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. 

If you're posted abroad

If you're posted abroad during your mobile phone contract, check the signal coverage in the country you're going to on your provider's website and also whether the model you have actually works there. Some of the latest models don't work in some countries.

If you're on operations

If you're detached on operations let your mobile provider know, they may allow you to suspend your contract for the duration of your detachment. You are very unlikely to be allowed to use your mobile on operational detachments.

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.

For more tips on cutting the cost of your mobile, see MoneySavingExpert's website.

Money fitness tip

Check the coverage where you are with Ofcom's coverage checker.

Check you’re on the right deal

There are two main things you need to do to make sure you’re on the best mobile phone deal:

  1. Check you’re not paying for calls, texts and data you’re not using, or regularly going over your allowance and getting hit with expensive bills.
  2. Shop around using different comparison sites. It’s always a good idea to use more than one comparisons site to make sure you’re getting the best deal.

Billmonitor: Will analyse your online bills, or allow you to enter your regular or required limits manually. It will then find the most suitable offers on the market and direct you to the relevant retailer. It meets strict Ofcom guidelines.

HandsetExpert: Select the handset you want and then enter your calls, text and data requirements. The website will then display the best offers available and you can go directly to the retailers website. It meets strict Ofcom guidelines. Allows you to search the most popular deals on big-name handsets and compare monthly and SIM only contracts. This can be used to help you find a better deal. Not Ofcom approved.

Avoid unexpected phone charges

Calling numbers that start with 09, 0871, 0872, 0873 and 118 will be more expensive than regular phone calls. Texting mobile short codes costs more as well.

If you get an unexpected phone charge you can read how to dispute it on the Phonepay Plus website.  

Money fitness tip

Recycle your old phone.  You can compare companies online - most will pay you depending on the make and model.

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.

did you know?

You can dispute an unexpected phone charge on the Phonepay Plus website.

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.

Check mobile phone coverage for your area on the Ofcom website.

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.

Read more about your consumer rights on Ofcom’s website.

Money fitness tip

Need to make a complaint about your provider? Try a free online tool.

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 - see Mobile phone insurance.

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. See Dealing with people you owe money to.

Last reviewed: 07/01/2019

This content has been provided by the Money Advice Service