How to decide whether SIM free or monthly mobile phone contract is best for you

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How to decide whether SIM free or monthly mobile phone contract is best for you

So, you’re shopping for a new mobile phone! While finding the perfect phone model and unboxing it is very exciting, choosing between a SIM-free deal or a monthly phone contract is not so fun. It can be confusing, too. How do you know which is best?

In this short guide, we’re going to compare SIM-free and monthly contract options so you can decide which deal is right for you. Weigh up the pros and cons of each option below to find out whether you should go for a SIM-free deal or find a monthly contract.

What is SIM-free?

SIM-free refers to a phone that’s sold without a SIM card. It’s up to you to buy a SIM card separately and physically put it in the phone/set it up with the phone.

Usually, these phones are unlocked. That means they will work with any SIM card from any network. That gives you the freedom to find any deal you like from all UK phone networks. You’ll need to look for SIM-only deals!

A SIM-only deal is a monthly contract that’s only for a SIM card, which makes it cheaper than the monthly contract include a phone (see below). You’ll only pay for data, texts, and minutes.

You’ve also got the Pay As You Go option if you don’t want to commit to a monthly contract at all.

Pros of SIM-free

  • Better prices for data/texts/minutes.
  • Unlocked phones give you the freedom to switch networks.
  • Option to keep your old phone model instead of buying a new one.

Cons of SIM-free

  • Miss out on contract mobile phone deals that give a discount on new phone models.
  • Buying phones upfront, rather than with monthly instalments, is expensive.
  • You might need to unlock your phone from your old network first.

SIM-free is best for: finding a great deal on texts, minutes, and data when you don’t need or want a new phone from the network too.

What is a monthly contract?

Buying a phone with a monthly contract means you’re buying a deal for the phone, plus the SIM card with data, minutes, and texts. You pay for all of this together in monthly instalments, rather than paying for the phone in full upfront.

It’s more expensive than a SIM-only deal because you’re paying for the phone itself at the same time. However, by buying the phone directly from the network, you can potentially get a discount on the price of the phone compared to buying it SIM-free.

It also means that you don’t need to buy the phone upfront if money is tight for you right now.

Usually, contracts run for 12 to 24 months. Once you’ve paid off the cost of the phone in monthly instalments, you can switch to a new contract with a new phone model, or just continue to pay for the SIM only (data, texts, and minutes).

Pros of monthly contracts

  • Get the latest phone models and spread the cost over a monthly contract.
  • Less hassle – you’ve sorted the SIM and phone handset in one go.
  • Builds your credit rating, by showing you can pay a monthly contract.

Cons of monthly contracts

  • The network runs a credit check before offering a contract.
  • You’re locked in with the network for the duration of your contract, even if their reception is bad in your area.
  • You’re locked in with the phone model too unless the network offers a switch/upgrade at the end of your contract.

A monthly contract is best for: convenience and spreading the cost of a brand-new phone into easily affordable monthly payments.

So, should you choose SIM-free or a monthly contract?

Both options are great and have unique benefits, so one isn’t necessarily better than the other! It boils down to: pick SIM-free if you want the flexibility to find the best deal and switch networks whenever you please, and pick a monthly contract if you want the latest phone model without needing to pay for it in one go.