Compare SIM Only
What should you bear in mind?Knowing how much data you really need for your Android, iPhone or other device may only become apparent once you’ve signed up. There are many times when you use data on your phone without even realising it - exceeding your data limit will incur significant charges. By over-estimating your usage, you can safely avoid being charged if you go over your allowance. When choosing your data package, consider the following:
- Do you send and receive a lot of emails? How much time do you spend browsing the Internet or reading news? Downloading images from email or web pages can use up a fair chunk of your allowance. Depending on the size and quality of the picture, this could range from a few kilobytes to over 10MB that could eat away at your data allowance.
- Do you use video services such as BBC iPlayer, YouTube and other video streaming apps? Doing so can eat up 100MB - 2GB of data in one hour. This will depend on things like video quality, which can vary from site to site. HD quality video uses more due to larger files.
- Do you use social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook often? Do you Skype? Voice calls over the Internet are data intensive and can use up to 75MB for a 50 minute call.
- Do you use any music streaming services? Depending on the quality and length of the song, you could be looking at 3 - 6MB per song on average.
Why choose unlimited data?Using the Internet on your mobile plan without an Internet data plan could cost you a lot because usage is charged per MB downloaded. Having unlimited Internet data can therefore be cost-efficient, handy and entertaining. It lets you access your emails from your mobile phone with no cap on downloading the full email or attachments. If you have a compatible phone, you can also stream video and watch clips from sites like You Tube. You can surf the Internet wherever you are and get the latest business and sports news and gossip. While some networks provide unlimited plans, they may also have a fair use policy so that customers don’t abuse their network.
SIM Only Contracts' top tip:
For great value for money and super fast speeds for your Smartphone, you can’t beat Three Mobile. As well as being the most popular network for Smartphones, they’re fast becoming one of the UK’s best networks. They have several SIM Only plans with unlimited Internet from just £17 p/mth. Both iD Mobile and giffgaff provide great options for unlimited Internet and for just £12 a month you can get unlimited minutes, texts and 1GB data.
4G Internet will deliver your data at up to 10 times faster than 3G. This will vary depending on your location and the network that you choose. At the moment 4G SIM only deals are essentially premium tariffs on most networks and start from £14 a month. However, networks like Three include 4G within all their plans. Most of the cheap 4G SIM only plans are packaged with very little data so you'd be better off spending a bit more for a plan that comes with at least 2GB. Obviously, the best experience of 4G is for activities such as streaming video and so an unlimited data plan is ideal. Read our guide for more information on 4G.
Tethering allows you to use the Internet on your phone for one of you other devices like a laptop or tablet. Not all networks allow you tether so it's best to check which ones do if this is important to you. For more information on this see our Guide to Tethering.
What is a SIM Only contract?
A SIM card that saves you money! You get a Free SIM attached to a contract with minutes, texts and/or data but no mobile phone.
Where can I buy a monthly SIM-only?
You can order your SIM only from any of the mobile phone providers (e.g. Vodafone, EE, O2 etc) or participating re-sellers such as Carphone Warehouse. This can be done online, in-store or over the phone if you choose. However, if you buy online you can take advantage of Internet exclusive offers. At SIMOnlyContracts.co.uk we compare over 180 SIM Only deals and direct you to where you can buy online.
What if I don't want a contract?
If you don't want to be tied down by a contract, you can get a PAYG SIM card instead and top-up when you need to. Giffgaff offer a free SIM card with changeable bundles or "goodybags" on a monthly basis and we recommend them as an alternative to contracts.
What are the best SIM Only contracts?
The best SIM Only will depend entirely on your allowance requirements and your budget. There is something for everyone, whatever type of user you are. When deciding what’s best for you, look at the whole package that a network offers and think about any extras that they offer such as O2's Priority Tickets & Offers, network reliability and customer service, etc.
What are the lengths available?
Available on mainly 1-month and 12-month contracts, the most popular length of contract is 12-months because of the extra value that they offer. The 1-month contracts offer better flexibility and are a better option if you will need to cancel or upgrade or phone. 3,6, and 18-month contracts are available sometimes but not that often.
What do I need to get a SIM Only contract?
Unlocked/ Compatible Phone - To get a SIM contract you will either need to have a phone that is compatible with the network that you are going to join or it should be ‘unlocked’ so that you can insert any SIM card from any network provider. For more information on unlocking your mobile you can consult our guide. Proof of Identity – You will need to have your credit/debit card ready to purchase online and if you purchase in-store you will need to have either of those plus paper documents for proof of address (e.g. utility bill or bank statement) and ID for proof of signature (e.g. driving licence or Passport).
How old do you need to be to get a SIM contract?
You must be 18 years old or over to be eligible for a contract whether it is a SIM or a mobile phone contract. You can however, elect an adult such as your parent to make the purchase for you.
Can I get a SIM Only with data-only?
Yes, there are SIM cards that are data-only. Currently these are only offered by Three Mobile. If you are looking for a data SIM for a tablet device then you will find these under the mobile broadband category of many of the top networks or you can search for Data Only SIMs under the Plan Type filter option.
How much can I save with a SIM-only deal?
This will depend on how much you are spending on your mobile phone bill at the moment and also whether you buy a new phone or use your existing one. To workout your savings check out our special calculator that does the hard work for you!
What is better? A contract phone or SIM-only?
In most situations it’s a given that a SIM-only contract will be a better option however, this can vary depending on your situation and if there are special offers available on mobile phone contracts. Pound for pound though, SIM-only contracts offer up to three times better value than a mobile contract tariff.
- If you own a phone already and are looking for a new contract then a SIM-only contract will be the best option for you.
- If you are looking at getting a new phone entirely then we always recommend checking out what deals there are on mobile phone contracts and calculating the total cost of ownership compared to buying the handset outright and using a SIM-card with it whether it is a PAYG SIM or contract. Again, in 99% of situations it will be cheaper to get a SIM-free handset and a SIM.
- If buying a new phone then the main disadvantage will be the initial outlay of the phone, particularly if you are getting a high-end Smartphone. This needs to be considered based on your personal cash flow though it may be outweighed by the savings that can be made by opting for a cheap SIM-only.
Can I upgrade to a mobile phone contract on a SIM-only?
Yes – with most network providers you can upgrade from a SIM-only contract to a mobile phone contract providing you don’t have any outstanding bills on your contract and have met the minimum length on the term of your contract. This minimum term varies between providers and the term (1, 3, 6 or 12 months).
- Three - For-1 month contracts you can upgrade after 3 consecutive months and for 12-month contracts you can upgrade after 11 months.
- Vodafone – For-1 month contracts you can upgrade after 3 consecutive months and for 12-month contracts you can upgrade within 75 days of your contract ending.
- O2 – If you are on a 1-month contract you can upgrade after 6 consecutive months and for 12-month contracts you can upgrade after 9 months.
- Virgin – You will be eligible for an upgrade after 30 days.
Can I keep the same mobile phone number?
Yes – It’s really easy to keep your existing phone number and this also makes it easier to change networks for better value deals. For more information on porting your number over to another network consult our guide here.
How do I cancel my SIM Only plan?
If you need to cancel your current 30-day or 12-month contract then all you have to do is call your network provider and speak to a customer advisor and ask to cancel your contract. You may be transferred to a retention department who could offer you an improved deal however, if you aren’t interested simply insist on cancelling and will proceed. If you have a 12-month deal and it is yet to finish then you will need to pay the remaining amount (monthly tariff x months left of contract).
Can you use SIM Only plans abroad /international?
You can use your SIM plan when you go travelling abroad however you will be charged the international roaming rates by your network provider. Depending on which network you are with you may be able to get an add-on package that includes data-roaming or international calls. This will help lower the expensive costs of using your mobile phone abroad however there are cheaper alternatives such as getting a local SIM, using Wi-Fi hotspots, calling with Skype, etc. Always check what the costs are when using your phone abroad and turn off your data access so that you are not burdened with unexpected roaming charges when you get back home.
Can I get a SIM with International calls allowance?
Networks like Three let you use your UK SIM Only allowance abroad in over 16 countries around the world. For more information see Feel at Home Abroad.
Can I buy any phone to use with a SIM Only contract?
Yes – providing the phone you want is available to buy SIM-Free, unlocked or on PAYG then you will be able to use it with a SIM-only contract. For plans on the Three network you will need to make sure your phone is 3G compatible. All modern phones will be fine so you shouldn’t have a problem.
I bought a phone on its own, does this mean it's unlocked?
Unfortunately, buying a phone on its own doesn't always mean the phone is unlocked. It may be a pay as you go phone whereby it is still locked to the network it was intended to be used on. If that isn't your network of choice then you'll need to get the phone unlocked.
I’ve just got my SIM Only but I’m not happy – can I cancel and return it?
If you are not satisfied with your contract you can cancel and return the SIM within 7 to 14 days depending on the returns policy of the network you have chosen. After this period you will need either cancel the ASAP if it is a 30-day rolling contract or if it is a 12-month tariff then you will probably be best keeping it until the term is over.
Do SIM-only contracts require a credit check?
Yes – like with a standard mobile phone contract you will need to pass a credit check to be approved for a SIM-only.
What is a Micro SIM and a Nano SIM?
These are basically smaller versions of the standard SIM card size and are designed to fit in the latest phones. The nano SIM is the most recent SIM card size and fits in all iPhones from iPhone 5 and above as well as the latest Android phones.