The cost of living crisis is affecting households across the UK as inflation and interest rates continue to increase and household bills rise. In this article, we look at how you can save money on your mobile phone contract and what to do if you are struggling to pay your mobile phone bill.
For additional money-saving tips and ways to save on other bills, read our article, 'How to save money on household bills'.
How to save money on your mobile phone contract
A phone has become an integral part of day-to-day life but can be expensive, especially when it comes to upgrading or if you are paying for more data than you need. Below, we share some tips on how you can save money on your monthly mobile phone bill.
Haggle for a better deal with your existing provider
Check when your mobile phone contract ends as you may be able to haggle and get a better deal with your existing provider, particularly if you tell them you are looking to switch networks. Mobile phone providers will often try to convince customers to stay and may offer you a deal to keep you, better than any other deals shown on the website.
Before haggling for a better deal, it is a good idea to research deals prior to calling, to ensure you know what other deals are available on the market. If you have experienced poor signal it may be worth mentioning this when haggling as it may help you to obtain a better deal.
If your provider is reluctant to offer you money off your current deal, you could ask for additional perks such as a voucher or a tablet deal. Additionally, if your provider offers another service such as broadband you may be able to haggle to get a combined deal. Tips on haggling for a better deal can be found in our article, 'How to haggle to get a better broadband deal'. If you don't want to stay with your existing provider and are put off by being persuaded to stay, you can switch providers with a text message. Find out more in our article, 'How to switch mobile provider with a text'.
An easy way to save money on your mobile phone contract is by shopping around other networks for a cheaper deal. You can save money by comparing prices on a comparison site such as Uswitch* or BillBuddy*. Comparison sites allow you to compare multiple mobile phone contract deals at once to find the best deal. You can also filter the results by contract length, the amount of data required or by network provider.
When shopping around for the best mobile deal you should also consider any deals or offers that may be included in the package. For example, you may be able to get a new tablet included with your contract deal or access to a subscription service for free for a set period of time.
Switch to a sim-only deal
If you like your phone and don't want to upgrade you can switch to a sim-only deal. Sim-only deals are usually cheaper than pay monthly phone contracts as you are only paying for the data or the minutes that you are going to use and the cost of the phone is not factored into the monthly price.
Additionally, if you would like a new phone you may wish to consider purchasing a phone outright e.g directly from Apple or Samsung and then buying a sim-only deal. This can be cheaper than buying a phone on a monthly contract deal. You can either buy the phone upfront or you may be able to pay for the phone monthly and spread the cost.
Alternatively, you could consider a refurbished phone which gives you access to newer technology without the high cost of a brand-new phone. Refurbished phones, especially ones bought from reputable sellers, often come with guarantees and the same accessories as a new phone but at a cheaper cost.
Check how much data you use
Are you paying for more data than you actually use each month? If you are often at home or in an office and connected to WiFi you may be paying for a sim or data package that has more data than you are actually using each month. You are normally able to check how much data, minutes or texts you are using by logging in to your mobile app or online account.
If you log in and find that you have a lot of your package left over each month you may be able to contact your network provider and see if you can reduce your package and save on your bill. This may depend on your contract terms, however, so you will need to check with your provider or wait until your contract is up to change your package.
Put a cap on spending
When taking out a new contract or sim deal you may be asked if you wish to cap your monthly bill. You can choose to cap your bill so that you do not spend anything over the monthly amount agreed in your contract. If you don't want to completely cap your bill you can choose to cap it up to a set amount over the monthly payment e.g £10 or £20. This means that you won't be able to spend over the cap that you set and can prevent you from racking up an unexpected bill.
Earn cashback or money off your bill
You can get money off your phone bill with certain rewards or cashback deals. Tesco Mobile, for example, allows you to earn rewards and family perks such as Clubcard points or money off your bill. You can also get money off your Tesco Mobile bill if you recommend a friend to sign up.
If you have certain cashback current accounts such as Santander Edge or Chase Bank you may also be able to benefit from cashback on your phone bill, although this is usually limited to a certain percentage or for a certain amount of time.
Alternatively, another way to get money off your phone bill is via Airtime Rewards which works by generating cashback on your usual spending and paying off some, if not all, of your phone bill. How much cashback you may get varies but includes retailers such as Boots, Greggs, Primark and other popular high street shops. However, in order to use Airtime Rewards you will need to have a phone bill with a well-known network such as EE, giffgaff, O2, Vodafone or Three.
Things to consider before getting a new phone contract
Switching to a new contract or getting a new phone can be exciting but there are some things that you should consider before switching providers or signing up for a new mobile phone contract. We list some of these below.
Check network coverage
When switching you may be tempted by a deal you have seen on a new phone but you should first check the network coverage of the provider in your local area so you don't end up switching and ending up with a poor signal. You can use Ofcom's broadband and mobile coverage checker to find the best providers in your local area.
If you regularly travel abroad for work or leisure you may wish to consider the roaming fees with the provider you are with or are hoping to switch to as some providers offer add-ons with roaming at a discounted rate or have bundles that allow you to use your phone abroad for no extra cost. However, in 2022 a number of network providers brought back roaming charges for people travelling abroad to the EU. More information can be found in our article.
Do you need phone insurance?
When taking out a phone contract with a network provider you may be asked if you wish to insure your mobile and this is usually added on to your pay monthly contract amount. Before agreeing to add the phone insurance it may be worth shopping around to see if you already have phone or gadget insurance included elsewhere e.g with a packaged bank account or with a home insurance policy, Alternatively, it may be cheaper to get a separate gadget policy altogether.
Pay As You Go (PAYG) vs Pay monthly
It is often easy to overlook PAYG deals when looking to get a new phone or renew your sim but if you are regularly connected to WiFi and rarely use your phone when out and about you may benefit from a PAYG sim instead. PAYG deals don't tie you into long contracts and you can buy only what you need to use, however, you may not benefit from the best rates and charges on the network. You can choose to top up once you have used up all of your allowance or alternatively you can choose to join a PAYG bundle which pays for a set amount of data, minutes and texts every month.
What to do if you cannot pay your mobile phone bill
If you are struggling to pay your mobile bill you should seek help as soon as possible as ignoring your financial difficulty will only exacerbate the problem. Take a look at the following steps if you are struggling to pay your mobile phone bill:
- Contact your network provider - Notify your mobile provider as soon as possible to let them know you are having problems paying and enquire about swapping to a cheaper deal.
- Are you eligible for a social tariff? - There are a number of social tariffs for people that receive eligible benefits that mean you can receive discounted broadband or mobile phone deals. VOXI for Now offers a social tariff that gives eligible customers unlimited data, calls and texts for £10 a month.
- Pay debt over time - If you owe debt to your mobile provider you may be able to arrange to pay the debt you owe over a period of time or they may even waive some of the debt if you can pay the remaining amount within a set timeframe.
- Speak to a debt charity or website - If you are overwhelmed by your financial situation and worried about what you can and cannot afford there are a number of debt charities that offer free debt help and advice. More information can be found in our article, 'Where to get free debt advice'.