Compare the best contract phone deals

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What is a contract phone deal?

A contract phone deal is a great alternative to buying a phone SIM free.

With a phone contract, you won’t need to pay for the whole amount for the phone upfront. Instead, you will pay in smaller monthly instalments over the contract length.

You will also get a SIM plan from the network, which will include allowances such as data, minutes and texts.

By taking out a phone contract, you must commit to the monthly payments over the contract length. Missed payments can negatively affect your credit score.

How do pay monthly phone contracts work?

Once you have found a phone contract deal, you must apply through the retailer. The network can choose to reject your application if you have a bad credit score or unstable income.

If you’re accepted, you must pay the initial upfront fee. Not all phone contract deals have an upfront fee - some are £0.

Once you have received your phone, you must continue to pay the monthly payments for the entire contract length. Some networks may choose to increase the monthly payments in line with inflation (RPI), which will be calculated on a yearly period.

After your contract ends, you will be moved to a monthly rolling plan, until you choose to renew, upgrade, cancel or switch networks.

Some phone contracts may allow you to upgrade to a new phone before your phone ends, such as with O2 Refresh and Sky Swap plans.

What should I look for in a contract phone deal?

With so much choice, narrowing down the ideal phone contract deal isn’t easy. However, there are several things you should look out for.

  • Contract length - this is the duration of your contract, and the time you will need to commit to monthly payments. The longer the contract length, the smaller the monthly cost.

  • Monthly cost - the amount you will need to pay every month for the duration of your contract. Failure to pay can negatively impact your credit score.

  • Upfront cost - A one off amount you will pay when taking out a phone contract. Some contracts have a £0 upfront fee.

  • Total cost of ownership - the total amount you can expect to pay for the entire duration of your contract, including upfront cost, monthly cost, and minus any cashback offers.

  • Data - A set amount that will reset every month. Most phone contracts come with at least 10GB data per month.

  • Minutes and texts - nearly all phone contract deals include unlimited minutes and texts.

  • Network - check the coverage, reliability and customer support reputation before committing to a phone contract.

  • 5G - for superfast mobile internet speeds. If your phone supports 5G, it will come with a 5G SIM.

  • Roaming - if you’re a frequent traveller, you’ll want to choose a network that still has free EU roaming

What is monthly cost?

Every phone contract includes a monthly cost, which must be paid every month for the entire duration of the contract length.

If you miss any payments, or you don’t pay on time, your credit score will be negatively affected.

Furthermore, repeated missed payments may result in your network referring outstanding payments to a debt collector.

What is upfront cost?

The upfront cost is the initial amount you will pay for your phone when taking out a contract.

Usually, a larger upfront cost results in lower monthly costs, and a lower total cost of ownership.

It’s also possible to get a contract phone deal with a zero upfront cost.

Generally speaking, the lower the upfront cost, the higher your credit score must be to avoid being rejected by the network for your contract application.

A high upfront cost is less risky for networks, as it covers a larger percentage of the phone’s value.

What is contract length?

Contract length is the entire duration of your contract.

It’s the length you must commit to paying the monthly cost.

In most cases, you cannot upgrade your phone until your contract ends.

Most phone contracts are 12, 24 and 36 months in length.

30 day / 1 month contracts only exist for SIM only deals.

What is total cost of ownership?

Total cost of ownership is the total amount you will end up paying for the entire duration of the contract length.

This is the monthly cost times contract length, plus upfront cost, minus any cashback.

The larger the upfront cost you initially pay, the lower the total cost of ownership usually is.

The 4 major networks in the UK are EE, O2, Vodafone and Three.

These 4 networks are also the most popular and common for phone contract deals.

Usually, the cheapest phone contract deals are available from independent retailers, such as Carphone Warehouse, as opposed to buying directly from a network.

In addition to the major networks, there are also smaller virtual networks which offer phone contracts, such as iD Mobile, Tesco Mobile and Sky Mobile.

EE is currently the largest network in the UK, with a 22% market share, followed by O2 at 19%.

Can I get an upgrade phone deal?

If your contract has ended, you will be able to upgrade your phone.

Usually, the cheapest upgrade deals aren’t available online. It’s often best to contact your network directly, where you will be able to haggle to get the cheapest deals for the latest phones. See our article on getting a good phone upgrade deal for further information.

Some plans, such as with O2 Refresh and Sky Swap, allow you to upgrade early - before your contract has ended.

How can I get the cheapest contract phone deal?

We compare thousands of the cheapest phone deals from all the major networks in the UK.

In most cases, the cheapest phone deals are available from 3rd party retailers, such as Carphone Warehouse, Fonehouse and Affordable Mobiles.

As well as looking at monthly cost and upfront cost, take notice of cashback offers and free gifts. You will likely get a better deal the more you look around.

How can I compare phone deals?

Our extensive dataset and best in class comparison tools are the easiest way to compare the cheapest contracts.

You can use our filters to narrow down by network, upfront cost, monthly cost, contract length and more.

You can also sort by cost or data, to show the best deals for you first.

Can I get a phone contract deal if I have a bad credit rating?

It’s possible to get a phone contract even if you have a bad credit rating, however your chances of being accepted will be incredibly lower.

You can increase your chances of being accepted by paying a larger upfront cost. The lower the upfront cost, the more risky you will appear to networks.

Getting a phone contract isn’t your only option. You can buy a phone SIM free and pair it with a bad credit SIM, which can sometimes be more cost effective.

What are the pros and cons of phone contracts?

Pros

  • Split the cost over several months, as opposed to paying in full for a phone upfront
  • Easier and more manageable to have a single contract for your phone and SIM
  • Exclusive offers with networks, such as free add-ons and rewards
  • Upgrade to the latest phone for cheap after your contract ends

Cons

  • Requires a long term commitment with monthly payments
  • Almost impossible to cancel or change your contract after 14 days
  • Missed monthly payments, even if accidental, can lower your credit score
  • Not ideal for those with a low or unstable salary

Can I cancel my phone contract within 14 days?

Yes, if buying online, you will be able to return and cancel your phone contract within 14 days.

When returning your phone, it should be in pristine condition.

Any upfront or monthly costs will be refunded. However, you will still need to pay for any usage outside the tariff allowances, such as from calling premium numbers.

Can I cancel my phone contract after 14 days?

It’s possible to cancel a phone contract after 14 days, however you will most likely have to pay a termination fee, which will be very expensive.

The fee is generally the total amount of the monthly payments remaining.

If you believe you were misled when taking out a phone contract, it may be possible to cancel your contract early, however only under exceptional circumstances will this be possible.

If you’re cancelling because you can no longer afford to pay, your network may be able to draw up a finance plan for you, with more manageable payments.

Can I get a phone deal with unlimited data?

Yes, unlimited data phone contracts are available, however expect to pay a bit more for the benefit.

With unlimited data, you have peace of mind, as you won’t have to worry about going over your allowance and paying an expensive out of plan fee.

We also compare unlimited data SIM only deals.

Can I network increase my monthly payments during my phone contract?

Yes, most networks, except for Sky Mobile and Tesco Mobile, will increase the monthly cost inline with inflation (RPI), which is typically adjusted once every year.

As well as the increase from inflation, most providers also charge an additional fixed fee, which is typically 3.9%.

Usually, increases occur on a yearly basis. You will be contacted by your network about any increases beforehand.

The terms for such increases will be stated in your contract. If not, then a network cannot legally increase your monthly payments without your permission.

What’s the difference between SIM free and phone contracts?

There are several differences between the two.

With SIM free, you will be paying for the whole value of the phone upfront, without a contract, network or SIM plan. You will need to pair it with a separate SIM only deal if you will want to use data, minutes and texts.

On the other hand, with a phone contract, you don’t typically pay the whole amount for the phone upfront. Instead, you usually pay a small upfront fee, followed by monthly payments. You will also get SIM with set allowances from the network.

Although phone contracts allow you to split the total cost into smaller, manageable monthly payments, the total cost of ownership will usually be slightly more expensive, when compared to buying a phone SIM free with a separate SIM only deal.

Phone contracts require a long term commitment. You must continue to pay the monthly payments for the duration of your contract.

With SIM free, there is no contract involved. You own the phone from day 1 as you have paid the full amount upfront.

Do I need to pay an upfront fee for a phone contract?

Not always. There are plenty of phone contract deals with a £0 upfront cost.

However, the lower the upfront cost, the greater your monthly payments will be.

In addition, the total cost of ownership will likely be more expensive with a low upfront cost, as the network will charge a premium due to the increased risk.

Is a phone contract a loan?

A phone contract is usually classified as a loan, as it's a type of credit that can affect your credit score.

For some networks which split the phone and tariff into two contracts, such as with O2 Refresh and Sky Swap, only the phone will be classified as a loan, whereas the tariff may appear as ‘other’ on your credit report.

Are phone contracts more expensive than pay as you go?

Usually, pay as you go is more expensive when compared to phone contract deals.

With pay as you go, you will be paying an out of plan rate for data, minutes and texts, which is often charged at a premium.

However, unlike with pay as you go, you can split a phone contract into monthly payments, as opposed to paying for total phone upfront.

What happens if I miss or I do not pay the monthly payments for a phone contract?

A phone contract is technically a loan, which means you must pay the monthly cost every month and on time.

Failure to do so will negatively affect your credit score.

If you miss multiple monthly payments, your network may decide to pass your debt onto a debt collector.

If you’re struggling to meet the monthly payments, contact your network. They will often arrange a finance plan to help you.

Will I need a credit check for a phone contract?

Yes, networks will perform a credit check on you when applying for a phone contract deal.

If you have a good credit history and a stable salary, you will have a higher chance of passing a credit check and being accepted for a phone contract.

You can increase your chances of passing a credit check by paying a larger upfront fee for your phone.

Can I switch networks after my phone contract ends?

Yes, once your contract has ended, it’s easy to switch networks by providing a PAC code to your new network.

You can provide a PAC code at the time of purchase or once you have received your phone.

A PAC code will also transfer your number and cancel your previous contract.

FAQs

How can I get the cheapest contract phone deal?

We compare thousands of the cheapest phone deals from all the major networks in the UK.

As well as looking at monthly cost and upfront cost, take notice of cashback offers and free gifts. You will likely get a better deal the more you look around and do your research.

Do I need to pay an upfront fee for a phone contract?

Not always. There are plenty of phone contract deals with a £0 upfront cost.

However, the lower the upfront cost, the greater your monthly payments will be.

In addition, the total cost of ownership will likely be more expensive with a low upfront cost, as the network will charge a premium due to the increased risk.

Will I need a credit check for a phone contract?

Yes, networks will perform a credit check on you when applying for a phone contract deal.

If you have a good credit history and a stable salary, you will have a higher chance of passing a credit check and being accepted for a phone contract.

You can increase your chances of passing a credit check by paying a larger upfront fee for your phone.

What happens if I don't pay the monthly payments?

A phone contract is a type of loan. If you miss monthly payments, your credit score will be negatively affected.

Failure to pay for a phone contract may result in a network passing on your debt to a debt collector.