SIM Only Contracts - The Pros and Cons

In the last few years, the use of SIM contracts has risen dramatically. As mobile handsets continue to get more and more expensive it makes sense that UK customers are looking for ways to reduce their bill and make the most of perfectly good handset's they've already paid for.

It can be difficult to know just why a SIM contract can be a good option so let's look at some of the pros and cons of getting one.

The Pros Of SIM Only Contracts

SIM contracts are much cheaper if you reuse a mobile handset.

Have you ever gotten a new mobile phone and forgotten to sell your old one or seen how little you get paid by mobile recycle websites?

If you're guilty of this you've likely had a perfectly good handset sat around your house - and maybe even given it to your kids!

The truth is, mobile phones have a much longer life than the 12-24 months they're usually used for. This makes them perfect for using with a SIM contract to create your own affordable combination. Upgrading to the next "better" smartphone is always more expensive than continuing to use your existing phone with a new SIM. Some customers get great deals by calling up their network at the end of their contract and getting a negotiated rate for a SIM - Sometimes cheaper than what's available online.

SIM contracts are usually cheaper if you buy a refurbished or "low-cost" handset

Most mobile manufacturers produce lower-cost phones which have a less expensive build quality and fewer features but still hold up to the top smartphones of 2-3 years ago. They have up-to-date operating systems, front and back cameras and make full use of faster, modern data connections.

Using a less expensive handset and a SIM only contract in combination will usually work out cheaper than paying for a brand new model which can sometimes cost way over £500. Of course, you can still get expensive refurbished or second-hand phones that break the bank but if you want to save money there are many other options.

Refurbished phones are sold by many retailers around the UK. Professionally cleaned, checked and restored; refurbished phones can be a really affordable option if you want a "good-as-new" handset that was at one point top of the range. Unless you need the latest OS and features it can be worth looking at refurbished phones to find a good deal.

SIM contracts offer flexibility

One of the best reasons for shopping around for a SIM only deal is the ability to choose from many different networks and plans in order to find a deal that's right for you.

In the UK there are quite a few networks to choose from, all with different price-points, perks and tariffs. As a customer you have a wide variety of factors to choose from and with 1 month SIM contracts you can always change networks at the end of the month.

Whenever you choose a network there can always be a reason why you end up wanting to switch part way through or at the end of your contract. Whether it's poor signal (you can check the signal of most networks or use the Ofcom Mobile Coverage Checker to see how your postcode measures up), poor customer service or maybe finding a better deal elsewhere, SIM contracts allow you to quickly and simply switch to another plan so long as your contract allows it.

The Cons Of SIM Only Contracts

You still need a mobile

We're sure you're well aware that a SIM only contract isn't much use without a device to put it in. It's unfortunate that despite the potential savings of using a SIM contract you will still need to have a handset - whether you buy one or can find someone who no longer needs there's and will give it away for free (lucky you!).

It can be difficult to balance the cost of your SIM contract and the handset. With a normal mobile phone contract you're paying for both at the same time and usually spreading it over 12 - 24 months so you usually don't need to outlay any money up front.

Despite the annoyance of needing a handset there are ways of making them as affordable as possible. The market for second-hand (usually purchased from another person directly) or refurbished phones (sold by networks or companies which recycle handsets) has grown massively in the least 5 years as the lifetime of handsets increases and recycling/repairing becomes more widely-used.

Some terms can be restrictive

As with most purchases or contracts, it's important to be familiar with the terms and conditions of the product. This is no different with a SIM only contract.

If you're signing up for a SIM contract for 12 months it's important to find out howand if you can get out of it if you need to - As we've mentioned, coverage and customer service can make or break a purchase for some customers so do your research on the network as well as finding the right deal for your budget

Some other curious terms can be the allowances and caps for things like data and minutes. If you're getting a contract for example with 600 minutes you should look into what you're charged for going over. The same applies with data since this can easily go over your allowance if you're not careful - It canbe better in some circumstances to overestimate your usage since paying a little more every month is cheaper than going over every month (Networks charge a premium on overuse)

If you want unlimited everything (data, minutes, texts), there are options such as Three's Unlimited plan (12 month, 1 month). With Three the Unlimited plan DOES have a cap but at 1000GB per month it's extremely unlikely that a regular customer could use this. In contrast, giffgaff's "Always On" tarrif has a cap of 20GB per month after which the customer is speed-restricted between 8am and midnight by around 97% (14.61Mbps down to 384Kbps)

This example shows how important it is to thoroughly read the terms of the contract - usually the important information is not difficult to find but it's good to check it before applying.

Most SIM contracts require a credit check

Unfortunately, SIM contracts can require credit checks before you can get your SIM. Although the credit checks for 1 month SIMs are less stringent, if you have a very poor or no credit history at all you may find it difficult to get a deal.

For most SIM customers, the credit checks for SIM contracts should be no problem and will be accepted for a deal.

There are SIM deals which don't require a credit check so you can still find an affordable SIM with good amounts of data. These rolling 1 month contracts are great if you're looking for a SIM but have bad credit