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SIM only deals

Save up to £321* by switching to SIM Only

A SIM only deal can be a game-changer, potentially saving hundreds of pounds a year. We’ll help you weigh up the pros and cons for choosing the best plan for you.

We've partnered with Uswitch to compare their best SIM only deals available to you.

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  • Compare SIM only deals from top brands like O2, Three and Vodafone

  • No lengthy contracts

*£321 is our calculated savings figure from February 2024, which details the potential amount a customer could save per year by keeping their handset and switching to a SIM only deal on Uswitch.

Why compare SIM only deals with and Uswitch?

We've partnered with Uswitch to compare their best SIM only deals. They're a leading online and phone comparison site, offering some exclusive and personalised deals that are tailored to you. You can choose to see deals based on features like the amount of data you want or whether you sign up for a contract.

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What are SIM only deals?

Traditional mobile contracts bundle up the cost of a new phone as part of your monthly payments. A SIM only deal includes a SIM card and your monthly allowance of minutes, texts and data, but no handset.


With a SIM only deal, you need to provide the device. That means using a phone you’ve already got or buying a new one.

What's a SIM card?

SIM stands for Subscriber Identity Module. It’s a small plastic card with a computer chip that slots into your phone, connecting you with your mobile network. Your SIM card holds a lot of information, including security details, the services you’ve got access to, and your phone number, plus text messages, emails, photos, and your contacts’ phone numbers too.


SIM cards come in different sizes: Standard, Micro and Nano. Once you’ve chosen your SIM-card deal, you’ll probably receive a Multi or Combi SIM, which gives you a choice of all three sizes. You pick the one that fits your mobile phone. 

SIM cards are transferable. You can move them between devices, as long as they’re compatible and not locked to another network.


To find out whether your phone is locked, put the SIM card in. If you get a signal and can make a call, your phone is unlocked. If you can’t, your network can unlock it for you, but you may have to pay.

What's an eSIM?

eSIMs (the e stands for embedded) give you multiple profiles on one handset. This means you can use different lines at different times – for example, one for work and one for personal use. They each have their own number.


Rather than having a physical SIM card, you download an eSIM via an app or QR code. The GSMA, a trade association for mobile networks across the world, predicts that by 2025, 35% of smartphones will use eSIMs.


The downside of eSIMs is that they’re more difficult to switch to a new phone. You’ll need to go through the activation process again rather than simply putting a physical card into your new phone.


On the upside, eSIMs don’t cost any more than a physical SIM. You’ve also got a choice of network providers offering them. Try EE, Lyca Mobile, O2, Three, Virgin Mobile or Vodafone.

But beware: eSIM cards don’t work on all handsets. They’ve only been around for about a decade.


You’ll need a newer iPhone or Android phone, such as:

  • Google Pixel 2 and upwards
  • iPhone XR and upwards
  • Samsung Galaxy S20 and upwards
  • Sony Xperia 1 IV, Sony Xperia 10 IV, Sony Xperia 1 MK5 and Sony Xperia 10 MK5

Later models of Motorola, Huawei, Oppo and Rakuten also come with eSIM capabilities.

How do SIM only deals work?

With a SIM only deal, you pay for the plan without the additional cost of a phone. This means if you switch from a traditional mobile contract to a SIM only deal, your monthly tariff will probably go down.


But don’t forget the upfront cost of a new phone if you haven’t already got one.


SIM only plans in the UK include:

  • 12- and 24-month contracts - you’re billed for your minutes, texts and data allowance. No need to top up your credit.
  • 30 day / rolling monthly contracts - renews monthly and you can switch your plan each month.
  • Contract-free Pay As You Go - top up the SIM with credit and pay per SMS, MMS, call and every MB of data used.

Data-only SIM plans are also available. You won’t get a phone number, but if you just want to make calls, send texts and go online using data, this may be a good fit.


Prices vary, so shop around to find the best SIM only deal for you.

What happens when I choose a SIM only deal?

Once you’ve chosen your SIM only deal from our price comparison, you can sign up online too.

  • Click the ‘Buy now’ button. You’ll get an overview of the deal. If you’re happy, click ‘Continue’ to go straight to the provider’s website.
  • Sign up. Share your details and accept the terms of the contract or pay-as-you-go plan.
  • Get your PAC (Porting Authorisation Code). This allows you to keep the same mobile number. To start the process, text PAC to 65075. Your provider will reply with the code or the next steps to get it. You can also request it via your online account on your provider’s website. Your PAC is valid for 30 days. 
  • Get your SIM card. Choose the right size for your mobile, slot it in and you’re ready to go.

Can I move to a SIM only deal with my current network provider?

If you’re out of contract, it’s usually easy to switch to a new and cheaper SIM only deal with any provider – and keep your number.


If you’ll be ending your contract early, you’ll probably need to pay off the rest of the money you owe in a lump sum. Depending on the amount, it might make sense to wait until your contract ends before you kick-start a new SIM only plan.

What are the advantages of a SIM only deal?

SIM only deals come with shorter contracts, from 30 days upwards, as well as Pay As You Go plans which are contract free.


You don’t have to make a long-term commitment and it’s quick and easy to switch to a new plan if a better offer comes along or your needs change. Your network provider may still want a month’s notice though. 


You can pay for what you need


With SIM only contracts, customisable plans let you choose the number of minutes and texts and amount of data that works for you, including unlimited data.  Some plans also come with EU roaming, so you can use your phone abroad. Or you can get plans with unlimited use of social apps and access to services such as Netflix or Prime Video that won’t count as part of your data usage.


You may also have 5G and Wi-Fi calling if your phone is compatible.


It’s easier to change providers


With a SIM only deal, you’re not locked into a particular network. If you’re not happy with your current network provider and you’re not tied into a 12-or 24-month contract, you can easily switch to another. 

Upgrading your phone is easy


Want the latest handset? You don’t need to wait. As long as it’s compatible with your SIM, you can upgrade and your monthly payments won’t change. 


You can keep your phone


You’ve set up all the apps, you like the way it works: if you don’t want to upgrade, a SIM only deal allows you to hang on to your existing model.


No credit check


If you’re worried about your credit rating or you’ve been turned down for a mobile contract elsewhere, many providers offer SIM only plans, no credit check required. They may need to do an ID check though. 


If your credit rating isn’t looking good, a SIM only contract can improve it over time provided you don’t miss any payments.

What are the disadvantages of SIM only deals?

Here are a few of the potential SIM only downsides.


The upfront cost of buying a phone


If you don’t have a handset, you’ll need to buy one. If you love the latest tech, this could be an expensive business. You can pick up a budget smartphone for around £100. Top-of-the-range models are much more. 


Your device might become obsolete


A series of SIM only deals increases the likelihood that your phone will date, stop working effectively and even put your data at risk.

You might need to unlock your phone


It’s been illegal for network providers to lock your phone since December 2021, but if you got your phone before then, it might need to be unlocked. This can be a complicated process and comes with a fee. 

What are the advantages of an eSIM?

Because you download an eSIM using an app or QR code, you can be up and running in minutes rather than having to wait for a SIM to be delivered.


Even better, because you can have multiple eSIM profiles on your device, you can choose the one with the best network coverage for where you are or the lowest roaming charges if you’re travelling abroad.

How to get the best SIM only deals

The best SIM only deal for you isn’t just about price. It’ll be the one that ticks all your boxes for flexibility and what’s included in the package too. 

An online comparison service can flag up the best SIM only deals that also match your specific criteria. Here are a few questions to help you decide on the best SIM card only deal for you. On a monthly basis:

  • How much data do you use?
  • How many minutes do you need?
  • How many texts do you usually send?
  • What kind of download speeds are you looking for?
  • Do you want a pay-as-you-go SIM or a 30-day, 12-month or 24-month contract? A longer-term contract is likely to be cheaper, but a monthly SIM gives you more flexibility to switch to different network providers or tariffs.
  • Do you travel a lot – and if so, where do you go? EU roaming and beyond is often included.

If you’re not sure about your average monthly usage, you can look at your mobile phone bills.  

Look out for the freebies and extra perks that often come with mobile SIM only deals too. These include priority gig tickets and free music downloads, as well as broadband deals and 5G at no extra cost. Just make sure your smartphone is 5G enabled and you’ve got coverage in your area.


To see if you can get 5G where you live, put your postcode into Ofcom’s coverage checker.

How much data should I get with my SIM only deal?

Pick a data allowance that matches your monthly usage. It’s important to avoid overpaying, but on the other hand, exceeding your data allowance can be expensive.


Your phone’s settings will show you how much data you’re getting through. To get an overview of what you use month by month, log into your mobile account.


Media streaming (music and video) and social media apps are the biggest culprits when it comes to data usage. Spotify, for example, can use up to 60MB per hour. Web browsers are also data hungry.


In 2022, according to Ofcom, the average user consumed 5.6GB of mobile data a month.


Over 70% of customers on a SIM only plan have been overpaying for data they didn’t use according to Citizens Advice. That’s a total cost of £800 million a year. And it amounts to an average of 2GB of wastage a month.  

What download speeds should I be looking for with a SIM only deal?

Many SIM only deals now include 5G, for minimum data speeds of around 50Mbps (megabytes per second). Make sure you check whether 5G is available in your area before you commit to a plan.


If you don’t have access to 5G, a 4G SIM only deal is the next best option. 3G is now on its way out. EE, Vodafone, Three and O2 began their switch-off in early 2023 and are planning to gradually retire their 3G networks over the next few years. If you’ve got an older handset, this may affect you. Your provider will tell you if this is likely. If so, you might be able to get 4G on your phone. If not, you’ll need to replace it.


The faster your data speed, the more you can do. Top speeds make things like live streaming and multiplayer online games almost effortless. For simple tasks like streaming or downloading music, sending texts and browsing online, 2Mbps is usually fast enough.

Which SIM only deals include data roaming?

Data roaming allows you to use data abroad. Some SIM only deals include roaming in certain countries in the EU and beyond.


You can get SIM only deals with EU roaming included from iD Mobile, Lebara, Lyca Mobile, O2,  SMARTY,  and Talkmobile.


This means most calls, texts and data usage are charged at the same rate you’d pay at home and come out of your usual allowance. But always check the details of the deal and what countries it covers.


You may also have the option to buy a data bundle for the country you’re going to.


For SIM only deals on a rolling monthly contract, you can plan ahead and change your allowance if you’re going to be away for longer.

If you’re on a 12- or 24-month SIM only contract which doesn’t include a good deal on data roaming, getting a temporary physical SIM may be your next best option. Alternatively, you can upload an eSIM if it’s compatible with your smartphone.


This allows you to access data roaming offers from other providers which may be cheaper than what you usually get. The downside is that you’ll have a different mobile number while you’re away.


If you’re a regular traveller – although you still spend most of your time in the UK – it pays to compare offers for the best-value SIM only deal with the roaming add-on you need. 

How does cashback work on SIM only deals?

Getting cashback from your SIM only deal means that you get back some of the money you’ve spent, whether that’s with a mobile phone retailer or a network provider.


Cashback on your SIM only deal usually works in one of two ways:

  • Automatic cashback – your money is paid back automatically into your bank account, 30+ days after you connect to the mobile network using your SIM.
  • Cashback by redemption requires more effort on your part. You get the money back in equal instalments on set dates during your contract. This involves knowing which months to make a claim and then uploading your bill online to receive the money. It helps to set yourself reminders so you don’t miss the deadlines.

You may also have the option to make your claim by recorded post. If you take that route, make sure you keep proof of postage for reference.   

Who has the best SIM only deals?

The best SIM only deal depends on what you’re looking for.


There are four major mobile providers in the UK: EE, Vodafone, Three and O2. They have plenty of competitive plans, with a choice of text, minutes and data allowances, plus perks and freebies.


It’s also worth looking at SIM only deals from the mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs). They don’t own or operate their own networks. Instead, they’re hosted by one of the big four.


These virtual networks don’t have the overheads of their parent companies and can provide cost-effective SIM only deals. They include giffgaff, Tesco Mobile, iD Mobile and Lebara.


They offer SIM only plans for both light and heavy smartphone users, along with plenty of incentives.


If you can wait, sales such as November’s Black Friday can also be great opportunities to pick up a cheap SIM only deal. 

Which SIM only deals use the EE network?

EE has been named the top UK network for overall performance for the tenth year running. It’s also the parent company to three major MNVOs: Lyca Mobile, BT Mobile and Plusnet Mobile, as well as a host of smaller brands which offer competitive SIM only deals.


You won’t find EE SIM only deals on price comparison websites. That stopped in March 2023. But there are plenty of offers available from the brands it hosts. You get the same great coverage and maybe even access to extras and benefits that the main network doesn’t offer.


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Please note: Mobile networks may increase monthly prices in line with the retail or consumer price index each year during the length of your contract. Please refer to the individual network's terms and conditions before signing up. TV, Broadband Phone comparison is provided by Uswitch Limited, registered in England and Wales (Company No. 03612689). The Cooperage, 5 Copper Row, London, SE1 2LH.