Mobile deals with free gifts – everything you need to know
By Dan Howdle | Thursday, June 20th 2019
In this guide
So, you're thinking of getting a new mobile deal with a contract handset, and you'd like a little something extra thrown in? Then you'll be wanting a mobile deal with a free gift. From time to time providers add in a free item – usually something techy – in order to entice customers into the deal.
As far as you're concerned, that just means getting something for nothing. But what sort of free gift are you likely to get? And are there any catches or pitfalls? After all, you can't get something for nothing. Or can you?
What are mobile deals with free gifts?
A free gift offer on a mobile deal is a regular contact phone deal, usually lasting two or three years, which provides you with an additional gift, which you will receive at commencement of your contract.
Be wary, though. If the gift is direct from your provider, you may be asked to tie yourself into the contract for longer in exchange. If the gift is through a third-party retailer, then you may find yourself paying more. In either case, rarely are gifts ever truly free. Here are the two types of free gift in a little more detail.
- First-party gifts – The term refers to the provider itself – the first party. Generally, first-party free gift deals are the least shadowy. What you see is what you get, though you should always look to see if anything is different between the deal with the free gift and the same deal without it. Sometimes you will find a longer contract. Sometimes a smaller data allowance. Sometimes the gift will be truly free. Either way it is worth knowing so you can make an informed choice about whether the free gift is worth it
- Third-party gifts – Are gifts offered not by the provider, but by retailer. These are rarely truly free, with most retailers displaying higher prices for the deals with gifts than the same deal without them. One example we noted during our research was from a retailer offering a 'free' Amazon Fire 7 tablet. The deals with the tablet worked out £200 more expensive across the length of the contract. You can buy a Fire 7 for £49.99. Not only is it not free, then – you will be paying four times as much for it. Just watch out
What free gifts can I get?
With the warnings out of the way, it's time to get an idea of the sort of free gifts you're likely to be able to get. Generally speaking, the more generous the gift appears, the more time you should take to check that what you're getting is truly free.
From time to time something unusual crops up, but generally speaking you'll be offered one of the following.
- Games consoles – Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4 or PlayStation 4 Pro, Xbox One S or Xbox One X. Right now a free console will usually mean one of these machines
- Headphones, smart speakers and other audio – Anything from Apple AirPods to a Sonos smart speaker, or a posh set of over ear headphones, you'll find audio tech offered quite commonly as a free gift
- Laptops and computers – Self-explanatory really. Budget laptops are quite popular as free gifts, just don't expect the latest and greatest models
- Televisions – Sometimes providers will offer a new TV with your mobile deal. Like the laptops, don't expect anything top end, or in the case of TVs anything with a huge screen. A 32 inch budget set is your baseline here, anything else on top is a bonus. It's usually something that'll serve well in a bedroom or kitchen
- Smart watches – Watches that can run apps and connect to your phone, measure fitness and other functions. Popular models include Fitbit, Apple Watch and Samsung Galaxy Watch
- Gift vouchers – And finally, sometimes providers just want to bribe you with a little cashback. Most often your vouchers will be tied to a particular retailer – Amazon, for example
How do free gifts with mobile deals work?
So how do you get a hold of one of these gifts? Well, it varies, but generally speaking you'll need to follow the following steps. Pay attention, though, because it's rarely as easy as just getting the deal and waiting for your free gift.
- Choose a phone – The obvious one. Hopefully you already have your heart set on a particular handset or at the very least a particular brand. Otherwise God help you, because there are literally thousands of options to choose from. Once you've selected a brand and a phone from the list at the top of this page, you can then select a provider and the type of gift you would like. Bear in mind that if the table shows no results it means the handset/provider/gift type combination you are looking for is not available
- Sign up to your chosen deal – Once you've selected the deal you want, just click through to be taken to the webpage where you can buy it
- Wait – Once you are up and running with your new contract handset, you will usually have to wait till the cooling off/cancellation period expires before you receive your gift. This is usually 14 days, though some providers will make you wait longer. A 30-day wait is quite common
- Claim it! – Many free gift, voucher and/or cashback offers will not automatically arrive in your bank account or at your doorstep. You will need to remember to go and manually claim your freebie. The reason providers do this is it saves them money – a lot of people simply forget to claim. Don't be one of them
Which providers offer free gifts?
Many providers offer free gifts or vouchers/cashback, though they do not do this year-round. Instead they tend to offer them at specific times of year. Luckily for you, the tools on this page will show you who has what offer on at any give time.
This is where you will get the deal direct from the provider, and as such the free gift or voucher will also come directly from them.
- BT Mobile – You'll often find cashback vouchers in the shape of a BT Reward card as the main freebie offered here. It's a pre-loaded Mastercard, so you can spend it anywhere
- EE – At the time of writing, EE had several small cashback offers on some of its Samsung phones. It is less common to find this sort of thing on EE than it is with some other providers
- giffgaff – Tends to pitch itself at offering the lowest possible price. As such it rarely, if ever, offers free gifts on its contract phones
- iD Mobile – Is the in-house brand for the Carphone Warehouse. As such, what with it being a third-party retailer, there is pretty much always some free gifts to be had. At the time of writing we saw vouchers, smart watches and more
- O2 – Will occasionally offer cashback on some phones. As with all these providers, it's worth checking out what's available on the day
- Tesco Mobile – We've not seen any gift or voucher offers from Tesco Mobile. Its special offers currently revolve around additional data allowance. Never say never of course, but if you're after free gifts, Tesco is probably not the place to go look
- Three – Occasionally offers cashback or vouchers. Also allows you to bundle in various bluetooth headphones, usually the matching brand to the phone, though you will pay extra for that, so it's not really 'free'
- Sky Mobile – Had a couple of different offers on at the time of writing. Some small cashback vouchers and free accessories with some phones. As with the rest, you'll need to check what's available on the day
- Virgin Mobile – Had a few small cashback offers on at the time of writing. Like Three there were also various ways to bundle your phone with accessories or even with a tablet computer. These bundles cannot be classed as 'free' however – they're just a better-value way you can get a hold of both items
- Vodafone – There were no free gift offers available directly from Vodafone at the time of writing. Its special offers revolve largely around bonus data
These are either high street retail outlets (E.G. Carphone Warehouse) which stock phone deals from all sorts of providers, or purely online comparison sites such as Mobiles.co.uk.
- The Carphone Warehouse – We're pretty sure you're familiar with this high street retailer. It's everywhere, but just in case, it has over a thousand stores in the UK, its own in-house provider brand – iD Mobile – and a penchant for special offers and deals
- Mobiles.co.uk – Is the longest running mobile comparison site in the UK – some 19 years now. It offers a wealth of 'free' gifts on many of its deals. However, as it is a third-party gift supplier, you should check the price with and without the gift, as well as the value of the gift before making a decision
- Buymobiles.net – Is another online mobile retailer. See information about Mobiles.co.uk (above) as this equally applies here
- e2save – Similarly, e2save offers third-party gifts with the mobile deals it offers, so make sure you double check the price with and without the free gift included to ensure it is truly free
Some providers out there that you may stumble across don't offer handsets at all – only SIMs. As such it is rare to find free gifts. They are: ASDA Mobile, Plusnet Mobile and SMARTY.
Frequently asked questions
How will I receive my free gift?
Usually you will have to claim it sometime after the cooling off period. This is normally 14 days, though some provider will insist you wait 30 days before claiming your gift. Don't forget to claim it, though. That is what they want.
Which phone should I choose?
The best phone your budget will allow! Read some online reviews if you have no idea, but generally speaking the latest flagship phones from Apple and Samsung are the best, if you can afford one.
Are there any catches with free gifts?
Yes. Depending on whether your free gift is from a first-party provider (directly from O2, Vodafone etc.) or whether they are from a third-party retailer (for example Carphone Warehouse) the 'free' gift may not be free. First party gifts do tend to be free, where third-party gifts will often bring with them a higher monthly rate – so not free at all then.
You will also have to remember to claim your gift, as they are rarely ever sent out automatically. Often the claim date is 30 days or more from the start of your contract, meaning a lot of people are going to forget.
When will I receive my free gift?
Usually you will need to claim it either 14 or 30 days after the start of your contract.
Are there any hidden or extra costs?
Sometimes. Especially with third-party gifts you will sometimes find the price of the gift (and sometimes multiples of the price of the gift) worked into the lifetime cost of your contract. Just be wary and carefully check the price with and without the gift to be sure.