What is a SIM Only Contract?
A SIM only is a pay monthly contract that comes without a handset. They are usually sold with a 12 month or 1 month minimum term. They are great if you already have a phone and don’t need to get another one or are planning to buy a phone outright.
There are many benefits to owning a SIM Only contract
- Keep your number: Take your same network with you when you switch to a SIM Only plan on the same or different network. Or you can even get a new number if you want
- Short term contracts: Sign up to a 1 month contract for all the flexibility you want or sign up to a 12 month contract to save even more money. These 1/12 month contracts are cheaper and shorter than a long 24 month contract.
- Tailored to you: Buy a tariff that suits you and provides you with what you need. On some networks a 24 month contract requires you to take unlimited minutes and texts. With a SIM Only you can choose whether you want 100 minutes or 1000 minutes.
- No need to top up: A SIM Only rolls over every month meaning you don’t need to do anything for your allowance to refresh. On traditional pay as you go it can be a hassle remembering to top up or selecting the right package each month.
- 4G Is now even cheaper: 4G tariffs start from as little as £7 a month.
Where can I buy a SIM Only contract?
Right here. By clicking on the SIM Only page at the top you can see which networks offer the best SIM Only contracts. Three, EE, O2 and Vodafone are the four big networks in the UK. Networks like Giff Gaff or Tesco Mobile are known as Mobile Virtual Network Operators and use one of the big four as their main network. In this case both Tesco and Giff Gaff use the O2 network for their services. So this means that coverage will be identical to each other.
How long is the contract?
SIM only contracts are usually either 1 month long or 12 months long. The 1 month contract will role over every month and provides you with the flexibility to cancel by giving 30 days notice to the operator. Whilst these contracts are flexible they can be more expensive than their 12 month counterpart. 12 Month contracts require you to commit to a minimum term of 12 months, these deals are usually cheaper but you lose the flexibility of being able to cancel for free whenever you want. If you do choose to cancel whilst in the middle of a 12 month contract an early termination fee will be charged.
What size SIM card will I need?
There are 3 different types of SIM cards in use.
- Nano SIM: These are the smallest SIM cards and are used in phones such as the iPhone 5/5S/6, the HTC One and the Nokia Lumia 1020
- Micro SIM: These are the second smallest SIM cards and are seen in a huge number of phones such as the Samsung Galaxy S5 or Moto G
- Standard SIM: These are the bigger SIM cards that work in older phones or low end handsets such as the Samsung Galaxy Ace
You can check in the manual which SIM card your phone takes.
Will the SIM card work in my phone?
Before you can put a SIM card in your phone you need to check two things. The first thing you need to check is whether the SIM card you’re buying is the right size for your phone. The second thing you need to check is whether your phone is unlocked to support any SIM card.
When you buy a phone from a network chances are that it’ll be locked to that network and only SIM cards from that network will work in that phone. If you bought your phone from the manufacturer direct or somewhere that sold it to you as unlocked then your phone will support any network SIM card. If your phone is locked then you will need to contact you’re network to unlock the phone for use on a different network. Some networks will charge for this service. Alternatively you can get the phone unlocked from a third party.
Can I keep my number?
Yes. This is very simple. To transfer your number you need to ring up your old network and ask for a PAC. A PAC (Port Authorisation Code) is a combination of letters and numbers which you can give to your new network to authorise the transfer of your number onto the new network SIM card. The PAC is valid for 30 days so make sure you transfer your number during this time. If the PAC expires then you can just request another one from your old network. When the PAC is given to your new network it will take between 24-48 hours for the number to transfer over. When your old SIM stops working, your old contract is cancelled, your new contract SIM should now have your phone number and you’ll be able to use it like normal.
Can I get a new number?
Yes, You can get a new number as well. A new number will be given by the new network when you order the SIM card. In this case just pop the SIM card in the phone and the new number will start working straight away.
How do I cancel my old plan?
It’s simple. If you want to keep your number then ring up your old network and ask them for a PAC. They should issue this to you within 2 hours and once this PAC is used with the new network your old contract will be cancelled. You will receive a final bill for usage in your last month.
If you don’t want to keep your number then you will need to give 30 days notice to your old network. This can be done by ringing their customer service number and asking to cancel the contract by giving 30 days notice. After 30 days your SIM card and contract will stop working and you’ll receive a final bill for the last 30 days usage.
How much money will I save?
That depends. Lets look at some scenario’s:
Scenario 1: You are on a 24 month contract paying £35 per month for a Samsung Galaxy S3, 600 Minutes, Unlimited texts and 2GB of data. At the end of the contract you can keep your phone and switch to a SIM Only deal on Three which will give you 600 Minutes, Unlimited texts and 4GB of data for £15 per month. This saves you £20 a month and you get more data and more perks compared to your old contract.
Scenario 2: You want to buy the new iPhone 6 which will cost you £40 a month on a 24 month contract. This works out at £960 over 24 months. Alternatively you can buy the phone for £519 and get a SIM Only for £15 a month with the same allowances that the 24 month contract gives you. This option would theoretically cost £879 over the same time period. You’re saving over £80 and you’re getting a cheaper monthly fee and flexible contract that will allow you to cancel earlier if need be.
How do I know if a network will work in my area?
On the SIM Only page you will find a button that says “coverage” underneath the deal table for each network. By clicking on this button you will go to the networks coverage checker that allows you to type in your postcode. When you type in your postcode you will be able to see on the map what type of coverage you have in your area and whether it will be good for you. However, it’s worth noting that a coverage map is only a guide and may not always be accurate. It’s always better to ask friends and family on that network how it works for them in your area and if you can it’s best to try the network for yourself first, either through a pay as you go SIM or one month contract to determine if the signal is good for you.
How do I get cashback?
On the SIM Only page there are two buttons that say “TCB” and “Quidco” under each network’s tariff table. TCB stands for TopCashBack and they are a cashback website. Quidco is also a cashback website. In the tariff table there is a heading that says “Maximum cashback”. By looking under this heading you can see how much cashback each deal has and then once you have decided which tariff is best, you can click the TCB or Quidco page to go to the their website. When on the website you’ll need to click on the deal you want to buy and then you’ll be taken to the networks website where you can sign up as normal to take out the deal.
Cashback is usually paid back after ~3 months. It’s worth mentioning that cashback is not 100% reliable and should never be expected each time. There is a really only a ~97% chance that you will actually get paid as sometimes the tracking system may not work.
What do I actually get on a SIM Only plan?
On a SIM Only plan you will get minutes to UK landlines and mobiles. This usually consists of 01,02,03 and 07 numbers. Usually 08,070 and 09 numbers are excluded and chargeable. On some networks 08 numbers may be free but make sure you check this first.
You will also get texts to any UK numbers. 1 text message usually consists of 160 characters. Picture messages (MMS) are usually chargeable and not included in the text allowance.
You will also get a data allowance. This is usually displayed in MB or GB or may even be unlimited. If you exceed this data allowance you may be charged so make sure you buy the right allowance for you.
International calls and texts are not normally included in the allowance. Nor is international roaming. You may be able to buy packages that allow you to do this. Three for example allow you to roam for free in 16 countries worldwide.
Please check the details with your network first. You can do this by clicking the “T&C’s” button underneath the tariff tables on the SIM only page.
Are there any hidden costs?
Calls to 08/070 and 09 may be chargeable. MMS messages are usually chargeable. On some networks calls to voicemail or customer services may also be chargeable. EE and O2 also increase the price of their contracts every 12 months by RPI. This usually happens in March so you can expect to see your price plan increase by a small amount in March 2016. International numbers and roaming is usually very expensive too. You can normally buy a bundle from your network to save on these costs.
What does Unlimited mean?
A number of networks advertise “Unlimited” Minutes/texts and data. Usually there is a fair use policy attached to this term. If there is then I will have mentioned it in the network notes on the SIM Only page.
One example is how Virgin Media claim “Unlimited data” on their £18 SIM Only tariff. There is actually a fair use policy of 3.5GB which is lower than data packages from other networks who offer 5GB+.
Will it require a credit check?
Yes, All SIM Only plans will require a credit check.
Can I get a discount / cheaper deal?
Maybe. If you’re an existing customer on a network and are planning to upgrade or take out a second line then you can ring through to the cancellation department and try to negotiate a better deal.
If you’re a new customer then getting a discount won’t be as easy. Here are a few options for you:
Vodafone - Potential 10% or 20% discount if you work for certain companies Tesco Mobile - Bonuses if you have more than one contract Virgin Mobile - 15% discount for students