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Best SIM only Deals

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BT Mobile 5G SIM Only 2GB

  • 1GB
  • 100 inclusive minutes
  • texts not included
  • 12 Month Contract
  • Top up anytime
  • Upcoming offer
  • Greet offer
£1.00

BT Mobile 5G SIM Only 6GB

  • 6GB
  • 500 inclusive minutes
  • Unlimited
  • 12 Month Contract
  • Top up anytime
  • Free data boosts
  • Top offer
  • Recommended
  • 14 Days Free
£1.00

Three Unlimited SIM

  • 2GB
  • 500 inclusive minutes
  • texts not included
  • 1 Month Contract
  • Take it for Free
  • O2 Card
£4.00

Test plan 2GB 4G

  • 2GB
  • 500 inclusive minutes
  • texts not included
  • 1 Month Contract
  • Top up anytim
  • Free data boost
  • Top offer
  • Recommended
£4.00

Test plan 2GB 4G

  • 2GB
  • 500 inclusive minutes
  • texts not included
  • 1 Month Contract
  • Top up anytim
  • Free data boost
  • Top offer
  • Recommended
£4.00

Plusnet 3.5GB Plan

  • 3.5GB
  • 1000 inclusive minutes
  • Unlimited
  • 18 Month Contract
  • Top up anytime
  • Free data boosts
  • Top offer
  • Recommended
  • 14 Days Free
£5.00

BT Mobile 5G SIM Only 1GB

  • 1GB
  • Unlimited minutes
  • Unlimited
  • 24 Month Contract
  • Top up anytime
  • Free data boosts
  • Top offer
  • Recommended
  • 14 Days Free
£5.00

O2 Big Bundle Calls and Texts

  • data not included
  • Unlimited minutes
  • Unlimited
  • 1 Month Contract
  • Top up anytime
  • Free data boosts
  • Top offer
  • Recommended
  • 14 Days Free
£5.00

Three Advanced SIM Only 1GB

  • 1GB
  • 500 inclusive minutes
  • Unlimited
  • 12 Month Contract
  • Top up anytime
  • Free data boosts
  • Top offer
  • Recommended
  • 14 Days Free
£5.00

What is a SIM Only Deal?

A SIM Only deal is a deal provided by a mobile network operator that provides a pre-bundled number of minutes, texts & data on a monthly basis. This means, there is no phone or tablet, just a SIM card and a plan of your choosing. When you pick a SIM only deal, you’ll only pay for the monthly usage allowances you pick. The SIM card itself is free and you need to only pay the monthly bundle allowance charge.

If you already have a handset and you’re happy with it, then all you need to do is to find the right SIM Only plan that meets your needs. Luckily, there are a number of mobile networks in the UK and they all offer unique and attractive offers. From light data users to heavy data users, binge watchers to gamers, there’s a perfect SIM only plan for all types of customers. Some networks and their plans standout with their competitive prices and great flexibility, while others offer fancy features, great roaming options, data-free social media usage and entertainment plans. Premium plans come with even better features, but they tend to lock you in for longer periods.

In the UK, you can find three different types of SIM only deals. These are Pay Monthly SIM Only Contracts, Prepaid SIM Only Plans and Pay As You Go Plans.

Pay Monthly SIM Only Contracts

These are monthly contracts offered by a mobile network provider, where you get a SIM card with all the data, minutes and texts you need. They’re usually either 12 or 24-months, but some networks like Three, O2, Vodafone and iD Mobile also offer 30-day alternatives. The longer your contract is, the less you pay per month, however, you’ll be locked in for a longer period and will pay more in the long run.

If you want to purchase a pay-monthly SIM contract, then you’ll have to undergo and pass a credit check. These credit checks are usually not that hard to pass, but you should still ensure you have a good credit score before applying. A failed credit check can have a negative impact on your credit history.

If you don’t want to bother with a credit check, or if you’re a student or just moved to the UK, you can choose a prepaid SIM only plan or a pay as you go (PAYG) alternative.

Prepaid SIM Only Plans

If you don’t want to be tied down to a pay monthly contract or don’t want to undergo a credit check, a prepaid SIM only plan is the best option for you.

These plans last for 30-days and you’ll have to renew them at the end of each billing period. Setting up a recurring payment method may get you a discount, bonus data or just save you time each month. Prepaid SIM only deals work the same way pay monthly contracts do. You get minutes, texts and data to use and at the end of each month these are reset. Usually, these deals don’t include fancy features, but offer great flexibility as you’re not making a commitment. You can simply switch between plans or even networks, whenever you want.

Having said all of that, if you’re an extremely light data user, there’s still one more alternative that you may want to opt for, and it’s called Pay As You Go.

Pay As You Go Plans

PAYG plans are significantly different from prepaid SIM only plans. First of all, with PAYG you’re not buying a plan but rather minutes, texts, and data. On top of that, your credit won’t expire at the end of the month.

How long will your credit last? Well, that depends on your provider and their terms. Some networks will allow you to keep your SIM active for a whole year, even if you don’t top-up or make a chargeable action. While some others will require a chargeable action at least once every three months. Either way, if you’re rarely using your phone, but need to keep your line active, you can opt for a PAYG plan and top-up fairly infrequently.

PAYG is a great alternative to have, plus you have the option to mix and match with prepaid plans.

Frequently Asked Questions

Should I choose a SIM Only deal?

If you already have a handset and you’re happy with it, then our answer is yes. Unless you need a new phone, want to upgrade your current one, or buy a new one outright; there’s no reason to choose a phone contract and pay a larger monthly fee. A SIM-only deal is just what the name suggests. The UK mobile market is quite saturated, but we think that’s a good thing. You can find unique SIM Only deals that suit your particular needs.

We also strongly recommend you to look into new SIM-only deals if your current contract is about to end soon. Your existing network may charge you a higher rate, or automatically renew your deal. Plus, each of the networks are offering competitive deals to bring new customers on board and you can take advantage of one of these offers.

If you need a handset, but don’t want to sign up for a phone contract, you can always get a refurbished phone from a store or buy one outright from a retailer. Paying for a refurbished device upfront may seem costly, but you can expect to make significant savings in the long run.

Which network has the best SIM-only deals?

Speaking objectively, we can’t pick one. After all, every mobile user has different needs and “the best” is rather subjective. However, there are a few areas where we can pick a winner or highlight the best options available.

According to Open Signal, OOKLA and umlaut, EE has the best 5G, 4G and 3G coverage in the UK. Plus the carrier also offers the fastest data speeds. However, this means their SIM-only deals are considerably more expensive than their competitors.

If you don’t want to worry about how much data you use, Three is the best UK network out there. Three’s unlimited data plans are truly unlimited and competitively priced. Plus their 5G is available in 194 cities and towns.

If you’re travelling on a regular basis, Vodafone is most likely the best option out there for you. Vodafone is the only UK network that offers free roaming in Turkey and their premium roaming schemes are second to none. Vodafone Global Roaming Plus is objectively better than Three Go Roam, but the latter is a free service and available to all Three customers at no extra cost.

O2 is a great choice for customers who want more than just a SIM-only deal. O2 Priority is a great scheme offering regular discounts, and you also get to enjoy free or discounted subscriptions to popular premium services such as Disney Plus.

Mobile customers who don’t want to be tied down to a contract can choose VOXI, SMARTY, giffgaff or one of the many other MVNOs currently operating in the UK. These networks are actually owned by major networks, offering cheaper, but equally competitive plans without any commitments. You’ll get identical coverage and data speeds, but you’ll be missing out on some great features.

What type of SIM card do I need?

The type of SIM card you need depends on your device. You can simply check your device’s SIM slot and find out what type of SIM you have. Alternatively, just search for your device’s name in our SIM Card Guide and find out if your phone is using a Standard SIM, Mini-SIM or Nano-SIM.

Older devices use standard SIMs, but given how even mini SIMs are quite old and coming to an end, your device is most likely using a Nano-SIM. Regardless, almost all UK networks send a 3-in-1 package, so you should be covered. All three types of SIM cards hold identical info, so there’s no need to worry.

Can I get a 5G SIM Only deal?

Yes, you can get a 5G SIM only deal in the UK. All major networks and most of the smaller mobile networks offer 5G now. All 5G plans also include 4G, 3G and 2G coverage, with the exception of Three and Three powered networks. Since Three doesn’t support 2G, their plans support 5G, 4G and 3G. The same applies to MVNOs that piggyback on the Three network. Three’s 5G service is one of the best, and it has the most active users at the moment.

We strongly recommend you use the networks’ coverage maps before you sign a contract with them. If their coverage is weak in your frequent areas, then your mobile experience will be poor.

Which networks offer 5G SIM Only deals?

In the UK, all four major mobile network operators (EE, Vodafone, O2 and Three) provide 5G to their customers. MVNOs such as BT Mobile, VOXI, giffgaff, Sky Mobile, Tesco Mobile, iD Mobile, Lebara Mobile, ASDA Mobile and 1p Mobile all offer 5G at no extra cost as well.

Other networks such as SMARTY and Lycamobile don’t offer 5G yet, but we know that they aim to launch their 5G services soon.

Can I cancel my SIM-only contract?

The short answer to this question is yes, but usually, there’s a penalty fee for cancelling your mobile contract early. While cancelling a SIM-only contract is easier nowadays, you should still make sure there are no early termination fees. You should also check if your phone is locked or not. If your device is locked to your current operator, you may not be able to start using your new SIM deal right away.

You can now also cancel your SIM-only contract online or by sending an SMS to save you the pain of calling your provider.

Can I switch to a new network?

Yes, you can easily switch to a new mobile network. If you’re on a long term contract, you may have to pay an early termination fee, but if you’re a PAYG customer or using prepaid plans that are commitment-free, then you can switch to a new mobile network with no issue.

We don’t want you to face a bill shock, therefore we strongly urge you to speak to your network’s customer support team and understand if you have to pay a penalty for cancelling your contract early.

Can I keep my number if I switch to a new network?

Yes, you can keep your current phone number when switching to a new mobile network. It’s a very easy process too. Switching to a new mobile network usually takes less than a day. All you have to do is get your PAC code from your current provider and deliver it to your new operator. They will do the rest.

Your new network will inform you when the process is done. You may need to reset your device in order for your new SIM to work. It shouldn’t take longer than a couple of days. If it takes any longer, you should reach out to your networks customer support team.

What is a mobile virtual network? Are they reliable?

We have mentioned mobile virtual networks (MVNOs) a few times already. So what are they? They’re the smaller networks that don’t have their own underlying infrastructures. This means they’re piggybacking on either EE, Vodafone, O2 or Three.

MVNOs usually offer prepaid SIM-only plans at significantly cheaper prices. You probably know some of them, you may even be one of their customers. Networks such as VOXI, SMARTY, giffgaff, Sky Mobile etc. are all MVNOs.

Core networks and smaller networks offer identical network coverage and data speeds unless stated otherwise. 5G isn’t available on all MVNOs, but if both SIM-only deals offer 5G, more than likely the experience will be identical.

Most MVNOs are quite reliable, as they’re not only powered by major networks but also owned by them. Most of the ones that are not owned by major networks belong to known supermarket brands (Tesco, ASDA), broadband providers (BT, Virgin) or retailers like Dixons Carphone.

Do MVNOs really have the same coverage?

Yes, as we mentioned earlier, unless it’s stated otherwise both the major network and the MVNO should offer identical coverage and data speeds.

For example, a Vodafone customer and a VOXI customer should have the same experience, if they’re in the same area. Of course, there are VOXI plans without 5G and there are some Vodafone plans that don’t offer 5G or offer restricted 5G speeds. We’re strictly talking about plans that offer the same coverage and speeds.

You should also remember that some smaller networks (also some basic plans from major networks) don’t have WiFi Calling or 4G Calling, and these two features drastically improve network coverage, whilst eliminating indoor blackspots and increasing overall voice call quality.

What is a locked phone? Is my phone locked? How can I tell?

If your phone is locked, you can only use your device on the network you bought it on. Not all mobile networks lock their devices, so there’s a chance your device is already unlocked. Even if it’s locked, you can get it unlocked, but the process differs from one network to another.

The good news is, regulator Ofcom said “Unlocking handsets could often be a complicated process, and this was discouraging owners from switching providers at the end of their contracts.” and as of December 2021, mobile networks operating in the UK are forbidden from selling phones locked to their services.

If you don’t know whether your device is locked or unlocked, you can easily check. Just take out your SIM from your device and insert a different provider’s SIM. If it gets no signal, then it means the device is locked to your current network.

How can I unlock my phone?

If your phone is locked and if you want to get it unlocked, you’ll have to contact your current provider and ask them to unlock the device. Unfortunately, in some cases, there may be a fee to unlock your smartphone. This depends on your provider, plan, how long you’ve been using the device and the network.

Once you unlock a smartphone, you can bring it to any mobile network operator that works on a compatible network.

Can I upgrade to a new SIM-only deal with the same network?

Yes, you can upgrade to a new and better plan without having to pay a penalty fee, provided you’re not switching to a new network. If anything, your mobile network will probably encourage you to upgrade to a better deal, since they’ll guarantee to keep you as a customer.

If you’re on a prepaid plan or just using a PAYG SIM, you can upgrade to a better deal within the same network or switch to a whole new one without having to worry about any termination fees.

What to do with an old SIM card?

If you’re not going to use your old SIM card and you’re sure of it, just destroy it. The easiest way to dispose of an old SIM card is by cutting it into pieces.

Your data is stored in the gold looking chip, so make sure to destroy that area. The plastic part is not that important.

Can I get WiFi Calling on a SIM-only plan?

With WiFi Calling you can make and receive phone calls over an available Wi-Fi connection in an area with little or no cellular coverage. The quality of the voice call will depend on the strength of your Wi-Fi connection. WiFi Calling is available on most SIM Only deals nowadays. You just need a device that supports WiFi Calling and you’ll need to make sure your plan includes this feature.

Can I get 4G Calling (VoLTE) on a SIM-only plan?

Just like WiFi Calling, 4G Calling also improves your coverage and your overall voice call quality. 4G Calling (also known as VoLTE) allows your device to make and take calls over a 4G network, provided your plan and device supports the feature. On top of that, your phone will stay on 4G so your internet speed won’t slow down.

Most handsets can switch between WiFi Calling, 4G Calling and regular cellular connection seamlessly, helping you stay connected in more places.

Which network is the best for roaming outside the UK?

Vodafone is usually the best network for roaming. Their premium plans allow you to roam freely in 81 destinations. Needless to say, these plans are expensive, but they’re packed with great features and huge amounts of data. Plus, Vodafone is currently the only UK network that offers 5G outside the UK.

If you’re looking for a cheaper alternative, Three Go Roam stands out as the second-best. It’s free and available to all Three customers, arguably it’s as good as Vodafone’s Global Roaming Plus deals.

Which mobile network is the best for streaming?

The best mobile network for streaming content on platforms such as Netflix, Amazon Prime, Disney+ and so on depends on multiple factors. First of all, whichever network offers 5G in your area is the best one, hands down. After that, you’ll want a SIM-only deal that’s packed with a lot of data. There’s no definitive answer to this question, but we can say a thing or two.

Vodafone offers entertainment options; you can get either Amazon Prime, YouTube Premium or Spotify for cheaper than their regular market price. O2 offers free Disney + subscriptions for 6 months. EE offers the fastest data speeds and the best coverage, meanwhile, Three has the best unlimited data plans, plus they’re wallet-friendly.

As for MVNOs; VOXI customers can enjoy unlimited data on social media and some VOXI SIM-only plans even come with 5G and unlimited video streaming. This doesn’t mean you get the subscription for free, but you won’t burn through data when you’re streaming content on specific platforms.

Which mobile network is the best for gaming?

When it comes to online gaming 5G is definitely a game-changer. 4G is also fine for gaming as long as you get very good coverage, but it’s usually far from ideal for playing competitive games. Your latency is the most important thing in terms of online gaming, and according to Open Signal’s extensive test results, EE is the best mobile network for online gaming. This applies to both 4G and 5G.

However, as stated above, if you’re on 5G, your latency will be quite low regardless of your network, so your ping/latency should be quite low. The lower your latency the less laggy your game will be.

Do I need to pass a credit check to get a SIM-only deal?

This depends on what kind of SIM-only plan you want to get. Prepaid SIM-only deals and PAYG plans won’t ask for a credit check, however, all SIM-only contracts (even if they’re 30-day contracts) require you to undergo a credit check first.

We’d like to remind you; if you sign up for a SIM-only contract, you’ll be locked in for some time. If you want a flexible SIM only plan, you should pick a prepaid SIM-only deal. They’re commitment-free and usually competitively priced.

What happens if I fail a credit check?

Failing a credit check may harm your overall credit rating. It can be even more damaging if you apply for credit multiple times and fail within a short amount of time. If you ever fail a credit check, the very first thing you should do is to find out why you were rejected. You can contact the credit check agency and they’ll inform you why you failed to pass. Credit checks are done automatically, but the agency will let you talk to an actual human being and help you find out what caused the rejection.

How long is a SIM-only contract?

The length of a SIM Only contract depends on the network. Some networks offer customisable SIM-only deals and you get to choose exactly how long your mobile contract will be. Others usually allow you to choose between 1 month, 12 months, 18 months and 24 months.

Once you pass a credit check you can then start your contract, and you can cancel it without any penalties within the first 14 days. However, after that cancelling your SIM-only contract may prove costly.

If you’re unsure, we strongly recommend trying a prepaid SIM-only deal first then signing a long term contract. If the coverage is weak in your area you may want to switch networks.

Which networks have the cheapest SIM Only plans?

While some MVNOs offer significantly cheaper prices than others, the value of a plan is more important than the price. Lebara Mobile, Talk Mobile and SMARTY usually have the lowest prices in the UK in terms of commitment-free SIM Only deals. Three also offers cheap SIM only contracts that offer great value, but remember that they don’t have 2G and their 3G & 4G coverage is weaker than the other major network providers.

For example, if you’re a data-hungry mobile user, then SMARTY unlimited data plan is the go-to option. It’s contract-free, plus it’s usually the cheapest unlimited data offer on the market.

Are there special SIM-only deals for students?

Yes, almost all the mobile networks providers offer special deals and discounts for students. There are some great student SIM-only deals that help you save a ton of money, just remember, the network you apply for will ask for proof that you are a student.

Are smaller networks trustworthy?

Yes, the smaller mobile network operators are both reliable and trustworthy. Rare as it may be, you may find a fake “smaller network”, claiming to be a real MVNO powered by one of the major networks. While their website may look professional and legit, they are out there to scam people. Always make sure you’re on the correct website by checking the URL and don’t forget to double-check all the information they provide and confirm that they’re indeed an MVNO.

Most MVNOs are either directly owned by one of the four major networks, or they belong to major brands operating in the UK. There are only a few exceptions, so checking if they’re legit or not shouldn’t be hard.

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