Best SIM only deals for December 2018

SIM-only deals

Keep your phone, get the minutes and data you need, and pay less overall. These are the three main benefits of choosing a SIM only plan. We’ve compared deals across the best UK networks and rounded up the top plans.

If you're happy with the phone you've currently got, or have inherited one from a friend or relative, then you should get a SIM-only plan. It’s much more cost-effective than buying a phone contract and offers a lot more flexibility too.

Best contract SIM-only deals

Best buy deals
  • VOXI sim only
    4G
    • 6GB of 4G data
    • Unlimited minutes
    • Unlimited texts
    • Unlimited social data - Exclusive to under 30's
    • £10.00 per month
    1 month contract From VOXI
  • ID sim only
    4G
    • Exclusive
    • 9GB of 4G data
    • 500 minutes
    • Unlimited texts
    • Includes capping + data rollover
    • £11.00 per month
    1 month contract From iD Mobile
  • SMARTY sim only
    4G
    • Exclusive
    • 2GB of 4G data
    • Unlimited minutes
    • Unlimited texts
    • Buy 1 month get 2 months FREE
    • £7.50 per month
    1 month contract From SMARTY
  • Tesco Mobile sim only
    4G
    • 15GB of 4G data
    • 5000 minutes
    • 5000 texts
    • £15.00 per month
    12 month contract From Tesco Mobile
  • O2 sim only
    4G
    • 20GB of 4G data
    • Unlimited minutes
    • Unlimited texts
    • £22.00 per month
    12 month contract From O2
  • Vodafone sim only
    4G
    • 6GB of 4G data
    • Unlimited minutes
    • Unlimited texts
    • 2GB data bonus
    • £10.00 per month
    12 month contract From Vodafone

Contract SIM-only deals are often the most cost-effective plans available. Most networks would prefer you stick with them for as long as possible, so in return for your loyalty they offer better rates.

SIM-only contracts typically last 12 months, though some providers also offer longer terms. For those of you happy to sign up for the long haul, it’s possible to find a great value deal - we’ve highlighted some of our top picks in the table above. On the other hand, if you’re not quite ready to commit, you’d be better off with a 30-day SIM-only plan.

Best 30 day SIM-only deals

Best buy deals
  • ID sim only
    4G
    • Exclusive
    • 9GB of 4G data
    • 500 minutes
    • Unlimited texts
    • Includes capping + data rollover
    • £11.00 per month
    1 month contract From iD Mobile
  • VOXI sim only
    4G
    • 15GB of 4G data
    • Unlimited minutes
    • Unlimited texts
    • Unlimited social data - Exclusive to under 30's
    • £15.00 per month
    1 month contract From VOXI
  • GiffGaff sim only
    4G
    • 3GB of 4G data
    • Unlimited minutes
    • Unlimited texts
    • £10.00 per month
    1 month contract From giffgaff
  • Plusnet Mobile sim only
    4G
    • 3GB of 4G data
    • Unlimited minutes
    • Unlimited texts
    • Roam like at home
    • £8.50 per month
    1 month contract From Plusnet Mobile

The beauty of a 30 day SIM-only plan is how flexible it is. You’re not locked in for any great length of time, so you can change it or cancel whenever you want.

That means you can add or remove data depending on your needs, switch providers whenever the fancy takes you, and take advantage of any special offers that catch your eye.

There are loads of options too, particularly from smaller operators like giffgaff, VOXI or iD Mobile. Just be aware that most deals are rolling plans - so you’ll still need to cancel before you switch.

Take a look at the table above for some current deals or check our full guide to see more.

Best unlimited and big data SIM-only deals

Best buy deals
  • GiffGaff sim only
    4G
    • Unlimited 4G data
    • Unlimited minutes
    • Unlimited texts
    • Speed restrictions apply after 20GB of data use
    • £25.00 per month
    1 month contract From giffgaff
  • Three sim only
    4G
    • Unlimited 4G data
    • Unlimited minutes
    • Unlimited texts
    • £27.00 per month
    12 month contract From Three Mobile
  • Three sim only
    4G
    • 100GB of 4G data
    • Unlimited minutes
    • Unlimited texts
    • £20.00 per month
    12 month contract From Three Mobile
  • Tesco Mobile sim only
    4G
    • 50GB of 4G data
    • 5000 minutes
    • 5000 texts
    • £25.00 per month
    12 month contract From Tesco Mobile

The more you do online, the more mobile data you'll need in your plan. Video is particularly data-hungry, so if you want to watch the likes of iPlayer and Netflix on the go, you'll need an unlimited or big data plan.

The biggest allowances tend to come from the big networks: Three (one of the only operators to do full unlimited plans), EE, O2 and Vodafone. That said, you can sometimes find very generous offers from smaller providers, so it’s always worthwhile to compare your options.

Best data-only SIM deals

Best buy deals
  • Vodafone sim only
    4G
    • 2GB of 4G data
    • 0 minutes
    • 0 texts
    • £11.00 per month
    1 month contract From Vodafone
  • EE sim only
    4G
    • 5GB of 4G data
    • 0 minutes
    • 0 texts
    • £12.00 per month
    24 month contract From EE Mobile
  • BT Mobile sim only
    4G
    • 6GB of 4G data
    • 0 minutes
    • 0 texts
    • £17.00 per month
    12 month contract From BT Mobile

Looking for a SIM for your tablet or dongle? Plenty of networks offer data-only SIM plans.

The most important thing to consider with these plans is how much data you’ll need. For example, if you’re out and about multiple times a week, and you want to browse freely, watch video or download files, we’d recommend a hefty data allowance (maybe 10GB+).

Alternatively, if you just use your mobile broadband device occasionally, a cheap plan with a few gigabytes may be all you need. If you’re not sure how much data to pay for, use our guide to data usage to work out your usage.

What is a SIM-only deal?

A SIM-only deal is a contract that includes minutes, texts and data - just like a regular mobile phone contract. The main difference is that with a SIM deal you do not receive a phone - only the SIM card. As a result, these plans are usually much cheaper.

SIM deals on each network

Still not sure if there's a SIM-only deal that's right for you? You can compare all SIM only plans by using the broadbandchoices SIM-only comparison tools.

  • Compare O2 SIM only deals - Join O2 to get 4G SIM deals and benefits such as exclusive offers on big High Street brands.
  • Compare EE SIM only deals - EE has the fastest network in the UK and gives customers extras like EE TV and discounts on Fibre Broadband.
  • Compare Three SIM only deals - With Three you can get unlimited internet data and free roaming abroad.
  • Compare Vodafone SIM only deals - Vodafone's network gives unlimited data for 3 months to new SIM-only customers with a 12 month contract. You can also get NOW TV, Spotify and Sky Sports Mobile app subscriptions included on selected 4G plans.
  • Compare BT Mobile SIM plans - BT has great discounts for existing BT Broadband customers and gives all SIM Only customers free access to the BT Sport app.

How do SIM-only deals work?

With a SIM-only deal, you choose the plan that best suits your needs - in terms of minutes, texts and data. The network sends you a new SIM card, which you then pop into your phone.

When you opt for a SIM-only deal, you're only paying for the SIM card. This means you can either use it with your old phone, or you can buy a new phone and use it with that one.

Once you purchase a SIM deal from a network and it is activated, this means this SIM card is permanently locked to that network, though not to your phone. You can easily swap handsets but keep the same SIM card - containing all your personal information, such as contact numbers, photos and messages.

Should I switch to a SIM-only deal?

Pros

  • Cost - SIM deals tend to be cheaper than regular mobile phone contracts. Whether you're paying a monthly fee or pay-as-you go, you're not paying for a brand new handset, so straight away (in most cases) your costs are lower.
  • Flexibility - With a SIM deal, you have more options on contract length. Most mobile phone contracts will lock you in for at least 12 to 24 months. SIM-only deals tend to be more flexible and are available on 30-day contracts.
  • Credit check - It's easier to pass a credit check for a SIM-only deal. If you've ever struggled to pass a credit check for a mobile phone contract, then a SIM plan could be for you. As the network provider isn't including an expensive mobile handset in your contract (just a relatively inexpensive microchip) - you're deemed to be a lower-risk customer.
  • Keep your old phone - As you're only getting a new SIM card, you get to keep your tried and tested old handset.

Cons

Network offers - You may find the best plan that fits your needs is only available through a particular network on a longer contract. So you may need to compromise slightly on your call, text and data allowances.

Initial outlay - While your SIM-only deal costs will be relatively low, if you do need a new handset, you'll need to fork out the full cost upfront. With most handsets, we're talking hundreds of pounds, though you can get some cheaper options.

Network exclusives - Some networks will reserve exclusive deals for specific phones. You may discover a phone you have your eye on is only available via a long mobile contract.

Should I go for a short-term or long-term SIM deal?

It depends what your priorities are when choosing a SIM deal. If you want greater flexibility, then there are some good 30-day SIM deals available which mean you're not tied to a long contract. If cost is your biggest concern, you may find a 12-month SIM-only deal is worth going for, as this reduces your monthly expense.

Ultimately, it's all about balancing your call, text and data needs with what you're happy to pay for that plan - either per month and across the overall length of the contract.

Can I keep my current telephone number?

You can keep your mobile number, even if you switch networks. It's actually a pretty straightforward process - here's how you do it:

How reliable are the smaller, less well-known networks?

Lesser-known networks, such as giffgaff or Smarty, can offer cheaper SIM-only plans because they don't operate expensive high street shops and customer service. So while you may feel more reassured by opting for a bigger and better-known network, such as EE or Vodafone, you shouldn't disregard the others.

Ultimately all the smaller providers use a network which belongs to one of the 'big four' - that is O2, Vodafone, EE and Three. Rest assured that all network providers listed on broadbandchoices are reputable and reliable.

What kind of SIM card do I need?

As mobile phone technology has improved, the size of SIM cards has got smaller and smaller. Depending on the age of your phone, it will use one of these SIM sizes:

  • Nano SIM - used by most modern phones, including the most recent iPhones and Samsung Galaxy handsets.
  • Micro SIM - 12 x 15mm. Typically found in mid-range phones as well as some older handsets.
  • Standard SIM - 15 x 25mm. Not actually the standard anymore. Some older phones or feature phones may still use this size, however.

If you’re worried about what size SIM card you need… don’t be. When you buy a SIM-only plan, your chosen network will supply you with a three-in-one SIM card that will work on any phone. All you have to do is pop out the size you need, and you’re ready to go.

I'm ready to switch networks

Thinking about switching networks, but not sure on the next step? Check out our handy guide on switching your mobile network and keeping your number, and we'll lead you through the surprisingly simple process.

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