10 ways to get the best mobile phone contract
With the sheer range of phone contracts on offer now, and all sorts of gimmicks to get you to sign up, it can be a confusing process choosing the right mobile contract for you.
Plus, as a student we all want to save money wherever we can.
Having a mobile phone is one of those things that nearly every student has, and for most drains their bank account every month. Unfortunately there are no student mobile phone contracts so we have to do our best when searching for one.
To make sure you don’t lose out to the tricks of the trade, yet ensuring you get the best deal, check out our 10 tips that you should be aware of.
Top 10 Phone Contract Tips
Don’t be fooled by cheap contract deals
Like everything in life, when it comes to mobile phone contracts, you get what you pay for. When you’re deciding which tariff to purchase, look at what you’re getting in return and compare that to what you think you will use on a monthly basis.
Going over your monthly allowance can mean call charges of up to 60p per minute! Staying within the boundaries of your inclusive allowance will keep suprise bills at bay.
Don’t forget data
Unless your phone is for emergencies only, it’s highly likely you’ll want to connect to the mobile web. Facebook, YouTube, Email and Twitter, in fact any application that connects to the internet via your mobile will use up mobile internet data. Like calls, going over your mobile internet allowance can lead to some hefty charges from your mobile network.
How much data is enough? Casual users should find 500MB more than adequate for their needs, however if you plan on streaming content or watching mobile TV, go for an unlimited mobile internet deal.
Get mobile insurance, but read the fine print
When you’re carrying a £400 mobile phone everywhere you go, it’s reassuring to know that if anything untoward happened to it, you could replace it free of charge. Mobile phone insurance has grown in popularity for exactly this reason, however not all insurance is created equal.
Many mobile phone insurance companies will sell you what they call a ‘comprehensive’ insurance package for between £5 to £8 per month, however when it comes to the crunch (of your mobile phone that is), some firms will find all manner of excuses to avoid paying out.
Our advice? Firstly check whether your phone is covered under your parent’s house or contents insurance. If not, either go for mobile phone insurance with your bank or sign up to a cheap monthly plan with a specialist gadget insurer like ProtectYourBubble.com (from £1.49 per month).
Contracts with Cashback
Increasingly, contract resellers such as Phones4U, Mobiles.co.uk, e2save.com and Dial-a-Phone offer cashback deals with their contracts. These deals are not exactly a scam, but it can be very difficult and frustrating trying to claim your cashback, often requiring the customer to send in monthly bill statements throughout their contract term.
It’s much better to get the cashback as a lump-sum by going through a cashback website (see our guide on cashback). There’s no action needed from you in order to claim this aside from clicking on the right link. You could get up to £100 cashback for phones like the iPhone 4s. This could pay for the cost of your phone.
No one wants to be tied into a contract, but unfortunately the mobile operators need to keep our custom for a guaranteed number of months in order to re-coup the costs of expensive handsets (and of course make a tidy profit on top).
Most networks offer three options of contract length, 12, 24 and 36 months. Whilst 12 month contracts mean you’re only under the thumb of the mobile network for a year, most will compensate for this by charging a much higher monthly premium for your contract.
On the other hand, 36 month contracts are cheaper, however..if your circumstances change (e.g. move to an area with less signal, move country or get offered a business phone) you could be stuck in your contract for a long time before your network will release you from their air-tight contracts.
Our advice is to stick to a 24 month contract and reap the rewards of a slightly cheaper contract whilst limiting your contract term to give you the flexibility to move away or buy yourself out of the contract if your circumstances change.
Using your phone abroad
If you plan on taking your handset abroad, beware that ‘roaming’ (that’s using your phone abroad) can cost significantly more than your usual tariff. Some networks offer special tariffs for those that want to use this service on a regular basis, so get whoever is selling you your contract to fully explain the terms of their roaming packages before you commit.
Pay As You Go vs. Contract
Pay As you Go (as the name suggests) means you top up your phone with ‘credit’ in order to make calls, rather than paying a monthly subscription. Services such as pay as you go phones have changed in recent years with some offering additional credit when you top up a certain amount every month.
There’s nothing wrong with these deals, but be sure to look at the standard price per minute for making calls. Unless your a light user or prefer the control of having a Pay As You Go phone, it’s worth considering whether a contract would work out cheaper in the long run.
When considering Pay As You Go deals, be sure to assess your data usage (see point 2.), as mobile internet can eat up your credit surprisingly fast.
Choosing a network
Networks may seem much of a muchness, but besides price there are a few things to look out for when assessing which network is best for you. Mobile phone signal varies hugely throughout the UK and some networks offer better signal than others in certain areas.
The best way to assess which network offers the best signal in your area is to ask locals which network their on before you decide. If you regularly go to work or visit other areas where you’re mobile is essential, visit these places too and do the same thing.
Upgrade or change networks?
If you already have a phone on contract and your term is coming to an end, it’s likely you would have received a call from your operator offering you an ‘upgrade’ to a new phone. Many networks will have you believe that because you’ve been a customer of there’s for X amount of years, they can offer you a ‘special deal’.
In most cases however, it’s the new customers that benefit from the best deals, so it’s worth looking around before signing up to a new contract with your current provider.
Consider shopping online for your contract
Whilst its always nice to touch and feel your shiny new handset before you buy it, if you’ve ever been into any mobile phone shop on the high street it’s fairly likely that you’ve been prayed upon by commission hungry sales staff. Whether they call themselves ‘advisors’, ‘helpers’ or ‘technicians’ the fact is that these employees are trained to sell, and sell hard.
Shopping online can relieve you of any pressure to make quick (and sometimes wrong) decisions and there’s plenty of helpful websites out there to point you in the right direction including Save The Student. From time to time our student deals section will have new phone contract deals for you.