If you’ve been looking around for a new deal on your mobile phone tariff recently, you will probably have come across one of the many SIM-only deals out there.  But what exactly are these? And, once you look beneath the headline figures, do they represent good value for money?

A SIM-only contract is just that.  You get a SIM-card for your existing handset and you pay only for what you use.  So, what are the pros and cons?


  • The SIM cards can be obtained for free from providers such as giffgaff, and other networks.
  • SIM-only packages usually offer much better deals on minutes, texts and data than contracts with handsets.
  • Plus there is no costly handset to pay off every month, so SIM-only deals tend to be a lot cheaper.
  • You are free to choose between a 1-month or a 12 month contract, though on most networks a 12-month contract will usually represent a better deal.   This is much shorter than most smartphone contract lengths, which are between 18 and 24 months.
  • Some SIM-only providers like giffgaff do not tie you in to a lengthy contract and offer deals that compare favourably against most providers on the market.  For example, you can get 400 UK minutes, unlimited texts and data for only £15 a month.  And you can change your plan at any time.


  • You may need to commit to a 12-month contract to get a good deal on your call, text and data package.
  • You don’t get a new handset, so if you are looking for one, you will have to front the cost yourself.
  • Also, you will not be eligible for an upgrade on your handset after your contract is up, even if you have completed 12-months service.

Other things to consider are:

  • UnlockingYour phone may need to be unlocked from your current network if you are looking to move to a competitor.  The cost and ease with which this can be done should be investigated.  First check with your provider how easy it is to unlock it.  Most phone on most networks are unlockable, however, the 3 network has specific conditions surrounding unlocking, so best speak to them before you do anything.
  • Coverage – Not all mobile networks were created equally.  Each network has its own levels of reception in different parts of the country, so before you sign up to anything it is worth checking out if the signal strength is good in your area.  It’s no good having an amazing call plan if you can’t use it.  Head over to giffgaff UK mobile coverage to see who’s strong in your area.

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