How to save money on your mobile phone

Looking to buy a new mobile phone? Coming to the end of your contract? Take a few minutes to see if you should stay or switch to reduce the cost of your upgrade and mobile phone bills. We also look at hidden costs and whether or not you should insure your mobile phone.

Seven out of 10 people could save £159 a year by switching to a mobile phone contract that better suits their needs.

Source: Which?

Looking for a new mobile phone?

Getting a new phone can be very expensive – especially if you have your eye on the latest model, but there are a few things you can do to keep your costs low.

  • Do your research. Is it cheaper to buy the phone you want outright or as part of a contract? Use comparison sites to shop around and help you find the best deal for you.
  • Only pay for what you need. Don’t use much data? Then don’t sign up to an expensive unlimited data plan. Match your deal to your needs.
  • Haggle with your current supplier. If your contract is ending, they’ll be desperate to keep you and might offer you some cheap deals.
  • Happy with your current phone? Stick with it. A Sim-only deal is much cheaper than a contract that comes with a phone.

Check your current mobile usage and find out what you need

Calling numbers that start with 09, 0871, 0872, 0873 and 118 will be more expensive than regular phone calls. Texting mobile shortcodes costs more as well. If you get an unexpected phone charge you can read how to dispute it on the Phonepay Plus website.

If you’re paying for minutes, data and texts you don’t use, or going over your allowance and ending up with a huge bill, chances are that you’re on the wrong contract.

You can check your usage by:

Mobilephonechecker and Billmonitor – easy-to-use deal finders

If you’re worried about giving out your password, change it to something temporary while Mobilephonechecker or Billmonitor checks your usage. You can change it back as soon as you’re done.

Each of these sites is Ofcom approved and helps you match your usage to the deals currently available on the market.

These websites give you the option to supply your own usage data, or to share your phone number, username and password, to let the website download exact data from your supplier.

The websites will then search through thousands of options to find the deals that suit you best, based on your usage.

Check your usage with Mobilephonechecker or Billmonitor.

Please note: we recommend that you don’t give your username and password to any company that asks for them, particularly in response to any unsolicited emails you may receive. In the case of Mobilephonechecker and Billmonitor, Ofcom has approved both sites and they operate under very strict guidelines.

Other mobile phone comparison sites

Once you know your mobile usage you can use a number of comparison websites to try to find a better deal.

Popular non-accredited comparison sites

Don’t let your children run up your bills

Lots of apps and games are ‘free-to-play’, but contain ‘in-app’ purchases. This means that downloading the game might not cost any money, but you might be asked to pay for features once you start using it.

To avoid being hit by a huge bill, keep an eye on what your children are playing and read the small print around in-game purchases.

You can find out more on the Phonepay Plus website.

Mobile phone contract ending – should you stay or switch?

When your contract is ending you hold all the cards. Your current supplier knows it, and they’ll usually try hard to keep you.

Your first step is to give your network operator a call. Ask about the best package they can offer you and then follow up by asking about your typical usage (minutes / texts / data downloads).

Getting this information will:

  • Help you compare deals on price comparison sites.
  • Warn your supplier that you might switch – which will almost certainly get you transferred to the retention department. Their job is to convince you to stay, and they’ll usually offer deals and discounts you wouldn’t see otherwise.

If you’re offered a good deal you may want to stay where you are, but before you do, see what else you can get based on your current usage.

Pay-as-you-go or pay monthly?

With mobile phones you either pay for exactly what you use in minutes, texts and data – pay-as-you-go – or a set fee that includes a range of services – pay monthly.

The best option for you depends on how much you use your phone and what you use it for. On a pay-as-you-go tariff, you pay for every call, text or chunk of data you use. If you rarely use your phone, this is probably the cheaper option.

However, if you use your phone more regularly, it may work out cheaper to pay a monthly fee, which includes a certain number of call minutes, texts and data.

Check – coverage in your area

If you decide to switch, don’t forget to check if the new supplier has good coverage where you need it. The Ofcom website has links to coverage checkers for all the main suppliers.

What if my provider raises prices?

If you have a contract and your provider decides to raise their prices:

  • They have to give you 30 days’ notice of any price hikes.
  • If your contract started after 23 January 2014, you can switch without having to pay a penalty.
  • If you took out your contract before 23 January 2014, you might still be able to switch free of charge. Contact your supplier.

Should you insure your phone?

Whether or not you should insure your phone generally comes down to three things:

  • The value of your phone (if you own it outright)
  • The contract repayments if you have a mobile contract
  • The inconvenience of replacing a lost or damaged phone

If you do decide to take insurance out, remember:

  • Mobile phone insurance doesn’t have to be taken out with your phone provider - many third party insurers can provide cheaper protection.
  • Cover can sometimes be provided with your bank account, so check before you buy.

Check exactly what your phone is covered for before signing up.

Struggling to pay your phone bills?

If you find yourself unable to pay your phone bills your first step is to talk to your supplier. They might be able to help by moving you to a cheaper tariff, or propose changes to make your contract more affordable.

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