Eyeing a new phone but unwilling to pay a lump sum upfront? Good news: on this page we’ve tracked down a selection of our best deals with nothing to pay upfront. Better yet, we’ll walk you through the pros and cons of phone contracts with no upfront cost.
Our best phone contracts with no upfront cost
What are no-upfront-cost phone contracts?
But in the case of contracts with no upfront cost, which are less common, the price of the phone is spread across the entirety of your contract term.
So you’ll be paying for the phone in instalments for over a 24-month contract, or even longer in some instances.
Why consider choosing a phone contract with no upfront cost?
If you’re getting a pay monthly contract for a brand new, high-end phone, you’ll usually be expected to pay anywhere between £30-£200 upfront. In effect, this is a deposit towards the cost of the phone.
The problem is that not everyone has cash in hand to pay upfront. And that’s why phone contracts with no upfront charge are appealing. These allow you to get a high-end phone without having to pay any sort of lump sum.
Instead, you can spread the cost of the handset across the entire length of your contract.
Which manufacturers offer no upfront cost phones?
You can compare mobile phone deals and get no upfront cost phones from the likes of:
iPhone deals with no upfront cost
Lots of networks offer iPhones with nothing to pay upfront. However, if you’re after the latest model, you may have to wait a few months after it’s been released to get it on a no-upfront-cost contract.
The older the phone, the less likely it’ll come with an upfront cost. You’ll have better luck getting a well-priced iPhone contract with nothing to pay upfront on these older models:
Which networks offer no upfront cost contracts?
Quite a few household-name networks offer phone contracts with nothing to pay upfront.
While you might not be able to get the very latest mobile phones with no upfront fee, you may be able to snag a no-upfront-cost deal on an older, mid-range or refurbished model.
We’ll take a quick look at what the major networks have to offer below.
O2 phone contracts with no upfront cost
O2 offers a number of contracts with nothing to pay upfront. These are mainly for lower-cost handsets, such as mid-range Samsung Galaxy smartphones or handsets from smaller companies (like Xiaomi and Nokia).
As with all its pay monthly contracts, you’ll be able to enjoy access to its exclusive O2 Priority and Rewards customer benefits schemes.
Vodafone phone contracts with no upfront cost
Unfortunately,Vodafone typically charges an upfront cost with the majority of its phone contracts. Still, if you opt for a refurbished or older handset, the upfront charge can be as little as £9-£19.
And by signing up to a Vodafone phone contract, you’ll become a member of its VeryMe Rewards scheme.
Three phone contracts with no upfront cost
Three has a good selection of phone contracts with no upfront cost. You’ll be able to choose devices from Google, Samsung, Xiaomi and Nokia.
Not to mention, Three has been often cited as the UK’s fastest 5G network.
EE phone contracts with no upfront cost
EE’s phone contracts with no upfront fee include handsets from Samsung and Google,
EE’s other notable selling points are extensive 5G coverage and Inclusive Extras on select plans.
What to look for in phone contracts with no upfront cost
Key considerations when buying a phone with no upfront cost include price, freebies and monthly data allowance. Let’s take a look at each in turn.
Make sure you check if the contract you’re eyeing includes any customer incentives, such as free gifts or rewards schemes. With some schemes offering money off high street brands, as well as weekly treats and exclusive deals, you may decide it’s worth opting for a pricier plan with a bigger-name network to access such benefits.
According to Ofcom, the average person in the UK gets through around 5.6GB of data per month. But the best way to find out how much data you’ll need is to check how much you’re using now.
You’ll find your data usage within your network’s smartphone app, or you can log into your account online.
Pros and cons of no upfront cost phone contracts
Let’s start with the pros…
- No need to find a hefty lump sum
- Spreading your payments makes it easier to afford a good phone
And the cons?
- You’ll pay a higher monthly premium – so make sure you can meet these monthly payments
- Locks you into a longer-term contract – usually for 24 months at least
- Less choice available – you’ll have more options if you can pay something upfront
Prefer to keep your existing phone and get new SIM deal instead? Head to our SIMs comparison page where we've picked out a selection of our best SIM contracts.
Bad credit phones with no upfront cost
If you have a poor credit score, you may be wondering what your options are when it comes to pay monthly phone contracts. Providers that offer bad credit phone deals generally expect you to pay something upfront – this is to cover some of the cost of the handset.
However, you may get lucky if you opt for an older phone rather than the very latest releases. Otherwise, it's much easier to get a sim-only deal with poor credit if you already have a handset or can buy one upfront.
Is it cheaper to get a phone contract with an upfront cost?
It’s not cheaper in the sense that you won't save any money in the long run. However, you’ll benefit from lower monthly premiums – which means there's less to pay each month.
Can I get a phone contract with bad credit and no upfront cost?
It’s unlikely, given that you’d have to pass a credit check. The best way to get a phone contract with bad credit is to apply via retailers that specialise in bad credit phone contracts. They’ll typically ask you to sign up for SIM deal first and pay that for a few months to prove your credit-worthiness.
Our page on bad credit phones goes into more detail.
Is it better to pay for a contract upfront or monthly?
That depends on the state of your finances and whether you can find a lump sum. Generally, if you have the money to cover the upfront cost, it may be worth paying that in return for lower monthly premiums.
However, if you’re short on cash and have your heart set on a particular phone, it may make sense for you to go for a contract with nothing to pay upfront. Just make sure you can make the monthly payments, as failing to do so may impact your credit rating.
What do I need to get a phone contract?
Once you’ve picked a network to go with, you’ll usually need to provide the following:
- Two separate proofs of your signature and address – these could be a UK driver’s licence, valid passport, utility bill, council tax bill, or bank/credit card statement
- An active bank account that can be used to set up a direct debit
Networks also typically run a credit check on you before accepting you for a phone contract.
Do I need to be from the UK to sign up to a monthly contract?
You don’t need to be a British citizen to sign up to a pay monthly phone contract. However, you do need to have lived in the UK for at least three years, and have a UK bank account.
If you don’t meet these requirements, or plan to only be in the UK for less than 12 months, a pay-as-you-go SIM deal may be a better option.
Is there a 14-day cooling off period?
Yes – when you sign up to a phone contract, you’ll be given a ‘cooling off’ period of 14 days. If you change your mind within that time, you’ll be allowed to cancel your contract.
As long as you cancel within those 14 days, you shouldn’t have to pay any early termination fees. However, you may be charged for any data, minutes or texts you’ve used.
Can I transfer a phone contract to someone else?
Yes, it’s possible to transfer your phone contract to someone else. However, this depends on the network(s) you and the other person are with – some networks don’t support transfer of ownership.
If your network does allow you to transfer your account, they’ll run a credit check on the person you’re transferring your contract to. You might also need to pay a transfer fee.
Can I use my contract SIM in another phone?
Yes – as long as the other phone is compatible and not locked to another network, you’ll be able to use your contract SIM in it.
What happens if my phone breaks on contract?
If your pay monthly handset has a fault that you didn’t cause, you should take it up with your mobile network. It’s their responsibility to provide a handset that’s of satisfactory quality and fit for purpose.
So, it’s worth checking your mobile network’s terms and conditions to see what you’re entitled to – you may be able to get a free repair or replacement, as part of your contract.
If you discover a fault within 30 days of receiving the handset, you can return it to your network for a full refund – though you’ll need to prove that you didn’t cause it to break.
Furthermore, your handset will should have some sort of manufacturer’s guarantee or warranty (usually for one year). If your phone breaks or develops a fault during that one-year warranty period, the manufacturer has an obligation to provide a repair or replacement.
Some networks are willing to repair or replace out-of-warranty phones, but you may need to pay a fee.
It’s best to contact your network if your phone breaks while it’s in contract.
How can I check when my phone contract ends?
You can check the start and end dates of your phone contract by getting in touch with your mobile network, logging into your online account or app, or checking a bill or correspondence from your provider.
What happens when my phone contract ends?
Once your phone contract ends, you’ll have paid off your handset in full – meaning you now own it outright.
If you don’t change anything, you’ll usually be moved onto a 30-day rolling plan with a monthly allowance of data, minutes and texts. You’ll have the option to upgrade to a newer handset, or keep your current one and get a SIM-only deal.
Do I need a 5G phone?
To use a 5G SIM, you’ll need a 5G-ready phone. Luckily, many of the latest phones are already 5G-enabled, and SIMs are usually 5G-ready at no extra cost. So, it’s likely that you’re already automatically connected to 5G.
Of course, if you live in an area that doesn’t have great connectivity to a 5G network, you might not be able to use your phone’s 5G capabilities. Still, as it doesn’t cost you anything extra, it doesn’t hurt to get a 5G SIM. And you’ll be able to take advantage of those lightning-fast speeds if you pass through an area with 5G.
How do I get my cashback?
If you signed up to a deal that promises cashback, you’ll get a set amount of money back from the retailer. This is usually a few months into your contract, and you’ll either receive it in instalments at set times, or as a lump sum.
You might get your cashback in two different ways:
- Automatic cashback – you’ll get your cashback after four to six months, depending on your retailer’s terms and conditions. You won’t have to make a claim, and you’ll get a lump sum by cheque or directly deposited to your bank account
- Redemption cashback – you’ll need to make separate claims by sending your bill to your network on specified dates. You should be able to do this electronically, via an online account. The cashback will be paid back in instalments, every time you make a claim
In both cases, you’ll usually need to have made all monthly payments on time to qualify for cashback.