to a different one. In fact, many tariffs are available on both short- and long-term contracts, and rates are often cheaper if you can commit for longer.
Pros & cons
- Wide range of affordable options from £5 per month
- Choice of short and long term contracts
- Standard, micro and nano SIM sizes available for all devices
- No shiny new handset
- Your existing phone may need to be unlocked
- No guarantee that you can take your number
Which package is right for me?
SIM-only deals are pretty straightforward so it’s simple to compare and find the best one for you. Here are four pointers to keep in mind when looking at the different plans.
Consider how much you like to talk and text
SIM-only plans include prepaid bundles of minutes and texts so it’s important to pick the right amount for your level of usage to avoid paying for more than you need or incurring extra charges if you bust your allowance. Look at your previous phone bills and work out your average monthly usage. If your phone is never out of your hand, consider a SIM deal with unlimited calls and texts.
And how much you time you spend online
Mobile broadband through 3G and 4G makes the internet more accessible than ever and enables us to do everything from emailing friends and shopping, to downloading songs and watching catch up TV, wherever we are. Consider which activities you like to do and how often, and pick a data limit to match. Remember to look out for tethering policies if you want to use your SIM-only plan to get other devices online as well.
Plus whether you want a short- or long-term contract
The flexible one-month rolling contracts offered by many SIM-only providers are very handy, particularly if you want to try out a new provider or sample 4G without committing long term. They are also useful if you think you might like a new phone soon, but are happy to stick with your current one to save money in the short term. However, one-month plans are generally priced a little higher than longer contracts, so factor this in when comparing deals.
And which provider offers the best network coverage in your area
As we’ve already mentioned, it’s crucial to check coverage in your area before signing up with a new mobile provider. It’s easy to do as each provider has a tool on their website where you’ll just need to enter your postcode to see the level of 2G, 3G and 4G coverage, both indoors and outdoors. In addition to your home address, check the local area and anywhere you travel regularly for business or pleasure.
What will I need?
An existing handset
The name is pretty self-explanatory in that SIM-only deals just include the SIM and corresponding bundle only, so you’ll need to provide your own handset. This can be an old phone from a previous contract, a second-hand model you’ve inherited or bought, or a newbie you’ve purchased outright. Remember that with the exception of brand new phones, your handset may be locked to the previous provider and may need unlocking if you’re switching to a different one.
Port Authorisation Code (PAC)
If you’re dealing with your primary mobile, the chances are that you probably want to keep your number. This is easily done if you’re sticking with the same provider but if you're switching, you’ll need to ask them for your PAC code and give it the new provider within 30 days. It’s likely you’ll be able to keep your number without hitch, but providers don’t guarantee it.
Six essential questions before you buy
- Which providers offer good coverage in my area?
- What size SIM does my device take?
- What level of texts, calls and internet data allowance do I need?
- Do I want a short- or long-term contract?
- Do I want to use my SIM-only plan for tethering?
- Do I need to get my phone unlocked?
So there you have it, all you need to know about SIM-only deals and how to find the right one for you. Once you’ve jotted down the answers to the six questions above, you can narrow down your options and pick the right plan for your budget, handset type and level of usage.