What's best: SIM only or pay monthly?

We show you how to choose the right mobile phone contract for you...

Choosing a new phone contract can feel ever so complicated.

It's not just a question of deciding between pay-as-you-go, SIM-only and a monthly billed contract; each one of those options then has lots more choices.

That means it can be difficult to make the right choice – and making the wrong one can result in you paying for services you don't need or being charged for going over your allowance.

But don't worry – we're here to guide you through the different options to help you find the right deal for you.

SIM-only

  • VOXI sim only
    4G
    • 6GB of 4G data
    • Unlimited minutes
    • Unlimited texts
    • Unlimited social data
    • £10.00 per month
    1 month contract From VOXI
  • GiffGaff sim only
    4G
    • 10GB of 4G data
    • Unlimited minutes
    • Unlimited texts
    • £12.00 per month
    1 month contract From giffgaff
  • Plusnet Mobile sim only
    4G
    • 2GB of 4G data
    • Unlimited minutes
    • Unlimited texts
    • Roam like at home
    • £6.50 per month
    1 month contract From Plusnet Mobile
  • Tesco Mobile sim only
    4G
    • 15GB of 4G data
    • 5000 minutes
    • 5000 texts
    • £15.00 per month
    12 month contract From Tesco Mobile
  • Vodafone sim only
    4G
    • 5GB of 4G data
    • Unlimited minutes
    • Unlimited texts
    • Includes 4GB data bonus
    • £8.00 per month
    12 month contract From Vodafone
  • Sky Mobile sim only
    4G
    • 3GB of 4G data
    • Unlimited minutes
    • Unlimited texts
    • Unlimited streaming for Sky TV customers
    • £6.00 per month
    12 month contract From Sky Mobile

With a SIM-only contract, you pay a monthly amount and get the benefits of an ongoing contract – such as cheaper or better-value call time and data.

As with a typical pay-monthly deal, you'll usually get a fixed amount of inclusive calls and texts, so you know how much you can use the phone.

However, as the name suggests, you won't actually get a handset with this contract, so this will only suit you if you're happy with your existing phone and don't feel the burning need to upgrade.

If this applies to you then a SIM-only deal can be a great way to save money. What's more, you often only need to give 30 days' cancellation notice as many deals operate on a one-month rolling contract. So it's a great choice if you don't want to commit to a long contract.

It can also be a good option if your credit history is a bit patchy, although there will usually be a credit check.

Pay-as-you-go

As the name suggests, with a pay-as-you-go deal, you simply pay for the data, minutes and texts you use.

There's no contract, so you can leave whenever you like and there shouldn't be a credit check.

Some providers even offer great value bundles of data, call time and texts if you upload a certain amount of money each month, letting you use your phone almost like a contract.

The downside is that there's no handset and you'll probably pay a bit more if you're a heavy user than you would on a contract.

These deals are good for anyone who's happy with their phone, doesn't want to commit to a contract or rarely uses their mobile to make outgoing calls.

Monthly contract

With a monthly contract you agree a set monthly price, which usually includes a fixed amount of call time, data and texts.

It can often be very good value compared to a pay-as-you-go deal and you will get a new handset (although you're likely to pay more for a newer model).

Some providers separate the amount you're paying for the handset and the amount you pay for the package, so the cost will fall once the initial contract is finished.

This kind of deal is good for anyone who makes a lot of calls and texts, and who wants a new phone.

However, the downside is that you can be locked into a contract that lasts for anything from 12 to 24 months and sometimes even more. If you're a real new-phone junkie, this may mean routinely paying extra to upgrade early.

Top phones for 2019

  • iPhone 11 (64GB Black)
    iPhone 11
    • 60GB of 4G data
    • Unlimited minutes
    • Unlimited texts
    • £18.99 device cost
    • Free BT Sport and Apple Music
    • £49.00 per month
    24 month contract From Buymobiles.net
  • iPhone 8 64GB Space Grey
    iPhone 8
    • 60GB of 4G data
    • Unlimited minutes
    • Unlimited texts
    • Priority ticket booking for O2 venues
    • £49.00 per month
    24 month contract From MobilePhonesDirect.co.uk
  • iPhone 11 (64GB Black)
    iPhone 11
    • Exclusive
    • 5GB of 4G data
    • Unlimited minutes
    • Unlimited texts
    • £69.99 device cost
    • Free Data Rollover
    • £36.99 per month
    24 month contract From iD Mobile
  • Galaxy A10 32GB Blue
    Galaxy A10
    • 5GB of 4G data
    • 5000 minutes
    • 5000 texts
    • £17.50 per month
    24 month contract From Tesco Mobile
  • iPhone XR 64GB Black
    iPhone XR
    • 100GB of 4G data
    • Unlimited minutes
    • Unlimited texts
    • £42.00 per month
    24 month contract From MobilePhonesDirect.co.uk
  • Galaxy A10 32GB Black
    Galaxy A10
    • 500MB of 4G data
    • 250 minutes
    • Unlimited texts
    • Free Data Rollover
    • £9.99 per month
    24 month contract From iD Mobile

Compare deals

Find out more about a pay as you go SIM or visit our mobile phone deals page where you can compare contract, pay-as-you-go and SIM-only deals and find the right mobile phone package for you.

You can compare by deal type, cost, handset or even free gift – whatever matters most to you, we'll help you find best deal.