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What happens when my mobile contract ends?

By Dan Howdle
Monday, February 19th 2018

Your service doesn’t switch off, your phone won’t explode. No, what actually happens when your contract ends – for the large majority – is that you’ll carry on with your old provider on the same old tariff. But you can do better than that.

Instead, you could be sporting a brand new handset, taking advantage of sale prices and free gifts and still be paying less than you are now. You have two choices when your mobile contract comes to an end, each of which has its pros and cons. Let’s look at them in turn.

Option one: Switch to a new provider

Pros

  • Get a new handset
  • Free gifts and cashback
  • Cheaper
  • More data/minutes etc.

Cons

  • Coverage may change

You may very well be happy with your existing provider. You may have been with it for years, but out there in the harsh consumer wastelands there are no prizes for loyalty. It’s kill or be killed. Vodafone or EE or whoever aren’t giving out free hugs for your undying devotion. Rather, they’re waging war for your custom, and the only sure way to avoid benefitting from that is to not switch.

When you’re coming to the end of your contract, your provider is going to send you a letter, and probably a text – probably several texts – to let you know. If you’re in a pay-monthly contract with a handset tied in, part of what constitutes these notifications will be offers to upgrade your handset. There are pros and cons to that, too, which we’ll talk about in the next section.

For now, though, just remember that it is highly unlikely that your upgrade offer is going to be the best one in the market. If you want the best possible deal, you’ll need to shop around. You’ll need to take a look to see what’s out there from alternative providers. You’re pretty much guaranteed to find them offering far more tempting introductory offers.

Don’t forget to check coverage

Though the situation has improved much over the last few years, if you switch, don’t forget to us your new provider’s coverage checker before signing on the dotted line. A free set of headphones (for example) and a cheaper tariff aren’t going to be much good to you if you can’t get a reception where you live, work and visit most often.

Coverage checkers can be found on each of the providers' websites. You can click these logos to shortcut to each.

If you choose to switch, do it right

If you’ve decided to switch, congratulations. We know how tempting getting comfortable with the provider you know tends to be, but you’re mould-breaker now, a trailblazer. Before you blaze off, though, it’s a good idea to know the order of proceedings. Here’s how it goes….

  • Providing your existing contract is at an end, choose a new deal you like and sign up
  • Once you have received your new phone in the post from your new provider, set it up as normal
  • Now’s the time to call your old provider and get a PAC code. A PAC code allows you to port across your old number. Why now? Well, you already have a new deal so it’s too late for them to talk you out of it
  • They will text and/or email you the PAC code. Once you have it call your new provider and give it the code
  • It’ll take two to three days for your old number to be ported across, so it’s probably best to keep your old phone alive until then

Option two: Upgrade, downgrade or stick with the tariff you’ve got

Pros

  • Get a new handset
  • Stick with what you know
  • No possible coverage issues

Cons

  • Won’t be cheapest price
  • No free gifts/cashback

You were probably going to do this anyway, right? After all, if you’re on or near the end of your contract, your existing provider is going to be throwing deals at you left, right and centre. It’s tempting, and we certainly won’t blame you if you give in and go for one of those upgrade offers, or even just forget the whole thing and stick with what you have.

The three options you’ll have if you choose to remain with your existing provider come the end of your contract will be: Upgrade, downgrade or stick. Let’s cover each of those briefly.

Upgrade your phone with your existing provider

Your provider will love you for this. But it’s not real love. It’s love constructed by marketeers and read from a script or cloned into a pat response email thanking you for your continued custom. We’re a funny bunch us human beings. Even though most of us are aware there’s no actual relationship between ourselves and our providers, we still often stick with them out of loyalty.

Taking the upgrade option is usually driven by this desire – to please our existing provider – while at the same time still get a brand new phone. And that’s fair enough. However, as mentioned previously, beyond the small (but manageable) danger of not checking to make sure your new provider’s coverage is as good or better than your old, there is nothing to lose by switching, and quite a lot to gain.

If you’re determined to stick with your existing provider, however, just pop along to their website, log in, and there will be a tab or option somewhere to view your upgrade options.

Downgrading could save you money

At the end of your contract it might be time to as yourself: Am I using all my data, minutes and so on? Most mobile providers now offer some sort of app which will, among other things, show you how much of your data you use on a monthly basis. Because data really is the key here. Most contracts these days give you more minutes and texts than you could possibly ever use.

If you’re using a lot less data than you’re paying for then congratulations – you’ve just found a way to save a few quid every months. To downgrade you’ll usually need to phone your provider, and what’s more it’ll likely try to talk you out of it, so don’t forget to don your stubborn hat prior to picking up the phone.

If saving money is your motivation, don't forget to do to your broadband and/or TV what you are doing to your mobile contract. We can help you find a cheaper broadband deal t'boot.

Stick with what you’ve got

Given that you’re here reading a guide on what to do once your contract ends, we’re pretty sure you’re not going to just sit there and keep paying whatever you’re paying for the same service you’ve always had. If you are doing that, Godspeed, but you don’t need our advice.

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