How to get the best mobile tariff

We are all looking for ways to cut down on our monthly outgoings and our mobile phone bills are one of the easiest places to start.

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According to research carried out by moneysupermarket.com, in 2009 we waste over £250-worth of mobile allowance each year. This equates to 1,644 wasted minutes and 1,836 wasted texts per person.

Due to the amount of deals out there, there is no excuse for paying over the odds for a tariff you don’t make full use of.

There are always new deals entering the market too - Tesco Mobile has just launched a great value SIM-only deal at £6 per month for 100 minutes and unlimited texts.

So how do you know if you are on the right deal and, more importantly, how do you go about switching tariffs? We take a look...

What is your current usage?

Key to working out if you are on the best deal to suit your needs is to look at how you use your phone. To do this, you will need to examine your mobile bill.

This will show you which tariff you are currently signed up to and how many inclusive minutes and texts you receive as part of your deal. Your bill will also state how many of your inclusive minutes and texts you have used throughout the month and these are the figures that you need to look carefully at.

For example, if you are signed up to a deal where you receive a large amount of inclusive minutes and texts each month but you only use a fraction of them, then its time to act.

The same applies if you are on a tariff that doesn’t offer enough minutes and texts for your usage and you always go over, meaning that you end up paying for the additional calls and texts you are using.

What are the best deals if I already have a handset?

The competition around SIM-only deals is hotting up as networks have realised that many people aren’t fussed about continually updating their handsets and want to bag a great deal without being tied into a long-term contract.

Tesco is the latest network to widen its SIM-only offering with the launch of its £6 tariff that offers 100 minutes and unlimited texts on a 30-day rolling contract, which is perfect for those who text more than talk.

If you require more minutes but still want to keep costs down then 3 offers a one-month rolling contract with 300 minutes and unlimited texts. On top of this, if you like to browse the internet whilst on the go then you will also receive 1GB-worth of data per month, this is enough to send and receive 10 emails and browse the internet for one hour a day.

If you are a heavier user of minutes and texts but also require internet use then Vodafone offers 600 minutes, unlimited texts and 500MB of data for £20 per month – this also operates over a 30-day rolling contract period.

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What are the best deals if I need a new phone?

If you have to own the latest handset and don’t mind being tied in to a contract then there are plenty of deals to choose from. But you’ll need to be prepared to stick with your network for the long haul – networks have all but eradicated 12-month contracts so the minimum term you are required to sign up for now is 18 months. 3 offers a minimum contract term of 24 months, with Orange saving its best deals for those who sign up for a two-year duration.

For light users who tend to make only a few minutes each month and prefer to text, O2 offers 50 minutes and unlimited texts over 18 months for £15, which would also net you a free Nokia 6700 slide.

For the same price, T-Mobile will give you 100 free minutes and 100 free texts plus a free Flexible Booster offering the choice of more minutes or texts or unlimited internet over an 18-month term. A Samsung Tocco Lite touchscreen phone would be included in this deal.

Those who require more calls and texts could consider Vodafone’s £25 a month plan which offers 300 minutes each month and unlimited texts. This plan also comes with 500MB worth of data and you could get a free HTC Wildfire handset.

One of the best deals for heavy users is Orange’s Dolphin 40 plan which offers 800 minutes, unlimited texts and 500MB of data for £37.50 per month. This is an online deal, if you were to purchase this in-store you would pay a higher cost of £40 per month for the same tariff. For a smartphone fan, this would get you the BlackBerry Bold 9700.

If your 'lust after’ phone is the iPhone 4 then there are a huge number of deals on the market but be prepared to pay an upfront cost for the handset as they don’t come cheap. 

For example, for £45 per month over 18 months with O2 you will get 900 minutes, unlimited texts and 500MB of data per month. The 16GB version of the iPhone 4 will set you back £89, with the 32GB version costing £179, while the 3Gs iPhone would be free with this tariff.

How do I switch my tariff?

If you have identified that you are losing money by not making the most of your current tariff, or if you need to increase the amount you pay then switching is very simple.

If you are in contract with your network and are coming to the end of your deal you can do one of two things. You can call your network and see what deals they have on offer for you. Many providers don’t want you to walk away from them and will reward you with a better deal for your loyalty.

However, many networks will not let you know about these offers unless you threaten to leave, so be prepared to play a bit of hard ball in order to get the deal you want.

If you find that the deal your network is offering isn’t up to scratch and you want to move and take your number with you then make sure you obtain a PAC code from your current provider to take to your new network.

If your contract isn’t coming to an end anytime soon then you can choose to change the tariff you are currently on by calling your network. Bear in mind, however, that you need had your existing contract for a certain length of time – normally three to six months - in order to be able to change your tariff.

Please note: Any rates or deals mentioned in this article were available at the time of writing.

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