SIM Only plans: A newbie's guide
What are SIM Only Deals exactly?
SIM Only Deals are essentially a contract that gives you data, texts and calls – but no handset. You typically already have the handset so are looking for the cheapest contract you can get as you aren't paying a monthly fee for your phone. Essentially all you're paying for is either a 30-day or rolling contract, although some SIM Only contracts are up to 18 months long now. But they still work out pretty cheap!
Why choose SIM Only?
Generally speaking, SIM Only Deals are perfect if you already own the phone. Whether it's something flashy like an iPhone 13 or just something cheaper, it doesn't matter: SIM Only works for any phone. You will also receive different size SIM cards with your typical contract, including a Micro SIM, Nano SIM and so on. At least one of these will fit into your handset, so don't worry.
Another great thing about SIM Only is that you can often get unlimited data allowances. Coupled with the short-term flexibility of the typical SIM Only contract (which can be as low as 30 days), there really are several compelling reasons to switch to SIM Only today.
About that data allowance...
In the UK, most Britons use around 4GB to 5GB per month through their smartphone. This is per person, not per household, so make sure that your contract has enough data allowance to get you through. Although it's possible to upgrade to a different contract to allow more data, it's generally best to get it right first time if you can.
Which is the cheapest SIM Only contract today?
As of writing this is from Lebara Mobile and costs £3 per month, it includes 250 minutes and 250 texts, and there is no minimum contract length after 30 days has elapsed. So in other words a year's worth of phone usage for 36 quid. Not bad!
Will there be a credit check for this?
It depends on the network. For example, Smarty do not do a credit check. When you sign up for a Sim-Only contract, whether it is 30 day rolling or a longer 12 month contract, you will need to pass a credit check.
Some companies only do 'soft' credit checks rather than a full one, but this varies from company to company. Be aware that SIM-Only credit checks are NOT as stringent as those conducted for regular 12 month phone contracts; they are easier to pass. So even if you have been rejected in the past for a 'full fat' phone contract, it doesn't mean you will therefore be rejected for a SIM Only contract.
If you are worried, then consider a SIM Only plan for bad credit.
Can I trust smaller networks?
Although it is true that you may have not heard of Lebara or Smarty, there is no reason to be concerned. Make sure to check out our all our network reviews, for example we've written all the positives & negatives for networks like Smarty and VOXI. In most cases these smaller companies are owned by the networks anyway – such as in the case of VOXI who are owned by Vodafone.
And anyway, increasingly, the smaller networks and brands are offering the best value. The reason for that is simple: They need to attract customers and don't have the brand cachet of the huge networks like O2 or Virgin Media.
Will my phone work with SIM Only, is my phone unlocked?
If your mobile phone was purchased from 2016 onwards in the UK then yes, it will be unlocked. We know this because by law it has to be. To check if your phone is unlocked, the easiest solution is to ask to borrow a friend's SIM Card briefly. Remove your own SIM from your handset and slide in your friend's one. If it works and connects to the network then you know it is unlocked.