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Best SIM Only Deals

Fiona Leake
Fiona Leake
  | Edited by Tom Church
Updated 8th February 2021

SIM only deals are a great way to save money on your mobile phone bills whilst still getting all the calls, texts and data you need. What are the best and cheapest SIM only deals? Latest Deals is here to help with our top SIM only picks of the month, whether you are looking for unlimited data or short-term contracts, we’ve got you covered.

The best SIM only deals

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We’ve outlined the best and cheapest SIM only deals that we’ve spotted. We’ve split it into sections, depending on what you’re looking for, whether it’s unlimited data or a short-term contract, we’ve picked the best deals! 

Top 12 Best SIM only deals

These are our favourites from all the providers. All of them feature 1-month rolling contracts, with a minimum of 8GB data, unlimited calls, unlimited texts, and sorted by the cheapest monthly price:

ProviderContract Data Monthly Cost
(Months)(GB)(£)
Plusnet110£8
Smarty110£8
giffgaff19£10
Lebara110£10
Smarty130£10
VOXI112£10
giffgaff110£12
Plusnet115£12
TalkTalk112£12
iD Mobile120£14
giffgaff115£15
Lebara110£15

Cheapest SIM Only Deals with at least 1GB of data

The 20 cheapest SIM only deals with a minimum 1GB data, unlimited calls and unlimited texts. It is sorted by monthly cost. However, we have also included the cost £ per GB of data.

ProviderContract Data 4G/5GMonthly Cost Cost £ per GB
(Months)(GB)(£)(£ per GB)
Plusnet114G£5£5.00
BT Mobile2415G£5£5.00
iD Mobile124G£6£3.00
iD Mobile1234G£6£2.00
Virgin Mobile1234G£6£2.00
Three2414G£6£6.00
Plusnet154G£7£1.40
TalkTalk134G£7£2.33
BT Mobile1215G£7£7.00
TalkTalk1234G£7£2.33
giffgaff124G£8£4.00
Plusnet1104G£8£0.80
Smarty1104G£8£0.80
iD Mobile12104G£8£0.80
TalkTalk1244G£8£2.00
Three1214G£8£8.00
TalkTalk154G£9£1.80
BT Mobile1265G£9£1.50
TalkTalk1294G£9£1.00

Why do you not show deals with less than unlimited texts and calls? Our research found that such deals were worse for consumers and overall more expensive.

Best value for data SIMs

Top 15 SIMs sorted by Cost £ per GB of data. This shows you how much you're paying per gigabyte of data. Useful if you are a big data user.

ProviderContract Data 4G/5GMonthly Cost Cost £ per GB
(Months)(GB)(£)(£ per GB)
EE242005G£23£0.12
O2122504G£30£0.12
EE242005G£25£0.13
O2181504G£23£0.15
iD Mobile121004G£16£0.16
O2181004G£17£0.17
O2121504G£25£0.17
iD Mobile12Unlimited4G£18£0.18
Three24Unlimited5G£18£0.18
Vodafone241025G£20£0.20
BT Mobile241005G£20£0.20
Smarty1Unlimited4G£20£0.20
TalkTalk121004G£20£0.20
Three12Unlimited5G£20£0.20
Virgin Mobile241004G£20£0.20

Best Contract Free SIMs

Top 15 SIM-only deals that have rolling 1-month contracts which you can cancel at any time. These are commonly referred to as "contract free". Our list contains those with a minimum 5GB of data, unlimited calls, unlimited texts and sorted by monthly cost. Some providers such as VOXI offer perks such as unlimited social media.

ProviderData (GB)4G/5GMonthly Cost (£)
Plusnet54G£7
Plusnet104G£8
Smarty104G£8
TalkTalk54G£9
Smarty304G£10
VOXI124G£10
Lebara104G£10
giffgaff95G£10
giffgaff64G£10
Lebara64G£10
Plusnet154G£12
TalkTalk124G£12
giffgaff104G£12
iD Mobile204G£14
Smarty504G£15

Which networks offer the best SIM only deals?

Every mobile network is best for different types of SIM only deal, depending on what you’re looking for. Let’s take a look at how some of the major providers excel:

  • Three SIM only deals - best for huge data and unlimited plans.
  • EE SIM only deals - best for fast overall performance.
  • Vodafone SIM only deals - affordable but still offers great features.
  • O2 SIM only deals - huge added benefits/perks such as O2 Priority.

What is a SIM only deal?

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A SIM only deal only provides your mobile service which is your monthly allowance of calls, texts and data. SIM only deals tend to be much cheaper than contract phone deals as you’re just paying for your monthly allowance, without the added cost of a handset.

How do SIM only deals work?

A SIM only deal works in a very similar way to other phone contracts. You’ll pay a set amount each month for your agreed allowance of calls, texts and data. The main difference is that you won’t have to pay for a new handset within the monthly cost.

SIM only plans still require you to sign up to a contract. These contracts normally range from 30-day rolling or 12 months. This gives you more flexibility in comparison to lengthy phone contracts. 

Once you sign up to a SIM only contract, you’ll receive the new SIM and you’ll have to then insert it into your phone. You’re then free to start using your monthly allowance of calls, texts and data. 

What SIM card do I need for my phone?

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There are several different types of SIM cards available that fit different types of phone, these include:

  • Standard (25 x 15mm) – largest SIM card type, found in older phones.
  • Micro (15 x 12 mm) – smaller than the standard SIM and not commonly used in new phones.
  • Nano (12.3 x 8.8mm) – smallest sim on the market and used in the majority of modern smartphones.
  • eSIMs – electronic SIMs are fairly new and only used in a handful of modern phones including the iPhone XS, the iPhone XS Max, the iPhone XR and Google Pixel 2 and 2XL.

If you’ve got a modern smartphone, you likely need a nano SIM. If you’re ever unsure, you can take a look at your current SIM card or read the manufacturer's handbook.

Don’t worry if you still don’t know what SIM you need, most providers will send a 3-in-1 SIM card that allows you to select the size you need.

How do I change my SIM card?

Changing SIM cards is a very simple process, despite how tiny nano SIMs are! Most smartphones will have a small ‘pin’ device that you can use to pop out the SIM card tray on your phone. This pin can be easy to misplace but a standard paperclip or pin will do the trick.

Once you’ve got the tray out, you can place your SIM card on it and slide the tray back into your phone. The phone’s user manual will tell you which way to place your SIM card on the tray. 

How to compare SIM only deals

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When comparing the best SIM only deals, there are a few things you’ll want to keep in mind: 

  • Allowance - does the monthly amount of calls, texts and data meet your needs? Don’t pay for more than you need but make sure you have enough to avoid extra charges.
  • Cost - pick the best price for the allowance you want. 
  • Perks - are there any extra perks on offer that sets one contract apart from another?
  • Customer service - pick a mobile provider that has great customer service. This way, it’ll be easier to have any problems solved and to haggle for a better deal when the time comes.

Why should I choose a SIM only deal?

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If your contract is coming to an end and you’re happy with your current phone, then you could make huge savings by switching to a SIM only deal. 

Alternatively, if you can afford to buy a phone upfront, it’s much cheaper to do so and then get a SIM only deal on the phone you’ve bought.

If you want to avoid lengthy contracts and make savings then you should consider a SIM only deal.

Pros of SIM only deals

  • Flexible - SIM-only deals can be as short as 30 days and allow you to choose your provider, meaning you can swap if you find a better deal. 
  • Cheaper - SIM-only deals are usually cheaper in the long run than contract phone deals. This is because you aren’t paying back the cost of a handset which is cheaper to buy outright.
  • Avoid interest - you won’t pay interest on the repayment of your phone as you bought it outright or already own it. 
  • Keep your phone - if you’re happy with your current phone, you can keep it! Just pop in the SIM card and you’ll be good to go. If you get attached to your phone, SIM-only is the way to go. 
  • Easier credit checks - most SIM-only contracts will carry out a credit check but the criteria will be much easier to meet than with contract phone plans.  
  • Help the environment - reduce your carbon footprint by keeping the same phone for longer, rather than contributing to waste by constantly upgrading. 

Cons of SIM only deals

  • Phones are expensive - SIM-only contracts only work for those who can afford to buy a smartphone outright. If you want a new model with the latest features, you could be spending over £1,000 in one go. 
  • Unlocked phone - if your phone is locked, you’ll need it unlocked to enjoy the flexibility of SIM-only deals. Unlocked phones mean you can choose whichever provider you want, making it easier to find the cheapest deal. 
  • Outdated phone - with contract phone plans, you can upgrade your phone every time the contract ends. If you love to be up-to-date with the latest tech, a SIM-only plan might not suit your needs.
  • Miss out on network exclusives - some networks reserve their best exclusive deals for specific phones. If you want to go SIM only, you might not have the right phone for that deal.

Is SIM only cheaper than phone contracts?

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SIM only is always the cheaper option if you already have a smartphone that you’re happy with. If you choose to only pay for your monthly allowance rather than upgrade to a new phone, you’ll certainly be saving money. 

However, if you don’t own a smartphone yet, opting for SIM only can be initially expensive. This is because you’ll have to buy a smartphone outright which can cost hundreds of pounds. Phone contracts spread this cost over several years, making it more affordable for some people. 

If you can afford to splash a lot of cash on buying a handset outright, SIM only still usually works out cheaper. You can compare online to see what suits your budget. 

How much money can I save with a SIM only deal?

Communications regulator Ofcom has reported that over two million people in the UK continue to pay the same amount for their phone package after their contract deal ends. Out of those, 1.4 million people (73%) could save money by moving to SIM only deals. This would save a combined £182 million. 

The average saving would be about £11 a month, although almost one in five people could save more than £15 a month.

Should I go for a long-term or short-term SIM only deal?

It depends on what you want to get out of your SIM only plan. If you pick a short-term rolling 30-day contract, you’ll be able to benefit from the flexibility to hunt for the latest best SIM only deals each month. You’ll only need to get 30 days notice before switching to a different plan. 

However, if cost is your main concern, longer 12 month SIM only contracts tend to be cheaper and offer better deals in return for your commitment. 

Take some time to compare both and pick a length that suits your needs and budget. 

How much data do I need with a SIM only deal?

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We have a detailed guide dedicated to helping you decide how much data you need with your phone contract.

Data covers everyday things you require the internet on your phone for such as checking emails and scrolling through social media. However, if you regularly stream movies when you’re out and about, you might require more mobile data than the standard user. 

You don’t use your mobile data when you’re connected to Wi-Fi. So, if you’re always using your phone at home on the Wi-Fi, it’s likely that you’ll only require a very small data allowance. If you’re always using your phone when outside, you might need a larger allowance. 

You can review how much data you use each month by taking a look at your current plan usage. This will give you an idea of which SIM only deals to consider. 

If you’re still unsure, take a look at this data breakdown:

  • 0-1GB - This is very small data usage. This is reserved for people who never really use their phone outside the house. 
  • 2-3GB - This is the average data usage of someone who occasionally scrolls through their phone when not connected to Wi-Fi and might watch the odd YouTube video on the go.
  • 4-8GB - If you’re constantly streaming music when on the go, a higher data allowance might suit you. 
  • 10-16GB - If you regularly stream music, download podcasts and watch videos when not connected to Wi-Fi this much larger data allowance might be worth it. Mobile providers offer this at a great price too. 
  • 20-30GB - If you’re slightly addicted to using your phone constantly when out, this huge allowance should be able to cope with your usage. This is for people who are streaming Netflix whilst on the go constantly. 
  • Unlimited - If you’re a serious data junkie, then going unlimited might be your best option. At least you’ll never have to worry about running out! 

What if I run out of my monthly data allowance?

You won’t have to worry about running out of calls and texts as virtually every SIM only deal comes with unlimited calls and texts. However, it is possible to run out of data, unless you have unlimited data.

If you run out of data, you’ll receive a text message from your provider warning you that you’ve exceeded your monthly allowance. Any data you then use will be added to your bill. Extra data charges aren’t cheap so try to avoid this happening. Most mobile providers will allow you to set up a spending cap, meaning that you can’t spend more than a certain amount on extra data. 

8 SIM only golden rules

When looking for the best and cheapest SIM only contract, you’ll want to keep these key golden rules in mind…

Rule #1 - Only pay for what you need

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Data is expensive so don’t be tempted by unlimited data if you don’t need it. Billmonitor is a great tool to use when deciding on how much data you need. 

Billmonitor is an Ofcom approved tool that analyses your mobile bills from the past three months. Using this information, it’ll work out your average usage and suggest the best deals for you. 

If you don’t use much data, go for a smaller and cheaper allowance. 

Rule #2 - Make sure that your phone is unlocked

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If you bought your phone via a device contract, it’ll be locked to the original provider’s network that you bought it from. You’ll have to have it unlocked to give you the freedom to switch to other network’s SIMs with better deals.

If you’re no longer in a mobile contract, your network must unlock your phone for free. If you’re still in contract, you might have to pay a fee of £15. 

Rule #3 - Check the signal strength in your area

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You don’t want to switch to a new SIM only deal if the coverage of the network provider in your area is poor. There is an abundance of postcode coverage checkers online. All you need to do is enter your postcode to see how good that mobile provider’s coverage is in your area.

Here are the coverage checkers for all of the major mobile networks:

Rule #4 - Try haggling before switching

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If you’re happy with your current mobile provider then you can haggle for a better SIM only deal. If you’re coming to the end of your current contract and have paid off your handset, you could call up your provider and tell them about the better SIM only deals you’ve found elsewhere.

If you threaten to leave, your provider will be desperate to keep you and so offer you a better deal. This doesn’t always work but it’s worth a try! 

For more haggling tips, read our guide on reducing mobile phone bills.

Rule #5 - Consider small networks or MVNOs

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Mobile virtual network operators (MVNO) are virtual mobile providers that use other networks to deliver their services.

You get the same coverage as larger networks but at a cheaper price. This is because the network is entirely virtual and so has lower operating costs.

Rule #6 - Save money with longer contracts

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12 month long contracts tend to be considerably cheaper than 30-day contracts with the same allowance from the same provider. 

This is because you are committing for a longer period of time. If you’re okay with being tied down for a year, longer contracts can save you money.

Rule #7 - Check existing customer deals

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Before switching providers for a cheaper SIM only deal, check if your current provider has any exclusive SIM only deals for existing customers. Often, to reward you for your loyalty, providers will offer cheaper deals.

This also ties into rule #4, you can use your customer loyalty to haggle for a better deal.

Rule #8 - Set a monthly spending cap

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Many mobile providers allow you to put a spending cap on your SIM only plan, meaning that you can’t exceed a certain amount each month. 

This will stop you from using up all of your allowance and then racking up expensive bills by paying for extra data.

How do I switch to a SIM only tariff?

If you’re currently tied into a contract with your provider, you’ll want to wait until it’s coming to an end before switching to a SIM only deal. Otherwise, you might have to pay off the remaining cost of your contract and an early termination fee. 

Once your existing contract has ended, you’re free to switch to a SIM only deal. If you want to stick with your existing provider, you can ring them up and ask for their best SIM only offers.

If you’re switching providers, you’ll have to let your current provider know.

Read our guide on switching mobile providers for more information.

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