Signing a phone contract can be a scary moment. Like any commitment, it's important to know exactly what it entails, and whether it will improve your life or slowly sap your will to live. Most consumers want the cheapest mobile phone contract, while being sure that they're getting access to all the services essential for communication when and how they want it - with no hidden extras. It's all about getting the best value, and here are some tips to help you do just that.
Use Your Negotiation Skills
Telecoms providers value the business of loyal customers. If you have a handset that you are happy with, and are nearing the end of an existing agreement, use your history as a basis to ask for a better deal. The mobile market is saturated and networks battle to retain customers, let alone gain new ones. If you are not completely satisfied with the deal you have, ask for a better one!
Do Your Sums
The new deal you found may look like the cheapest mobile phone contract around, but have you multiplied the contract length (in months) by the cost per month, and added in any costs up-front to get the total cost? Divide this by the number of months over which the contract runs in order to obtain an accurate cost per month. Then use that for comparison of all offers.
Separate The Phone And The Service
That shiny new handset may look tempting, but you could be paying a hefty premium for it by committing to a lengthy agreement to get it. If you absolutely must have that gadget, it could pay to shop around for it separately, then look for the cheapest mobile phone contract.
Check The Coverage
If the cheapest contract you've discovered is with a network with poor coverage in your area, then signing up would probably be a mistake. Unlimited texts are useless if you can't connect to the service. Fortunately, most providers offer a mapping tool to show their coverage so consumers can investigate this before they sign. Even better, Ofcom, the UK communications regulator, has a coverage checker for predicting coverage by postcode. That information should be useful to assist with finding a plan that is better value.
Get Into Some “Piggybacking”
There are four main networks in the UK - Three, Vodafone, O2 and EE. Other providers, such as Tesco or Talkmobile, hire space from, or “piggyback”, on the big boys. It may be possible to secure the services of a network with impressive reliability through a piggybacker offering a better price.
Think About The Length Of The Contract
In putting your name on that dotted line, you are committing to monthly payments for a service, and possibly a handset too. It's worth looking ahead to make sure that you can maintain those payments, and whether there are any foreseeable reasons that might mean having to end the relationship early. Terminating before the end of the contract could result in a hefty fee that sends the overall cost of using that provider sky high. Or, you could end up paying for the entire cost of the contract anyway. Always read the fine print.
Unlock Your Phone For Greater Choice
If you bought your handset directly from a manufacturer then it is probably good to go with any network that you choose. With a phone that was purchased through a network, it may be “locked” and can only connect to their service. Depending on what kind of phone it is, it could be possible to unlock it at no cost. Alternatively, the network may charge a fee to unlock it for you. Once unlocked, you are free to search for the cheapest mobile phone contract you can find.
Look At What You Are Spending Versus What You Are Using
What are you currently spending per month on your mobile bill? If it is in excess of £20 per month, then you should examine your tariff and what you are getting for it. For many providers, the £20 mark is a significant one because for that level of expenditure there are plenty of deals with unlimited minutes, texts and data allowances. There could be other reasons for a chunky monthly bill of course, such as paying off an expensive handset, hefty data usage or lots of roaming when abroad. However, it is possible that another provider offers a better package to accommodate your personal needs. If you're paying for a lot of data you never get through, then that is money wasted.
Use A Matchmaking Tool To Find The Cheapest Mobile Phone Contract
There is no point pinning down a tariff with loads of data, texts and minutes if you don't actually make use of them. This will involve more sums, but it could be worth it to find the cheapest mobile phone contract best suited to your personal usage habits. You will need to examine several months' worth of bills, and having evaluated what you use your phone to do, it is time to look for a better fit. There are two Ofcom-approved websites to help with this: Billmonitor and MobilePhoneChecker. They use different methods of analysis, so it is probably worth crunching the numbers with both of them, bearing in mind that each performs better with certain providers. One of the benefits of using these sites is the number of deals and options they will reveal.
Just Do It
Ofcom research suggests that up to 5.9 million people in the UK have never switched provider, or even considered it, probably because it just seems like too much hassle. Ofcom has made suggestions for ensuring that the switching process becomes easier, and decisions on this will be made later in the year. Meanwhile, shopping around and changing to the cheapest mobile phone contract available could be easier than you think and may really pay off.