If you have a poor credit score, it might be difficult to be approved for a phone contract. But there are many SIM-only options out there, which are cheaper and more flexible.
Phone contracts for poor credit
If you’re thinking of getting a phone contract that includes a handset, you’ll normally have to pass a credit check. This is because you’re getting a device upfront and paying it off later, so the network will want to make sure you can make your monthly repayments on time.
Your credit score is based on your financial history – for example, whether you repay your loans or credit cards on time and borrow within your limits. So, if you have a good score, you’re more likely to be approved for a mobile contract.
Unfortunately, if you have a bad credit score, or don’t have much of a credit history to begin with, it can be hard to get approved for a phone contract.
What are mobile contracts for poor credit?
While household-name networks don’t really offer mobile contracts specifically for people with poor credit, there are ways you can still get a contract from the likes of O2, Three and EE.
Read on for more information on the options you have, as well as steps you can take to improve your credit rating.
What to look for in contracts if you have bad credit
The best option is to go for a 30-day, SIM-only deal. But you’ll need to already own a phone, or be able to buy a new one outright.
Another option could be to try and get a contract for a cheaper phone.
Whether you’ll be buying a handset outright, or applying for a contract, you should consider:
- Choosing a cheaper or older handset. The latest and greatest flagships from Apple and Samsung will always be the most expensive – you’ll have more luck picking a mid-range option, or even a flagship from one or two years ago (which is still pretty recent, after all).
- Going secondhand – used devices are cheaper than brand new, of course. Refurbished phones, which have been repaired and cleaned up by the vendor, are slightly more expensive than used ones from private sellers, but they’ll be almost as good as new.
Which networks offer contracts for people with poor credit?
There are several networks that offer SIM-only contracts without a credit check. What’s more, these deals are cheaper and more flexible than being tied to a phone contract.
giffgaff’s SIM-only contracts work on a pay-as-you-go basis – you can choose a 30-day bundle and either change or renew your plan when it runs out.
VOXI Mobile specialises in affordable SIM-only deals, on 30-day contracts – and you don’t need to pass a credit check to get one.
Lebara Mobile is another good budget option that offers affordable SIM contracts without a credit check.
Smarty has a range of rolling, one-month contracts to choose from. You won’t need to pass a credit check to get one.
Many networks let you get a pay-as-you-go SIM without a credit check.
You can often buy 30-day bundles, so it’s better value and not too different from a standard, rolling-contract SIM-only deal.
Why did I fail a network credit check?
Reasons you might have failed a credit check include:
- Missed payments
- Too many credit applications
- You don’t have enough credit history
- You’re not on the electoral roll
How can I improve my network credit score?
If your credit score isn’t looking so good right now, don’t worry. You aren't doomed to have bad credit forever, and there are things you can do to improve your rating.
You can use a credit agency like Callcredit, Equifax, or Experian to see your current score. Most will let you see your rating for free, although you may have to sign up to a trial – just remember to cancel it at the end of the month, in that case.
As well as being able to check your rating, you’ll be able to see what’s affecting it. So you’ll have a good idea of the areas where you need to improve.
In the meantime, some things you can do to bring your score up include:
- Checking your credit report and making sure all your details are up to date
- Registering on the electoral roll
- Making sure you have a proper bank account
- Paying your mobile plan consistently and on time, if you do manage to sign up
- Paying all your other bills on time too – preferably via direct debit so you don’t miss repayments
- Trying to consolidate any debts you may have
- Avoiding linking your finances to people with worse credit than you - such as via joint accounts, utility bills, and so on
- Avoiding making too many applications for credit – as well as mobile phone contracts, this could be credit cards or loans
What credit score do you need to get a phone contract?
There isn’t a standard minimum credit score you need to meet – it depends on the phone network, the contract you’re applying for, and whether they think you’ll be able to make the repayments.
What do I need to provide to the network for a credit check?
Usually, you’ll be asked for your name, date of birth, marital status, current address and addresses for the last three years, plus your employment status.
You may also be asked for bank account and credit card information, as well as when you opened them.
Can I get a phone contract with no credit check?
In general, no – if you’re wanting to get a contract that comes with a handset, you’ll need to pass a credit check.