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How to switch mobile phone providers and keep your number

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

If you’re looking to switch mobile providers, Latest Deals is here to help. We share how to change mobile networks whilst keeping your current number. Our guide also explains when to switch mobile providers and the different ways to make the change.

Why would you want to switch mobile phone providers?

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You might want to switch mobile providers for many reasons. Here are some of the most common ones: 

  • Unhappy with your current mobile service - you might not have good coverage, fast enough mobile internet speeds or poor customer service.
  • Better deals elsewhere - you’ve spotted a contract on offer with another provider that might offer more calls, texts or data for a better price.
  • Better perks - other mobile providers might have better perks, freebies and rewards on offer.
  • Better handsets - you might not be able to get the phone you want with your current provider and so want to switch. 

Am I eligible to switch mobile networks?

You’re eligible to switch mobile network providers once your current contract is ending. You can usually find out when your contract end date is by logging into your online account with your mobile provider. If you can’t find the date online, you can phone up your provider and ask. 

Once your contract ends, you’re free to switch providers whenever you want.

When can I switch phone contracts?

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You can switch phone contracts once your current contract has ended. Phone contracts usually last from 12 to 36 months. 

If you want to switch providers early, you might have to pay off the remaining cost of your contract and handset before switching, which can be costly. You might also have to pay an early termination fee.

If you’re looking to upgrade, take a look at our guide on upgrading phone contracts to find out when you can switch.

If you want to end your mobile phone contract early, take a look at our guide on cancelling.

What is 'text-to-switch'?

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Communications regulator Ofcom introduced ‘text-to-switch’ on 1st July 2019. ‘Text-to-switch’ means that you won’t have to phone up your current provider to cancel your contract, you can send a free text message instead! 

This is great as you’ll avoid your current mobile network’s attempts to persuade you to stay, which can be a struggle for many.

Here’s how to text-to-switch:

  1. Text ‘PAC’ or ‘STAC’ - if you want to keep your current number, text ‘PAC’ to 65075. If you want a new number, text ‘STAC’ to 75075. This will begin the switching process.
  2. Receive a reply from your provider - your mobile provider will then reply within a minute with your PAC or STAC switching code. The reply will also contain more information such as any exit fees if you’re leaving early, outstanding handset costs and credit balances etc.
  3. Provide the switching code to your new network - you’ll have to give your new provider your PAC or STAC code within 30 days of receiving it. You’ll then be switching to your new network within one working day.

If you don’t know whether you’re still in contract or will have to pay any exit fees, you can text ‘INFO’ to 85075 to find out. This won’t start the switching process.

Can my existing provider still contact me if I ‘text-to-switch?’

Your current mobile provider is still allowed to contact you to persuade you to stay even if you text-to-switch. However, you aren’t required to answer this call and can hang up at any point. Your switch will go ahead whether you answer or not. 

‘Text-to-switch’ isn’t always the best option

Whilst opting for ‘text-to-switch’ seems easy and hassle-free, it does take away your haggling power. In our guide on how to cut your mobile phone bill, we share our top tips on how to haggle with your current provider for a better deal.

At the end of your current mobile phone contract, you have the power of customer loyalty on your side. If you find a better mobile deal with another provider, you can call up your current provider and threaten to leave. They’ll want to keep your custom and so will likely offer you a better deal than competitors to encourage you to stay. 

It’s worth haggling to see if you can save more, even if it’s more hassle. 

How to switch phone contract

So, how do you switch mobile phone contracts? Here are some steps you should take when you decide to switch:

Step 1: Decide why you want to switch mobile provider

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Figure out why you want to switch before you do so. This will help you switch to another provider that better fulfills your needs. So, whether you’re looking for better customer service, more freebies or a cheaper contract, keep this in mind when comparing. 

Step 2: Choose the right mobile deal for you

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We have an entire in-depth guide dedicated to explaining the best mobile phone contracts. Read this to help choose the right mobile deal. 

Consider whether you need a phone upgrade or whether you can stick to SIM-only. This decision will affect the cost of your new contract.

Use a comparison site to find the cheapest deal on offer that meets your requirements of customer service, perks, monthly allowances etc.

Step 3: Check coverage in your area of the new provider

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You don’t want to switch to a new mobile provider if the coverage in your area is poor, you’ll end up regretting your decision. Thankfully, 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:

Step 4: Haggle with your current provider

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Now that you’ve found a better mobile phone contract deal and you know that the coverage is good in your area, you’re in a position to haggle. 

Have the information about the provider and contract you’re planning on switching to. You can then call your current mobile provider and threaten to leave and switch to another provider.

Your provider will try and match the deal to persuade you to stay. They might even throw in some free perks! Get the low-down on how to haggle with mobile providers here.

Remember, you’re only in a position to haggle when your current mobile contract is almost over. 

Step 5: Keep your phone number when switching providers

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Most people want to keep their mobile number when they switch. It makes life easier keeping the same number as it’s likely you know it off by heart and you won’t need to update all of your contacts with your new number. 

Keeping your mobile number with a new provider is very easy. You’ll need to get a PAC code from your current provider to give to your new provider. You can call and ask your provider for a PAC code or text-to-switch by sending ‘PAC’ to 65075.

Once you’ve received the PAC code, you’ll need to give this to your new mobile provider within 30 days. 

If you don’t want to keep your current mobile number, you can contact the provider you want to join and let them know that you’ll want a new number. 

You can then just cancel your current contract. You can use text-to-switch to end your contract and send ‘STAC’ to 75075. This won’t transfer your old number over to your new provider.

Step 6: Different ways to switch - call, online or text-to-switch

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Once you’ve made the final decision to switch mobile providers, you’ll want to start the process! You can do this in three main different ways.

  1. Online

Once your mobile contract is coming to an end, there should be an option to cancel online. Simply log into your online account and request a PAC code. This should start the switching process. 

  1. Phone call

One of the best ways to switch mobile providers is to ring up your current provider and let them know you want to leave. This way, you’re probably going to be offered a better deal than you currently have with your provider. If it’s cheaper than the competitor you’re switching to, you might decide to stay! 

  1. Text-to-switch

As we’ve explained earlier in this guide, text-to-switch is a very quick way to change mobile providers. Simply text PAC to 65075 to keep your number or STAC to 75075 to switch without the same mobile number.

Step 7: Switching if you’re already out of contract

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What happens if your mobile contract has already ended with your current provider? Thankfully, with the introduction of text-to-switch, it couldn’t be easier. You can text PAC or STAC to 65075 or 75075 to start the process.

How do I switch from a SIM-only to phone contract?

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If you’re switching from SIM-only to a phone contract, the process is largely the same. SIM-only tariffs tend to be shorter and often are rolling monthly contracts. These contracts allow you to cancel at any time as long as you give 30 days notice. 

If the term is longer, 12 months, for example, you’ll either have to wait until it’s over or buy out early. 

How do you get out of a mobile phone contract early?

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You can get out of a mobile phone contract early by paying off the remainder of your contract and handset. You might also have to pay an early termination fee. The exact charges depend on your mobile provider. However, paying off the rest of your contract early is often expensive and likely not worth it.

However, there are some ways to leave mobile phone contracts without charge. For example, if during your contract you experience a price increase above the rate of inflation (higher than 1-2%), then you can switch penalty-free. You must do this within 30 days of being notified. 

You can also try haggling with your provider, explaining why you want to leave, they might be able to cut costs for you. 

Is switching phone contracts worth it?

If your contract is coming to an end and you’ve found a better deal elsewhere, then there is no reason why you shouldn’t switch providers. It’s worth switching in this case.

However, if you’re still in contract and will have to pay a large bill to switch early, you might not make enough savings to make it worth it. 

If you can afford to pay a large final bill from your current provider and you’ll make significant savings by switching, it can be worth it. Just work out whether you’ll save enough money in the long run.

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