Save on your handset: Get a refurbished phone and ditch your pricey contract

Published by Francesca Bloor on 24 July 2018.
Last updated on 27 July 2018

Mobile users set to switch with just a text


If, like me, you aren’t enticed by the latest smart phone and its flash new features, perhaps you should consider purchasing a refurbished handset and a Sim-only contract to save money.

I discovered these money-saving tips when I dropped and broke my brand new phone and had to claim a cash settlement for it on my contents insurance. My insurance company suggested I look for a refurbished phone online to replace it and to help cut costs.

After conducting online research, I found an Apple iPhone 6 64GB for just under £170 on resale site Music Magpie.

I then found a Sim-only contract in Virgin Mobile’s January flash-sale, which gives me 5GB data, unlimited texts and 1,500 minutes for just £9 a month.

In total, that’s £278 for the handset and a 12-month Sim-only contract – a fraction of what I paid on my previous phone contract, which has saved me hundreds.  

I even managed to keep my old mobile number, despite switching providers. And (if I try not to drop this phone), I shouldn’t have to buy another handset for a few years, saving me even more money.

What is a refurbished phone?

A refurbished phone is a second-hand handset that has been checked, repaired and tested to ensure the software is up to date and in full working order. They will also have been restored to factory settings so there is nothing on there from the previous owner. Often, they will come with a warranty that varies in length depending on the provider.

While the software is tested and optimised before purchase, the aesthetic quality of the phone can differ. Companies tend to grade their refurbished devices on their cosmetic condition, so make sure you look into this before buying.

There are a number of different companies that sell refurbished phones, but some that typically include a warranty are Amazon, Argos, Cex, eBay, Game, and Music Magpie.

What is a Sim-only contract?

When you sign up to a Sim-only contract, you are only paying for the mobile service – so the number of minutes, texts and data you have. The service provider will send you the Sim card to put into your handset.

They are usually significantly cheaper than a normal phone contract, as you are not paying for the handset on top of the mobile service.

Comparison websites, such as Comparethemarket.com, can help you to find the best Sim-only deal.

But don’t forget to cancel your previous contract if you won’t be using it anymore, and be aware that this may incur a fee if you haven’t reached the end of the agreed contract period.

Top tips to cut mobile bills

My other top tips for knocking down your mobile bill include: 

  1. Check if the retailer offers a warranty and how long it is. A warranty is crucial for products, such as mobile devices, that can develop faults.
  2. Check if the handset is ‘locked’ to a provider. Often mobile handsets are locked to the network they were originally associated with, and it can be a tricky (although not impossible) to get them unlocked. So look for a handset that is locked to the provider you are going to be using or one that has been unlocked.
  3. Check the condition of the phone you’re buying. Check how the retailer you are purchasing from grades its refurbished devices – that way, you know what cosmetic condition to expect your phone to be in. Also compare how much the same device costs in different conditions as, if you don’t mind a few scuffs, it could save you even more money.
  4. Check for cancellation fees on your current phone contract. If you are still in the middle of a contract with your current provider, check if there are any cancellation fees. It could be cheaper to see the contract out until the end and then sign up to a Sim-only.
  5. Check what accessories the handset comes with. Charger cables, plugs and headphones aren’t always included. But if you need to buy them separately, try to negotiate a deal.

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Refurbished Handset

I broke my phone on a contract and went for a very basic phone. Useless no one could hear.me. When my contract ran out I searched eBay and other sites for an iPhone. I wanted an iPhone 5 as it is a reasonable size to carry around. I bought a brand new one for £146 which gives a year's warranty and then purchased a sim deal from 02 which was a special offer. Tenco mobile also do good deals. I find Apple products easy to use. The phone has a slide out section to put the SIM card in so you don't break the screen.