Short or no contract SIM-only deals explained
In this guide
- What is a no contract SIM deal?
- Why choose a no contract SIM deal?
- What providers offer no contract SIM deals?
- Frequently asked questions
SIM-only contracts come with many of the benefits of a pay monthly phone contract and are ideal if you’re happy to stick with your existing phone or if you’ve seen a great deal to buy a new handset outright.
The downside of SIM-only contracts, for some people, is that many of them last 12 months. And there’s plenty of people either unwilling to commit to a provider for that length of time or concerned about the credit check that often comes with signing up to a lengthy contract. That’s where short or no contract SIM deals come in, so let’s have a look at exactly what we’re talking about here.
What is a short or no contract SIM deal?
A short or no contract SIM deal is, put simply, one that doesn’t tie you in for too long. Most of the plans we’re talking about only ask you to commit for 30 days at a time and for the most part we're treating these as separate from pay as you go SIM deals, although there is quite a bit of overlap with these definitions.
The majority of them are paid for directly using a credit or debit card, while others require you to top-up a pay as you go account and use that balance to buy a bundle. Whichever way you pay, the effect is the same – all short or no contract SIM deals include an allowance of data, minutes and texts (except data-only deals, which we'll get onto shortly).
30-day SIM deals
30-day SIM deals make up the vast majority of the deals on this page. Some providers, such as SMARTY, iD Mobile and ASDA Mobile, only offer 30-day deals while for others, 12 months is the norm but there are options for 30-day or 24-month contracts if you want them.
As well as standard SIM deals, which include data, texts and calls, some providers also offer data-only SIMs that are ideal for tablets. You still get to roam abroad within the EU at no extra cost, as the data you’re using on a tablet is exactly the same as when you use your mobile phone.
Why choose a short or no contract SIM deal?
- Flexibility – Only committing to 30 days or a month (yes, these are pretty much the same thing) means there is no obligation to stick with the same plan, or even the same provider, every month. Although you’ll need to make sure your phone is unlocked if you’re going to switch between providers.
- Value – A 30-day SIM deal or pay as you go bundle will generally give you more data for your money than standard pay as you go rates, although if it’s value for money you’re after, you’d probably do even better with a 12-month SIM only or a pay monthly mobile deal.
- Benefits – Most short or no contract SIM deals include all the benefits that customers on longer contracts enjoy. These vary from provider to provider, but can include data rollover, bill capping and membership of loyalty schemes.
- Roaming – All short or no contract plans include roaming in the EU at no extra cost. It’s the same for longer-term contracts, to be fair, but still a benefit worth mentioning. The actual number of destinations in which you can ‘roam like at home’ varies across providers, but always covers at least the EU bloc.
- Simplicity – Without those tricky decisions over contract length and handset choice to make, choosing a short or no contract SIM deal is actually pretty simple – a matter of weighing up how much data you need and how much you’re willing to spend.
- No credit check – There are 30-day SIM deals available without a credit check from giffgaff and SMARTY. And other providers are likely to at least run a less stringent check than they would for a pay monthly mobile or 12-month SIM deal. Our dedicated page has much more information on SIM deals with no credit checks.
What providers offer short or no contract SIM deals?
- Asda Mobile – ASDA Mobile’s 30-day plans are really pay as you go bundles. You top up your account and then use that credit to buy a bundle of data, texts and minutes, and you can text ASDA to turn it into a recurring bundle. ASDA Mobile uses the EE network.
- iD Mobile – All of iD Mobile’s SIM deals last 30 days and include data rollover, bill capping and unlimited texts. It uses the Three network to deliver its services.
- giffgaff – giffgaff’s SIM plans are called Goodybags and all last 30 days. The provider, which runs on the O2 network, also offers unlocked mobile phones.
- SMARTY – SMARTY, which uses the Three network, only offers one-month plans and they all offer a discount at the end of the month for any data you haven’t used. Additional data is charged at the same per GB rate.
- Tesco Mobile – Tesco Mobile, which runs on the O2 network, has a range of no contract SIM deals it calls Rocket Packs. You top up your account then text Tesco Mobile to add the month-long bundle of your choice.
- Plusnet – Plusnet, best known for its broadband deals and award-winning customer service, also has a range of 30-day SIM deals. Plusnet Mobile runs on the EE network.
- EE – EE has a range of 30-day SIM deals but they are among the most expensive around and don’t come with the same benefits as EE’s pay monthly phone deals.
- Vodafone – Vodafone’s Essential and Red Extra plans are available on 30-day contracts, but its Red Entertainment plans, which include a streaming subscription, are not.
- Three – Three has a handful of mostly big-data and unlimited data SIM deals available on 30-day contracts. Most include Go Binge, which gives you data-free use of apps including Netflix and Apple Music.
- O2 – O2’s 30-day SIM plans aren’t cheap but do include membership of O2 Priority, the provider’s rewards scheme, and free access to O2's wifi hotspots.
Frequently asked questions
What SIM card do I need?
It’ll be one of three sizes of SIM cards that you need – standard, micro or nano. Short or no contract SIM only deals come with either a choice of these three SIMs (check your phone to see which one you need) or a multi-SIM that includes all three.
How much data do I need?
Your mobile provider will be able to tell you how much data you’ve used in the past month – and many providers now have apps that allow you to keep an eye on your usage. It’s good to know your usage so you don’t end up spending too much, but the beauty of a short or no contract SIM deal is that you’re not tied in if you do over or under-estimate how much you need.
How can I tell if my phone is unlocked?
If you bought your phone outright from a tech retailer, direct from the manufacturer or got it from giffgaff then it should already be unlocked. If you got it on a pay monthly mobile deal from any other provider, the chances are it’s locked to that provider.
If you’re not sure, swap out your SIM card for another that uses a different network (borrow one from a friend if you don’t have a spare) and see if you get a signal. If you do, your phone is unlocked, if not then you’ll need to get it unlocked before you can switch. Your provider will do this for you, but may charge. There's more information in our guide to unlocking your phone.
Can I keep my number when I switch?
In most cases yes, your new provider will be happy to let you keep your old number. You’ll need to request a PAC code from your old provider then let your new provider know what it is, and follow any instructions they may give you from there. Once that’s done, it should only take a couple of days for your number to transfer across.
Are SIM deals cheaper than phone contracts?
SIM deals obviously cost less than phone contracts as there is no handset involved. Once you factor in the price of buying a handset outright, then pay monthly phone deals tend to be pretty good value for money, if not always cheaper than the alternative.
Which the best mobile provider?
That's something that can change quite quickly based on a number of different factors, but you can read our considered opinion in our guide.
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