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12-month phone contracts: a buyer's guide

12-month phone contracts from the likes of Tesco Mobile and O2 let you pay off your phone quicker. But are there are downsides? We take a good look...

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What is a 12 month phone contract?

A 12 month phone contract allows you to spread the cost of a new phone over a year, while also paying for calls, texts and data.

Once the backbone of the mobile industry, today 12 month phone contracts are harder to come by, especially with no upfront cost for the handset.

With the price of the very best smartphones often around £1,000 up front, most networks now offer contracts with a 24 month minimum, rising to 36 months for those who wish to pay less each month.

However, you can still get a 12 month phone contract if you shop around and compare the best deals.

If you already have a phone you love or are planning to buy one outright, then a 12 month SIM-only deal can offer serious savings with impressive data allowance and extras depending on which provider you opt for. 

Which providers offer 12 month contracts?

Tesco Mobile has resolutely stuck to the concept of 12-month phone contracts, offering the very best devices on plans that only last a year.

That includes the latest, top-of-the-range iPhone 13 Pro. Of course, choosing a shorter deal means you’ll pay more each month, as well as a higher upfront fee.

But once the year is up the phone will be yours and you can switch to a cheaper, SIM-only deal.

O2 also offers 12-month contracts. Look out for money off deals on select phones, which can lead to significant savings.

Vodafone’s flexible EVO contracts allow you to create your own plans, meaning you can choose a 12 month contract.

Be aware, though, that other major players like Three and EE do not offer 12 month phone contracts. Instead, you’ll need to take out a 12-month SIM only plan if you want to go with either network.

What are the pros and cons of 12 month contracts?


  • Pay off the price of a new smartphone faster
  • Chance to upgrade to the newest handsets sooner
  • Good perks if you choose a 12-month SIM only plan


  • Cost is much higher per month compared with a 24 or 36 month plan
  • Options are limited as not all networks offer them

Can I get a 12 month contract with a poor credit rating?

It can be tricky to land a phone contract if you have a bad credit rating. That includes 12-month contracts, as networks tend to do a credit check when you sign up, even for a shorter term.

If you have a poor credit rating, the best bet is to take out a 30-day plan with the likes of VOXI, Smarty or Lebara Mobile.

These don’t require a credit check and come with decent allowances for data and even international minutes. You’ll need a phone already, however.

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