Best SIM-Only Deals May 2022
Compare SIM-only deals with the best unlimited data plans
Want to stay within budget while choosing from the best mobile phone contracts? You should consider a SIM-only plan. As long as you’re aware of what services (calls, texts, and data) you use, it’s not difficult to find an affordable SIM which meets your needs. Read on to find the best SIM deals for you and how they differ from mobile contracts.
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What is a SIM-only deal?
A SIM-only deal is a contract between you and a mobile network providing you with a SIM and access to services like calls, texts, and data (measured in GB) in exchange for a fixed monthly payment. There is usually a monthly cost but you can make a one-off payment, depending on the type of the contract you choose. The services you will get depend on the plan you choose and whether you have a data-only SIM or a regular SIM.
How is a SIM-only deal different from a mobile phone contract?
The difference between a SIM plan and a mobile phone contract is that a SIM-only plan doesn’t include the cost of a new handset. A SIM-only deal is also a cheaper option than a mobile contract, though you need a handset that you’re happy with in order to get the most out of it. Most mobile networks, from giants like Vodafone to the likes of iD Mobile and Lebara, offer this type of phone contract - in choosing the best phone contract, you’ll need to weigh up what’s important to you.
Benefits of a SIM-only deal
Several networks offer SIM-only plans with a variety of services. In this section, we’ll take you through the benefits of this type of phone contract:
No need to change phone
Unlike pay-monthly phone contracts, SIM-only deals don’t require you to change phones. You can buy a SIM from any network, put it in your phone, and subscribe to a deal with the allowances that suit you the best.
SIM plans require you to pay for the services offered without having to pay for a handset, which is cheaper than including a mobile phone. Some of the best unlimited data plans are SIM-only, because adding a brand new mobile phone to this type of deal can be expensive.
Everyone has their own preferences when it comes to usage. Some are looking for better call packages and need unlimited minutes, while an increasing number of people are only interested in data allowance. No matter what your habits are, there’s a plan to suit your needs.
How do I switch from a phone contract to a SIM-only plan?
If you’re happy with your current handset and have paid it off, you’re free to switch to a deal on a cheap SIM card to save money. Your SIM-only deal can be offered by your current provider or a new network.
Some networks, like Vodafone, BT Mobile, Tesco Mobile and O2, lock their handsets. This means you can’t just switch to a SIM card from a different network. However, if you give your network a call, you can quickly get your phone unlocked. The customer service agent will ask for your phone’s IMEI number and unlock your phone for free. If you haven’t paid off your handset and you’re still in contract, your network will likely charge you what’s left to pay on your deal.
Switching to a SIM-only deal on any network in an unlocked phone is easy. All you need is to decide which SIM plan is best for you, put the SIM card in your phone, and start using it!
How do I upgrade to a better SIM-only deal?
If you think the deal you’re currently on isn’t right for you, or you’re looking to upgrade from 4G data to 5G data, you can switch to another that’s more suited to your needs regardless of whether it’s on the same or a different network.
Switching on the same network
If you’re on a pay-as-you-go (PAYG) deal, switching to a different arrangement is easy. All you have to do is sign up for the new deal and put your new PAYG SIM in your handset. However, if you’re in a SIM-only contract on the same network and want to upgrade to a better contract, you will either have to start a new contract (probably with an upfront cost and a higher monthly cost) or upgrade the same contract without creating a new one. Bear in mind, however, that ending any plan early can be expensive unless you’re on a month-to-month contract.
Switching to a different network
To switch to another network, you must first ensure your handset isn’t locked. One way of doing this is by borrowing a SIM card from a friend on another network and inserting it. You could also get a free PAYG SIM to see if it works on your device. If it works, your phone isn’t locked, and you can insert a new SIM from any network. If your phone is locked, you’ll need to unlock it first by giving your network a call.
What is the right SIM-only deal for me?
To find the right SIM-only deal for you, compare a few options and choose the deal that matches best your needs. Here are some factors you should consider while comparing different data-only SIM offers:
Allowance is the amount of data and the number of calls and texts included in a SIM-only contract. A lower monthly plan will cost less, but cost shouldn’t be the only factor. It’s essential to be aware of how many gigabytes (GB) of data and how many calls and texts you need. Once you know that, you can decide if a particular deal offers what you need at a reasonable price. If you call a lot, you should look into whether a provider offers Wi-Fi calling, which could make whether or not it offers unlimited minutes irrelevant.
SIM-only deals offer contract lengths as short as one month, though 12-month contracts are perhaps the most common. Weigh up different contract lengths to decide whether a monthly plan, a 12-month contract, or a longer deal suits you best, and pick the one that offers the most value for money.
The choice of the network also depends on your preference. Smaller networks like Lebara, giffgaff, and Voxi offer great SIM-only deals, but larger networks offer other benefits. You may also want to consider a network which offers more than just mobile phone contracts to bundle several services together - Virgin Mobile offers customers the chance to pay for up to four Virgin Media products in one package.
What are the different services offered in a SIM-only deal?
The different services offered in a SIM-only deal include calls, texts, and GB data. You can choose a SIM-only agreement that offers an unlimited data, calls and texts allowance of all these services or choose to limit allowances you won’t use.
- Calls - those who prefer to ring up their friends and family would be best served by a package with unlimited minutes, which is offered as standard by many networks nowadays. Always check the plan details to make sure you know what you’re getting.
- Texts - made obsolete for many by messaging apps which run on data, those who still rely on SMS messaging can get unlimited texts as standard from many networks, though always check the plan details to make sure.
- Data - GB data allowance has become the main differentiating factor between SIM deals in recent years, as mobile apps need an increasingly large data allowance to function. Unlimited data is available, though most users can get by comfortably on a mid-range plan of around 10GB of data a month.
How much data should I look for in a SIM-only deal?
How much data you should look for in a SIM-only deal depends on your usage. If you stream a lot of videos, for example, you may need a large allowance of 10GB data or more per month. You can also consider buying a data-only SIM card and get a cheap unlimited data plan if data is all you need. Before purchasing a data-only sim, you should understand your data needs and compare phone plans with unlimited data or the amount of data you need before purchasing.
How do I pay for a SIM-only plan?
SIM-only contracts give you a fixed allowance of data, calls, and texts for a certain period (usually a monthly contract) and require you to make a fixed payment for it each month.
|30-day plan||One-month contracts allow you to pay periodically without a long-term commitment and usually come with an extra cost as a result.|
|12-month plan||Often offers better value than a one-month deal, though cancellation will mean having to pay off what’s left on your contract.|
|Longer plans||Some networks offer 18, 24, or even 36-month contracts. A good option if you find a great price you want to lock in long-term.|
|PAYG SIM||Pay-as-you-go SIMs offer maximum flexibility to the customer, you just get a SIM from the provider and pay for the minutes, texts, and GB data you use.|
Many plans now come with unlimited texts and minutes as standard, while the price tends to vary significantly according to how much data comes in the monthly contract. Vodafone, Voxi, and iD Mobile are a few examples of providers which offer unlimited texts and calls at no extra cost, while others, like Lebara, offer this on some plans but not others.
Which networks provide the best SIM-only deals?
Mobile networks like Vodafone, SMARTY, Giffgaff, SKY, O2, iD Mobile, and EE are some of the best out there. Vodafone is a trusted large network that is especially good for SIM-only plans. Other networks also have their advantages, and the network you choose will depend on your priorities.
Ask yourself: are you interested in a network that offers more flexibility, do you just want the cheapest unlimited plan, or are you looking for a special offer? If you’re looking to bundle mobile with other services, we recommend providers like Virgin Media and Plusnet. We recommend that you compare mobile deals carefully before you decide.
Compare SIM-only deals
If you’re looking for a cheap SIM-only deal, Three offers a 12-month contract for £8 per month. The contract offers unlimited minutes and texts along with 12GB of 5G data. Vodafone is offering 15GB of data (limited to 4G) with unlimited minutes and texts for £10 per month, also with a 12-month commitment.
If you’re looking for a one-month contract, we recommend you consider SMARTY. SMARTY offers a one-month SIM deal for £10 per month and allows 30GB of 4G data along with unlimited texts and minutes. If you need a bigger data allowance, you should consider switching to Virgin Mobile, which offers 36GB of 5G data as well as unlimited minutes and texts for £13 a month. The cheapest unlimited data plans tend to come with a data-only SIM.
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Can I trust smaller, less well-known networks?
Yes, smaller and less well-known networks can be trusted for sim-only deals. Smaller networks can prove to be a better option for sim-only deals as they often provide services at cheaper rates. Are you looking for an affordable data plan? You’ll find some of the best unlimited data plans on smaller networks. The quality of service is just as good as with larger networks because smaller ones often use the same infrastructure.
You will want to check a provider’s mobile phone network coverage in your area before you sign up to a deal with them.
What size SIM card do I need?
Be sure to get a SIM that’s compatible with your device, otherwise you’ll be left unable to access the allowance you’ve paid for. Here’s a table outlining the different sizes that SIM cards are available in:
|Type of SIM||Size||Description|
|Combi, or multi-SIM||Multi-use||Comes in the standard size but can be broken into smaller sizes. Can be used in various devices and is now offered by many networks to ensure compatibility with any device.|
|Standard||Large||Larger than newer models, can’t be used in most new phones.|
|Micro||Small||Used in certain models of the iPhone, as well as many LG and Samsung devices. Smaller than standard but larger than nano.|
|Nano||Tiny||Smallest and most common SIM size, with most new handsets using them. iPhone X SIM card is an example of a nano SIM.|
Frequently asked questions
You can save yourself the hassle of telling everyone your new phone number after switching to a different network by keeping your old one. All you need to do is get a PAC code from your current network before starting with your new one. PAC codes usually have expiry dates, but if you fail to swap them before the code expires you can just ask for another one.
If you’re keeping your number and switching to another network, your number won’t lose service while it’s being transferred to your new network. It will remain active on your old SIM until the transfer is complete, and after that you can just put in your new SIM and enjoy your service without any interruption.
If you lose service or experience other problems with your network, the best thing to do is contact your provider and register a complaint. You will usually be able to find a number to contact on your network’s website or in their mobile app. Make sure you’ve communicated your problem clearly to your service provider. If you feel you’re not getting the attention you need from them, consider getting a deal with another network.
Don’t just throw your old SIM card away when you get a new one. Your SIM also acts as a data storage device and can save personal information, such as contacts and other files. To ensure your safety and protect your privacy, make a copy of your data and then destroy your old SIM card before throwing it away.
When your SIM-only contract is coming to an end, you’ll receive an end-of-contract notification. If you had a good experience, you can often renew the same agreement. If you didn’t have a good experience, you can start to look for a better deal.
If you’re not satisfied with your current deal, you can call your network’s customer service team to cancel it. You’ll have to pay off the remainder of your contract before you cancel. Some networks allow you to unsubscribe via SMS - this service is called text-to-switch.
There are usually no credit checks for short-term deals, but, if you’re signing up to a 12-month plan, there will be a credit check. A network might not allow you to enter the contract if you fail this check. Alternatively, you can go for a short-term contract or get a PAYG SIM deal.
A SIM-only deal can improve your credit rating if you make your payments every month and on time.