14 tips on getting the best mobile phone contract
Almost every cat and their human has a mobile phone these days, so it’s well worth making sure you get the best deal possible.With the sheer range of mobile phone contracts on offer these days, it can be confusing getting the right tariff for you – it’s not just about getting a Nokia with snake these days.
But never fear, you can beat the tricks of the trade and we’re here to help with our ninja style skills.
Top phone contract tips
Do you need a contract?
Alright, don’t laugh. We know it seems like everyone is on a mobile contract these days, but before you dive right in and get an all singing and all dancing tariff take a step back and think if you actually need it.
You can get some great deals on free texts if you top up a specified amount a month, and with WiFi now pretty much everywhere, you may find it’s cheaper to just top up as you go.
Don’t just go for the cheapest deal
It can be tempting to just pick the cheapest package and have done with it – what could possibly go wrong? Well, charges of up to 60p a minute if you go over. Yeuch.
Again, it’s really important to look at how many texts, minutes and data you actually use so you get the right package.
And then look at the contracts carefully to see exactly what you’re getting and the charges if you go over. Don’t say we didn’t warn you.
Don’t forget data allowances
Unless your phone is for emergencies only, it’s highly likely you’ll want to connect to the thrills and spills of the world wide 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 ya hear?
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 (often of your mobile phone), 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).
Be wary of contracts with cashback
Increasingly, contract resellers such as Mobiles.co.uk and e2save.com 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 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.
Check out the contract length
Alright, so no-one wants to be tied into a contract the same size as the wall of china, but the fact of the matter is that mobile operators will expect you to be tied in for a set number of months.
We won’t lie, you can get rolling contracts with no commitment, but these are not usually a cost effective way of doing things.
Most networks will offer you the choice of 12, 18, 24 or 36 months contracts, with the prices getting lower the more of your life you sign away.
It’s all about striking a balance; while cheaper is obviously more appealing, you don’t want to tied in forever incase your circumstances change.
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.
Account for using abroad if needed
If you plan on taking your handset abroad, beware that ‘roaming’ (that’s using your phone abroad) can cost much more than your usual tariff.
While the EU have introduced new laws to make charges abroad less costly, it’s unlikely that minutes used abroad will be included in your allowances, so you could still end up paying a hefty bit more.
Some networks offer special tariffs for those that want to use roaming on a regular basis, so get whoever is selling you your contract to fully explain the terms of their roaming packages before you commit.
Consider SIM Only contracts
It’s worth pointing out that while most phone contracts focus on the new and shiny phone you’ll be getting as part of the deal, it doesn’t have to be that way.
If you’ve already got a decent phone and aren’t that bothered about the latest and greatest, there’s nothing to stop you getting a SIM only shebang.
As you’re not paying for the phone, you can net some great savings with some contracts coming it at just a fiver a month.
Consider networks carefully
Networks may seem much of a muchness, but just like puppies they’re all different and there are a few things to look out for when assessing which network is best for you.
Most importantly, mobile phone signal varies hugely throughout the UK and some networks offer much 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 a gazillion 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 or doing some bad-ass haggling with your current boo.
Consider shopping online for your contract
Whilst it’s 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 likely that you’ve been preyed upon by commission hungry sales staff.
Whether they call themselves ‘advisers’, ‘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 are 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.
Use comparison sites
Much like pretty much any other area of selling, there are comparison sites to help you try and find the best deal.
Of course you can easily do your own research (and we would highly recommend doing that as well) but there is no harm in paying a visit to Mobile Phone Checker and uSwitch to see what they have to offer.
Apps to help you save
So, this doesn’t strictly apply to finding the best contract, but there are loads of apps out there which will help you to stop using as much texts or data, allowing you to get a smaller contract.
Messaging apps like WhatsApp can also help you cut down on the texts you send too.
Come outside the big names
The mobile phone sector is filled with big players, but don’t be afraid to step outside of the main players.
Most notably GiffGaff offer some good deals without getting locked in, but feel free to browse.
Got any more top tips we totally should know about? Just want to share the bargain you got last weekend? The comments section is crying out for you.