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Mobile Phone Credit Checks Explained: How Credit Checks Work & Getting a Contract Handset with Bad Credit

Mobile networks in the UK ask for a credit check when signing up for a phone contract. This article will explain how credit checks work & help you find a phone contract even if you have bad credit.


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If you want to buy a mobile phone on a contract or sign up for a long-term SIM Only deal with a mobile network in the UK, more often than not you’ll have to go through a credit check. You might find it hard to pass the credit check if you have bad/no credit record, have recently moved to the UK or if you’re a student.

When you apply for a mobile contract, the network will contact a credit reference agency (Experian, Equifax or TransUnion) to confirm your identity and examine your financial records. This process is fully automated, meaning the system automatically decides if you pass the credit check or not. Having said that, when your credit check result falls into a grey area, a credit-checking team from the mobile network you applied to will handle your case. After the credit check is done your mobile network will decide whether to accept your mobile phone contract application or not.

It’s not the end of the world if you fail a mobile credit check. There are special phone deals and SIM Only plans specifically designed for people with bad credit history or no credit history at all. These SIM and phone deals may not be what you’re looking for, but it’s better than having no other option at all.

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How Do Mobile Phone Credit Checks Work?

A credit check is a review of your credit history, past and present. It helps mobile networks assess your financial behaviour, your creditworthiness and prevents fraud. Mobile network providers in the UK will enforce a credit check when you’re applying for a mobile phone contract or a long term SIM contract. The mobile network you applied to will contact a credit reference agency to verify your identity, and also to check on your financial history. Each mobile network has their own credit criterias to pass, but usually they’re quite similar to one another with only a few exceptions. If you pass the credit check you’ll be allowed to sign up for a mobile phone contract or a SIM contract with the network you applied for.

In order to pass a credit check you’ll obviously need a good credit score, however, the minimum credit score differs from one network to another. Not only that but the SIM deal or phone deal you apply to plays a big role too. You might be able to land a 12-month pay monthly contract with a mid range handset, but if you apply for the latest Samsung or iPhone on a long-term contract, your chances of passing the credit check is lower.

You also must have a UK credit history or an acceptable financial history. Unfortunately, if you’re moving to the UK from another country, you’ll essentially be starting from scratch. These credit reference agencies only track your UK history. If you’re rejected, it may impact your credit score further in a negative way.

You also have to be over 18 in order to apply for a pay monthly phone or SIM contract.

What Do I Need to Provide for a Credit Check?

Mobile networks in the UK will ask you for personal information (name, date of birth, marital status), your current address and previous addresses (if you have one) for the last three years and potentially your credit or debit card details.

Lower priced contracts such as iD Mobile’s pay monthly deals usually won’t require your credit card or debit card details.

How Do I Check My Credit Record?

Mobile network operators in the UK use Experian, Equifax and TransUnion as their credit reference agencies. If you want to know more about your credit score, all three agencies offer an online credit check for free.

You don’t have to check your credit score with all three of them, you can find out which network provider works with which agency in the table below. Checking your credit score with one of these agencies won’t hurt or affect your credit score in any negative way.

NetworkCredit Reference Agency
ee-table-logoExperian, Equifax and TransUnion
vodafone-table-logoExperian, Equifax and TransUnion
three-table-logoExperian, Equifax and TransUnion
plusnet-mobile-table-logoExperian, Equifax and TransUnion
tesco-mobile-table-logoExperian and Equifax

You can use the links below to check your current credit score with each agency:

Experian – Equifax – TransUnion

Experian is the largest credit reference agency in the UK. The agency allows you to get a statutory report for free and offers extra services if you sign up for a membership.

Equifax is mainly preferred by mobile virtual networks in the UK and it’s the second largest agency. The company also makes offers matching your credit score, but their credit score database is not always up to date.

TransUnion (or previously known as CallCredit) is the youngest among the three popular credit reference agencies. You can check your credit score with them for free, and they also work in a similar fashion to Equifax.

Which Mobile Networks Do Credit Checks?

If you’re interested in getting a 30-day SIM Only deal, you don’t have to undergo a credit check, unless it’s a contract. However, when applying for a long-term mobile phone contract or a SIM Only contract a carrier will always ask for a credit check.

EE carries out a credit check every time a customer wants to sign up for a pay monthly plan or a pay monthly phone deal. You can read our EE Review to learn everything you need to know about their deals and offers.

Vodafone’s pay monthly deals, as well as pay monthly phone plans involve a credit check. If you’re looking for a wide variety of SIM plans, and/or if international roaming is a key factor for you, make sure to check out our Vodafone Review.

O2 performs credit checks and anti fraud checks for all their pay monthly contracts, including 30 day deals, and pay monthly phone deals. The network offers high value phone deals and allows you to split your bills into an airtime element & a handset element. Read our extensive O2 Review to learn more!

Three asks for credit checks, unless you want to get a Three PAYG deal. Three is known for its competitively priced, high value unlimited data plans and best 5G SIM Only deals. We strongly suggest having a read of our Three Review, if you wish to discover more about the network.
BT Mobile will always ask for a credit check. The network doesn’t offer any 30-day plans. Have a look at our BT Mobile Review to learn more about their deals and countrywide free exclusive Wi-Fi hotspots.
iD Mobile will also ask for credit checks with the exception of their PAYG deals. You might want to check our iD Mobile Review to learn more about their offers.
Sky Mobile is yet another MVNO, which requires a credit check to join. There are no PAYG deals or prepaid SIM only deals tailored for customers. Read our Sky Mobile Review to learn all the benefits the network offers. We’d say their data rollover feature is one of the best available!
Tesco Mobile’s pay monthly phone deals and pay monthly SIM contracts require a credit check. Tesco Mobile 5G Deals are only available through pay monthly contracts, so if you want 5G coverage you’ll have to pass a credit check. Read our Tesco Mobile Review to discover all the benefits you gain access to when you join their network.
Virgin Mobile requires you to pass a credit check if you want to join their network. They don’t have a pay as you go service or any 30-day SIM deals. However, they offer millions of free Wi-Fi hotspots across the UK and in the EU. Read our Virgin Mobile Review now and learn everything you need to know about the carrier!
Plusnet Mobile and Talk Mobile are the other two network operators, which require you to undergo a credit check, even if it’s a 30-day contract for as low as £6 a month. You can read our Plusnet Mobile Review and/or Talkmobile Review to discover everything they offer to their customers.
No credit check is required to join VOXI or giffgaff, however, if you want to sign up for a pay monthly phone deal from either network you’ll have to go through a credit check. VOXI carries out their credit checks via PayPal and giffgaff’s are done through RateSetter loans.

What Happens If I Fail A SIM or Phone Credit Check

Failing a credit check can damage your credit rating, especially if you apply for credit multiple times within a short amount of time. If you fail to pass a credit check, first, you should find out why you were rejected. Contact the credit check agency and learn why you failed to pass the credit check. The system is automated, but it doesn’t mean it’s perfect either. There might have been a mistake or even a human error during the communication process between the agency and the network.

Alternatively, you can apply to different mobile networks for a SIM Only deal or a pay monthly phone contract. They’ll also do credit checks, but not all mobile networks have the same criteria, so you might pass with a different network.

Another option is finding a prepaid SIM or phone deal, and there are plenty of them nowadays. In fact, they might even prove to be better and offer greater value. Pay monthly contracts don’t always mean they’re the most wallet-friendly options in the long run. You might even lock yourself in with a long-term phone contract you’re not happy with and have a hard time switching your mobile network.

How Can I Get a Phone Contract If I Have Bad Credit?

It’s not impossible to get a phone contract if your credit score is bad, but bad credit phone contracts usually are more expensive than your regular phone contracts. There are also some third party options. These third parties offer no credit check phone deals, but they usually charge more than the actual network itself. Also keep in mind that some features like 4G Calling and Wi-Fi Calling may not work if the handset is not directly purchased from the dedicated store of your network.

Your other options would be applying for a short-term contract and pay some of the cost of your contract upfront or apply for a cheaper handset. You can also purchase the device in one go if your budget allows you to and only apply only for the SIM plan part of the deal.

giffgaff offers a unique solution where they let you pay separately for your phone and for your monthly goodybag.

Mobile Phones with No Credit Checks

If you can’t get a pay monthly phone contract from a mobile network provider due to a poor credit score, there’s still one more major alternative and it’s buying a SIM-Free smartphone from retailers like Amazon, Argos and Carphone Warehouse. You’ll most likely save a considerable amount of money in the long run if you opt for buying a SIM-Free handset, plus your phone will be unlocked. This means you can use your device with any mobile network you want.

Once you have your new phone you can look for a SIM Only deal. Since you have all the freedom in the world at this point you can either apply for a SIM Only contract, go with a monthly prepaid bundle or opt for a traditional pay as you go service.

If you want to remain commitment free, you can always select a mobile network deal with no credit checks. The table below shows you some of the mobile network operators, which don’t ask for a credit check.

NetworkCredit Check Status
asda-mobile-table-logo.copyNo Credit Checks
1p-mobile-table-logoNo Credit Checks
smarty-table-logoNo Credit Checks
to-the-moon-mobile-table-logoNo Credit Checks
honest mobile table logoNo Credit Checks
superdrug-mobile-table-logoNo Credit Checks
voxi-table-logoNo Credit Checks for SIM Only Deals / PayPal Credit for Phone Contracts
giffgaff-table-logoNo Credit Checks for SIM Only Deals / RateSetter Loan for Phone Contracts

You may also opt for:

  • EE’s traditional PAYG at 35p/minute and 15p/text, but you won’t have access to the internet. You can purchase one of their flex plans which require no credit checks and offers data.
  • Three’s traditional PAYG at 10p/minute, 10p/text, 5p/MB or their pay as you go bundles. Three’s PAYG deals come with 5G at no extra cost, as well as 4G Calling and Wi-Fi Calling.
  • O2’s traditional PAYG at 35p/minute and 15p/text. You’ll also pay £2/day for using mobile data. Alternatively you can purchase a PAYG Bundle that’s valid for 30 days.
  • Vodafone’s traditional PAYG at 20p/minmute, 20p/text and 20p/5MB or go with a Big Value Bundle.
  • iD Mobile’s traditional PAYG or their PAYG Bundles.
  • Tesco Mobile’s PAYG deals at 25p/minute, 10p/text, 10p/MB or their PAYG Rocket Bundles.

Keep in mind that pay as you go SIMs don’t offer as good value as long term SIM contracts, however, if you’re a light mobile data user this type of a deal might just be what you’re looking for. Make sure to find out how much data you need first though.

You might also want to wait a bit more before you buy a new phone, because Black Friday Sales are just around the corner and the network providers are sure to drop some amazing deals. You can bookmark our Black Friday SIM Only Deals page to be the first one to know about all the discounted offers!