In the market for a new phone on a pay monthly contract? We've got you covered. Read on and we'll help you make a really informed decision.
What is a pay monthly phone?
The term 'pay monthly phone' refers to a phone bought on a contract, which you pay off in monthly instalments. The contract will also include a monthly allowance of data, calls and texts.
Typically, a pay monthly phone contract lasts two years. And at the end of the contract term, you own the phone outright.
How do pay monthly contracts work?
When you buy a pay monthly phone, you'll first need to pass a credit check which is undertaken by the UK networks or retailer. Whether you pass or fail will, of course, depend on your credit rating.
Assuming you pass the credit check and are approved by the vendor, you may have to pay something upfront as a deposit.
Not all pay monthly contracts require you to a fee up front. But if you're buying a phone that's just been released, it's more likely that an upfront charge will apply.
When you sign up for pay monthly phone, you'll enter a contract with the network/retailer to pay a set fee each month.
This will cover the cost of the phone, which you pay off in instalments, and your monthly allowance of data, calls and texts.
At the end of your contract term (typically this is two years), you'll have paid off the cost of the phone in full.
Some networks will at this juncture automatically put you on a one-month rolling SIM-only deal at a competitive price. So your monthly outlay will go down because from thereon in you're only paying for your allowances.
However, other networks may only drop your payment a little bit. In which case you may still be paying more than you need to, until you take action and sign up for a new contract.
What are the pros and cons of pay monthly?
- You can spread your payments over two years
- You don't have to find a big lump sum to buy a phone
- You get better allowances for your money than pay as you go
- Contract phones help you build your credit rating
- You're tied in to a contract. Usually for two years
- If you can stomach paying a big lump sum, buying a phone SIM-free works out cheaper overall
- You'll almost certainly have to pass a credit check
- Unlike pay as you go, you won't have to remember to top-up your credit
Do you have to buy the phone upfront?
Some pay monthly phone contracts require you to pay something upfront. But you'll generally only be asked for a sum of between £50-£150.
What's more, you'll most likely only have to pay something upfront when you're buying a newer, high-end smartphone.
With cheaper phones, there's very unlikely to be anything at all to pay up front and you'll be able to choose from a wide selection of phones withno upfront cost
The rest of the cost of the phone is spread over the course of your contract. Which is a lot better than having to find a lump sum of hundreds of pounds to buy a phone SIM-free and off-contract.
How long are pay monthly phone contracts?
Standard pay monthly contracts last for 24 months and if you look around you'll be able to find a smattering of 12 month contracts too.
But in response to price rises for the highest-end phones has risen in recent years, some networks now offer 36-month contracts, or even longer, that let you spread the cost of the phone over a lengthier period.
These longer-term contracts might seem like a good idea and can sometimes allow you to buy a phone you might not be able to afford on a 24-month deal.
But it's worth noting that you'll probably pay quite more over the course of three years than you would over two.
Is there a 14-day cooling-off period?
When you buy a pay monthly phone online or over the phone, you're able to cancel the contract for free as long as you do so within 14 days of signing the contract.
However, if you've made use of your allowances in that time, you'll probably be charged for whatever you've used.
If you signed up for a pay monthly phone deal in person, a 14-day cooling-off period does not apply. However, it's still worth asking the network or retailer, who may make an exception depending on your circumstances.
Choosing a network
Some networks are best for mobile internet speeds. Some are best for freebies. And some are keenest when it comes to price.
Which is best for you depends on your personal priorities and your budget.
To help you make up your mind, here we take a look at some of the biggest networks and outline their key selling points.
- O2 Rewards is really good for freebies
- Priority ticket-booking at O2 venues
- Decent 5G coverage and speeds
- Excellent range of incentives
- Good selection of high-end and cheaper phones
- Chance to upgrade early with O2 Refresh
- It's certainly not the cheapest network
- The flashy benefits are only good if you'll make use of them
- Competitive prices. Especially for a household-name network
- 5G coverage is improving
- Good international roaming options
- Wide selection of smartphones
- Benefits are a bit lacking
- Speeds are slower than the likes of EE
- Signal strength and speeds are among the best around
- VeryMe rewards scheme comes in handy
- Wide-ranging roaming scheme
- Streaming service subscriptions come free with Entertainment plans
- You get a premium service, but at a premium price
- Restrictions apply on unlimited 5G plans
- The UK's fastest network for 5G and 4G
- Discounts available if you add EE broadband or TV to your bundle
- Some standout incentives on select plans
- Flexible Smart Benefits include Apple Music, Prime Video and more
- Plans don't come cheap
- EE trumps Vodafone for speeds
How do I find the best pay monthly phones?
Just use the filters to choose what's important to you and we'll help you track down a really good deal.