IF YOU prefer to buy your phones SIM-free, second hand or refurbished, SIM-only contracts are a must-have.
Combine a cheap handset with the best SIM-only package and you can save yourself a bundle compared to getting a contract through your network.
*Prices in this article are correct at the time of writing but are subject to change. Shop around before you buy a SIM-only contract to ensure you're getting the best price.
Best SIM-only deals: Lebara
Lebara specialises in short term contracts with bundles including international minutes to 41 countries.
Most bundles include 100 international minutes as standard, with the £35pm package including unlimited international minutes.
Lebara runs on Vodafone's network.
- 2GB data, £5 a month – buy here
- Unlimited data, £35 a month – buy here
Best SIM-only deals: Smarty
Smarty runs on Three's mobile network and boasts some of the best value short term SIM-only deal you can find.
- 30Gb data, £10 a month – buy here
- 50GB data, £12 a month – buy here
- Unlimited data, £15 a month – buy here
Best SIM-only deals: Voxi
Voxi gives its users unlimited social data, which means you can use Snapchat, Instagram, and WhatsApp without eating into your data allowance.
Voxi runs on Vodafone's network.
- 12GB data, £12 a month – buy here
- 15GB, £15 a month – buy here
- 45GB, £20 a month – buy here
- Unlimited data, £35 a month – buy here
Best SIM-only deals: Three
Three has some good value long-term contracts, which get you a lot of data for your money, but without the flexibility of a short-term contract.
- Unlimited data, £17 a month – buy here
- 8GB data, £10 a month – buy here
Best SIM-only deals: Vodafone
Vodafone's SIM-only deals are packages of 4G and 5G data, minutes, and texts, many of them coming with various roaming options.
Below we've rounded up some of the best 24-month options. Some of the deals limit the maximum download speed you can get.
- Unlimited data, £33 a month, 24 months of either Now TV, Amazon Prime, Spotify, or YouTube Premium – buy here
- 60 GB data (5G), £20 a month – buy here
Best SIM-only deals: O2
O2 has competitive prices and very good 4G coverage across most parts of the UK, so getting a SIM-only contract with them will mean you'll get a good signal wherever you are.
- 10GB data + Disney+, £17 a month – buy here
- 150GB data + Disney+, £20 a month – buy here
- Unlimited data + Disney+, £35 a month – buy here
Best SIM-only deals: EE
All of EE's SIM-only deals include unlimited minutes and texts, as well as 4G and 5G options.
- 200GB data (5G) + free Beats Flex Earphones, £23 a month – buy here
- 100GB data (5G), £20 a month – buy here
Best SIM-only deals: Sky
When it comes to mobile networks, Sky Piggybank's is one of the best rollover schemes you can find. Get any unused data back into your wallet for you to use whenever you like to either top up your data or cash in for a range of rewards.
- 10GB data, £12 a month – buy here
- 15GB data, £15 a month – buy here
- 25GB, £25 a month – buy here
What are the benefits of a SIM-only contract?
The main benefit of getting a SIM-only contract is flexibility.
Instead of being locked into a two-year contract like you are with most phone providers, you can easily snap up a rolling-one month deal that's easy to walk away from (although longer contracts are available).
SIM-only deals are particularly useful if you're buying second-hand and refurbished phones; the combination between a cheap handset and a good value SIM-only contract means you can pay much less for the same package than you'll ever be offered in a store.
Which network has the best SIM-only deals?
Here's a selection of mobile phone networks which have great SIM-only deals:
- iD Mobile
- Sky Mobile
What is a SIM-only contract?
SIM-only means you're purchasing a SIM card, without a handset, which can be paired with an unlocked phone.
The SIM card carries your phone number, contacts list, and text messages, making it easy to swap to a new phone.
Can you keep your number with SIM-only deals?
If you're ending your existing contract and want to keep your number while moving onto another network's SIM-only deal you can.
You'll need to contact your existing provider and request a PAC code.
A PAC code will be used by your new network to register your number on their service.
However, if you're moving to a SIM-only deal on the same network you may have to change number.
How much data should I look for in a SIM-only deal?
To find out how much data you use each month, simply log into your account with your provider, check how much data you use each month, and buy a SIM-only plan accordingly.
Some SIM-only providers, such as Voxi, offer unlimited social media data too, which means you might get through a little less data than normal.
If you burn through data very quickly, some providers, such as Smarty, offer unlimited data packages for as little as £18 a month.
Should I get a 30-day or 12-month SIM-only contract?
You'd think companies would try and lure customers in by giving them lower prices on 12-month SIM-only contracts, but that's not necessarily the case.
After examining comparable SIM-only contracts on price comparison sites, we've noticed there's much correlation between the length of contract and lower prices.
The decision to get a short-term or a long-term SIM-only contract should be made on a case-by-case basis.
What size SIM card do I need?
There are three sizes of SIM cards available: standard, micro, and nano.
The size you'll need depends on your phone and should be made clear in your handset's instruction manual.
As a rule of thumb, iPhones tend to take nano SIMs, Samsung Galaxys take micro SIMs and standard SIM cards have been relegated from the mainstream altogether.
How do I change my SIM card?
Each phone will have a different method for changing the SIM card. Head to the brand's website to find out how to swap yours:
If you're thinking about upgrading your phone, we've rounded up the best camera phones you can buy right now.
For more top tech recommendations, check out our dedicated section at Sun Selects.
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