Mobile phone tariffs

Mobile phone plans

Choosing a mobile phone deal shouldn’t just be about the handset you get, you need to consider the plans available and opt for one that suits your needs. Here’s what you need to know to decide on a plan that’s right for you.

What mobile phone plans are available?

Mobile plans, or tariffs, are one and the same. You can choose from the following options:

Monthly: usually includes the cost of a brand-new phone and, typically, you’ll be tied into an 18-24 month contract. Useful if you want the latest phone.

SIM only: typically a three, six or 12-month rolling contract that doesn’t include a new phone. Useful if you already have a phone but want a better price for data, texts and minutes.

Pay as you go (PAYG): you only pay for what you use. A good option if you don’t use your phone very often and prefer not to be tied to a contract, or you can’t get a contract due to poor credit rating.

What do I get in a tariff?

Mobile phone tariffs will vary according to which network operator you’re with but, as a general rule, they include an element of inclusive minutes, texts and data access. Whether you’re on PAYG, SIM only or a monthly contract, you’ll be paying towards the cost of these services – how much you get will depend on how much you pay.

Inclusive minutes You’ll get to choose from a set number of inclusive minutes. This is where finding the right deal is really important as you’ll be charged if you exceed your limit. And be aware that not all types of calls will be covered by your inclusive minutes.

-Inclusive texts Most packages come with a certain amount of inclusive texts but, just as with inclusive minutes, you could be charged if you go over your limit.

-Data Most deals come with a data allowance, but knowing how much data you’ll need can be tricky. Data allowance (or access to the internet) is measured in MB (megabytes) and GB (gigabytes); a GB is bigger than a MB.

To put it into context, 1 GB is about a million emails (without attachments) or around 2,000 emails with attachments. You could download around 200 songs or watch two hours’ worth of standard definition video. If you had 500 MB of data, then you’re looking at around half of these values.

If you’re unsure how much data you need, you can request your average monthly usage from your current provider as a benchmark.

-International calls If you travel abroad or call oversees frequently, then look for a plan that offers a good deal on international calls.

What’s a SIM only plan?

With this you only get the SIM card; no phone is included, which ultimately reduces your monthly cost as you’re only paying for your usage and not paying back the cost of the phone. It’s a good option if you’re happy with your old phone and aren’t interested in changing, or you’re waiting for a particular phone to come out but don’t want to tie yourself into a long contract in the meantime.

With a SIM only package, contracts with a network provider are usually very short – some of them could be as little as 30 days, so as long as you give any notice required you’re free to move to another provider. Find out more about the pros and cons of a SIM only deal.

What do I get with a monthly tariff?

With this, you pay a monthly fee in return for a handset and a bundle of calls, texts and data access. You’ll be tied to a network provider by a contract that typically lasts 18 or 24 months.

Advantages are that you’ll have access to some of the latest phones and you won’t have to worry about whether you have credit on your phone, so it’s a good option if you use your phone a lot. Find out more about the benefits and disadvantages of a monthly contract.

How can I find a good mobile phone deal?

A quick and easy way to find a good deal is to use our mobile phone comparison service, where you can search from a huge range of networks, phones and tariffs. You can filter your results by cost, data limit or contract length to find the deal that’s right for you. 

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