Could a SIM-only deal save you money?

If you want to reduce your mobile phone expenditure, or avoid tying yourself into an 18-month contract, a SIM-only deal could be worth a look. During 2008, all the major networks have been pushing SIM-only deals and there are also new entrants to consider – household names such as Ikea and Tesco have also joined the market.

Experts say mobile users could double the amount of inclusive call minutes and texts they get for their monthly fee by switching to a SIM-only tariff.

What is it?

As the name suggests, with a SIM-only deal you just get a SIM card and have to provide your own handset. The SIM card, or Subscriber Identity Module, stores data such as a customer’s mobile phone number and address book contact information. It allows you to easily transport your phone numbers and contacts to a new phone simply by removing the card from one phone and inserting it into another.

Standard monthly contracts include a SIM card and a handset, which can usually be upgraded to the latest model every 12 or 18 months, depending on the length of your contract. By offering SIM-only deals, networks don’t have to cover the cost of new handsets so they can offer cheaper deals.

James Parker, commercial manager of mobiles at, says consumers are spoilt for choice with new SIM-only deals appearing every week and the networks fast dropping their prices to compete.

“One of the main attractions to these deals is the great value on offer,” he adds. “Invariably the mixture of minutes and texts is much cheaper than if you were tied into a contract as the network is not subsidising the cost of the handset as part of the monthly contract.”

Parker says a SIM-only deal could double your inclusive allowance, and are perfect if you do not want to be tied into a lengthy contract as typical SIM-only contracts have a minimum term of just one month.”


SIM-only deals are also available on a pay-as-you-go basis. These deals don’t have a fixed monthly set cost but instead you provide a handset, buy a SIM card and pay set prices for calls and messages. Customers are required to ‘top-up’ their credit with vouchers instead of receiving a bill.

Ernest Doku, technology editor at mobile phone comparison site, says: “SIM-only mobile deals generally come with excellent tariffs and offer great flexibility, such as allowing people to keep their existing number and phone and requiring them to give only 30 days’ notice.

“Pay-as-you-go SIM-only offers are even more flexible as they work on a top-up basis, and are an alternative to get cheap international calls.”

For example, according Doku a Vodaphone pay-as-you-go SIM offers landline calls to 16 countries, including Poland, India and Nigeria for 5p a minute. The same calls can cost as much as £1.65 a minute on a standard Vodafone pay-monthly contract.

Ikea’s and Tesco’s SIM-only offerings are pay-as-you-go. Ikea’s Family Mobile tariff is open to people who join the Ikea Family, the store’s loyalty scheme. Customers who sign up receive a SIM card but have to provide their own phone. UK calls, routed over the T-Mobile network, cost 9p a minute and texts are 6p each. Ikea claims the deal is at least 25% cheaper than other pay-as-you-go deals.

You can also get a free SIM card on Tesco’s pay-as-you-go tariff. Calls are 20p a minute and texts are 10p with half-price calls and texts to your five favourite numbers. You also get 500 texts or 150 free minutes if you top up with £15 or more each month.

Keep your number

Switching to a SIM-only deal doesn’t necessarily mean you need a new phone number. If you are switching to a SIM-only deal with your current network and are not tied into a contract, your provider will be able to switch your number to a SIM-only deal.

If you are switching networks, then your supplier will have to follow Ofcom’s rules on mobile number portability. You will need to ask your existing mobile company for a PAC (Porting Authorisation Code) before you cancel the service. This is a reference number which you will quote when moving to another provider. Tell your new mobile phone company that you want to use your existing mobile number, then quote your PAC.

SIM-only deals are suitable for many people but anyone who wants to save money will find them particularly beneficial.

And if you want the latest handset as soon as it comes out, a SIM-only deal could also prove your best option. By opting for a SIM-only deal, you can buy a new handset as soon as it’s available, rather than wait for your contract to expire so you can upgrade or switch to a deal offering the handset you want.

The cons

However, there are downsides to SIM-only deals. The most obvious is that a handset is not included so you will have to supply your own, either by using an old one or buying a new one. Using a phone more than a year old will often mean it’s out of warranty and you’ll have to pay for any necessary repairs.

You will also need to make sure the handset you want to use is unlocked. When you buy a handset it’s normally ‘locked’ to the network that supplied it and will not accept SIM cards from rival networks until it has been unlocked.

You might see a message saying “invalid SIM card”, “phone restricted”, “enter network lock code” or something similar when you insert another SIM card. Your phone company may unlock your handset or you could try a phone shop on the high street, which will do it for £5 to £10. There are also websites that can unlock your phone, normally for a small fee.

Negotiate, negotiate, negotiate

If you don’t fancy a SIM-only deal but want to reduce your bill, negotiating with your supplier at the end of your contract often does the trick. Sales or customer service departments only offer a limited number of tariffs but customer retention departments, also known as disconnection teams, usually have more power to offer better deals.

Customers who threaten to switch to a rival provider can often negotiate a cheaper rate by contacting one of these departments.

In some cases, you can negotiate a higher minutes and texts allowance, or you might be able to reduce what you pay each month. If you’re coming to the end of your contract and aren’t bothered about upgrading your handset, some networks will offer you cashback on your line rental instead of giving you a new phone.

More about

Your Comments

I admit I am quite lazy when it comes to my mobile phone - I would rather just get a new handset each year and rarely review my tariff. But when I called up my network (O2), and it tried to upgrade me onto a more expensive deal, I took a long hard look at the way I use my phone and realised something that, while obvious, had managed to pass me by.

My original deal was £35 a month for 400 free minutes and 100 free texts. But, over the past year, I have never used more than 181 minutes a month and the average number of texts I send is just 72.

I have now switched onto a SIM-only deal with O2 that is just £15 a month and gives me 200 free minutes and 400 free texts - that's a saving of £240 a year and an extra 300 texts a month.

We've had Virgin Mobile SIMs for a few years now and for low usage it's ideal - our typical monthly bill for two mobiles is under £10. We pay monthly by Direct Debit, so we don't have to bother with vouchers either, though we can top-up (pre-pay) if we want to - especially when there's a special offer available.

I think sim only deals are great, i recently was looking for one and it i found a deal better than mine in terms of 100 more minutes and 200 more texts for £15 less a month at

I am certain that sim only contracts can save you money. One other great advantage is the 30 day contract you will sign for. I compared first at and then bought my sim only and I am happy I did so!

I just typed in sim only contracts and came accross this site and was able to quickly choose a price plan. My contract with o2 had finished and i decided to go for a 30 day sim until start my new job and can afford a new phone. I went with t-mobile in the end and im happy with the value it provides me at this moment in time.

There are plenty of comparison sites to choose from, so finding the best sim only deal for you shouldnt be difficult. is a great site with plenty of information on the latest SIM deals.

SIM Only deals can be good if you already have a good handset and don't need another one as part of your contract. If you have a handset that is very old or needs replacing then SIM Only deals is not the best contract to go for. The best thing about SIM Only Contracts is the flexibility of changing price plans, changing network providers and even canceling with a 30 day notice.

As already mentioned above, there are many SIM Only comparison sites sites out there with all giving pretty much good information. You can use a comparison site to find the deal most suitable for you. Please note that if you need a handset as well, then you should sign up for a standard contract and not a SIM Only contract.

I totally agree. SIM Only deals can be good if you already have a good handset and don't need another one as part of your contract. But you need to make sure you find yourself the right contract.

If you have got a good handset and want to check out SIM offers i can recommend looking at some of the pay as you go deals around too.

Most of them are giving you the same level of minutes and text, in some cases more, than the pay monthly SIM deals. You can also get some pretty good extras when you top up a certain amount. So if you're just looking to spend a small amount each a month it might actually be better to get the prepay cards, you can top up all over the place these days and i think most of them let you do it by credit/debit card. You can get the SIM cards for free and you obv wont need a credit check etc. So have a look at those kind of deals too, theres a lot of different sites with some good offers like this one for free SIM cards and they get sent out direct from the networks.

Hope that helps and saves you some pennies!

Hi All,

I have been looking around the internet for 2 sim only deals for my 2 children for about a month now.
The last pay-as-you-go was from Three. I have topped up the card with over £30 and only used £13 of it.
The credit only last for 1 month and by the time the kids decide to use it, the credit is £0 again.

I am looking for a very simple PAYG Sim only with a tariff that when top up say £5pm, I keep that £5 for ever unless I use it. Or am I dreaming?
10 years ago, this is all you could get!

I think there needs to be a clear and detailed mobile phone comparison site.

Thanks for listening to me.


hello i have recently been looking to purchace a sim only contract and although there may be some comparison sites already listed i would like to tell people about the site i used to get my sim only contract as i feel it was helpful and allowed me to make my choice quick and easy this site it if you are stuggling to find a sim only contract check them out

here are plenty of comparison sites to choose from, so finding the best sim only deal for you shouldnt be difficult. for the dutch market on italian domain :S LOL

SIM only deals are great value but don;t forget that they are also envinonmentally frindly as keeping your phone is even greener than recycling it!

Hi I got my self a sim only deals and I have saved money over a course of a year. These are very good ideas by the mobile networks.

If you have a handset that is very old or needs replacing then SIM Only deals is not the best contract to go for

Hi. I just thought I would mention a couple of sim only deals and discounts that are available at the moment to help you save a bit of cash.
These are the current offers for May 2012: Orange have the Panther 20.50 sim on sale with £5 a month off and is now £15.50 a month with 600 minutes, unlimited texts and 500MB of internet. You can also save £5 a month off the Panther 15.50 tariff as well.
Vodafone have 3 months half price line rental on all of thier 12 month sim only plans. The cheapest is £5.25 for the first 3 months and you get 150 minutes, unlimited texts and 100MB of internet.
With O2 you can save £6 a month with the Simplicity 600 Tariff if you choose the medium internet allowance - normally £21.50 but now £15.50. 3 Mobile still have the £3 a month discount on the Sim 600 tariff with 600 minutes, 5000 texts and 1GB of internet. This is normally £15 a month.
We have a list of the top 10 sim only deals where you will find some fantastic discounts. I hope that helps your visitors to save a bit of cash.

Well written piece Emma! Since I read this article I have decided to take your advice on board and switch over to SIM only. I Found my SIM deal on and ever since, I have been saving just under £6 per month in comparison to what I was paying before, on my mobile phone contract tariff. I suspect that with the current state of the economy this SIM only concept will really take off! Thanks again.

Yes you can save lot money with good deal on SIM only and many price sensitive users will find it quite useful too.

The cash supply of a nation comprises of money banknotes and coins and typically incorporates bank cash. Bank cash, which comprises just of records basically modernized in present day keeping money, structures by a wide margin the biggest piece of expansive cash in created nations.
help with resume

The cash supply of a nation comprises of money banknotes and coins and typically incorporates bank cash. Bank cash, which comprises just of records basically modernized in present day keeping money, structures by a wide margin the biggest piece of expansive cash in created nations.
help with resume